Muriel Humphrey Brown

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Muriel Fay Humphrey Brown (née Buck; February 20, 1912 – September 20, 1998) was an American politician who served as the Second Lady of the United States and as a U.S. Senator from Minnesota. She was married to the 38th Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey. Following her husband's death, she was appointed to his seat in the United States Senate, serving for most of the year 1978, thus becoming the first woman to serve as a Senator from Minnesota, and the only Second Lady of the United States to hold public office. After leaving office, she remarried and took the name Muriel Humphrey Brown.

Muriel Humphrey Brown
Senator Muriel Humphrey (D-MN).jpg
United States Senator
from Minnesota
In office
January 25, 1978 – November 7, 1978
Appointed byRudy Perpich
Preceded byHubert Humphrey
Succeeded byDavid Durenberger
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1965 – January 20, 1969
Vice PresidentHubert Humphrey
Preceded byLady Bird Johnson (1963)
Succeeded byJudy Agnew
Personal details
Muriel Fay Buck

(1912-02-20)February 20, 1912
Huron, South Dakota, U.S.
DiedSeptember 20, 1998(1998-09-20) (aged 86)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Resting placeLakewood Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1936; died 1978)

Max Brown
(m. 1981)
Children4, including Skip
EducationHuron University

Early life and marriageEdit

Humphrey was born Muriel Fay Buck in Huron, South Dakota, daughter of Andrew E. Buck and his wife, the former Jessie Mae Pierce. She attended Huron College and met her future husband; Hubert Humphrey in 1934, when she was twenty-two years old and working as a bookkeeper. They married on September 3, 1936, saying, "It was love at first waltz".[1] After living with their daughter in South Dakota, she moved to the South to join her husband when he pursued a graduate degree at Louisiana State University, where she found work in the Department of Government as a typist.[2]

She had four children: Hubert III, Nancy, Robert, and Douglas. The Humphreys built a home and moved to Waverly, a small village west of Minneapolis, in the mid-1950s and maintained it as their primary residence until Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice President in the U.S. presidential election of 1964.[3][4]

Political lifeEdit

Muriel served as an informal adviser to her husband after he entered politics. His first office was mayor of Minneapolis. From there, he served three consecutive terms as Senator from Minnesota. It was during his second Senatorial campaign that Muriel began making campaign appearances alongside her husband.

Hubert Humphrey ran for his party's nomination in the Presidential primaries of 1960, losing to John F. Kennedy; during this campaign, Muriel made speeches for him in Wisconsin.[5] Humphrey remained in the senate and President Lyndon B. Johnson chose him as his vice-presidential running mate in 1964. With Muriel often campaigning alongside her husband and being profiled favorably in US media, the ticket won the election. Hubert thereafter served as Vice President of the United States from January 1965 to January 1969.

As Second Lady of the United States, Muriel had a busy schedule of travel and involvement in various causes. A catalogue of her papers at the Minnesota Historical Society gives a clear sense of the breadth of activities.[6] She served as a member of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities from 1966-1969,[7] convened many meetings of women associated with the Democratic Party, and travelled extensively.

During her husband's subsequent run for President in 1968, Muriel made a number of public appearances, garnering praise from President Johnson.[8] After Hubert lost the 1968 election to former Vice President Richard M. Nixon, he made a decision which would ultimately lead to Muriel's entry into politics: He chose to run for a US Senate seat from Minnesota in the 1970 elections. Hubert won the election and returned to the Senate in January 1971.[9]

After Hubert Humphrey died, Muriel was nominated by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and subsequently appointed to the Senate vacancy by Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich, serving from January 25, 1978, to November 7, 1978, in the 95th Congress. She was the first spouse of a former Vice President to serve in Congress as well as the first woman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, preceding the Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.

