Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection


Chris Beam

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date


Interview Number

MOH 012


Shephard Lee was born November 13, 1926 in Lewiston, Maine to Ethel and Joe Lifshitz. His parents were both Russian immigrants, his mother a housewife, and his father an automobile dealer after the Depression. He attended the Lewiston public schools, graduating from Lewiston High School in 1943. He then went on to Bowdoin College, taking a break from college between 1945 and 1946 to enlist in the Navy. He returned to Bowdoin after his service, and graduated in 1947 with a degree in government and economics. At that time, he and his brother also changed their names to Lee to avoid discrimination against Jews in education and in careers. Lee returned to Lewiston after graduation, and went to work at his father’s automobile dealership. Soon after, he became active in Lewiston-Auburn Democratic politics. In 1956, he was campaign manager to Frank Coffin’s Congressional campaign. In 1963, he bought out his father’s partner in the automobile dealership, and eventually took over the entire business. Lee was an active Democrat during and after Ed Muskie’s career. He was a key fundraiser for the Maine Democrats, and loaned many vehicles to campaigning candidates over the course of his career. He retired from his automobile dealership in the late 1990s.

Scope and Content Note

Interview includes discussions of: the Lifshitz (Lee) family history; the Lewiston/Auburn Jewish community; changing his name from Lifshitz to Lee; Lewiston schools; Bowdoin College; discrimination at Bowdoin; the influence of Lee’s brother; his service in the U.S. Navy; Professor Ernst Helmreich; Bowdoin Christian Association; discrimination in Lewiston; creating the first non-discriminatory fraternity at Bowdoin; bankruptcy during the Depression; choosing a career; professors at Bowdion; city manager government in Maine; working with his father and taking over the family business; his apprehension about downtown Auburn urban renewal; Muskie appearances at business openings; 1948 Henry Wallace campaign; meeting Frank Coffin through a United Way Committee; Liberal philosophy; getting involved after a 1952 Coffin speech; municipal debate in Lewiston; attempting to sell a City Administrator government to Ernest Malenfant; Malenfant’s unwillingness to speak to non-Franco people; personal political activity; Lee’s children; balancing family and politics; enjoying the political scene; informal debates with Muskie over the years; personal relationship with Frank Coffin; getting tapped to be Frank Coffin’s campaign chairman; balancing business with Coffin’s campaign; Louis Jalbert’s opposition to Frank Coffin’s campaign staff at the 1956 Lewiston caucus; Labor’s role in the elections; the Dorsky incident at Judge Delahanty’s home; meeting and befriending Muskie; Muskie’s hatred for fundraising; raising money for the United Jewish Appeal at the home of Joe Koss in Auburn; and Jim Longley.

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.