Muskie in the White House Rose Garden, 1985
|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|
|Member of the Maine House of Representatives from the 110th district|
December 5, 1946 – November 2, 1951
|Preceded by||Charles F. Cummings|
|Succeeded by||Ralph W. Farris|
|Born||Edmund Sixtus Muskie
March 28, 1914
Rumford, Maine, U.S.
|Died||March 26, 1996
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Cause of death||Congestive heart failure|
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jane Gray (m. 1948–96)|
|Alma mater||Bates College
|Awards||See list of awards|
|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 who was the 58th United States Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, a U.S. Senator from Maine from 1959 to 1980, the 64th Governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, a member of the Maine House of Representatives from 1946 to 1951, and the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 1968 election.
Muskie fathered the 1960s environmental movement in America and drafted the Clean Water Act of 1972–a hallmark of international environmental policy, and one of the only bills to be passed twice by the U.S. Congress. A champion of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, he publicly criticized J. Edgar Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and developed the reform of lobbying in America. His political accomplishments and personality have him regarded as the most influential political leader in the history of Maine.[Note 1]
A native of Rumford, Maine, Muskie graduated from Bates College in 1936 and Cornell University in 1939 before beginning a short stint in law practice. He served in the United States Navy during World War II and rose to the rank of lieutenant. Upon his return from the war he returned to practicing law and expanding the Democratic Party in a Republican Maine. He successfully began his political career as a member of the Maine House of Representatives before assuming the Governorship of Maine–a position he held from 1955 to 1959 as the first Roman Catholic. Months after he stepped down, he began his campaign and eventually won a seat on the U.S. Senate. During his 21-year term as a senator–with majority wins in his 1964, 1970, and 1976 reelections–he introduced numerous laws regarding environmental protection, campaign finance, lobbying, civil rights, and state affairs. 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 returned to the Senate, where he served as the first chairman of the new Senate Budget Committee from 1975 to 1980. Muskie was a candidate for the President of the United States in the 1972 elections, where he secured 1.84 million votes in the primaries coming in fourth out of 15 contesters; while he secured more votes than all eleven candidates below him combined, he ultimately lost to George McGovern.
In 1980, he was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the 58th U.S. Secretary of State assuming the office in the middle of the Iran hostage crisis, the Lublin 1980 strikes, and the Iraqi invasion of Iran. His biggest success as secretary came when he negotiated the release of 52 hostages effectively concluding the Iran hostage crisis. Over his tenure as secretary he was influential, but ultimately unsuccessful, in the negotiations attempting to secure the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War. In the final days of the Carter presidency, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 16, 1981. After briefly withdrawing from public service, 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 Early life and education
- 2 Early career and naval service
- 3 Political beginnings
- 4 U.S. Senate
- 5 Presidential and vice-presidential campaigns
- 6 U.S. Secretary of State
- 7 Return to law and the commission
- 8 Death and legacy
- 9 Personal life
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Early life and education
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 (Czarnecka) 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.
During World War II, Muskie served in the United States Navy in 1942 as a diesel engineer. He was on active duty from April 1944 to November 1945 on board the U.S.S. Brackets and later discharged in December 1945. Muskie would eventually rise to the rank of lieutenant during his time in the Navy. 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.
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.
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 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. His stances on the environment had him labeled as "Mr. Clean."
Muskie introduced the amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Act, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act, on October 28, 1971 in order to mitigate the "disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority, low-income, and indigenous populations." The bill enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress and was passed by the lower house on November 29, 1971 and the upper house on March 29, 1972. While congressional support was enough to enact it into law President Richard Nixon exercised his executive veto on the bill and stopped it from becoming law. However, after further campaigning by Muskie, the Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill 247-23 to override Nixon's veto. The bill was historic in that it established the regulation of pollutants in the federal and state waters of the U.S., created extended authority for the Environmental Protection Agency, and created water health standards.
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.
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.
While popular sentiment in the U.S. was anti-war, Muskie was hesitant to align with a side until he visited Vietnam in 1968. Prior to his visiting the country, he debated with a congressman on a pro-war platform. After the trip, he became a leading voice for the movement and entered into the ongoing debate by speaking at the year's Democratic Convention. His speech was followed by "tens of thousands of protestors surrounded the convention and violent clashes with police carried on for five days." 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. During an address at Bates College on October 15, 1969, Muskie stressed the consequences ensured by the protestors of Vietnam would have to be dealt with by the same group: "The right to have a voice in the development of public policy carries with it a responsibility for the results of that policy."
Presidential and vice-presidential campaigns
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. During an August 17, 1969 appearance on Meet the Press, Muskie said his entry into the presidential primary would depend on his being convinced that he could meet the challenges as well as his comfort: "I don't think I'll answer either question for a year or two." 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. Author and Rolling Stone journalist 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
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. Muskie was picked by Carter for his accomplishments with senatorial foreign policy. He was appointed and soon after confirmed by the Senate on May 8, 1980.
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.
