Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date


Interview Number

MOH 032


Kenneth M. Curtis was born in Curtis Corner (Leeds), Maine on February 8, 1931 to Harriet [Turner] and Archie Curtis. His father was the fifth generation to run the family farm at Curtis Corner. He was educated at the area schools, and graduated from Cony High School in Augusta, Maine in 1949. He attended Maine Maritime Academy, graduating in 1952. He then enlisted in the Navy, leaving in 1955 to attend law school at Portland University, known currently as the University of Maine School of Law, and was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1958. He became active in Jim Oliver’s campaigns for Congress in 1956 and 1958, becoming campaign manager in 1958, and congressional staff from 1958 to 1960. He then was appointed by President Kennedy as coordinator of the Area Redevelopment Association (ARA), charged with providing development to depressed areas. In 1964, he ran for Congress against Stan Tupper, loosing by a narrow margin. He was then appointed Secretary of State in 1965, serving until 1966 when he ran for Governor of Maine. He was elected, and served two terms. His major legislation included the income tax and environmental legislation. He served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1977 to 1978, and Ambassador to Canada from 1979 to 1981. At the time of interview, he practiced law in Portland, Maine.

Scope and Content Note

The interview discusses a number of topics, including growing up in rural Maine; Cony High School; the politics of rural Maine; Maine Maritime Academy; Curtis’s naval career; enrolling in law school; getting involved in politics; working for Jim Oliver; Jim Oliver’s change in political parties; volunteering for the Maine Democratic Party; working in Washington; his appointment to the Area Redevelopment Administration (ARA) and his work there; Republican power in Maine; the bias toward Democrats from the Republicans; attempting to buy a house without a down payment in the 1950s; the success of the ARA; his work with Muskie concerning economic development; golf in Kennebunk; disagreements between Oliver and Muskie over campaign funds; running for Congress in 1964; Virginia Pitts; Stan Tupper as an opponent; becoming Secretary of State; role as Secretary of State; Governor’s Council and Governor Reed; creation of the Maine State Archives; success of the Archives; Democratic leadership; his relationship with John Reed; running for Governor against John Reed; problems with Maine state government when Curtis won the election; issues of the first campaign; Maine Action Plan; his first term as Governor; work with the Republican majority; allies and enemies in Augusta; conservation; the need for income tax; running for re-election after passing the unfavorable income tax; Jim Erwin as an opponent; not wanting to drag down Muskie in 1970; winning by a narrow margin in 1970; debating issues with Muskie; disagreements with Muskie; Muskie’s chances of winning the Presidency in 1972; becoming chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC); problems at the DNC; serving as U.S. Ambassador to Canada; and Muskie’s impact on Maine and the nation.

Use Restrictions

Copyright Bates College. This transcript is provided for individual Research Purposes Only; for all other uses, including publication, reproduction and quotation beyond fair use, permission must be obtained in writing from: The Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, 70 Campus Avenue, Lewiston, Maine 04240-6018.