Biden: 'I was honored to serve' with McGovernThe White House confirmed Wednesday that Biden would take part in a Thursday prayer service at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls. The two served together in the Senate during the 1970s and early 1980s.
By: Kristi Eaton, The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS — Vice President Joe Biden is among a bevy of current and former politicians expected at services in South Dakota on Thursday and Friday to honor the life of former U.S. Sen. and one-time presidential hopeful George McGovern.
McGovern, who railed against the Vietnam War as a senator and later lost his 1972 presidential bid to Republican Richard M. Nixon, died Sunday at a Sioux Falls hospice. He was 90.
Officials and businesses in Sioux Falls are bracing for hundreds — if not thousands — of people to descend on South Dakota’s largest city to pay their respects.
The White House confirmed Wednesday that Biden would take part in a Thursday prayer service at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls. The two served together in the Senate during the 1970s and early 1980s.
“I was honored to serve with him, to know him, and to call him a friend ... Above all, George McGovern was a generous, kind, honorable man,” Biden said in an emailed statement Sunday.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is scheduled to speak at the 6:30 p.m. service, preceded by a public viewing from 1 to 6 p.m.
Funeral services for McGovern are set for 1 p.m. Friday at the Mary Sommervold Hall of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls, which seats 1,800 people. A private burial will take place at a later date at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
McGovern family spokesman Steve Hildebrand said the family will not announce who is scheduled to attend services, but a few politicians have confirmed their appearance, including Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
It’s possible that former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Sen. and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole could attend, too.
Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, met McGovern while campaigning for him in 1972 and remained friends.
Clinton later appointed McGovern as ambassador to the United Nations’ food and agriculture agency and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.McGovern was later appointed to be the first U.N. Global Ambassador on World Hunger. Dole and McGovern co-founded the Food for Education program for children in poverty-stricken countries.
The impact of the potential influx of dignitaries that McGovern’s services could have on Sioux Falls is unknown.
Tiffany Semmler, a manager at Minervas Restaurant, located a few blocks from the site of the funeral, is bracing for a busy Friday.
“You never know if people are coming from out of town and going directly to the funeral, we might not get an excessively busy lunch. If they decide to go directly home after the funeral, we won’t get a big push after the funeral,” she said, noting that the restaurant is planning to schedule an additional server and cook.
“If everyone stays in town and isn’t going back to work on Friday, we could get hit really hard.”
At least one hotel is offering a discount for those attending the funeral of McGovern, who was born in Avon and grew up in Mitchell.
The executive director of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport bets most of the out-of-towners will be driving. Pheasant hunting season opened last weekend, said Dan Letellier, and the airport’s 23 daily flights on Thursday and Friday are already booked.
“Any national figure or business leaders from other parts of the country may very well end up chartering flights or corporate jets,” he said.