George J. Mitchell Oral History Project
 

Interviewer

Andrea L’Hommedieu

Date

9-11-2009

ID Number

GMOH 149

Document Type

Interview

Subject Headings

Childhood, Clinton, William J., Longley, James B., Maine Democratic Party, Maine gubernatorial campaign (1974), Maine politics, Mitchell family, Mitchell, Mary (Saad), Tennis, Waterville (Me.)

Abstract

Biographical Note
Samuel Shapiro was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on August 26, 1927. His parents were Maurice and Anna (Silver) Shapiro. His father was born in the Ukraine and his mother in Lithuania. He spent two years in the Navy, then attended the University of Pittsburg on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1952. He married and moved to Waterville, Maine, in 1953 and served as Maine Democratic Party treasurer for thirteen years. He also ran several furniture stores with his father-in-law. He served as Maine state treasurer for 16 years (1980-1996) during the Brennan, McKernan, and King administrations. He worked with George Mitchell on the Democratic State Committee in the early 1960s; he was especially close to George Mitchell’s brother, Robbie, and they often played tennis.

Carol Shapiro was born and raised in Waterville, Maine, and attended Colby College. She and George Mitchell were high school classmates.

Summary
Interview includes discussion of: family background; 1974 Maine gubernatorial campaign; Jim Longley story; military service; anti-Semitism; description of George Mitchell’s character and personality; state treasurers story; dating story; George Mitchell’s mother, Mary (Saad) Mitchell; Mitchell-Muskie comparison; Ken Curtis; and Bill Clinton story.

Restrictions

This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.

TEXT

Andrea L’Hommedieu: This is an interview for the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project at Bowdoin College. The date is September 23, 2009, and I am at the home of Sam and Carol Shapiro in Waterville, Maine. Sam, could you start just by talking to me about the first time you recall meeting or knowing of George Mitchell.

Sam Shapiro: I was a Democratic State Committeeman from County Kennebec, and George at that time was the chairman of the Democratic Party and I met him in Lewiston, Maine, at a Democratic State Committee for the first time back in the ‘60s, early ‘60s.

AL: The early 1960s?

SS: Yes.

AL: And I just want to note that we did a previous interview with you for the Muskie Oral History Project at Bates College, where we can find some more of the background on you and connect it to this interview. So the early 1960s – what type of interactions did you have with him at that time?

SS: Well two years after I met him I became treasurer of the Democratic Party and worked with him in fund-raising and trying to organize the activities of the Democratic State Committee. And during that period he and I were roommates in New York for a Democratic National Convention in New York City and we shared a little two-bedroom suite at a hotel, so that’s where our relationship began.

AL: And do you recall what your initial impressions were of him?

SS: Well, that he was bright and likeable, friendly. I got along with him very well and I liked him, and I think he liked me.

AL: So tell me what, how your relationship developed after that, in terms of a lot of it was state party work I imagine.

SS: Yes, he was only chairman for a short period of time, and then he went on to these other endeavors as a federal judge, and as a district attorney down in Cumberland County, so we really didn’t spend a lot of time together after that, and really didn’t get connected again until he became a United States senator.

Carol Shapiro: Personally you saw him more often when you played tennis, you played tennis at his brother’s.

SS: Yes, but he didn’t play that often. I played tennis with him a few times at is brother’s, his brother had a tennis court – Robbie, who has since passed away – but didn’t have a lot of contact with him then.

AL: I’m thinking of the 1974 gubernatorial campaign in which he ran against Longley. Were you involved at the state level or local level in support of him?

SS: Oh yes, sure, I supported George wholeheartedly, and so probably did everybody in Waterville, Maine. He ran against Jim Longley and supposedly he was going to be a shoo-in because no Independent ever won an election up here. And I’ll always remember the weekend before the Tuesday election I ran into Jim Longley in Waterville, and he’s going to a football game. And I knew Jim and trying to be condescending told him, “Well, you know, you’re a good man but Independents don’t win.” And he stuck his finger in my face, he says, “I’m going to win.” And he did unfortunately, but maybe fortunately, because George, if he had been elected governor would have been on a different path.

AL: Now, were you working with the State Committee at that point?

SS: Yes, I was still on the Democratic State Committee in ‘74.

AL: Did you have any direct involvement in his campaign?

