John Richardson, photographed in 2010, “could walk into a room full of boilermakers and electricians or a room full of politicians and he could talk their language,” said a former head of the Maine State Troopers Association. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

John Richardson, a lawyer, politician and former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, died Tuesday at 62.

Richardson was stricken at his home in Brunswick on Tuesday morning and died of a massive heart attack, said Michael Edes, a friend who worked with Richardson at two police unions.

A powerful figure in Democratic politics, Richardson was especially skilled at encouraging others to run for office, said Paul Brunetti, who worked with Richardson in the Legislature and later when Richardson was Maine’s commissioner of economic development. Brunetti and Richardson have been law partners at a Topsham law firm for the last eight years.

“He was a master at making a political connection,” Brunetti said. “He built a lot of connections and lifelong friends.”

Richardson ran for governor in 2010, but dropped out of the race before the primary when questions were raised over how some campaign workers had been soliciting donations to help him qualify for state election funds.

But he remained in the public eye as a political commentator for News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ), where he regularly appeared on a segment called “Political Brew,” discussing issues with Phil Harriman, a former Republican lawmaker.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said Richardson “was a tireless advocate for Maine’s working men and women.”

Richardson helped shepherd the development of a court specializing in business and consumer issues, and worked on the redevelopment of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, Mills said.

John Richardson, then a state representative, speaks during a Democratic caucus in the House. He was elected by the Democratic majority to become speaker of the House. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“The people of Brunswick have lost a friend. I have lost a friend. The state of Maine has lost a friend,” Mills said.

Former Gov. John Baldacci, who tapped Richardson to head the Department of Economic and Community Development, said Richardson was a “dedicated public servant” who was also “a successful attorney and a thoughtful political commentator whose wit and wisdom will be missed.”

In a Facebook post, Baldacci said that Richardson “was a great and big-hearted friend, an accomplished attorney and a wonderful human being and political leader.”

Sen. Susan Collins also lauded Richardson Tuesday and said that at 19, Richardson was in the hospital for five months recovering from injuries he suffered attempting to rescue someone from a burning building.

Richardson, whose father was a fire chief in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., suffered burns that caused scars that remained with him for life. Richardson’s father was visiting his son in Maine this week.

Collins said Richardson “worked tirelessly for the people of Maine. As speaker, John built consensus and got things done.”

Edes, executive director for the Maine Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he spent 10 hours with Richardson on Monday in an arbitration hearing for a dismissed police officer.

“He was a lawyer who you always knew, if there was someone worth saving, he was there,” said Edes, who met Richardson in 1989 and worked with him when Edes was head of the Maine State Troopers Association.

When he took the post with the Fraternal Order of Police, Edes said, his first thought was that the organization needed to hire Richardson as its lawyer.

“John could walk into a room full of boilermakers and electricians or a room full of politicians and he could talk their language,” Edes said. “Talking with him was easy – he knew white collar and he knew blue collar.”

Richardson represented police unions around the state and the Portland Newspaper Guild for many years.

In his practice, Richardson specialized in cases of wrongful termination of employees, Brunetti said.

Those cases “were his bread and butter,” Brunetti said. “He loved keeping employers honest.”

Richardson is survived by his wife, Dr. Stephanie Grohs, and three adult children.


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