Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection


Stuart O'Brien

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date


Interview Number

MOH 042


Robert Maurice York was born on June 10, 1915 in Wilton, Maine. His parents were Josephine Myra (Brown) and Maurice Asa York. His father owned a meat market in Wilton, and his mother was a homemaker. York went to Bates College, graduating in the class of 1937. He then went on to Clark University to get his Masters and Ph.D. in History. After graduating, he enlisted in the Navy, and saw active duty in the Pacific. Japanese Kamikaze planes sunk the boat he originally served on, so he returned stateside and worked for the Office of Naval History. In 1946, he returned to Maine and taught History at the University of Maine at Orono, becoming an expert on the state’s history. In 1956, he was appointed Maine State Historian by then Governor Ed Muskie. He remained in that position for forty years, playing an active role in the creation of the Maine State Archives. Upon leaving the Orono campus in 1962, he took a position as Dean of Academic Affairs at Gorham State College, now known as the University of Southern Maine. From 1970 to 1978, he served as Dean of Graduate Study at the University of Maine at Portland, now also part of the University of Southern Maine. In 1984, he retired as Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Southern Maine.

Scope and Content Note

Interview includes discussions of: York’s appointment to State Historian; the Committee for Destruction of Old Records; Vermont conference on historic preservation in the late 1950s; the influence of other historic preservation programs on Maine; the formation of an advisory group for historic preservation and tasks and preservation efforts of the first advisory group; the ownership of Fort Kent; Ken Curtis’ historic preservation efforts; overburdening the advisory committee on historic sites with the National Historic Register; Muskie’s support of the National Register of Historic Places; change in the State Historian’s role with the creation of a full-time state archivist; John Reed’s support of historic preservation; Western state preservation in the 1970s compared with Maine’s; the creation of a Maine State Museum; Ed Muskie’s change from college; changes in Maine’s education system; the Sinclair Act; under funding of the university system; major issues of Muskie’s gubernatorial administrations; Maine’s geography as a burden; Muskie’s impact on the environment; rivers in Maine and their heavy industrial use and pollution; Muskie as a statesman; sales tax and income tax; budgeting in the university system; the significance of putting the university under a board of directors; and John Reed’s election.

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.