George Mitchell was appointed to the United States Senate in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. He was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982 in a stunning come-from-behind victory. After trailing in public opinion polls by 36 points, Senator Mitchell rallied to win the election, receiving 61 percent of the votes cast. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career spanning 14 years in the Senate.
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In 1988, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Maine history. He left the Senate in 1995 as the Senate Majority Leader, a position he had held since January 1989.
Senator Mitchell enjoyed bipartisan respect during his tenure. It has been said, "there is not a man, woman or child in the Capitol who does not trust George Mitchell." For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.
Recently, Senator Mitchell served as Chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership an historic accord, ending decades of conflict, was agreed upon by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. In May 1998, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by the voters of Ireland, North and South, in a referendum. Senator Mitchell’s leadership in Northern Ireland earned him worldwide praise.
While in the Senate, Senator Mitchell served on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, and Environment and Public Works Committees.
Senator Mitchell led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean up law.
Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child care bill and was principal author of the low income housing tax credit program.
He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled.
Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans.
Senator Mitchell was a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.
Senator Mitchell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1954, and then served in Berlin, Germany as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps until 1956. He received an LL.B. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1960. From 1960 to 1962 he was a trial lawyer in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. From 1962 to 1965 he served as Executive Assistant to Senator Muskie.
In 1965, he returned to Maine where he engaged in the private practice of law in Portland until 1977. He was then appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine, a position he held until 1979, when he was appointed U.S. District Judge for Maine. He resigned that position in 1980 to accept appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Senator Mitchell is the author of three books. With his colleague, Senator Bill Cohen of Maine, he wrote Men of Zeal, describing the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990, Senator Mitchell wrote his second book, World on Fire, describing the threat of the greenhouse effect on recommending steps to curb it. His third book, published in 1997, was Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism.
Upon leaving the Senate, Senator Mitchell joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. He serves as a Director of the Walt Disney Company, Federal Express Corporation, Xerox Corporation, UNUM Insurance Corporation, KTI Inc., Staples, Inc., and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In addition, Senator Mitchell serves as Chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs. At the request of the British and Irish Governments, he served as Chairman of the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland and as Chairman of the Peace Talks in Northern Ireland. Senator Mitchell serves as Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the U.S. Olympic Committee and as Chairman of the National Health Care Commission created by the Pew Charitable Foundation.
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