Walter F. Mondale’s record of public service includes Vice President of the United States, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, U.S. Senator, and Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. He was also the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1984. He recently retired from the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, headquartered in Minneapolis with 20 offices worldwide.
Walter Frederick (“Fritz”) Mondale was born in Ceylon, Minnesota on January 5, 1928, the son of Theodore Sigvaard Mondale and Claribel Cowan Mondale. He spent his boyhood in the small towns of southern Minnesota, where he attended public schools. After he helped manage Hubert H. Humphrey’s first successful U.S. Senate campaign in 1948, he earned his B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota in 1951. After completing service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, Mondale received his LL.B. (cum laude) from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1956, having served on the law review and as a law clerk in the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Mondale practiced law for the next four years in Minneapolis. In 1960, Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman appointed him to the position of State Attorney General. Mondale was then elected to the office in 1962, and served until 1964, when Governor Karl Rolvaag asked him to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by Hubert Humphrey’s election to the Vice Presidency. The voters of Minnesota returned Mondale to the Senate in 1966 and 1972.
During his 12 years as a Senator, Mondale served on the Finance Committee, the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, Budget Committee, and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He also served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Equal Education Opportunity and as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee’s Domestic Task Force.
Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were elected President and Vice President of the United States on November 2, 1976. On the President’s behalf, Mondale traveled extensively throughout the country and the world advocating U.S. policy. He played a central role in Carter Administration policy of expanding commercial ties between the United States and China. He was the first Vice President to have an office in the White House, and he served as a full-time participant, advisor, and troubleshooter for the Administration. During this period, Joan Mondale served as a national advocate for the arts and was Honorary Chairman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.
In 1984, Mondale was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States. Following that election, Mondale practiced law, taught, studied, traveled, and served as a director of both non-profit and corporate boards. He returned to his native Minnesota in 1987, where he practiced law with the firm of Dorsey & Whitney until President Clinton nominated him to be the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Mondale served as Ambassador to Japan from August 13, 1993, to December 15, 1996. During that period, he helped to negotiate several U.S.-Japan security agreements, including a resolution to the controversy about the U.S. military presence in Okinawa. He also helped to negotiate numerous trade agreements between the United States and Japan, and he promoted the expansion of educational exchanges between the two nations. In addition, Mondale attended the annual APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit meetings in Seattle, Jakarta, Osaka, and Manila.
Since returning from Japan, Mondale has become a director of several non-profit and corporate boards. He is the chair of The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. He also co-teaches a class at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota on the study of governance and politics.
In March 1998, serving as President Clinton’s special envoy, Mondale traveled to Indonesia to meet with President Suharto regarding the Asian financial crisis and economic reforms in Indonesia.
Before his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Walter Mondale was a Distinguished University Fellow in Law and Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. In 1990, he established the Mondale Policy Forum at the Humphrey Institute to bring together leading scholars and policymakers for conferences on domestic and international issues.
From 1986 until his appointment as Ambassador, Mondale served as chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington, DC-based organization that conducts non-partisan international programs to help maintain and strengthen democratic institutions.
Mondale was married to the former Joan Adams for 58 years before she passed away in February 2014. They have three children, Theodore, Eleanor Jane (deceased) and William. They also have four grandchildren.
Mondale has authored two books The Accountability of Power: Toward a Responsible Presidency and The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics and has written numerous articles on domestic and international issues. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, reading historical accounts, and spending time with his family.