Edmund Muskie
Name: Edmund Muskie
Occupation: Politician
Gender: Male
Birth Day: March 28, 1914
Death Date: Mar 26, 1996 (age 81)
Age: Aged 81
Country: United States
Zodiac Sign: Aries

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Edmund Muskie

Edmund Muskie was born on March 28, 1914 in United States (81 years old). Edmund Muskie is a Politician, zodiac sign: Aries. Nationality: United States. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.

Brief Info

Affiliated with the Democratic Party, this Maine-born politician served as Governor of his home state during the 1950s and as United States Secretary of State during one year of the administration of President Jimmy Carter. He also had a two-decade career as a United States Senator and was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee in 1968.


In late 1971, he was a top candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination; however, his primary campaign was soon eclipsed by that of South Dakota Senator George McGovern.

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As per our current Database, Edmund Muskie died on Mar 26, 1996 (age 81).


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Before Fame

After studying government and history at Bates College, he earned a law degree from Cornell University. Before beginning his political career, he served during World War II as a lieutenant in the United States Navy.


Biography Timeline


Muskie's first language was Polish; he spoke it as his only language until age 4. He began learning English soon after and eventually lost fluency in his mother language. In his youth he was an avid fisherman, hunter, and swimmer. He felt as though his given name was "odd" so he went by Ed throughout his life. Muskie was shy and anxious in his early life but maintained a sizable number of friends. Muskie attended Stephens High School, where he played baseball, participated in the performing arts, and was elected student body president in his senior year. He would go on to graduate in 1932 at the top of his class as valedictorian. A 1931 edition of the school's newspaper noted him with the following: "when you see a head and shoulders towering over you in the halls of Stephen's, you should know that your eyes are feasting on the future President of the United States."


Influenced by the political excitement of Franklin D. Roosevelt's election to the White House, he attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. While at college, Muskie was a successful member of the debating team, participated in several sports, and was elected to student government. Although he received a small scholarship and New Deal subsidies, he had to work during the summers as a dishwasher and bellhop at a hotel in Kennebunk to finance his time at Bates. He would record in his diaries occasional feelings of insecurity to his more wealthier Bates peers; Muskie was fearful of being kicked out of the college as a consequence of his socioeconomic status. His situation would gradually improve and he went on to graduate in 1936 as class president and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Initially intending to major in mathematics he switched to a double major in history and government.


Upon his graduation, he was given a partial merit-based scholarship to Cornell Law School. After his second semester there, his scholarship ran out. As he was preparing to drop out, he heard of an "eccentric millionaire" named William Bingham II who had a habit of randomly and sporadically paying the university costs, mortgages, car loans, and other expenses of those who wrote to him. After Muskie wrote to him about his immigrant origins he secured $900 from the man allowing him to finance his final years at Cornell. While in law school he was elected to Phi Alpha Delta and went on to graduate cum laude, in 1939. Upon graduating from Cornell, Muskie was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1939.


He then worked as a high school substitute teacher while he was studying for the Maine Bar examination; he passed in 1940. Muskie moved to Waterville and purchased a small law practice–renamed "Muskie & Glover"–for $2,000 in March 1940.

In June 1940, President Roosevelt created the V-12 Navy College Training Program to prepare men under the age of 28 for the eventual outbreak of World War II. Muskie formally registered for the draft in October 1940 and was formally called to deck officer training on March 26, 1942. At 28, he was assigned to work as a diesel engineer in the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School. On September 11, 1942 he was called to Annapolis, Maryland to attend the United States Naval Academy. He left his law practice running so "his name would continue to circulate in Waterville" while he was gone. He trained as an apprentice seaman for six weeks before being assigned the rank of midshipman.


In January 1943, he attended diesel engineering school for sixteen weeks before being assigned to First Naval District, Boston in May. Muskie worked on the USS YP-522 for a month. In June he was assigned to the USS YP-566 at Fort Schuyler in New York where he worked as an indoctrinator. In November 1943 he was promoted to Deck Officer. He trained for two weeks in Miami, Florida at the Submarine Chaser Training Center. After that he was relocated to Columbus, Ohio to study reconnaissance in February 1944. In March, he was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade). Muskie was stationed at California's Mare Island in April temporarily before formally engaging in active duty warfare.


