|58th United States Secretary of State|
May 8, 1980 – January 20, 1981
|Preceded by||Cyrus Vance|
|Succeeded by||Alexander Haig|
|Chair of the Senate Budget Committee|
January 3, 1975 – May 8, 1980
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Fritz Hollings|
|United States Senator
January 3, 1959 – May 7, 1980
|Preceded by||Frederick Payne|
|Succeeded by||George Mitchell|
|64th Governor of Maine|
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1959
|Preceded by||Burton Cross|
|Succeeded by||Robert Haskell|
|Born||Edmund Sixtus Muskie
March 28, 1914
Rumford, Maine, U.S.
|Died||March 26, 1996
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Jane Gray (1948–1996)|
|Alma mater||Bates College
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Edmund Sixtus "Ed" Muskie (March 28, 1914 – March 26, 1996) was an American statesman, author, academic, and reformer, of Polish origin, who served as the 58th United States Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter. As head of the U.S. State Department, Muskie was influential in establishing diplomatic ties with foreign entities, developed numerous measures in U.S. foreign policy, and assisted Carter in the diplomatic resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, widely considered a pivotal episode in the history of Iran–United States relations. In the final days of the Carter presidency, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 16, 1981. He is widely considered one of the most influential politicians in the history of Maine.
A native of Rumford, Maine, Muskie graduated from Bates College in 1936, where he was a member of and eventually the President of the Brooks Quimby Debate Council, participated in several sports, and was elected to student government. He went on to earn a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1939. After a short stint practicing law, he served in the United States Navy during World War II and rose to the rank of lieutenant. After the conclusion of his service, he returned to private law practice in Waterville, Maine. While practicing law in Waterville, he helped grow the presence of the Democratic Party in a Republican Maine. He successfully began his political career as a member of the Maine House of Representatives before deciding to run for Governor of Maine. His political influence in Maine continued to grow as he was elected as Governor in 1955 and served until 1959. After concluding his time as Governor, he was elected to the United States Senate, and served from 1959 to 1980. Muskie was reelected in 1964, 1970 and 1976, each time with over 60 percent of the vote.
Muskie was the Democratic nominee for Vice President (with Hubert Humphrey as the nominee for President) in the 1968 presidential election, and lost with the margin of 42.72% to Richard Nixon's 43.42%. He was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. He returned to the Senate, where he served as the first chairman of the new Senate Budget Committee starting in 1974. In 1980, he was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of State. After serving as the secretary of state, Muskie was appointed a member of the President's Special Review Board known as the "Tower Commission" to investigate President Ronald Reagan's administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair. Muskie held the highest political office by a Polish American in U.S. history, and also is the only Polish American ever nominated by a major party for Vice President.
- 1 Personal life
- 2 Political beginnings
- 3 U.S. Senate
- 4 Vice Presidential candidacy
- 5 Presidential candidate
- 6 U.S. Secretary of State
- 7 Post-political career and retirement
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
Childhood and family history
His father, Stephen Marciszewski, immigrated to the United States in 1903, from Poland and changed his name to Muskie. He worked with a master tailor in order to learn a skill that could support his family. He briefly lived in England before immigrating to the United States, and soon after became a master tailor himself. He opened up a shop in Rumford, Maine, and employed his son in his youth. Later in life, Edmund Muskie commented on his experience in the shop, noting his father's political outspokenness at work often conflicted with customers' own Republican beliefs. Muskie's mother, Josephine (Cznaranecka) Muskie, was born to a Polish-American family in Buffalo, New York. Muskie's parents married in 1911, and Josephine moved to Rumford. Edmund Sixtus Muskie was born in Rumford on March 28, 1914. As a child he spent most of his time outside in the nature of the Androscoggin River, or reading books. While Muskie was a member of the Maine House of Representatives, representing Waterville, Maine, he used to drive back to Rumford to see the river he grew up with. Muskie was born as the second child to a sister, and as a child was very shy. As a child he displayed a bad temper but was unusually accommodating with his friends. His father died exactly one year after Muskies' inauguration as the Governor of Maine, on January 25, 1956.
Muskie attended Stephens High School, where he played baseball, was on the student government, and graduated at the top of his class as valedictorian, in 1932. Muskie took his studies seriously, with aspirations of attending college; according to childhood friend Vito Puiia, "Some of the boys, they took college [preparatory] courses. Ed was one of them. Well, he was so much smarter than most of us anyway, he knew he could swing it somehow on scholarships and all of that."
