Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Curtis, Kenneth M.

Governor Ken Curtis, wife Polly, and daughter Angel (from a Christmas card sent to friends while governor.)

Governor Ken Curtis, wife Polly, and daughter Angel (from a Christmas card sent to friends while governor.)

(1931- ) was governor of Maine from 1967 to 1975, and was Chair of the Democratic National Committee in 1977.

William Curtis moved to the to the Town of Leeds in 1800 in what is now Curtis Corner, once a post office and railroad stop, both of which are now gone. Generations of Curtis families were farmers until the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Born on February 8, 1931 in Curtis Corner, he attended a one room school house there, then graduated from Cony High School in Augusta and from Maine Maritime Academy in 1952. After volunteering for the U.S. Navy and serving from 1953 to 1955, and a brief tour in the U.S. Merchant Marine, he earned his law degree from the Portland University Law School in 1959.

Curtis got his first active experience in politics by working on Congressman James Oliver’s campaign in 1956 and again in 1958. From 1959 to 1961 he was assistant to Congressman Oliver; then worked for the Library of Congress Legal Division. President John F. Kennedy appointed Curtis as State Coordinator for the Area Redevelopment Administration where he served from 1963 to 1964.

In 1964 he ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for U. S. Representative in the 1st Congressional District.

"Curtis Cares" Campaign Button

“Curtis Cares” Campaign Button

After becoming Maine Secretary of State in 1965, he defeated the Democratic Maine Senate President and Speaker of the House in a primary election to challenge incumbent Republican Governor John Reed.

Curtis was the youngest governor in the country when he was first elected in 1966. During a hotly contest reelection campaign, he championed a controversial state income tax. Both he and the tax narrowly survived. His administration focused on streamlining and reforming state government agencies, improving aid to public schools, creating the University of Maine System.

Cottages at Camp Susan CurtisSign for Camp Susan CurtisTrout Lake at Camp Susan Curtis

A popular “first family” in the Blaine House, Ken and Pauline “Polly” Curtis lost a daughter, Susan, at a young age. Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham is named in her honor. They have another daughter, Angel.

After his service as governor, Curtis served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada and as President of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, of which he was a graduate. He is a partner in a major Portland law firm.

Additional resources

Lipez, Kermit. Kenneth Curtis of Maine: Profile of a Governor. Brunswick, Me. Harpswell Press. 1974.

*Pease, Allen G., Editor. The Curtis Years, 1967-1974. Augusta: Office of the Governor, 1974.

 

Press releases of the Maine Office of the Governor. Maine State Archives, Augusta, ME. Governors press releases explaining actions and positions on current issues and initiatives. The records are from the administrations of Kenneth M. Curtis (1967-1975), Joseph E. Brennan (1979-1987), John R. McKernan (1987-1995), and Angus S. King , Jr.(1995-2003). Public statements on current issues released to the media by the Governor’s Press Secretary. No legal restrictions on access. Maine State Archives continues to receive materials for this collection.

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*Cited in Friends of the Blaine House at http://blainehouse.org/governors(accessed April 25, 2011) (accessed April 25, 2011)

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