DEXTER (AP) – The newly released epic movie about the life of Howard Hughes turns the clock back to a period in which a senator from Maine butted heads with Hughes.

In “The Aviator,” actor Alan Alda plays U.S. Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster, R-Maine, who clashed with Hughes during congressional committee hearings over the usefulness of the planes that the billionaire built for the U.S. military during World War II.

Hughes claimed that Brewster offered to sidetrack an inquiry if Hughes would merge his Trans World Airlines with Pan American Airways, which was run by one of Brewster’s top financial supporters.

Brewster denied that allegation, but the investigation was never completed and Brewster’s Senate career ended in 1952. The late senator, state lawmaker and governor who died on Christmas Day 1961 at age 73 is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Dexter.

and the home built by the Brewster family in the 1800s now serves as the Brewster Inn.

Brewster’s high-profile rise to power was marked with praise during his life, and controversy after his death.

After graduating from Bowdoin College in 1909, Brewster ascended the ranks of the State House. In 1924, he was elected governor with backing from the Ku Klux Klan, which thrived in Maine during Brewster’s tenure, according to reports in the Bangor Daily News.

After holding the governor’s post until 1929, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1935 to 1940, at which time he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

“He certainly had a lot of clout,” said Rick Whitney, director of the Dexter History Society. The society has a collection of items from the Brewster family on display. Whitney said Brewster was responsible for the town’s getting an airport. “He sort of greased the wheels so it was built here,” he said.

Longtime investigative reporter Jack Anderson detailed his dealings with Brewster in his 1979 autobiography, “Confessions of a Muckraker.”

Anderson was critical of his political dealings, which included allegiances with communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, according to published reports.

Anderson described Brewster as “billiard-bald on top, cheerless-eyed, meaty-lipped, an appearance dark and gloomy.”

“For him, the ballot box would have seemed the least likely springboard to success,” said Anderson, whose writings were later credited with contributing to Brewster’s defeat by 3,000 votes during his bid for re-election in 1952.

Information from: Bangor Daily News,

AP-ES-12-21-04 1337EST

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