Influenced by the political excitement caused by the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. While at Bates, Muskie was a successful member of the debating team, participated in several sports, and was elected to student government. He also worked during the school year as a waiter, and during the summers as a dishwasher and bellhop at a hotel in Kennebunk, Maine, to supplement the scholarship that allowed him to attend the college. He was known for giving the precursory speeches at school functions, most notably he gave the Ivy Day President's Address on May 28, 1935, and the annual Chapel Address, entitled "Sanctions vs. Peace". His time at Bates proved to be invaluable as he utilized many teachers and resources even after he graduated. He frequently called on F. Brooks Quimby, the prominent debate teacher, to discuss campaign strategy, review speeches, and solidify debate techniques.
He graduated from Bates in 1936, as class president and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He held two separate degrees, one in history and another in government. He then enrolled in Cornell Law School and graduated with an LL.B., cum laude, in 1939.
Life in Maine
Upon graduating from Cornell Law School, Muskie was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1939 and the Maine bar in 1940, taking over a small law practice in Waterville. During World War II, Muskie served in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant. After World War II, he returned to private practice and was instrumental in building up the Democratic Party in Maine. Maine had traditionally been a strongly Republican state, notable for being, with Vermont, one of the only two states that Alf Landon carried against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Muskie ran in the 1947 election to become Mayor of Waterville, Maine, but was unsuccessful. While in Waterville, he married Jane Gray, who was thirteen years his junior, in 1948. Their marriage produced five children. In 1966, he purchased a yellow cottage at Kennebunk Beach.
Maine State Legislature
Muskie was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, representing Waterville, Maine, in 1946, but won by a narrow margin. He ran as a Democrat, which was rare due to the fact that during that time, "a man had to vote in a Republican primary election to have any voice in election affairs." Following his second term as representative he was appointed Minority Leader, and for the majority of his time there worked against heavy Republican opposition. In 1954, Muskie and a select group of the politically elite in Maine began to rebuild the party.
After establishing a suitable presence in the Maine State Legislature, he ran for Governor and was elected in 1954. Muskie thus became Maine's first Roman Catholic governor. He viewed it as "more as a duty than an opportunity because there was no chance of a Democrat winning." In the midst of his aspirations for being Governor, he was offered a position involving full partnership at a prestigious Rumford law firm that maintained "clients and income that [Muskie] had not achieved in fourteen years of practice in Waterville." With growing medical bills, two children, and a house to pay for he faced an important decision that would impact his life profoundly. His final choice reflected his 'society over self' mentality and decided to pursue the election. Upon ascension to the office, he owed five thousand dollars in hospital bills, and the salary at the time for the Governor of Maine was set at ten thousand dollars annually. Through the next election cycle, the legislature was stacked with a 4-to-1 Republican-Democrat ratio against Muskie. Remarkably, he proved to be an effective governor as the majority of his platform was passed. While Governor, he was known for his exacting requirements and demanding personality. In 1956, Muskie was reelected as Governor and served for two more years before leaving to the United States Senate.
Election and legislation
In the Senate election in 1958, Muskie won 60 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Frederick G. Payne, who received 39 percent of the vote. Muskie was reelected in 1964, 1970 and 1976, each time with over 60 percent of the vote. In Washington, Muskie often clashed with the Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, who subsequently relegated him to outer seats in the Senate. In the next five years, he gained significant power and influence and was considered among the most effective legislators in the Senate. While in the Senate, he was incredibly devoted to the people of Maine, and "every critical comment from Maine in those days stung Muskie". Many supporters questioned his pride and loyalty to the state after he disclosed selected ills and faults of the state in Senate press conferences, calling him "an honorary Kennedy," alluding to the indifference John F. Kennedy had to Massachusetts when first gaining political traction.
Muskie was one of the first environmentalists to enter the Senate, and was a leading campaigner for new and stronger measures to curb pollution and provide a cleaner environment. He was present for 90% of Senate roll-call votes, and took up speaking engagements all around the east coast. He was known as a micro-manager and wanted "every speech and every position researched, analyzed and reported directly back to him". Muskie was known by aides for having a hot temper. He wrote to Lyndon B. Johnson personally asserting his position on the Vietnam War. He made the case that the U.S. ought to withdraw from Vietnam as quickly as possible and supported both McGovern-Hatfield resolutions to end the war, and introduced resolutions of his own. Muskie, in 1967, wrote Johnson again, this time privately, urging him to end the bombing of North Vietnam. Later, at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he led the debate for the administration plank on Vietnam, which sparked public outrage. On October 15, 1969, he was welcomed to the green at Yale University to address the issues regarding his vote but chose to decline the offer and speak that night at his alma mater, Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine. His decision to do so was widely criticized by the Democratic party and Yale University officials.
