Hundreds turn out for George McGovern estate sale in SD

Personal books, photographs and political memorabilia were sold at a South Dakota estate sale for former Sen. George McGovern, who died in October.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Hundreds of people braved frigid temperatures Saturday for a chance to buy books, furniture and other items once owned by presidential candidate George McGovern.

A two-day estate sale at the U.S. senator's Sioux Falls home started at 9 a.m. Saturday. McGovern, one of the nation's most-outspoken voices for liberalism who was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, died in October at age 90.

People began lining up for the sale as early as 4 a.m. and with only 20 to 30 visitors allowed in the house at time, others had to wait for hours for their chance to get a glimpse at McGovern's items.

Estate sale: Larry Bouska, of Sioux Falls, SD, looks at campaign material during an estate sale at former Sen. George McGovern's home in Sioux Falls. IMAGEAP Photo: Kristi Eaton

"It's surreal. It's very emotional in some respects. You can see the character and personality of this man in this house," said Matt Arntz, a 58-year-old attorney from Dayton, Ohio, who drove 14 hours so he could get a close look at McGovern's possessions and talk to friends and fans of the Democrat.

Arntz is planning to write a biography about McGovern, who lost the 1972 presidential race to Richard Nixon in a historic landslide. Arntz worked on that campaign.

Sitting in a room filled with political memorabilia and McGovern's books, Arntz was working to pare down some of his selections. He already had a box full of personal photos and books McGovern had read and made notes in.

"That will help me understand his thinking some time ago when he read this," he said of the handwritten notes.

A lot of books were for sale, including some of McGovern's own titles, many of them out of print and a few autographed. Other items included antique furniture pieces, fine china, campaign buttons and photographs of McGovern with other Senate leaders.

McGovern's daughter Ann McGovern told The Associated Press earlier that the family decided to hold an estate sale over an auction with the hope that people with a connection to the former senator would be able to buy the items.

Gordon Locken, 61, of Aberdeen, S.D., and his wife, Jan, 59, waited in line for nearly two hours Saturday. They ended up paying $32 for two books that had handwritten notes from the authors to McGovern.

"If he read every book, he did a wonderful job," Gordon Locken said of the many books that filled shelves in the nondescript home.

Although too young to have ever voted for McGovern, 26-year-old Tiffany Rolfing said she liked him because he stood up for what he believed in. She came with her boyfriend just to look at the items the political heavyweight once owned.

"We thought it would be cool to check out all the photos with celebrities," Rolfing said.

Proceeds from the sale of copies of McGovern's book "An American Journey" will be donated to the hunger relief organization Feeding South Dakota, which McGovern championed.

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