Inside Sources: Remembering a classy guy — Walter Mondale

Apr 29, 2021, 3:35 PM
Remembering Walter Mondale...
Photo: Los Angeles Times

SALT LAKE CITY — Walter “Fritz” Mondale, who served as vice president under President Jimmy Carter (1977-81) and who lost the 1984 presidential election in a landslide to Republican President Ronald Reagan, died April 19 at 93. 

Joe Trippi is a Democratic strategist who worked on Mondale’s run for the White House plus other high-profile campaigns, including Jerry Brown for governor of California and Doug Jones for U.S. Senate in Alabama. 

Trippi joined Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to share a story about how Mondale was not all wrapped up in politics — even in the midst of the most sprawling, turbulent political event on the planet.

Joe Trippi remembers Walter Mondale

Early in the campaign the subject of Trippi’s father came up. Trippi had told Mondale that he hadn’t spoken to his father in five years.

“I left college to to go to work in politics, and my dad wanted me to take over the family business, and he just stopped talking to me. I didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

Trippi said about a month later, the campaign took him to Pennsylvania where the Mondale lagged by about 14 points in polls. The contest there was a must win. If Mondale lost there, he wouldn’t have the delegates to secure the nomination, he said.

“We end up winning Pennsylvania. And that night I got a call from his traveling aide, saying, ‘Hey, you get up to the suite fast. Fritz wants to see you before he goes downstairs to make his victory speech,” Trippi recalled.

When he opened the door to the candidate’s suite, there sat Mondale next to his Trippi’s father.

“Somehow Fritz had remembered that comment. This conversation with him about my dad not talking to me. It happened like three or four months earlier. Eons in a presidential campaign,” Tripp said. “He got the staff to find and locate my dad, didn’t tell me, made sure he was in Philadelphia that night and was determined to get us to reconcile.”

A fighter with a big heart

Mondale had been carrying around a pair of boxing gloves and was calling himself “Fighting Fritz.”

In the suite, an aide handed Walter Mondale his boxing gloves. He said, “I don’t need these anymore.” The candidate took out a felt tip and wrote, “To Rocky Trippi, with thanks, Fritz Mondale.” Mondale took Trippi’s father downstairs and made him stand behind him on the stage as he gave his victory speech.

“I still very seldom can get through this without choking up because it just talks about what a decent, caring guy Fritz Mondale was. . . . just always looking out for others. Even when his own career was on the line, how he could be thinking about things like that and actually bring us together,” Trippi said.

Trippi said years later when his father died, he placed one of the boxing gloves in his casket.

“I actually tucked one of those gloves in with him, to rest with him. The other one I still have and cherish as an homage to Fritz Mondale who really touched my life and so many other people’s lives,” Trippi recalled. “People have no idea about what he was really like.” 


Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Inside Sources: Remembering a classy guy — Walter Mondale