1964 civil rights bill
While in the Senate he contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and gave more than one hundred votes to proposed Libertarian and Liberal legislation. While in the Senate, he passed the first legislation that required the auto industry to make clean automobile engines, endorsed General Motors, wrote a revenue-sharing bill that based allocations on need, and was responsible for the passage of the Model Cities Bill. He also criticized the Federal Bureau of investigation's "overzealous surveillance and its director's intemperance," and moved a proposal to limit its control.
Personality in the Senate
Known for his trademark directness, homespun integrity, and apolitical candor, he was popular with youth. While campaigning in cities, he often let a student from the crowd run up to the stage and present a case for policy reform, unheard of at the time. The most notable instance occurred on September 25, 1968, in Washington, Pennsylvania, when during one of the most important speeches of his political career, a student shouted, "You have a chance, we don't!" He stopped speaking instantly, looked directly at him, and called for the student to come to the stage to an uproar of applause and gasps.
When asked to comment on Richard Nixon's direction for the country, Muskie famously said:
In Maine we have a saying that there's no point in speaking unless you can improve on silence.
Vice Presidential candidacy
Election eve speech
In 1968, Muskie was nominated for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey. In 1970, he delivered a speech that was heard by thirty million people in the United States, which was described as "essentially evangelical." He addressed American exceptionalism in his most famous line, stating:
Americans like to believe that they are decent, and most of them are, nevertheless they find it easy to persuade themselves that there is too much risk, too much danger, in trusting Americans who are different.
The Humphrey-Muskie ticket narrowly lost the election to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Humphrey and Muskie received 42.72 percent of the popular vote and carried 13 states and 191 electoral votes; Nixon and Agnew won 43.42 percent of the popular vote and carried 32 states and 301 electoral votes, while the third party ticket of George Wallace and Curtis LeMay, running as candidates of the American Independent Party, took 13.53 percent of the popular vote and took five states in the Deep South and their 46 votes in the electoral college. Because of Agnew's apparent weakness as a candidate relative to Muskie, Humphrey was heard to remark that voters' uncertainties about whom to choose between the two major presidential candidates should be resolved by their attitudes toward the Vice-Presidential candidates. Continuing his career in the Senate, Muskie served as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee through the Ninety-third to the Ninety-sixth Congresses in 1973–80.
While on the vice-presidential campaign trail in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was quoted as saying:
The truth is that Americans born in this great tradition of humanism, still yield to prejudice and practice discrimination against other Americans. The truth is, having developed patterns and ways of living which reflect these shortcomings and weaknesses, we find it burdensome and difficult to and all too often unacceptable to do the uncomfortable things that we all must do to right the wrongs of our society.
While in Chattanooga, the shooting of two black students at Jackson State College by the Mississippi State Police (Jackson State killings), prompted Muskie to hire a jet airliner to take approximately one hundred people to see the bullet holes and attend a funeral of one of the victims. The people of Maine said this was "rash and self serving" but Muskie has stated his lack of regret for his actions publicly. At an event in Los Angeles, he publicly stated his support for several black empowerment movements in California, which garnered the attention of numerous media outlets, and black city councilman Thomas Bradley. In 1970, the Maine senator was chosen to articulate the Democratic party's message to congressional voters before the midterm elections. Muskie's national stature was raised as a major candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. In 1973, he gave the Democratic response to Nixon's State of the Union address.
Before the 1972 election, Muskie was viewed as a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite his political rise in the polls he continued to engage in tiring day after day speeches in various part of the country. In August 1971, Harris polling amid a growing economic crisis, Muskie came out on top of incumbent Nixon if the election had been held that day. In late 1971, Muskie gave an anti-war speech in Providence. The nation was at war in Vietnam and President Richard Nixon's foreign policy promised to be a major issue in the campaign.
The 1972 Iowa caucuses, however, significantly altered the race for the presidential nomination. Senator George McGovern from South Dakota, initially a dark horse candidate, made a strong showing in the caucuses which gave his campaign national attention. Although Muskie won the Iowa caucuses, McGovern's campaign left Iowa with momentum. Muskie himself had never participated in a primary election campaign, and it is possible that this led to a weakening of his campaign. Muskie went on to win the New Hampshire primary, the victory was by only a small margin, and his campaign took a hit after the release of the 'Canuck letter'.