SS: Oh gee, you know, it’s over thirty years ago, and I’m sure I did because I was active in every gubernatorial campaign, but not at an organizational high level, no.

AL: And so your real contact came with him once he went to the Senate.

SS: Yes, when he became a United States senator, by then I was treasurer of the state, I got elected in 1980, and then there was a lot of times that we would get together because of political issues.

AL: Can you talk to me about some of those recollections during that time?

SS: Well, the things over the years that stuck with me, one was that I’d asked him, when we had a meeting of the National Treasurers Association [sic: National Association of State Treasurers] in Washington, if he could meet with a half a dozen treasurers privately and talk about things, because he was majority leader of the Senate [ ]. And he said he would, and we set the meeting up months ahead of time. And it just so happened that the meeting day that was scheduled was around the time that the Senate was working on the Clean Air bill which was very close to his heart and very important to him, and it had been picked up after Senator Muskie had started it years before, and as we got nearer the day he called me up and said, “Sam, gee, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to meet with you guys because this bill’s so important to me and I have to be on the floor and can’t do it.” And I said, “Well that’s fine George.” He said, “Well why don’t you come on in and maybe I’ll be able to pop in and say hello.”

And so we met there, there was about a half a dozen state treasurers from around the country. He had some sandwiches brought in and ready for us, and he did pop in, but he popped in and stayed for an hour and talked to us for an hour when probably the most important bill in his tenure in the Senate was teetering in the balance. It passed eventually, but he spent an hour with us, talking to us as if we were the only things important in his world at that time. And so that time, it’s just tells you the kind of person he was. I was a treasurer of the state, but in all honesty, if he didn’t show up it wouldn’t have mattered whatsoever in the history of man, but that’s the kind of guy that he is.

Another thing that sort of stuck with me is that he was the honorary chairman of a campaign to raise money to buy some land around a lake at Mt. Katahdin, and it was after I was treasurer, back probably in the late ‘90s. And we had a meeting at the Time Building in New York City, and I was in a room there with probably fifty millionaires and billionaires who’d contributed to the campaign in some way or another, and George got up to speak, and with all those wonderful people there, important people there, the only person he recognized was me. He said, “I’d like to let you know that my good friend from my home town of Waterville, Maine, is here, the former treasurer of Maine, Sam Shapiro.” You know, that just struck me as being the human being that he is, when it was completely not necessary, but that’s George Mitchell, that he was recognizing an old friend. I’m sure he was friendly to everybody in the room as well to some degree, but that stuck with me and always will stay with me.

Another thing a little more humorous is, you know, George married for the second time to a younger woman, and he was the chairman of a fund raiser for Phil Angelides, who was running for treasurer of California. And we were having a little meeting, there were about eight people in the room at the Palio Restaurant in New York City and he was there, his wife was there, Angelides was there with his daughter, myself and a couple people from UBS who were hosting the luncheon and helping with the fund raiser for Angelides. And we’re talking, and I said to him, “You know George, when you became majority leader of the United States Senate and became a very important person, every woman who had gone to school with you or knew you in Waterville, Maine, said they dated you. And my wife says that you were the nerd of the class, that you never dated anybody, you were practically a zero when it came to dating.” And so he turns around to his wife, like a teenager, and says, “See, see, see, I told you, told you, I never dated when I was in high school,” and we all had a big laugh at that.

And I’m just trying to think of some of the other stuff. Well he had a tendency to josh me about the fact that I had a furniture store that I closed down. I never went through bankruptcy, but he would introduce me by saying that I’ve gone through personal bankruptcy and that I put my store through bankruptcy, and when I was treasurer of the Democratic Party in Maine, through bankruptcy, and became treasurer of the state and we’ll be through bankruptcy shortly probably, and that absolutely qualifies him to be treasurer of the United States of America.

But the thing about George is that when it’s a hometown boy who becomes the kind of man that he became, and the impact that he has had upon some of the laws passed by Congress when he was there, and the fact that he’s gone on to do the things that he has in working in Ireland and trying to make peace there, and now in the Middle East, that it’s just a tribute to who he is and who he was. You have to remember, his beginnings were sort of like mine, very, very, from a very poor background, hard working people. I remember sitting in his mother’s kitchen on Front Street having some food with his brother Paul, and his mother, it’s just a tribute to America. Certainly to him.

AL: What was his mother like?

