May 8, 1980: U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie (1914-1996), a Democrat from Maine, becomes U.S. secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. He serves until Jan. 18, 1981, two days before the end of Carter’s presidential term.

Under Muskie, the State Department holds its first high-level talks with the Soviet Union, trying in vain to convince the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan and end the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War. It also negotiates the release of 52 American hostages who have been held in Iran since November 1979.

Muskie was governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, a U.S. senator from 1959 to 1980, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for vice president in 1968 and a candidate for president in 1972. After his service as secretary of state, he returns to private law practice.

As a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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