He began his active duty tour aboard the destroyer escort USS Brackett. His vessel was in charge of protecting U.S. convoys traveling from the Marshal and Gilbert Islands from Japanese submarines. The Brackett escorted ships to and from the islands for the majority of summer 1944. In January 1945, the ship engaged and eventually sunk a Japanese cargo ship headed for Taroa Island. After a few more months of escorting ships to and from the two islands, the ship was decommissioned. He was discharged from the Navy on December 18, 1945.


He returned to Maine in January 1946 and began rebuilding his law practice. Convinced by others to run for political office as a way of expanding his law practice, he formally entered politics. He ran against Republican William A. Jones in an election for the Maine House of Representatives for the 110th District. Muskie secured 2,635 votes and won the election to most people's surprise on September 9, 1946. During this time the Maine Senate was stacked 30-to-3 and the House was stacked 127-to-24 Republicans against Democrats.

He was assigned to the committees on federal and military relations during his first year. Muskie advocated for bipartisanship which won him over widespread support across political parties. On October 17, 1946, his law practice sustained a large fire costing him an estimated $2,300 in damages. However a yearly stipend of $800 and help from other business leaders who were affected by the fire quickly restarted his practice.


His work with city ordinances in Waterville prompted locals to ask him to run in the 1947 election to become Mayor of Waterville against banker Russel W. Squire. Perhaps due to incumbency advantage, Muskie lost the election with 2,853 votes, 434 votes behind Squire. Some historians believe that his loss had to do with his inability to gain traction with Franco-American voters.


Jane Frances Gray was born February 12, 1927 in Waterville to Myrtie and Millage Guy Gray. Growing up she was voted "prettiest in school" in high school and at age 15, started her first job in a dress shop. At age 18, she was hired to be a bookkeeper and saleswoman in an exclusive haute couture boutique in Waterville. While there a mutual friend tried to introduce her to Muskie while he was working the city as a lawyer. She had Gray model the dresses in the shop window while he was walking to work. Muskie came into the shop one day and invited her to a gala event. At the time she was 19 and he was 32; their difference in age stirred controversy in the town. However, after eighteen months of courting Gray and her family, she agreed to marry him in a private ceremony in 1948. Gray and Muskie had five children: Stephen (b. 1949), Ellen (b. 1950), Melinda (b. 1956), Martha (b. 1958), and Edmund Jr. (b. 1961). The Muskies lived in a yellow cottage at Kennebunk Beach while they lived in Maine.

Muskie continued his political involvement locally by securing a position on the Waterville Board of Zoning Adjustment in 1948 and stayed in this part-time position until he became governor. He later returned to the House to start his second term in 1948 as Minority Leader against heavy Republican opposition. Muskie was appointed the chairman of the platform committee during the 1949 Maine Democratic Convention. During the convention, he brought together a variety of the political elite of Maine — notably Frank M. Coffin and Victor Hunt Harding — to plan a comeback for the party. On February 8, 1951, Muskie resigned from the Maine House of Representatives to become acting director for the Maine Office of Price Stabilization. He moved to Portland soon after and was assigned the inflation-control and price-ceiling divisions. His job required him to move across Maine to spread word about economic incentives which he used to increase his name recognition. He served as the regional director at the Office of Price Stabilization from 1951 to 1952. Upon leaving the Office he was asked to join the Democratic National Committee as a member; he served on the committee from 1952 to 1956.


In April 1953, while working on renovations for his family home in Waterville, Muskie broke through a balcony railing falling two flights of stairs. He landed on his back, knocked unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital where he remained unconscious for two days. Doctors believed that he was in a coma so they gave him comatose-specific medication which caused him to regain consciousness but start to hallucinate. Muskie tried to jump out of the hospital window but was restrained by staff members. After a couple of months, through physical rehabilitation and corrective braces, he was able to walk once more.


