GORHAM – Harrison L. Richardson, outstanding legislator, prominent attorney and public servant, died at his home in Gorham on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, following a debilitating stroke. He was 79.

With his death, Maine has lost one of the most significant figures in Maine’s legislative history, a dedicated public servant and the dean of Maine’s trial lawyers.

He was a founding partner in the Portland law firm of Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger, where he earned a reputation as an aggressive and effective trial lawyer as well as an influential mentor to many young lawyers. In recognition of his trial skills, he was elected as a fellow to the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1975 and listed in “The Best Lawyers in America.”

In addition to his longtime practice of law, Richardson was a dedicated – and influential – public servant. He served three terms in the Maine House of Representatives from 1965 to 1971, the last two as majority leader. He also served in the Maine Senate from 1973 to 1975.

In response to a state funding crisis for mental health care, Richardson became a key advocate for a state income tax and was instrumental in its enactment in 1969. He described as “shameful” the treatment of mentally and physically impaired residents of state institutions and believed that new revenue was needed to support more humane social services.

Richardson was an environmentalist when it was not necessarily popular to be so. He was a principal advocate of a “returnable container law” (the law banning throw-away bottles and cans). Perhaps he was proudest of his sponsorship of landmark environmental protection legislation called the Coastal Conveyance Act, which taxes the oil companies for shipping oil through Maine waters.

On the heels of his legislative successes, Richardson ran unsuccessfully for governor 1974, narrowly losing the GOP nomination to James Erwin (the year independent Jim Longley was elected). With self-deprecating humor, Richardson often called himself “the best governor Maine never had.” And many people agreed. His supporters said he had a clear vision of Maine’s future and knew what he wanted to do.

He was dedicated to the University of Maine, where he played football and was an All-New England tackle in 1953. His devotion to the university led him to serve on the board of trustees for two terms, one as chairman. He also continued to meet with his Phi Mu Delta Fraternity brothers through the years. At the time of his death he was a trustee of the Maine Maritime Academy and the American University in Bulgaria. He was also an active member of Maine Audubon Society and the Maine League of Conservation Voters. He served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality as well as the governor’s blue ribbon panel to review the Legislature’s ethics laws.

Before earning a law degree, Richardson served in the Marine Corps, including 14 months in Korea as a platoon leader and company commander.

Harrison loved the water and was an avid sailor. He enjoyed traveling and was able to experience many cultures from Africa, eastern and western Europe, and the Far East.

As a father of three, Harrison was a firm believer in education and self-reliance. In 1963, he returned to Maine with his family, moving them to a farm in Cumberland as a place for the children to grow and learn.

Richardson’s death came six months after the death of his beloved wife Catherine. Harry and Cate met the summer of 1989 and fell in love. They brought out the best in each other and the love they shared inspired many.

Survivors include two sons, Harrison III and his partner, Rebecca, of Portland, and James and his wife, Sara, of South Portland; his daughter, Janet, of West Paris; stepson, Jason Lovejoy, of Gorham; stepdaughter Cristy Lovejoy; and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his sisters, Alwynne Richardson, Barbara Rathell and Marilyn White.

Guest Book