Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Walter F. Mondale, August 23, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:01:30 - Memories of Bess Abell / Hiring Bess Abell

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, uh, what I'm trying to--to accomplish with this conversation with you is to fill in a little more...

Segment Synopsis: Mondale recalls when he first met Bess while she was serving as Social Secretary to Lady Bird Johnson. Mondale discusses his and Joan Mondale's decision to make Bess Joan's secretary during the 1976 presidential campaign.

Keywords: 1976 presidential campaign; Available; Bess Abell; Excited; Good team; Help; Joan Mondale; Lady Bird Johnson; Liked; Nice; Nominated; Phone call; Progress; Social secretary; Together; Vice president; Visit; Visiting; Welcoming; White House

Subjects: Guidance; Hospitality; Meetings; Politicians; Travel; Trust; Washington (D.C.)

00:04:59 - Selecting Bess Abell to be Joan Mondale's secretary

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back to your selecting, uh, Bess.

Segment Synopsis: Mondale explains why he and Joan Mondale selected Bess to be a secretary for Joan during the 1976 Carter-Mondale presidential campaign.

Keywords: 1976 presidential campaign; Agreed; Bess Abell; Busy; Earle Clements; Events; Help; Joan Mondale; Johnson administration; Kind; Nominated; Phone call; Politics; Schedule; Secretary; Smart; Thrilled; Unsure; Vice president; Visit; Welcoming; White House; Willing

Subjects: Experience; Father; Meeting; Organization; Politicians; Talk; Washington (D.C.)

00:07:29 - Role of Bess Abell and Joan Mondale in 1976 presidential campaign

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Partial Transcript: So during that campaign--(clears throat)--what was, uh, Bess' role?

Segment Synopsis: Mondale considers what his wife's and Bess' respective roles were in the 1976 Carter-Mondale presidential campaign.

Keywords: 1976 presidential campaign; Bess Abell; Campaigning; Coordination; Help; Jimmy Carter; Joan Mondale; No doubt; Political mind; Tired; Women's groups

Subjects: Art; Communities; Confidence; Planning; Strategy; Travel

00:09:44 - Moving into vice president's residence / Mondale children

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Partial Transcript: When you, um, entered the vice presidential residence, uh, what did--did Bess have a role in decoration or making decisions of what came over from Lowell Street and so forth or not?

Segment Synopsis: Mondale recalls Bess Abell's role in helping his family move into the vice presidential residence. Mondale briefly talks of his children and their adjustment to living a more public lifestyle.

Keywords: Arrangements; Bess Abell; Campaigning; Decision; Eleanor Mondale; Enjoyed; Help; Ideal; Involved; Joan Mondale; Loved; Rules; Son; Talent; Theodore Mondale; Vice president's residence; White House; William Mondale

Subjects: Children; Freedom; Participation; Politicians; Time; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

00:12:00 - Defining the role of the vice president

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Partial Transcript: --(clears throat)--You mentioned in "The Good Fight," I think, that, uh, you and President Carter, um, decided that, uh, Joan's role should be...

Segment Synopsis: Mondale details how he viewed his role as the vice president.

Keywords: Active; Activities; Agreeable; Aware; Bess Abell; Book; Campaigning; Carter administration; Decision; Elected; Executive; Executive branch; Help; Jimmy Carter; Joan Mondale; Legislative branch; No experience; President; Rosalynn Carter; The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics (book); Unclear; Vice president; White House

Subjects: Cooperation; Federal government; Politicians; Relevance; Washington (D.C.)

00:14:49 - Joan Mondale, "Joan of Art" / Bess Abell and Joan Mondale's travel

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Partial Transcript: How did the notion of Joan of Arts come about?

Segment Synopsis: Mondale considers how his wife Joan may have received the nickname 'Joan of Art.' Mondale recalls the traveling that Bess Abell and his wife did together on behalf of the Carter administration.

Keywords: Accompany; Air Force Two; Audience; Bess Abell; Daughter; Delay; Dinner; Eleanor Mondale; Enjoyed; Fascinated; Flights; Good impression; Interested; Joan Mondale; Joan of Art; Loved; Nickname; Picture; Positive; Schedule; Sightseeing; Sincere; Unable

Subjects: Art; Artists; Beijing (China); Brazil; China; Communities; Diplomacy; Interest; Israel; Life; Shopping; Travel; Understanding; United States

00:19:24 - Bess Abell's role in the 1980 presidential campaign

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Partial Transcript: Um, talk about Bess and the 1980 campaign, the re-election campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Mondale discusses Bess' role in the 1980 Carter-Mondale presidential campaign.