After establishing a prominent presence in the Maine State Legislature and with the Office of Price Stabilization, he officially launched his bid in the 1954 Maine gubernatorial race as a Democrat. Burton M. Cross, the Republican incumbent governor was seeking relection. Had he won, he would have been the fifth consecutive Governor to be reelected. Throughout the election Muskie was viewed as the underdog because of the Republican stronghold in Maine. Muskie acknowledged this himself by saying, "[this is] more as a duty than an opportunity because there was no chance of a Democrat winning." A variety of personal reasons motivated his run. Muskie was deeply in debt owing five thousand dollars in hospital bills and maintained a rising mortgage. At the time of his election, the salary for the Governor of Maine was set at ten thousand dollars annually. While he was campaigning 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." His final choice reflected his 'society over self' mentality and decided to pursue the election. He announced his candidacy for the office on April 8, 1954.

He successively won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and then the general election by a majority popular vote on September 13, 1954. The upset victory made Muskie the first Democrat to be elected chief executive of Maine since Louis J. Brann in 1934. His election has been viewed as a causal link to the end of Republican political dominance in Maine and the rise of the Democratic Party. After his win, he was asked by other Democrats running in elections outside of Maine to make a series of campaign stops.


Muskie was inaugurated as the 64th Governor of Maine on January 6, 1955. He was the state's first Roman Catholic governor. Shortly after his assumption of the office, the next election cycle stacked the legislature with a 4-to-1 Republican-Democrat ratio against Muskie. Through bipartisanship and his aggressive personality he managed to pass the majority of his party platform. Constituents pressured him to more aggressively pursue water control and anti-pollution legislation. In August, the Maine State Legislature authorized him to take extraordinary action to control the state's pollution standards. He used this authority to sign the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Compact on August 31, 1955. This compact required member states to pay for anti-pollution measures collectively. Conservative members of the Chamber of Commerce fought back against Muskie in his attempt to allocate money to the compact and greatly reduced the amount paid. One of the chief concerns of Muskie during this time was economic development. Maine's population was aging, putting pressure on welfare services. He expanded certain programs and cut down on others in order rebalance state spending. Before leaving office Muskie signed an executive order extending the gubernatorial term to four years.

He expanded the territory comprising Baxter State Park by 3,569 acres and purchased 40 acres (1.7 million ft) of Cape Elizabeth from the federal government for $28,000. He also created the Department of Development of Commerce and Industry and Maine Industrial Building Authority. In February 1955, he was briefed on atomic energy power by the United States Atomic Energy Commission leading him to limit the expansion of atomic-powered electrical facilities.


On September 10, 1956, Muskie was re-elected Governor of Maine with 180,254 votes (59.14% of the vote) against Republican Willis A. Trafton. He won 14 of the 16 counties. He began his second term by aggressively enforcing environmental standards. In 1957, he sanctioned a $29 million highway bond. This bond funded the largest road construction ever undertaken by Maine. The highway included 91 bridges and was extended in 1960 and 1967 by Interstate 95.


During his tenure as Governor he retained a reputation for increased spending in public education, subsidized hospitals, modernized state facilities, and cumulatively raised state sale taxes by 1%. He added $4 million to infrastructure development focusing on roads and river maintenance. Muskie pushed aggressive economic expansionism. In 1957, he founded the Maine Guarantee Authority which combated economic maturation-related job loss making capital more accessible for business owners. Muskie also sporadically lowered sales tax, increased the minimum wage and furthered labor protections leading to a marked increase in consumer spending. He amended the constitution of Maine in order divert $20 million in public funds into private investment. He increased subsidies to expensive institutions such as public primary and secondary schools as well as universities. Although initially founded in 1836, the Maine State Museum was closed and reopened six time before Muskie permanently endowed it in 1958.


Muskie's first contestation for the Senate of the United States was in 1958. He ran in the 1958 elections against incumbent Republican Senator Frederick G. Payne. Muskie won the election with 60% of the vote against Payne's 39%. He was one of the 12 Democrats who overtook Republican incumbents and established the party as the party-of-house during the election cycle. The New York Times reported that during this election that the absentee ballots requested for Democrats increased considerable signaling voter-discontent with Republican ideology. This election was considered the largest single-party gain in the Senate's history.


