The Eagleton Affair: Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern, and the 1972 Vice Presidential Nomination


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank the State Historical Society of Missouri for the Richard S. Brownlee Fund grant and the Missouri University of Science and Technology where I served as the Maxwell C. Weiner Professor of Humanities in the Spring semester of 2008 for its financial assistance.

James N. Giglio is a distinguished professor of history emeritus at Missouri State University. Among his books is The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (2nd edition, 2009).


The frequent mention of the Eagleton affair during discussions over vice presidential selections in the past election cycle has further enhanced the relevancy of the controversy surrounding Senator George McGovern's choice of Senator Tom Eagleton as his running mate in 1972. That soon led to Eagleton's forced resignation because of past treatment for depression—the only nominee who has ever had to depart from the ticket. This is the first scholarly study of that controversy. It is grounded in extensive interviews and archival research in the McGovern and the untapped Eagleton Papers. This Greek tragedy has much to say about the two protagonists and the casual way in which political parties sometimes selected vice presidential candidates. As a result, the Eagleton affair has also contributed to a more thoughtful approach to the selection of vice presidential nominees.