SS: Well, she was Lebanese and just a friendly woman like the old fashioned mothers used to be, like my mother was. The important thing was family, the important thing was make sure you had enough to eat, and make sure the food was just right, and have some more, you know, she was friendly and wonderful, a wonderful person. And I’m sure that, you have to remember that his brothers and sister, they’re sort of just like him, they’re good, wonderful people.

AL: And so you lived in Waterville area for a long time, you must have known them -

SS: Yes, I came here in 1953, I married Carol, who is sitting here and who went to school with George, and maybe she knows more about him than I do.

AL: Carol, could you talk a little bit about first of all growing up in Waterville, what was it like at the time you grew up here, and then what your interactions were with the Mitchell family over the years.

CS: I really did not have that much interaction with the Mitchell family. I knew more about them because my very best friend’s sister was George’s sister’s best friend, and she was always over there so she would say what wonderful people they were. And one thing I have to say about George, his father was custodian at Colby, and he was just as proud of his father as if he had been president of the United States, he spoke very highly of his father and how his father and mother encouraged the whole family to get good education and to be good people.

AL: Did you meet and talk to his dad at all?

CS: No.

AL: You knew he worked at Colby, and you actually attended Colby, is that correct?

CS: Yes. I don’t know if George, he must have been there at that time.

AL: What years did you attend Colby?

CS: My graduating class was ‘55. And George is my age, but he was a year ahead of everybody, the kids his age at least, he was very bright.

SS: You always said he was the scholar of the family.

CS: Yes, he was the scholar in that family.

SS: And did you know his brothers as well?

CS: I didn’t really know them, they were older. I know them well now, and I think even though I was the native of Waterville, Sam became more involved, I mean I was never involved in politics, I’m kind of anti-social so, but now I know them all. I knew Barbara, I knew his sister because of my friend’s relationship with her.

SS: And you knew John because when you worked at the high school library he was a teacher in the public school system, and Robbie and I played tennis and you did socialize -

CS: Well yes, but that was later on, that wasn’t when I was a kid in high school, or even at Colby I didn’t know them, except George.

AL: Does he still have a strong connection to Waterville, do you think? I know he’s so busy right now, but is there a sense in this community that he’s still connected?

CS: Yes, I think he is, because a couple of the members of the family have cottages in the area, and he comes up with his family.

SS: He spent more time in Waterville I think when he was a United States senator, because then when he left the Senate he was spending a lot of time with the law firm that he went to and spent a lot of time in Washington, New York, and what have you. Now I think he has a place up in northern Maine, I can’t remember the name of the town in northern Maine, and I’m sure when he comes to Maine now, probably mostly in the summer time, he goes up there.

CS: Yes, but his family lives here in the summertime, because our grand daughter is friendly with a niece of his and she said, he’s just a regular person, isn’t he.

SS: His roots will always be back to Waterville. He is the way men used to be.

CS: What does that mean?

SS: Well, it means that people are more important to him, and the old ways and the old friends and the old home, and the old relationship will never be out of his system. He hasn’t outgrown Waterville, I don’t think he’s outgrown Maine, and he hasn’t outgrown his friends. I mean, this meeting at Mt. Katahdin was only three or four years ago and I don’t know if I would have done what he did. I would have picked out a couple of billionaires who could have done something for me and introduced them. I wouldn’t - Sammy Shapiro can’t do anything for him, except remain his good friend and do anything in the world for him.

AL: And he’s also in the last ten years or so, probably thirteen years ago, began very small but it’s grown, the Mitchell Institute, the scholarship program for high school students, and I think that’s going to have a huge impact on Maine going into the future.

CS: I’m sure. I think it already has.

SS: It already has. I contribute to that every year because of George, and I’m sure a lot of people do. He’s sort of one of a kind. If I had to introduce him today, I would start out by saying (speaking Yiddish), “Here, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One.” You know, George hasn’t, St. George hasn’t converted to Judaism, and George isn’t a god, but he’s sure one of a kind.

AL: If you look at, we had Ed Muskie, who grew up in Rumford, started a law practice in Waterville, went into the state legislature and then just took off from there as governor and then senator. And then we have George Mitchell growing up in Waterville, and coming from Waterville and doing great things. And I know that you know a lot about both individuals – what are some, do you see in both of them some things that are similar, and sort of what are their differences?