Iran hostage crisis
After the resignation of Cyrus Vance left a gap in the negotiations for the hostages, Muskie appealed to the U.N. and the government of Iran to release the hostages to little success. Already six-months into the Iran hostage crisis–a crisis in which Ayatollah Khomenei's regime kidnapped fifty-four American embassy employees–he was pressed to reach a diplomatic solution. Before he assumed the position, the Delta Force rescue attempt resulted in the death of multiple soldiers leaving military intervention a sensitive course of action for the American public. Muskie established diplomatic ties with the Iranian government and attempted to have the hostages released yet was initially unsuccessful. However, a week before the crisis ended, Muskie was called as his military jet touched down in Andrews Air Force Base, by President Carter. Muskie was needed to negotiate the release of the hostages with the diplomats and leaders of Iran. Six days later–on the inauguration day of Ronald Regan–the 52 hostages were released.
Soviet tensions and nuclear arms race
Muskie was against the rapid accumulation of highly developed weaponry during the 1950s and 1960s as he thought that would inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race that would erode international trust and cooperation. He spoke frequently with the government executives of Cold War allies and that of the Soviet Union urging them to suspend their programs in pursuit of global security. Muskie's inclinations were confirmed during the early 1970s when Russia split from the U.S. and accumulated more warheads and anti-basllsitc missile systems. In late 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan which prompted NATO to trigger its ally contract. Muskie began his tenure as secretary of state five months into the invasion. The initial negotiations were widely seen as a failure, as the first meeting between Muskie and Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko did not produce the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
In November 1980, Muskie stated that Russia was interested in pursuing a "more stable, less confrontational' relationship with the United States." He criticized the stances undertaken by Ronald Regan multiple times during his presidential campaign expressing disdain for the calls to reject the SALT II treaty. Muskie, throughout his political career, was deeply afraid of global nuclear war.
Return to law and the commission
Muskie retired to his home in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1981. He continued to work as a lawyer for some years. After leaving public office, he was a partner with Chadbourne & Parke, an law firm in Washington, D.C.. Muskie also served as the chairman of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University as well as the chairman Emeritus of the Center for National Policy.
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 and the commission issued a highly detailed report of more than 300 pages that was critical of the presidents actions and blamed the White House chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, for unduly influencing the president's activities. The panel was notable as the findings of the report was directly critical of the president who appointed the commission.
Muskie was critical of the commission decrying the "over-obsession with secrecy," noting that "there are occasions when it's necessary to hold closely informa- tion about especially covert operations, but even possibly other operations of the Government. But every time that you are over-concerned about secrecy, you tend to abandon process." While underfunded, the commission did find that the Regan administration ran a parallel policy directive at the same time they were publicly condemning negotiating for hostages.
Death and legacy
Muskie's legacy in politics and civil service is usually centered on the legislation he passed and its impact. He is considered the "father of the 1960s environmental movement in America," vis-a-vis the impact of his legislative accomplishments regarding environmentalism. His most notable pieces of legislation were considered the Clean Water Act of 1972, which would go on to be regarded as a staple in modern environmental policy and one of the only bills to be passed twice by the U.S. Congress. His contributions to the Clean Air Act of 1963 were so great that the bill was nicknamed the "Muskie Act".
A champion of the civil rights movement in the United States, he publicly criticized J. Edgar Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was at the time considered political suicide as Hoover often spied and attempted to smear his opponents. He was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and developed the reform of lobbying in the U.S.
His personality and political accomplishments have him widely considered the most influential politician in the history of Maine. An official publication by Cornell University commented on his legacy by saying: "He will be remembered for the quality of his mind; the toughness, the rigor, the common sense; and for another quality: the courage to take risks for what he saw as right.
At the conclusion of his political career held the highest political office by a Polish American in U.S. history, and also was the only Polish American ever nominated by a major party for vice president.
Although his short term as secretary of state proved to be his "biggest disappointment" his ten months in office was seen as essential to the foreign policy directives pushed by Jimmy Carter. In addition to Carter giving Muskie the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Muskie is credited with the release of the American hostages from Iran during the Iran hostage crisis.
The Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine was named in his honor. Muskie's papers and personal effects are kept at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
While in Waterville, Maine after his military service, he married Jane Gray, who was thirteen years his junior, in 1948. When Muskie met Gray, she was a dress shop worker and 19 years old. He reportedly courted her for eighteen months before she agreed to marry young Muskie. During the marriage Gray changed her political affiliation and religion. In 1966, he purchased a yellow cottage at Kennebunk Beach. Their marriage produced five children and lasted until 1996.
Muskie was known for being reclusive yet possessed marked leadership qualities with a "cutting intellect." 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.
He was a micro-manager and hyper-attentive, Muskie was present for 90% of Senate roll-call votes, and took up speaking engagements all around the east coast. He wanted "every speech and every position researched, analyzed and reported directly back to him". He was known by aides for having a hot temper.
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... a man many deemed to be the single-most influential figure in Maine
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- Bates College. 2017. "From Rumford to Washington." Bates College. Online.
- Lippmann, Theo; Hansen Donald C. 1971. "Muskie." W.W. Norton & Company B000NQK5OM. Print.
- Baldwin, Samuel J.; Nicoll Donald E.; Goldstien Soel K. et al. 2015. "The Legacy of Senator Edmund Muskie." Maine Law Review.
- Mitchell George J.. 1997. "The World Peace: The Legacy of Edmund S. Muskie." Cornell Law Review. Cornell University Press. Online.
- Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library Archives & Manuscripts
- Edmund Muskie personal papers
- Online legislative record
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Edmund S. Muskie Foundation
- Edmund Muskie at Find a Grave
- Appearances on C-SPAN