Muriel had years of experience as a public speaker, and was an active Senator.[10] According Karina Karr, Humphrey was ostracised by the all-male Senate, but served on the Foreign Relations Committee and voted reliably to support the foreign policy of the Jimmy Carter administration.[11] According to an official Congressional biographical summary, "Muriel Humphrey pursued her own interests during her brief tenure, supporting an extension of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratification deadline and advocating several programs to benefit persons with mental disabilities."[12]

Among the issues which she championed was public visibility for Down Syndrome, a topic she had become passionate about due to her granddaughter Victoria Solmonson's condition.[13][14] During her husband's presidential campaign in 1967 and 1968, she visited facilities for people with Down Syndrome in Long Island and was featured by the New York Times.[15] In 1970, she gave a speech on this topic which was reprinted in a prestigious medical journal.[16] As a Senator, she sponsored the Mental Health Advocacy Act of 1978.[17]

After consulting with President Jimmy Carter, Muriel chose not to stand as a candidate for the 1978 United States Senate special election in Minnesota for the remaining term. "It was the most challenging thing I've done in my whole life," she said.[18]

Looking back at her political life, Humphrey reflected "There's something I've been wanting to say for a long time. I'm a liberal and I'm proud of it. In fact, I was probably a little more liberal than Hubert was. I just wanted to say that." While in office, and after, she pressed for the right for women to choose to have an abortion and worked towards legislation for the rights of the mentally disabled.[19]

Second marriageEdit

In 1981, Humphrey married Max Brown, a friend from childhood.[20] "I don't live a life of politics any more," she said after her second marriage. "Max and I have so much fun. We have a wonderful companionship that Hubert and I didn't have, couldn't have. We were so busy and it was so official almost all the time."[21] Max Brown died in 2004 at the age of 93.[22]


When Muriel Humphrey Brown died, she was survived by her husband of 17 years, Max Brown, and her children, who were at her side when she died at the age of 86. She is interred in Lakewood Cemetery[23] in Minneapolis, Minnesota, next to her first husband, Hubert H. Humphrey.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Hopefuls' Helpmates", Time, 24 November 1958
  2. ^ "Humphrey, Muriel (1912–1998) |". Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  3. ^ "About New Beginnings Minnesota". New Beginnings Minnesota. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  4. ^ "HUMPHREY A HERO IN WAVERLY, MINN.; Adopted Home Town Plans a Big Welcome Tomorrow". The New York Times. 1964-09-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  5. ^ "Mrs. Humphrey Stumping". The New York Times. 1960-02-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  6. ^ "Muriel Humphrey Papers: An Inventory of Her Personal and Family Papers" (PDF). Minnesota Historical Society.
  7. ^ Krause, Fred J. "President's Committee on Mental Retardation: A Historical Review, 1966-1985" (PDF).
  8. ^ LBJ and Hubert Humphrey, 8/29/68, 10.41A., retrieved 2020-01-14
  9. ^ Wasniewski, Matthew Andrew (2006). Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Government Printing Office. p. 570. ISBN 9780160767531. muriel humphrey.
  10. ^ Molotsky, Irvin (21 September 1998). "Muriel Humphrey Brown, Senator, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Humphrey, Muriel (1912–1998) |". Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  12. ^ US House of Representatives Library. "Muriel Buck HUMPHREY". History, Art, and Archives.
  13. ^ "Google Groups". Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  14. ^ Retardation, United States President's Committee on Mental (1978). Hello World!. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Human Development Services, President's Committee on Mental Retardation.
  15. ^ Times, Agis Salpukas Special To the New York (1967-12-09). "MRS. HUMPHREY VISITS RETARDED; Watches Handicapped Work at Long Island Center". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  16. ^ Humphrey, Muriel (1970). "Influencing Public Attitudes Toward Down's Syndrome". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 171 (2): 683–688. Bibcode:1970NYASA.171..683H. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1970.tb39380.x. ISSN 1749-6632. S2CID 86816846.
  17. ^ Humphrey, Muriel (1978-03-10). "S.2722 - 95th Congress (1977-1978): Mental Health Advocacy Act". Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  18. ^ "'What Would Hubert Have Done?' Muriel Asked Herself—and Then Turned Down the President". Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  19. ^ Molotsky, Irvin (21 September 1998). "Muriel Humphrey Brown, Senator, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  20. ^ Mills, Barbara Kleban, "A Childhood Friendship Turns to Love, and Muriel Humphrey Plans to Be Married", People Magazine, February 16, 1981 (Vol. 15 No. 6)[1]
  21. ^ Olson, Rochelle, "Muriel Humphrey Brown, senator, widow of HHH, dead at 86", Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 21 September 1998
  22. ^ 'Max Brown-obituary,' The North Platte Telegraph, December 16, 2004
  23. ^ Find a Grave here

External linksEdit

Honorary titles
Title last held by
Lady Bird Johnson
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Judy Agnew
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Hubert Humphrey
United States Senator (Class 1) from Minnesota
Served alongside: Wendell Anderson
Succeeded by
David Durenberger