Muskie resigned on January 2, 1959 to take his seat in the United States Senate after the 1958 Senate election. He was succeeded by Republican Robert Haskell in an interim capacity until the Governor-elect, Democrat Clinton Clauson, was inaugurated. Muskie was officially succeeded by Clauson on January 6, 1959.

Edmund Muskie was sworn into office as U.S. Senator from Maine on January 3, 1959. His first couple of months in the Senate earned a reputation for being combative and often sparred with 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. However, increased power and influence prompted supporters in Maine to label him "an honorary Kennedy," alluding to the indifference John F. Kennedy had to Massachusetts when first gaining political traction. Muskie used the influence gain in his first two terms to push a vast expansion of environmentalism in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His specific goals were to curb pollution and provide a cleaner environment. Occasional speeches on environmental preservation earned him the nickname "Mr. Clean."

He served his entire career in the Senate as a member of the Committee on Public Works, a committee he used to execute the majority of his environmental legislation. He served on the Committee on Banking and Currency from 1959 to 1970; the Committee on Government Operations until 1978. As a member of the Public Works Committee, he traveled to the Soviet Union in 1959. He sponsored the Intergovernmental Relations Act, later that year.


He was awarded the Guardian of Berlin's Freedom Award from the U.S. Army Berlin Command in 1961. In 1969, he was inducted in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences alongside Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Shirley Chisholm, and Bella Abzug.


In 1962, he co-founded the United States Capital Historical Society along with other members of congress. The same year, members of Congress elected him to serve as the first chair of the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution. In 1963, he was the first to sponsor a new Act to regulate air pollution. The Clean Air Act of 1963 was written and developed by Muskie and his aide Leon Billings.


He ran for a second term in 1964, running against Republican Clifford McIntire. Muskie won with 66.6% of the vote. The election was called "The Senate Race That Couldn't Be Lost" because of the outpouring of Democratic support following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


His first major accomplishment was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He assembled more than one hundred votes for the proposed legislation eventually passing it. Also during 1964, he was critical of J. Edgar Hoover's management of the Federal Bureau of investigation. Muskie was upset by its "overzealous surveillance and its director's intemperance". Muskie also sponsored the construction of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park near Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Brunswick estate. Due to its international nature, Muskie was asked to chair a join U.S.-Canada commission to maintain the park. In 1965, he was again sponsored the Water Quality Act (later to be known as the Clean Water Act). He was the floor manager for the discussion and led to its passage in 1965 and its successful amendments in 1970.


Alongside President Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty programs, Muskie drafted the Model Cities Bill which eventually passed both houses of Congress in 1966. Previously, combative with Johnson, Muskie began developing a more cooperative relationship with him. During Johnson's signing of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act he said: I am pleased that Senator Muskie could be with us this afternoon. I believe that no man has done more to encourage cooperation among the National Government, the States, and the cities." Also in 1966, Muskie was elected assistant Democratic whip and served as the floor manager for the Clean Water Restoration Act.


During 1967 the popular sentiment in the U.S. was anti-war, which prompted Muskie to visit Vietnam to inform his political stance 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 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. Months later, he wrote to the president again urging him to end the bombing of North Vietnam. During the same year, he traveled with other Senators to the Republic of South Vietnam to validate their elections.


In 1968, Muskie was nominated for vice president on the Democratic ticket with sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey asked Muskie to be his running mate because he was a more reserved contrast personality-wise, from a Catholic background and of Polish origin.

At the conclusion of his political career, he 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. On the 100th birthday of Edmund Muskie, U.S. Senator Angus King spoke on the floor of the United States Senate in memoriam. King noted the following: "if you would see Ed Muskie's memorial, look around you. Take a deep breath. Experience our great rivers. Experience the environment that we now have in the country that we treasure." Muskie has received the keys to all three major cities in Maine: Portland, Lewiston, and Augusta. He was given honorary citizenship to the State of Texas in 1968. Numerous days have been named "Edmund S. Muskie Day": September 25, 1968 (Michigan), January 20, 1980 (New York), March 28, 1988 (Maine), March 1928, 1994 (Maine), and March 20, 1995 (Maine). In 1987, the Maine State Legislature enacted Statute §A7 enacting "Edmund S. Muskie Day" on March 28. The statute was amended in 1989; Edmund S. Muskie Day is celebrated annually and is a public holiday in Maine.