Canuck letter of 1972
The collapse of Muskie's momentum early in the 1972 campaign is also attributed to his response to campaign attacks. Acclaimed author Hunter S. Thompson is credited for starting a rumor that Muskie was addicted to a drug called Ibogaine, which dealt a surprising amount of damage to Muskie's reputation. Prior to the New Hampshire primary, the so-called "Canuck letter" was published in the Manchester Union-Leader. The letter claimed that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians – a remark likely to injure Muskie's support among the French-American population in northern New England. Subsequently, the paper published an attack on the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional defense of his wife in a speech outside the newspaper's offices during a snowstorm. Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, as the press conference was done in a snowstorm, the press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and reasoned.
Evidence later came to light during the Watergate scandal investigation that, during the 1972 presidential campaign, the Nixon campaign committee maintained a "dirty tricks" unit focused on discrediting Nixon's strongest challengers. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators revealed that the Canuck Letter was a forged document as part of the dirty-tricks campaign against Democrats orchestrated by the Nixon campaign.
U.S. Secretary of State
Muskie returned to serve in the Senate, where he served as the first chairman of the new Senate Budget Committee starting in 1974. In 1980, he was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of State, following the resignation of Cyrus Vance. Vance had opposed Operation Eagle Claw, a secret rescue mission intended to rescue American hostages held by Iran. After that mission failed with the loss of eight U.S. servicemen, Vance resigned.
There was a "draft Muskie" movement in the summer of 1980 that was seen as a favorable alternative to a deadlocked convention. One poll showed that Muskie would be a more popular alternative to Carter than Ted Kennedy, implying that the attraction was not so much to Kennedy as to the fact that he was not Carter. Muskie was polling even with Republican challenger Ronald Reagan at the time, while Carter was seven points down. The underground draft campaign failed but became a political legend.
Muskie attempted to bring the hostages home by diplomatic means, appealing to the United Nations and Iran. Muskie left public office following Carter's loss of the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Carter on January 16, 1981.
Post-political career and retirement
Muskie retired to his home in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1981. He continued to work as a lawyer for some years. In 1987, as an elder statesman, Muskie was appointed a member of the President's Special Review Board known as the "Tower Commission" to investigate President Ronald Reagan's administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair.
Muskie died in Washington, D.C., of congestive heart failure in 1996, two days shy of his 82nd birthday. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Muskie's papers are kept at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
Numerous books have been written about Muskie. David Revin, the author of "Muskie in Maine," noted: "Muskie sees change not in radical, but incremental terms. He sees leadership as identifying problems, altering people, persuading them to a course of action and assembling the political muscle to put it through."
- James L. Witherell, Ed Muskie: Made in Maine, The Early Years 1914-1960 (Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House Publishers) ebook: 
- Robert Mason, Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2004), p. 153.
- Kevin J. McMahon, Nixon's Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and its Political Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011), ebook: 
- R. W. Apple, Jr. (27 March 1996). "Edmund S. Muskie, 81, Dies. Maine Senator and a Power on the National Scene". New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Nevin, David (1970). Muskie of Maine. Ladd Library, Bates College: Random House, New York. p. 99.
... a man many deemed to be the single-most influential figure in Maine
- Lippman, Theo (1971). Muskie. Ladd Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine. p. 13.
Incredibly linked to the establishment of the Democratic Party of Maine, many hailed him as the most influential figure in the party's history in the state
- Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 47. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
- "Untitled Document". abacus.bates.edu. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
- "Muskie, Edmund S.". Maine: An Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
- "Finding Aid for the Edmund S. Muskie Papers, Series I: Personal and family records, 1912-2004MC105.01". abacus.bates.edu. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
- Nevin, David (1970). Muskie of Maine. Ladd Library, Bates College: Random House, New York. p. 32.
- "Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection", Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, May 25, 2006.
- "Muskie, Edmund Sixtus (1914-1996)" in Elliot Robert Barkan, ed., Making it in America: A Sourcebook on Eminent Ethnic Americans (Santa Barbara, Cal.: ABC-CLIO, 2001), p. 248.
- Nevin, David (1970). Muskie of Maine. Ladd Library, Bates College: Random House, New York. p. 32.
- Nixon, Richard. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.
- Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 298. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
- "Remembering Ed Muskie", Online NewsHour, PBS, March 26, 1996.
- Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1972.
- "Clinton Campaign Reminiscent of 1980 Race", The CBS News.
- "Steenland: Odd man out?", The Star Tribune.
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Edmund S. Muskie Foundation
- Edmund Muskie at Findagrave
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of Maine
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Maine
1958, 1964, 1970, 1976
|Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States
|Governor of Maine
|United States Secretary of State
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
Served alongside: Margaret Smith, Bill Hathaway, Bill Cohen
|New office||Chair of the Senate Budget Committee