I believe that one day, America and the other nations clustered
along the shores of the Pacific will be neighbors along a lake, a
closely interwoven community sharing common interests and common goals.
March 27, 1980
||A man of few words and great modesty, Mike Mansfield often said he
did not want to be remembered. Yet, his fascinating life story and
enormous contributions are an inspiration for all who follow.
Mike Mansfield was born in New York City on March 16, 1903. Following
his mother’s death when Mike was 7, his father sent him and his two
sisters to Great Falls, Montana, to be raised by an aunt and uncle
there. At 14, he lied about his age in order to enlist in the U.S. Navy
for the duration of World War I. Later, he served in the Army and the
Marines, which sent him to the Philippines and China, awakening a
lifelong interest in Asia.
From Mucker to Teacher
Honorably discharged from the Marines in 1922, Mike Mansfield
returned to Montana. Lacking a high school education, he worked as a
“mucker” in the copper mines of Butte, shoveling rock and ore half a
mile underground, and attended the Montana School of Mines. While in
Butte he met Maureen Hayes, a young school teacher who encouraged Mike
to further his education. With her financial and moral support,
Mansfield enrolled at Montana State University (now The University of
Montana) where as a “special student” he took high school and college
courses simultaneously. He and Maureen Hayes were married in 1932, and
thus began a lifelong partnership of extraordinary devotion, commitment
and respect that lasted until her death in September 2000.
Mansfield received his high school equivalency and bachelor’s degree
in 1933 and went on to receive a master’s degree in 1934. He then taught
Latin American and East Asian history at The University of Montana until
Mike Mansfield’s political career was launched in 1942 when he was
elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served five terms from
Montana’s 1st District. In 1952, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and
re-elected in 1958, 1964 and 1970. His selection as Democratic Assistant
Majority Leader in 1957 was followed by election in 1961 as Senate
Majority Leader. He served in that capacity until his retirement from
the Senate in 1977, longer than any other Majority Leader in history.
It has been said that Mike Mansfield shaped the character of the
modern Senate more than any other leader in its history by allowing a
Senate of equals to emerge and giving voice and a role to younger
Senators. Respected by Senators on both sides of the aisle, he led the
Senate during a period of great achievement as the “Great Society”
legislation of the 1960s was passed. Yet, he found time to personally
read and sign all letters to his constituents in Montana and was
remarkable in his memory of the names of folks back home and in
Washington, D.C. Each year his Montana constituents looked forward to
cards that he and Maureen designed.
During Mike Mansfield’s years in Congress, Presidents Truman and
Eisenhower appointed him delegate to the United Nations in 1951 and 1958
respectively. Considered an authority on U.S.-Asia relations, he also
undertook foreign policy assignments for Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy,
Johnson, Nixon and Ford, and his private discussions with President
Nixon paved the way for Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Mike Mansfield
did not hesitate to speak out in opposition to the war in Vietnam and he
privately counseled a succession of presidents against U.S. involvement.
In 1977, President Carter appointed Mike Mansfield Ambassador to
Japan. He was reappointed by President Reagan and served until January
1989, longer than any other U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Mansfield brought
his experience in Asian affairs to the embassy in Tokyo, where he
tackled thorny bilateral trade and defense issues and was trusted and
esteemed for his wisdom and sensitivity.
Following his retirement in 1989 until his death on October 5, 2001,
Mike Mansfield served as senior advisor to the international financial
firm of Goldman, Sachs & Co. in Washington, D.C.
On Mansfield's death, as per his instructions, he was buried in
Arlington National Cemetary. As seen to the left, above, a ranking
Marine Corps officer presented the flag that had covered his casket to
his eldest daughter. Also, as per his instructions, when his
gravestone was erected by the Veterans Administration, it was identical
to those around him. Of all his many accomplishments in his long
life, Mansfield chose to celebrate only one element of a long and
distinguished career. You may see by clicking on "marker" below
what Mansfield obviously wanted to be remembered as so long as Arlington
National Cemetery existed.
A simple marker for a not
so simple man.