SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (October 21, 2012)—Former South Dakota U.S. Sen. George McGovern, the Democrat who lost to President Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential race in a historic landslide, died early Sunday at the age of 90, a family spokesman said.
The spokesman, Steve Hildebrand, told The Associated Press by telephone that McGovern died at 5:15 a.m. Sunday at a hospice in Sioux Falls, S.D., surrounded by family and friends.
McGovern was a bomber pilot in World War II who became an early critic of the Vietnam War and a leader of the Democrats' liberal wing.
He was elected to his first of three Senate terms in 1962.
McGovern ran for president three times, also making a try for the nomination in 1968 and 1984.
Despite the 1972 Watergate break-in, Nixon won a second term in one of the biggest landslides in modern history.
President Barack Obama said McGovern was "a statesman of great conscience and conviction" who "dedicated his life to serving the country he loved."
In a statement released Sunday, the president cited McGovern's distinguished World War II military service as "a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe" and says in Congress "this hero of war became a champion for peace."
Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, say they were saddened by McGovern’s death.
The Clintons said in a statement that they met McGovern while campaigning for him in 1972 and their friendship endured for 40 years.
They said McGovern was "a tireless advocate for human rights and dignity" but of "all his passions, he was most committed to feeding the hungry, at home and around the world."
McGovern collaborated with former Republican Sen. Bob Dole to create an international food for education and child nutrition program, for which they shared the 2008 World Food Prize.