SS: Well, if you would take the word ‘politician’ in a positive way, they were very politically astute, they were both very bright. They were different, though, they were very different. There was an old joke about Ed that when he bought a new suit or a pair of pants, that he sewed fish hooks into the pockets so that if he ever reached into his pocket to pay for a tab or something, he couldn’t get his hand out because of the fish hooks. George was just the opposite, George was always quick to pay his share, quickly.

Ed was taller. I think that they were, their timing, they were lucky in timing. They say timing is everything, and if Ken Curtis had not done some things after he was out of office to irritate Governor Brennan, Ken Curtis would have been the United States senator. But because of a couple things that occurred, Brennan was not going to appoint Curtis, and Muskie pressured, not persuaded, Brennan to nominate George. I don’t know if he hadn’t nominated him whether eventually he would have ever ran for political office, and if he had, the winds of fortune, who knows who would have won and lost.

So the timing was good for him, he was in a position, he gave up a lifetime tenure as a federal judge to become a United States senator, to fill out a term and to have to run again pretty quickly, and so you have to give him credit for having the courage to do that. He knew what he wanted to do. It’s a shame he didn’t get elected governor, he’d have been a great governor. I think our state would have been in much better shape, because he would have done the good that he did in the Senate here in this state. I don’t think he’ll ever run for governor again, obviously, he has another life, he has a young family now and a new wife, and all kinds of responsibilities.

George was more hamish as they say in the Yiddish language, he was more homespun; Ed sort of rose above where he came from. But it’s funny, the first time I saw Ed Muskie he was walking down the street with two or three lawyers, I was new in town, I probably had only been here a month, and I was walking on the opposite side of the street with my father-in-law and I was trying to get to know who was who. And I said, “Who are those guys over there?” And he said one was somebody, and another one he says, “And the other tall guy’s a Polack lawyer who’ll never make a living.” Well, he was wrong. So you just never know where you’ll end up. My father-in-law was pretty astute, and obviously he was a new lawyer in town who was having a tough go of it, and his opinion was, he’ll never make a living. Well, obviously he worked his way beyond that. And the year that he ran was I think practically the first year I was in Maine, he ran for governor, and he wasn’t supposed to win but he did.

AL: And where were you working in state government when Brennan was governor and he appointed Senator Mitchell to the Senate?

SS: What year is that?

AL: That was 1980.

SS: It was just before, I got elected in December of 1980, and this was just before that time.

AL: This was in May.

SS: Yes, and I was not as close to Brennan then as I eventually became obviously, and I was not in that inner circle. Quite honestly, I was much closer to Governor Curtis because I had been his military aide and served on some boards, and I was hoping that he would appoint Curtis. But really at that time I really didn’t have any real influence upon politics in Maine except at a lower level of state, I was still on the Democratic State Committee and I was still treasurer of the Democratic State Committee, but I didn’t have the kind of clout with Brennan that I eventually had, that developed later.

But everything happens for the best. I think our country and our state is better off that Mitchell was selected rather than Curtis, I think that Ken was a different type of person. A most wonderful person, with all due respect to all of them, he was my favorite man, my best friend of all of them, and they were all good friends of mine but there was something about Ken that was special with us. And we were close to his family, we skied together when our children were the age of his daughters, and Carol remembers going to Saddleback almost regularly with them. So, I was a little closer to Curtis at that time.

AL: And so George Mitchell was appointed senator in May of 1980 and immediately, almost immediately had to start running for reelection, the reelection was in ‘82. And he was far behind David Emery -

SS: I think it was something like thirty points at one time.

AL: Yes, it was thirty I think. Did you follow that campaign?

SS: Oh yes, I worked for George all I could, tried to raise money for him, and at that time I was state treasurer and had more ability to do some of the things that I could have done earlier, and I raised money for him and worked with him as much as I could.

AL: Do you have recollections of how that campaign turned around?

SS: Not really, not really. When you’re in an election campaign it’s like a ball game, I thought we were going to win, so whether it was – in those days, the polls were not as accepted as fact as they are now. Now polls are very good, it’s very seldom that a poll is wrong. In those days, it was the beginnings of polls and they weren’t as sophisticated, and quite honestly, people didn’t believe polls like they believe them now. And so I never thought he was going to lose.

CS: Just like we didn’t think he was going to lose when he ran for governor. I remember that Saturday, our boys played football so we were at the football game, and George was there, and Emery was, and Longley was there, and I mean everybody you spoke to, well, it was Waterville, Maine, and George’s town, I mean there was no way George would lose. And it was a shock, it was a big, big shock.

