George McGovern is largely remembered today for his dramatic loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential campaign, yet he enjoyed a long career characterized by many remarkable achievements. In Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern
(Princeton UP, 2016), the first in a projected two-volume biography of the senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee, Thomas Knock
chronicles McGovern's life and career from his Depression-era upbringing in South Dakota to his 1968 reelection campaign and emergence as a presidential contender. Knock describes McGovern's transformation from a shy young boy into a confident debater who, after America went to war in 1941, volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps as a B-24 bomber pilot and flew 35 combat missions over Germany and Austria. Upon returning home, he embarked on a path that took him from the ministry to a Ph.D. in history and then the college classroom before he settled upon a career in politics. After serving two terms in the House of Representatives and as Director of Food for Peace in the Kennedy administration, in 1962 McGovern won a seat in the United States Senate, where he emerged as a prescient critic of America's descent into the Vietnam War. In detailing his opposition to that expanding conflict, Knock not only shows how McGovern emerged as a national leader, but also demonstrates the relevance of his vision to the challenges our nation faces today.