Clyde MacDonald, Jr. was born in 1929 in Old Orchard Beach to Nellie MacDonald and Clyde MacDonald, Sr., who were both of Canadian descent. The oldest of four children, MacDonald enlisted in the Army and served during the Korean War in Germany. After he left the military, he became interested in politics at the local level. He attended Portland Junior College for two years and then Bates for two years. He later earned a doctorate at the University of Maine while teaching undergraduate classes there. During this time, he became active in local Democratic politics and found himself in more regular contact with Senator Muskie. He worked for Senators Muskie and Mitchell.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "MacDonald, Clyde, Jr. oral history interview" (1999). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 226.