SS: Yes, but to the credit of the man, that wasn’t the end of his political career. I think that’s one thing too that we haven’t said, is that he was a tremendously competitive individual. I sort of relate to him because we were both first generations of foreign born parents, and there’s something to be said about that, that we had something to prove, we had to prove that we were as good as the Yankees who came over on the Mayflower, and so we fought harder and worked harder and you had to work harder to get there than some of the so-called blue bloods. And so he was a very competitive person, his whole life, and so that’s why he got to where he is and what he’s doing now. To him it’s another battle, I mean he’s got to do the peace work that he’s doing, but unfortunately, my wife and I were talking earlier, and the Mideast is a different place and I sort of made an analogy that was like a tense rivalry of Waterville and Winslow, two towns, a lot of talk the week of the game, and there’s a lot of talk over there in the Middle East, but eventually it’s going to have to be settled on the battlefield, in the ballfield in football and the battlefield with these countries unfortunately. Unfortunately, that’s where it’s going to be eventually settled. I don’t know in my life time, but it’ll never be settled by talk, it’s only going to be settled by war.

AL: And having been first generation born in this country, did you experience prejudice and discrimination, either in Pennsylvania or here in Maine, was that something you had to get over, a hurdle you had to get over in your life?

SS: I never called it a hurdle. I remember sitting down not too long ago and figuring out that I had twenty-seven fist fights during my lifetime, because of people making anti-Semitic remarks. I made up my mind very early in life that you just never listen to it, if you listened to it, it would grow and you’d have to listen to it again and others would pick it up. And I had a fistfight everywhere I went, because I would not listen to it, and I only had to listen to it once when I had my fistfights.

I remember once in a barracks, when I was in the navy, I was seventeen years old, I had walked into my barracks and there was a sign up: No Jews Allowed – as if it was a great privilege to be in the navy in some barracks in Virginia freezing to death. And I tore it down and lay down on my bunk, and somebody was putting it up a few minutes later and I told him I didn’t want him to do it, and he said, “Make me.” And I made him. I didn’t hit him, I grabbed him around the throat and I was going to kill him, and four of them pulled me off. After that it was no more signs and “Let’s go have a beer, Sam.”

So yes, I did. Of course, I was born in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania, and every Sunday morning the liturgy said the Jews killed Christ, and there were only two Jewish families in town and I was the one they had to try to get even with, and thank God I learned how to fight, and pretty successful at it.

AL: When you came to Maine in the ‘50s, had that dissipated somewhat, or did you still face that occasionally?

SS: Well you would hear it. You have to remember, where you go is what you hear. If all you do is go to Sunday school and go to the movies and sit with your parents in your house and go off on vacations to Bermuda and Florida, you’re not going to hear too much of that. But I tended to spend a lot of time in bowling alleys, pool rooms, and ball fields, and they do talk. A lot more way back in the’50s and ‘60s and ‘70s. Lately, quite honestly, I haven’t heard a word.

I remember once at a ball game, how old was I then, I had to be in my late forties, playing the third game of the day, and I was always talking it up at second base and George Patrick, who was a good old friend of mine, we played together, was on the other team that day. And I heard him yell, “Shut your mouth, you goddamn something Jew.” And I said, “Time out,” and walked over to him, George was about six-foot-six, was a mill worker, he could have turned me into a pretzel if he wanted to. And I said to him, “George,” and he was a lot younger than me too at the time, I said, “George, I’m not going to listen to that stuff.” And what he said to me is, “I apologize, Sam,” he says, “I didn’t think you’d hear it.” So you know, what’s the moral of the story? I don’t know. He said it, he apologized, and the point of it is, I think sometimes people just said those things not really meaning anything or knowing what the heck the bottom line was. So yes, I think it’s there. For whatever reason, there’s a certain feeling about Jewish people that a lot of people have, and I think it’s changing now. I think once Israel won that war and won several more wars, that they looked at the Jewish people a little differently, they weren’t just money-grubbers – they could fight too.

AL: And having myself grown up in a small Maine town, I can remember hearing, just as part of the vocabulary, with people not really even knowing what they were saying, using terms that could be construed to people of those races as racist. And not even having any emotion behind it, in terms of intentionally hurting somebody, but they didn’t, it was sort of just ingrained. So I think you’re right, that sort of developing that awareness and understanding over time to change those attitudes.

