Tuesday, February 17, 2009

McGovern pens Lincoln biography -- Dozens come out for senator's book signing

McGovern pens Lincoln biography

Dozens come out for senator's book signing

Publication Date: 02/17/09

At least fourscore and seven admirers of Sen. George McGovern crowded into Barnes & Noble on Monday to buy his just-released biography, "Abraham Lincoln."

Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, and the nation marked his 200th birthday last week. But the signing was scheduled for Presidents' Day.

The line grew long early and didn't diminish for two hours, stretching from the front door to the children's book section in back, curving back on itself at times.

Barnes & Noble personnel used a hand truck to bring out stacks of the book so the supply would not be interrupted.

McGovern, 86, senator from South Dakota from 1963 to 1981, sat at a small table near the front desk, cheerily signing his books and chatting with people who both remembered and admired him since his nomination in Miami as the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for president in 1972.

He moved to St. Augustine Beach earlier this year but also keeps a house in Mitchell, S.D.

But his political fortunes didn't matter a whit. People there called him a statesman, not a politician.

Elaine Herskovitz of St. Augustine voted for McGovern in 1972 and called him "an amazing man. He was against the (Vietnam) war. He and (Sen. Bob) Dole are decent, honorable people. We are lucky to have him in St. Johns County."

McGovern and Dole are the architects and cheerleaders of a school lunch program feeding millions of children daily, not just in the United States but across the globe.

Alice Thomasson, a self-described "snowbird" from Ohio, said, "We were very excited to read he moved here."

Sandie Sarto, who divides her time between St. Augustine and Saratoga, N.Y., bought two of McGovern's books and planned to have her photograph taken with him when she got to the front of the line.

Doug Hyde of St. Augustine Beach said he was 7 years old in 1972, so he wasn't old enough to vote.

"But I've heard about Sen. McGovern my entire life," Hyde said. "And I'm a Lincoln fan. I'm trying to give my 8-year-old information about Lincoln. What a great opportunity."

Larry and Sandi Mundinger of St. Augustine voted for McGovern when they lived in Kansas.

"He's classy, like Obama," they said.

Pat Rushin of St. Augustine Beach said her son, who lives in Orlando, was 18 when he cast his very first ballot for McGovern in 1972. But she admitted she wasn't buying the book for him but as a gift for her son-in-law's birthday.

Roy S. Weed, a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot in World War II, as was McGovern, flew combat missions in the Philippines and was readying for the invasion of Japan when the war ended in 1945.

"I like the fact that he's documented everything (in the book). His footnotes are very complete," Weed said. "You'd expect that from a scholar, which he evidently is."

Walter Kelly of St. Augustine called McGovern "a voice of reason. It's a terrific book. He has an elegant mind."

McGovern was too busy signing books to give interviews. But even after two hours of signing and shaking hands, he seemed fresh and cheerful. At the end, he made a few remarks to the people remaining, mostly thanking them.

Michael Miller, a spokesman for Barnes & Noble, said the store had sold 170 books in 90 minutes.

"Author John Grogan was here three years ago. The crowd was about the same," he said. "But this was definitely an outstanding book signing."

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