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. From 1967 to 1969, he served as the chair of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He voted against the appointment of Clement Haynsworth to the U.S. Supreme Court.


His third campaign and election to the Senate occurred in 1970. During the 1970 elections, Muskie secured 61.9% of the vote against Republican Neil S. Bishop's 38.3%. The elections were seen as tumultuous due to the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War and rising unpopularity of incumbent president Richard Nixon. On the night of poll-opening Muskie gave a nationwide, 14 minute speech to addressed American voters following a similar address by Nixon. Dubbed the "election eve speech" it spoke to American exceptionalism and against "torrents of falsehood and insinuation". The speech was considered bipartisan and was well received by both parties. Political analysts believed that the speech influenced voting patterns during the election as there were thirty million listeners. Commentators received the speech as "essentially evangelical" and indicative of "a volcanic private temper but a soothing public manner." The most famous passage from the speech was widely commented on by the public for its biting nature and critique of "politics of fear":

The Portland Press Herald on November 4, 1970 noted it akin to Franklin D. Roosevelt's fire-side chats "with video". The speech has been the subject of numerous studies regarding "the dimensions of the televised public address as an emerging rhetorical genre of pervasive influence in contemporary affairs".

His third term began in 1970 by co-sponsoring the McGovern-Hatfield resolution to limit military intervention in the Vietnam War. During this time Harold Carswell was seeking appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Muskie voted against him and Carswell failed the confirmation process. Muskie also proposed a six-month ban on domestic and Soviet Union development of nuclear technologies to taper the nuclear arms race.

After concluding his 1968 campaign for the White House he returned to the Senate. While in Chattanooga, the shooting of two black students at Jackson State College in 1970 by the Mississippi State Police, 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, Muskie was chosen to articulate the Democratic party's message to congressional voters before the midterm elections. His 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. During this time, he was appointed the chair of the intergovernmental relations subcommittee. Considered "a backwater assignment", Muskie used it to advocate for a widening of governmental responsibilities, limiting the power of Richard Nixon's "Imperial Presidency" and advancing New Federalism ideals.


As chair of the congressional environmental committee, he and fellow committee members including Howard Baker introduced the Clean Air Act of 1970, which was co-written by the committee's staff director Leon Billings and minority staff director Tom Jorling. As part of the act, he told the automobile industry it would need to reduce its tailpipe air pollution emissions by 90% by 1977. He also co-wrote amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Act, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act, and urged his fellow Congress members to adopt it, saying "The country was once famous for its rivers ... But today, the rivers of this country serve as little more than sewers to the seas. ... The danger to health, the environmental damage, the economic loss can be anywhere." 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. Also in 1971, Muskie was asked to join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he traveled to Europe and the Middle East in this capacity.


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." On November 8, 1970, Muskie said he would only declare himself as a presidential candidate in the event he became convinced he was best suited for unifying the country through the presidency. 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".

On February 24, 1972, a staffer from the White House forwarded a letter about Muskie to the Manchester Union-Leader. The forged letter– reportedly the successful sabotage work of Donald Segretti and Ken W. Clawson –asserted that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French Canadians which were likely to injure his support among the French-American population in northern New England. The letter contained reference to French Canadians as "Canucks"– a term used affectionately by some Canadians but which may be regarded as offensive when referring to French Canadians - leading to its sobriquet, "The Canuck letter."


In his fourth and final election, Muskie ran against Republican Robert A. G. Monks in 1976; he won 60.2% of the vote compared to Monk's 39.8%. The elections coincided with the election of Jimmy Carter as president leading to a large influx of Democratic support, though Carter lost Maine to incumbent President Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election.


In 1977, he amended Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 along with others, to pass the Clean Water Act of 1977. These new additions incorporated "non-degradation" or "clean growth" policies intended to limit negative externalities. In 1978, he made minor adjustments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the "Superfund".


