Maine: An Encyclopedia

Muskie, Edmund S.

Edmund S. Muskie (courtesy of Maine State Museum)

Edmund S. Muskie (courtesy of Maine State Museum)

(1914-1996) received a B.A. from Bates College and law degree from Cornell University, and served in the Navy in World War II. He entered politics winning a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 1946 while practicing law in Waterville. He served as a state legislator (1947-1951) and as director of the Maine District of the U.S. Office of Price Stabilization (1951-1952) before becoming the state’s governor in 1955, serving in that office until 1959.

Muskie was the first Democratic governor since Louis Brann was elected in 1932.  While in office he re-energized the Democratic Party, which gained an historic legislative majority in the 1964 election.

Muskie with his family in the Governor's Office

Muskie with his family in the Governor’s Office

He was a U.S. Senator from 1959 to 1980, and was the first elected Democratic U.S. Senator in Maine’s history. With his lanky 6-foot-4 frame, his craggy appearance and his modest manners, Muskie caught the imagination of political analysts, who dubbed him “Lincolnesque.” In 1972, Muskie was the early front-runner as a Democratic presidential hopeful, but he lost the nomination to George McGovern. Muskie’s career as a politician ended as Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter in 1980-81.

Muskie at the Governor's desk (both courtesy Maine State Archives)

Muskie at the Governor’s desk (both courtesy Maine State Archives)

Edmund Sixtus Muskie, a World War II veteran, first gained national prominence in 1968, when the Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey chose him as his running mate.

Humphrey-Muskie Campaign Pin (1968)

Humphrey-Muskie Campaign Pin (1968)

Though the Democratic ticket lost to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, Muskie attracted national attention, sometimes inviting hecklers to share the speaking platform with him.

Blessed with a dry sense of humor, an outgoing personality and eloquent speaking abilities, Muskie emerged in 1972 as the early favorite to win the Democratic nomination. But he lost presidential ground while campaigning for the New Hampshire primary. Speaking from a flatbed trailer outside the conservative Manchester Union Leader newspaper, Muskie denounced a story critical of his wife, then openly wept.

Although he won the New Hampshire primary, the episode came to symbolize the collapse of Muskie’s quest for the White House. “It changed people’s minds about me, of what kind of guy I was,” he later told author Theodore H. White. “They were looking for a strong, steady man, and here I was weak.”

Governor Muskie posing in L. L. Bean style in the 1950's (Maine State Archives)

Governor Muskie posing in L. L. Bean style in the 1950’s (Maine State Archives)

Muskie was born in the small paper mill town of Rumford on March 28, 1914. His father was a Polish-born tailor whose name had been shortened by immigration officials from Marciszewski to Muskie.

Muskie was a leading voice on domestic issues during his 22 years in the Senate, and was known for his hard-line environmental stances. However, he supported the controversial Dickey-Lincoln public power project in Aroostook County, a venture opposed by many environmentalists.

During the mid-1970s, he became the champion of fiscal discipline as Congress created its own budget-making process.

He was also active in non-government organizations such as the Maine Commission on Legal Needs and the Nestle Infant Formula Audit Commission, both of which Muskie chaired. A prime advisor was George J. Mitchell, himself a future U.S. Senator from Maine.

Edmund S. Muskie (Muskie Archives)

Edmund S. Muskie (Muskie Archives)

Edmund S. Muskie was the author of the autobiographical Journeys, published in 1972, and received more than 30 honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the country. He died on March 26, 1996, in Washington, D.C. and a memorial service was held at the Bates Chapel, April 28, 1996. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Additional resources

Anson, Cherrill. Edmund S. Muskie, Democratic Senator from Maine. Ralph Nader Congress Project. Citizens look at Congress. Washington, DC. Grossman.1972.

*Apple, R.W., Jr. “Edmund S. Muskie, 81, Dies.” New York Times, March 27, 1996, p. D21.

Arlington National Cemetery Website:

*Carter, Jimmy. “Eulogy for Edmund Muskie, March 30, 1996,” as published in In Tribute, Eulogies of Famous People by Ted Tobias, Beverly Hills, 2001, pp. 116-120.

Edmund S. Muskie Papers. Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston Maine.

*Lach, Edmund L., Jr. “Edmund S. Muskie,” American National Biography, First Supplement, pp. 439-441.

Lippman, Theo and Donald C. Hansen. Muskie. New York. Norton. c1971.

*Modern Maine. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1951, Vol. 3, pp. 79-80.

*Muskie, Edmund S. Journeys. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972.

Nevin, David. Muskie Of Maine. New York. Random House. 1972.

Muskie vs. Monks: The Final Round. (moving image)



*Cited in Friends of the Blaine House at April 25, 2011) (accessed April 25, 2011)

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