Cornell Law School, acting through Bates President Clifton Gray, offered Edmund Muskie a scholarship to attend based on the success that previousBatesgraduates had there. This was despite the fact that he had not applied, nor even expressed a desireto pursue a legal profession. Muskie accepted the offer, but atthe end of the first year of classes, he again found his education imperiled by financial crisis. Muskie learned of William Bingham II, a wealthy man who supported Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine and assisted students who needed financial help tocontinueschool. Muskie wrote to Bingham, and within a few days had an interview with Dr. Farnsworth, Bingham’s agent. Muskie leftthe meeting with $900 and a promise of $900 more the next year, both interest-free loans.
Muskie joined the Navy in 1942, soon after the U.S. entered WWII, leaving his solo law practice in the hands ofhissecretary. As he related in an oral history interview in 1985: Within a week after I enlisted in the Navy, I don’t know how he learned about it, I got a letter from Dr. Farnsworth enclosing the first note canceled. He said, “I don’t think you ought to go into the service with this burden hanging over you,” and he said, “next year, we’ll return the second,” which he did. In the Navy, Muskie was trained as a diesel engineer and attained the rank of Lieutenant. He served from April 1944 to November 1945 on board the U.S.S. Brackett (DE 41), which was assigned to the Pacific theater of combat. Muskie was discharged from active duty in December 1945, and like many returning veterans, became active in AMVETS.
Jane Gray Muskie (1927-2004) and Edmund Muskie were married for nearly 50 years and raised five childrentogether. When she met Muskie, Jane Gray was a 19-year-old dress shop girl from Waterville whose father had died when she was 12, leaving her mother to support five children by boarding Colby College students. After 18 months of courtship, she agreed to change both her religion (Baptist to Catholic) and her political party (Republican to Democrat) to marry Edmund Muskie. After Jane Gray Muskie’s death, longtime Muskie staffer and friend Don Nicoll reminisced: They were devoted to each other. Their personalities were different, they had a feisty relationship at times, but that never dampened their devotion and love for each other. It was a very impressive marriage.
In this audio clip recorded In 2000, Jane Muskie remembered how her family reacted to the news of her dating an older man and how he eventually proposed to her.
The Muskie family included two young children, Stephen O. (born 1949) and Ellen (now Ellen Allen, born 1950), when they moved into Blaine House in 1954. When they left for Washington after two gubernatorial terms, the family had grown by two: Melinda (now Melinda Stanton, born 1956) and Martha (1958-2006). With the birth of Edmund Jr. (called Ned, born 1961) during Muskie’s first Senate term, the family was complete. Although the younger children spent most of their youth in Washington, D.C., they all spent summers together in Maine, first at Muskie’s camp on China Lake and later at the family’s Kennebunk Beach home. None of the children have chosen to follow their father’s career path in law and politics.
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