MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - George McGovern put the library bearing his name at alma mater Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell to good use for his most recent project, a book about Abraham Lincoln.
It's part of The American Presidents Series by Times Books.
Each book is a concise biography of a president written by a "distinguished contributor" such as McGovern, who was a U.S. senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.
McGovern, 86, said he started working on the piece 18 to 24 months ago, finished it in September and it was published last month.
He wrote the eight-chapter, 208-page book in longhand, then his daughter, Ann, typed it in time for its release before the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth next month.
"I had to work pretty hard to pull it together," McGovern said.
He said that while researching the book, he gained an even greater appreciation for the man he considers the greatest president.
McGovern said he was particularly impressed that, even as the Civil War raged, Lincoln signed such landmark legislation as an act establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Homestead Act, which provided free land to western settlers; the Morrill Act, which allowed for the creation of land-grant colleges; and the Pacific Railway Act, which enabled the construction of a transcontinental railroad.
"I was dimly aware of those things," McGovern said. "But I just never really associated them with the Lincoln administration."
Another Illinois politician, Barack Obama, reminds McGovern of Lincoln. McGovern said he considers himself lucky to release a book about the "Great Emancipator" just prior to the inauguration of the first black president.
When McGovern began working on the book, he knew little about Obama but eventually endorsed him and thinks Lincoln would be pleased with the outcome of the election.
"I really think he'd rejoice because, finally, after all these years, we've got a black citizen in the White House," McGovern said. "He felt strongly about the equality of people, regardless of race."
McGovern, the author of 12 prior books, said the latest effort helped occupy his mind after the 2007 death of his wife.
"I miss Eleanor more than I can tell you," he said. "We were together for 63 years, so that's been tough."
He hopes to continue writing books.
"I've got two or three in the back of my head. I won't discuss what they are right now, but I hope that my health holds and my years last long enough and I'll be able to do at least another three books," he said.
Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com