In December 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. He assigned Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher the tasks of managing the domestic side of the department while he participated in international deliberations. Muskie met with Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko who categorically rejected a compromise that would secure the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Gromyko wanted the state department to formally recognize Kabul as a part of the Soviet Union.

On November 4, 1979, 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage by an Iranian student group in Tehran's U.S. Embassy. After the resignation of Cyrus Vance left a gap in the negotiations for the hostages, Muskie appealed to the United Nations (U.N.) and the government of Iran to release the hostages to little success. Already six months into the hostage crisis, he was pressed to reach a diplomatic solution. Before he assumed the position, the Delta Force rescue attempt called Operation Eagle Claw resulted in the death of multiple soldiers, leaving military intervention a sensitive course of action for the American public. He established diplomatic ties with the Iranian government and attempted to have the hostages released yet was initially unsuccessful. On January 15, as Muskie was flying to address the Maine Senate in Augusta, President Carter called him as his jet was touching down at Andrews Air Force Base. Carter alerted him that there was a possible breakthrough in the negotiations conducted by his deputy secretary Warren Christopher. After the negotiations failed, Muskie instructed the state department to continue seeking an agreement for the hostages' release. On January 20–the inauguration day of Ronald Reagan–the fifty-two hostages were handed over to U.S. authorities, a solution that had eluded Muskie and the entire Carter administration for 444 days and contributed to Carter's defeat.


In late April 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 by a margin of 94–2.

In June 1980, there was a "draft Muskie" movement among Democratic voters within the primaries of the 1980 presidential election. President Carter was running against Senator Ted Kennedy, and opinion polls ranked Muskie more favorably against Kennedy. 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. Moreover, Muskie was polled against Republican challenger Ronald Reagan at the time showing Carter seven points down. Due to a political allegiance with Carter, he backed out of the contention. Pressured by the Carter Administration, Muskie released the following public statement to Democratic voters: "I accepted the appointment as secretary of state to serve the country and to serve the president. I continue to serve the president, and I will support him all the way! I have a commitment to the president. I don't make such commitments lightly, and I intend to keep it." An article by The New Yorker speculated that the move to back Muskie was a temporary flex of political power by the Democratic voter base to unease Carter.

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-ballistic missile systems. 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 Reagan 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 with the Soviet Union.


Muskie left office on January 18, 1981, two days before Carter's last day as president and the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

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, a law firm in Washington. 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 1981, he was awarded the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame, considered the most prestigious award for American Catholics.

Muskie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom–the nation's highest honor–by President Jimmy Carter on January 16, 1981 for his work during the Iran hostage crisis, four days before stepping down from the presidency. In 1984, the House of Representatives designated the Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building in Augusta.


In 1987, 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 president's 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 were directly critical of the president who appointed the commission.


The Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine was named in his honor in 1990. Muskie's papers and personal effects are kept at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.


Muskie was memorialized in Washington D.C., Lewiston, Maine, and Bethesda, Maryland. At his Washington memorial, he was paid tribute to by a variety of U.S. senators and house representatives. His alma mater–Bates College–held a memorial presided over by its president, Donald Harward. On March 30, 1996, a publicly broadcast, Roman Catholic funeral was held in Bethesda at the Church of the Little Flower. He was eulogized by U.S. president Jimmy Carter; U.S. Senator, George J. Mitchell; 20th United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright; a political aide, Leon G. Billings; and one of Muskie's sons, Stephen.

The American Bar Association honors lawyers who under take pro bono work with the annual Edmund S. Muskie Pro Bono Service Award. From 1993 to 2013, the United State Department of State ran the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program in an effort to increase international study abroad. In 1996, the Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award was founded by the Truman National SecurityProject to honor current or former elected officials.


Due to his service in the United States Naval Reserve during World War II, he was eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia. His ultimate rank of lieutenant had him placed in Section 25 of the cemetery. Although he died on March 26, his grave stone initially noted that he died on the 25th. His wife, Jane, died on December 25, 2004, due to health complications brought on by Alzheimer's disease. She was buried next to Muskie and his grave stone was corrected to read "March 26, 1996".

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