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Al Gore's Father Dead At 90

Vice President Al Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., who served in Congress for three decades and was a key force behind the interstate highway system, died Saturday. He was 90.

Gore died of natural causes at his home, a statement from the vice president's office said. The vice president and his wife, Tipper, were at his bedside.

A leader among liberals in his years in the Senate, 1953-71, the elder Gore became known during his third term for his opposition to the Vietnam War. That opposition was blamed for his defeat in 1970 by Republican Bill Brock.

Gore retired from public life after his defeat, vowing, "The truth shall rise again."

Six years later, his son and namesake was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the Senate in 1984. After a failed presidential try in 1988, the younger Gore was elected vice president as Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992.

Commenting on his son's nomination, Gore Sr. said proudly: "I would never want to deny any man, when he holds his baby son for the first time, the right to look at him and think he might grow up to be president of the United States."

Gore himself had briefly been a vice presidential candidate during the 1956 Democratic national convention. He withdrew in favor of fellow Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, who won the nomination and lost as running mate to Adlai Stevenson.

Vice-President Gore (right) with his father former Sen. Al Gore Sr.
When Gore was first elected to the Senate, in 1952, he had already served 14 years in the U.S. House, taking time out for Army service during World War II.

In the 1950s, the elder Gore introduced legislation to create the interstate highway system, promoting it as a national defense network modeled on the German Autobahn that he had seen during World War II service. The bill was passed in 1956.

"The multiplication of automobiles and trucks made our narrow, free-access highways completely out of date," Gore said. The interstate system now totals 44,000 miles.

One of Gore's biggest battles in Congress was to limit access to the interstates with cloverleaves and similar on-off ramps that "allow you to drive from one coast to the other without encountering a stop light," he recalled.

"Many of the towns thought they would be ruined economically if the main highway failed to go down Main Street," he said.

One of the towns that was bypassed by the interstate system was Gore's own hometown of Carthage, in the Cumberland foothills about 50 miles east of Nashville.

Sen. Al Gore Sr., D-Tenn talks with President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Following his defeat in the Senate, the one-time school teacher-farmer became a vice president of Island Home Coal Co., a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Co. Gore's farm at Carthage also contains extensive copper, zinc and germanium ore.

The former senator's life was not always so comfortable. Born Dec. 26, 1907, in the mountain community of Granville, Gore moved with his family to the Carthage area when he was 2.

He received his early education in the one-room Possum Hollow school and later became a teacher in one-room schools himself. That gave him the money to put himself through Middle Tennessee State College, where he graduated in 1932.

His first elective office was Smith County school superintendent. While serving in that job, he studied law at Nashville's YMCA Law School and operated a tobacco-grading barn.

He met his wife, Pauline LaFon Gore, while she was working as a waitress in Nashville to pay her way through Vanderbilt University law school. They were married in 1937 and for a time operated a joint practice at Carthage. She also ran his Washington office when he was serving in the war.

Gore and his wife also had a daughter, Nancy, who died of lung cancer at age 45 in 1984.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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