A Bates College graduate, a former Maine governor, a longtime U.S. senator and his party’s vice presidential candidate in 1968, Muskie capped his career as secretary of state for President Jimmy Carter. He was known across the land for his service, his integrity and his love for his native Maine.

Then-Secretary of State Edmund Muskie in 1980. U.S. National Archives photo

When news came of Muskie’s death in 1996, one of his old Senate colleagues, a Democrat from Delaware named Joe Biden, rose to his feet to deliver a few words of remembrance.

Biden called Muskie “a very human, very good-humored man — most of the time — who was most comfortable simply as Ed Muskie, and who, if he was your friend, was your friend for life.”

But he noted that sometimes his old friend’s good humor would desert him for a moment.

“He had a temper that verged on the volcanic, and he was capable of weeping public tears over an insult to the wife whom he loved,” Biden recalled, “but those moments occurred, for the most part, because Ed Muskie never believed that a career in politics obliged his head to divorce his heart.”

Another old colleague, Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, said Muskie would be remembered as “a great environmental legislator” who pushed through the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, “things that he believed were necessary, and so he made them happen.”

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana urged people to look around if they wanted to see the memorial for Muskie.

“Look around you at the air in our cities; at the Potomac River, or the Cuyahoga; at a cleaner environment from Maine to Montana; at a nation that is more healthy and more beautiful because of his work. He was a great environmental statesman, and his passing diminishes us,” Baucus said.

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