Muriel Humphrey Brown; Widow of Senator
Muriel Humphrey Brown, who overcame shyness to become an effective campaigner for her husband, Hubert Humphrey, then briefly took his Senate seat after his death, died Sunday. She was 86.
Brown died of natural causes at Abbott Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis.
Brown rarely appeared in public in recent years but was by the side of her son Hubert Humphrey III last week when he won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor gubernatorial primary.
“Hubert would have been proud,” Brown said after her son’s victory.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was her late husband’s protege and knew her for 50 years, said Brown and Humphrey were a fantastic team.
“Half of what we credit Hubert for we should credit Muriel because they were a team from beginning to end,” Mondale said.
As the widow of the state’s most popular politician, she became the only woman to serve as senator from Minnesota when then-Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed her to the vacant seat in January 1978.
She did not seek election that fall, leaving the Senate after nine months. Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger succeeded her. She was the 12th woman to serve in the Senate and the fifth to take a seat vacated by her husband. She was the only woman in the Senate at the time.
Like her husband, she championed social programs and labor issues. She went beyond him in her push for abortion rights, saying that the federal government ought to pay for abortions for poor women. Humphrey had voted against Medicaid funding of abortions.
Brown was born Muriel Fay Buck on Feb. 20, 1912, in Huron, S.D. She met Humphrey in 1934 when he was working at his father’s drugstore and she was a bookkeeper for a utility. They married two years later.
Brown, who once said she was afraid to address her own women’s club, became a relaxed speaker. She campaigned seven days a week for her husband when he unsuccessfully ran for president in 1972.
In Minnesota, the Humphreys lived on a lake just outside Waverly, where he died at age 66 of cancer.
A year later, she married Max Brown, a Nebraskan and Republican whom she met when the two were sixth-graders in Huron.
In addition to her husband and her son, Brown is survived by a daughter, Nancy Solomonson, and two sons, Bob and Douglas Humphrey.
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