Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Sewall, Sumner

Sumner Sewall, Maine Senate President, courtesy Maine State Archives

Sumner Sewall, Maine Senate President, courtesy Maine State Archives

was born in Bath on June 17, 1897, the son of a wealthy Bath banker and shipbuilder, and grandson of Arthur Sewall, was educated at Bath public schools before attending Harvard University in 1916.

In the middle of his freshman year, he joined the American Ambulance Field Service and served for six months at the front on World War I as an ambulance driver before enlisting in the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps in 1917.

A Second Lieutenant in the 95th Squadron of the 1st Pursuit Group, Sewall had become an ace by October 1918, having officially shot down seven German planes and two observation balloons.

For his service in the war, he won the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the French Legion of Honor, the Croix de Guerre and the Order of the Crown of Belgium.

Sumner Sewall, governor's portrait, courtesy Maine State Museum

Sumner Sewall, governor’s portrait, courtesy Maine State Museum

After the war he attended Yale University for a year and then worked with a rigging crew in the Mexican oil fields, in a bank in Spain, on a sugar plantation in Cuba and as a riveter in the Ford Airplane Factory in Dearborn, Michigan.

The man who would manage Maine’s war effort from 1941-1945 was well-prepared for the task in managerial background as well as military experience. From 1922 to 1924 he engaged in banking in New York City and in 1926 he helped organize and operate Colonial Air Transport, which held the first air mail contract in the country. In 1934 he became a director of United Air Lines.

Sewall’s political career began in 1933 as an Alderman in Bath. He was a State Representative from 1934 to 1936, a State Senator from 1936 to 1940, serving as President for the 1939-40 term and Governor of Maine from 1941 to 1945.

Governor Sewall left office on January 3, 1945 and soon became President of American Overseas Airlines. In 1946 he went to Germany as the Military Governor of Wurtemberg Baden.

Sewall died in Bath, Maine on January 25, 1965.

Additional resources

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

Maine. Governor, 1941-1944 (Sumner Sewall)

Address by Sumner Sewall, governor of Maine, to the ninety-first legislature of the state of Maine in special session, April 17, 1944. 1944 [Bangor Public Library; Maine State Library]

Maine. Governor (1941-1945: Sewall) War Message of Gov. Sumner Sewall to Special Session of Maine Legislature: Monday, January Twelve, 1942. Augusta, Me. Office of the Governor. 1942. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]

State of Maine World War II Materials. Augusta, Me. State of Maine. 1943-1944.  (Cataloger Note: This is a collection of executive orders, and address by Governor Sumner Sewall, a legislative document, and a report to the Maine state legislature, all pertaining to Maine’s war preparations during World War II. ) [University of Maine at Fort Kent. Blake Library]

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