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Al Eisele Headshot

Eugene McCarthy Now a Non-Person in St. Paul

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Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy often quoted the words of fellow St. Paulite F. Scott Fitzgerald that "there are no second acts in American lives," which he proved by repeatedly running unsuccessfully for president after his historic challenge of President Johnson in 1968.

But the late Minnesota Senator would no doubt be dismayed by the fact that his photo no longer hangs alongside that of Fitzgerald and other famous Minnesotans on the wall of the Saint Paul Grill, the pricey restaurant in the historic Saint Paul Hotel.

I noticed that McCarthy no longer looks out on the Grill's patrons when I had dinner there earlier this month with two friends from St. Paul, Mike and Kim Dady.

As a former St. Paul reporter who covered McCarthy for many years as a Washington correspondent for Minnesota newspapers and one of his biographers, naturally I wondered why his photograph no longer joins other Minnesota icons like Fitzgerald, Hubert Humphrey, "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, Long Eagle aviator Charles Lindbergh, and Great Northern railroad tycoon James J. Hill.

When I asked the Grill's manager, he said several had people objected to displaying McCarthy's photo, but was vague about who and why they were. At any rate, the photo was taken down -- he didn't know when or where it was -- and replaced by that of a prominent St. Paul woman (I forget who he said she was).

Maybe those who objected to McCarthy's photo confused him with Wisconsin's notorious Communist witch-hunter, Sen. Joe McCarthy, as the Democratic National Convention did in 2004 when it mistakenly showed the Minnesota Democrat's photo with the Wisconsin Republican's name.

At any rate, the Saint Paul Grill has declared Gene McCarthy a non-person and you can no longer swill your favorite drink while he gazes over you. I wish I could hear what he would say about it. Too bad for a city that prides itself as one that pays homage to its history.