Former Sen. George McGovern, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in the 1972 elections and lost to Richard Nixon, died on Sunday, his family said. He was 90.

McGovern "died peacefully" surrounded by loved ones and friends around dawn at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hospice from "a combination of medical conditions," his family said in a statement.

The former senator was a leading critic of the Vietnam war and became a leader of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

McGovern, born in Avon, South Dakota, was the son of a Methodist minister and grew up in a household whose daily life centered on prayer and Bible study.

He was a pilot in World War II, earned degrees in history and worked in the Kennedy administration.

McGovern represented South Dakota in Congress from more than two decades, serving in the House from 1957 to 1961 and in the Senate from 1963 to 1981.

McGovern lost every state except Massachusetts to Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.

Nixon, however, was forced to resign before the end of his second term because of the Watergate scandal.

McGovern sought the Democratic nomination again in 1984, but he pulled out of the race during the primaries.

The former senator had close ties to Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was a staunch opponent of the U.S. embargo against the island. EFE