MINNEAPOLIS — Former U.S. Vice President Walter F. “Fritz” Mondale has died at the age of 93.
Mondale, who ran as the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, but lost to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide, died Monday at his Minneapolis home, The New York Times reported.
Kathy Tunheim, a spokeswoman for the family, announced the death of the former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general without specifying a cause.
Mondale served as vice president under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, but he lost by one of the most lopsided presidential elections in U.S. history after telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, The Associated Press reported.
In a statement issued Monday night, Carter said he considered Mondale “the best vice president in our country’s history.”
“Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior,” Carter said.
Mondale was the first major-party presidential nominee to select a woman, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-New York, as a running mate, but his stance on taxes led to the landslide defeat, in which he carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
According to the AP, Reagan’s 525-13 electoral college victory over Mondale was the largest since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon in 1936. By comparison, Sen. George McGovern carried only his home state of Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., 12 years before Mondale but still amassed 17 electoral votes.
Mondale is credited by the Times as having been the first vice president to serve as a “genuine partner” of a president, whom Carter granted “full access to intelligence briefings, a weekly lunch with Mr. Carter, his own office near the president’s and his own staff integrated with Mr. Carter’s.”
“I’m a liberal or a progressive,” he told the Times during a 2010 interview for his obituary. “I didn’t use the ‘liberal’ word much because I thought it carried too much baggage. But my whole life, I worked on the idea that government can be an instrument for social progress. We need that progress. Fairness requires it.”
Born Jan. 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, the son of a Methodist minister and a music teacher married the former Joan Adams in 1955. The couple had two sons, Ted and William, and a daughter, Eleanor. Joan Mondale died in 2014 at age 83 after an extended illness.
Mondale began his Washington career in 1964, when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace his mentor and fellow progressive Minnesotan, Hubert H. Humphrey, who had resigned to become vice president. He was elected to two consecutive six-year terms before Carter tapped him as his running mate in 1976.
Mondale had been only 20 when he served as a congressional district manager for Humphrey’s successful Senate campaign in 1948. His education, interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army, culminated in 1956 with a law degree from the University of Minnesota, the AP reported.
He soon launched a Minneapolis law practice and ran the successful 1958 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Orville Freeman, who appointed Mondale state attorney general in 1960, a position he was elected to in the fall of the same year and again in 1962.
Following his term as vice president, Mondale was ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton from 1993-96, and he is credited with helping avert a trade war with the Asian nation in June 1995 over autos and auto parts.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.