Keywords: 1980 presidential campaign; Audience; Bess Abell; Difficult; Dispirited; Feeling; Help; Joan Mondale; Lose; Miserable; Motivation; Nice; Optimistic; Painful; Politics; Positive; Rosalynn Carter; Strategic; Unable; Unconvincing

Subjects: Advice; Expression; Gifts; People; Politicians; Speeches; Thinking; Travel

00:22:24 - Transition between the Carter and Reagan administrations / Bess Abell and Joan Mondale

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Partial Transcript: What about that period after the election--(clears throat)--and before Ronald Reagan took over...

Segment Synopsis: Mondale reflects upon the transition period between the Carter and Reagan administrations. Mondale describes the working relationship between his wife Joan Mondale and Bess Abell.

Keywords: After; Arrangements; Bess Abell; Busy; Community; Depressing; Determined; Different; Door; Election; Friends; Help; House; Important; Isolated; Joan Mondale; Judy Whittlesey; Leaving; Messy; Motivated; Moving; Neighborhood; No neighbors; Normal; Not frustrated; Pleasant; Private life; Relief; Repairs; Talking; Tough; Transition; Vice president's residence; Win

Subjects: Art; Gossip; Home; People; Personality; Politicians; Rent; Responsibility; Washington (D.C.)

00:28:57 - Contact with Bess Abell since vice presidency

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Partial Transcript: Have you had, uh, associations with the Abells, uh, since that--that--well, really since 1980?

Segment Synopsis: Mondale talks of his contact with Bess since the end of the Carter administration in 1980.

Keywords: Bess Abell; Birthday party; Events; Fish; Frozen; Gift; Invited; Presentation; Visiting

Subjects: Alaska; Fishing; Friendship; Halibut; Salmon; Social; Surprise; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

00:31:16 - Bess Abell and Joan Mondale's titles / Leaving Washington, D.C. / Abells' dinner with the Mondales

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Partial Transcript: But there must have come a time when it was no longer, uh, Mr. Vice President...

Segment Synopsis: Mondale talks of how and his wife and Bess eventually began calling one another by their first names while working together as a sign of respect and closeness. Mondale recalls the advice that Bess gave to him when his term as vice president ended. Tyler Abell remembers an interesting dinner he and Bess had with the Mondale family in Washington, D.C.

Keywords: Accepted; Advice; Bess Abell; Calvert St. NW (Washington, D.C.); Correct; Difficult; Dinner; Episcopal; Family; Fish; Fun; Gone; Good experience; Host; Hotel; House; In favor; Increased; Informal; Joan Mondale; Leaving; Lowell St. NW (Washington, D.C.); Places; Positive; Public office; Replaced; Restaurant; Return; Second floor; Sold; Stay; Tough; Tyler Abell; Uplifting

Subjects: Catholic; Children; Church; French; Minneapolis (Minn.); Minnesota; Money; Mood; People; Politicians; Presbyterian; Prices; Social; Spirit; Washington (D.C.); Washington National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.)

00:37:43 - Funeral of Joan Mondale / Bess Abell and Joan Mondale's trip to Finland

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Partial Transcript: Were you in on the decision of asking Bess to speak at--at Joan's memorial service?

Segment Synopsis: Mondale discusses the eulogy that Bess gave at his wife's funeral. Mondale also talks of the trip to Finland that Bess and his wife took to promote the arts.

Keywords: Approach; Bed; Bess Abell; Birthplace; Campaigning; Canvases; Decorations; Diary; First wife; Funeral; Funny; Interesting; Introduced; Involved; Jimmy Carter; Joan Mondale; Maid; Neat; Preparations; President; Response; Second wife; Smart; Surprised; Uplifted; Urho Kekkonen; Vice of the president; Vice president; Visit; Wassily Kandinsky; Wife

Subjects: Art; Change; Christmas; Diplomacy; Finland; Good; Heritage; Minneapolis (Minn.); Notes; Oregon; People; Russians; Speech; Successful; Time; Travel

00:48:17 - Memories with Tyler and Bess Abell

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Partial Transcript: I don't remember exactly when I first met you.

Segment Synopsis: Tyler Abell recalls when he first met Walter Mondale. Tyler Abell also discusses a mutual friend he and Walter Mondale have in common.

Keywords: 1964 Democratic National Convention; Appointed; Assistance; Attorney; Bess Abell; Campaign contribution; Check; Fair; Got along; Help; Hired; Important; Interested; Involved; Joan Mondale; Law partner; Met; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Phone call; Recommendation; Space committee; Tyler Abell

Subjects: Democratic National Committee (U.S.); Honor; Housing; Money; Mutual friend; Poor; Public relations