Preserving "A Fair Chance For a Free People" - Karl E. Mundt

The Memorable Adjournment of a Distinguished Delegate

In November of 1969, Karl Mundt suffered a severe stroke. He remained in office, but the senator's responsibilities were shouldered by members of his staff.

"On August 16, 1974, two years after leaving the Congress, and almost five years after a stroke, Karl Mundt died. His body was returned to Madison for burial alongside his parents in Graceland Cemetary in Madison. The services for the senator were held in the United Methodist Church in Madison. The Church was filled to overflowing, as friends and dignitaries came from near and far to pay their last tribute to their friend, a great statesman and above al, a true advocate of all that South Dakota stood for and ever would be." -Scott Heidepreim, author of A Fair Chance for a Free People: a Biography of Karl E. Mundt, United States Senator.

AdjounmentSurrounded by cornfields, standing in front of Karl Mundt's grave, one can clearly see what Karl Mundt worked so hard to preserve. The city of Madison lies in the background of the grave. The Madison water tower projects from its center like a beacon. The fact that this can be seen from Karl Mundt's grave symbolizes his role in the foundation and survival for many small towns in his home state today.

From the people that knew him:

Senator Carl Curtis (Nebraska): "Karl Mundt and I were elected to Congress on the same day in 1938. We met each other when we appeared to be sworn in as Members of the House of Representatives on January 3, 1939. We remained fast friends all through the years. He was a great fishing partner. He was a fascinating conversationalist. He was scholarly and well-read. He possessed that most important ingredient - integrity. He was a patriot and a believer in our economic system...My tribute and the words of others may get fleeting notice by those who chance to see them, but the greatest tribute of all to Karl Mundt exists in all his achievements that have survived him. These various ongoing activities I mentioned, begun or inspired by Karl, constitute a living legacy. I will miss him as a colleague. I will miss him as a warm and vital human being. Most of all, I will miss him as a friend."
Senator John McClellan (Arkansas): "The character of a man, however, cannot be fully gauged by the enumeration of the offices which he has held, although they do indicate a considerable measure of public esteem. Karl Mundt, as I knew him in the Senate, was a man of high ideals and great integrity, a man of vision and noble purpose, a man of true dedication to the interests of the people with whom he identified and whom he represented so ably."
Glen Rhodes (GOP insider): "The career of Karl E. Mundt cannot be put in a capsule, or summarized in a few phrases. He was an active man, of diverse talents, strong beliefs and great energy. He left his mark in many fields of legislation. He was a strong believer in freedom, and during his service in House and Senate worked hard to preserve our American way of life against subversion."


Anson Yeager, former reporter and editor at Argus Leader, said of his friend: "Mundt was very friendly, and he knew, I suppose, hundreds of people, but he was always looking for the South Dakota connection, always looking to see if [any person he met] was someone he had known before. I remember one time he was on the daily train from Sioux Falls to Chicago, and he met a younger brother of mine who was on furlough from the navy. He took him to lunch on the diner car, and he found out that he was my younger brother and was really interested in what he had to say."

Senator Mundt served the longest term in the United States Senate of any South Dakota Senator. In 1972, when he was unable to attend Senate sessions of congress due to his illness, he was stripped of his three committee assignments. He had been ranking minority member of the Government Relations Committee and second ranking member on both the Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees. At that time Mundt ranked third among the forty-five Senate Republicans. As a result of his stroke he was unable to seek re-election for a fifth term in the Senate.

Even today, Senator Mundt's name continues to appear in the newspapers. As a result of the defeat of the incumbent Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota ,a new phrase has been coined: "Karl's Curse." According to an article entitled "McGovern's Senate Defeat Kindled New Beginning" published on November 14, 2004, in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, "The Curse of the Bambino is over in Boston, so Noel Hamiel, publisher of the Mitchell Daily Republic, has a replacement. He now calls the inability of South Dakotans to re-elect a senator to a fourth term Karl's Curse. The title is for the late Sen. Karl Mundt, who is the only senator in the state to serve four terms."

  1. 93D Congress, 2 D Session
    Senate Document No 93-119
    Memorial Addresses and Other Tributes in the Congress of the United States on the Life and Contributions of KARL E. MUNDT
  2. Ninety-third Congress
    Second Session
    U.S. Government Printing Office Washington: 1974
    Pgs. 3, 22-23, 37
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Dakota State University
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