SS: Another common saying was to ‘Jew you down,’ in business, and I heard that a lot. I usually just smiled and said, “What’s your nationality?” And they’d tell me, and if they said French I’d say, “Well around here we say ‘French you down.’” Couldn’t fight any more.

AL: And I have to ask you to talk a little bit about your meeting and interactions with Bill Clinton over the years. I think that’s such an interesting piece to talk about and record for history.

SS: Well, when Bill Clinton was running for president he was coming to Portland to speak at the Portland High School, and it was about two weeks after the Flowers problem emerged, his relationship with [Gennifer] Flowers. And he called, probably from his car or wherever, he called every constitutional officer, I was treasurer of the state at the time, and called every constitutional officer and Democratic leaders around the state asking for their support. Well, it was pretty evident at that time that he was done, because of his indiscretion with Flowers, and he called me. I was laying on my couch down in my downstairs basement, and the phone rang and, “This is Bill Clinton, I’m running for president, I’d like to have you support me.” And I thought to myself: why not be a good guy, he’s going to be gone anyway. I remember the election before, when the caucus ran, I had supported by actual count eight people before I supported Dukakis, like a Pony Express ride across the country. I’d support somebody and two days later they’d drop out, and I thought he’d be gone. And so I said, “Sure, you have my support.” I asked him how he stood on Israel and he said he was a very strong supporter, and I said “You have my support,” and hung up.

And he said, before I hung up he said, “Are you coming to Portland?” And I said, “No, I’m an hour away and I don’t think I can make it in time,” because I thought, why waste my time? And I hung up. And I don’t know what happened in my mind, something said to me, “Sam, get down there.” I jumped in my car, down the turnpike above the speed limit, and got there just before he began to speak. And I walked up and said hello, and he said, “You came after all, Sam, I’m never going to forget it.” And he never did. I ran into him, maybe was with him when the treasurers met at the White House a number of times, and we went there for a Christmas party, my wife and I – and there’s an aside I’ll tell you about my wife and Hillary. But every time he saw me, he’d walk halfway across a room, where we were standing, put his arm around me, say, “You were the first, I haven’t forgotten.” It was just amazing that he had that kind of memory.

I remember once we were there for a Christmas party, and my wife was always reluctant to go to political events, but my daughter convinced her: how often are you going to be invited to the White House? So we went, and as you go through the line, they stand in the middle of the room and you’re announced and you walk up and they greet you. And when Carol greeted Hillary, Hillary said, “Well thanks for coming.” And Carol said, “Well I usually don’t come to these things.” So Hillary said, exact words, word for word, and Hillary said, “Well I’m glad that you came,” she was being very gracious. And Carol says, “Well I am too, so I can see the Christmas decorations,” they were beautiful. I’m sure she was the only one who took that tack with them.

But Clinton just never forgot the fact that I was really the only one and the first one, everybody else sort of hedged and fudged with him I think because he was all finished, but he was not finished, obviously. And I think he was a great president and a great man.

AL: I want to comment on the picture downstairs in your hallway, you and he on the stairs, that was at a fund raiser for Baldacci?

SS: Yes, it was a fund raiser in New York for Governor Baldacci, and he was the keynote attraction, to raise money for John, and he saw me, there was a crowd in between us, and honestly, he just pushed through the crowd and said, “You were the first, I haven’t forgotten you.” And so as we’re going down the stairway, it was one of those townhouses with a spiral staircase, it was a three-floor townhouse, and I was right behind him as we started down the stairs, I said, “Well Mr. President, if I was the first to support you, how come I never asked you for anything?” He says, “I don’t know,” and he sort of glances behind me because he knew the photographer was tailing him. And he puts his arm around me and whips me around, says, “Take our picture.” So I have this very informal picture of him and I smiling, with his arm around me, that we took. I’m very pleased at our relationship, he was a great man, but not as great as George.

AL: And sort of as a final question, is there anything that I haven’t asked either of you that maybe I’ve missed in the time line with your interactions or knowledge of him that you think is important to add before we end?

SS: Well, I think that the fact that for a small town, twenty thousand people, when you have somebody emerge from having grown up in the town, gone to high school in the town, gone to college in the state, at Bowdoin, that they reach the heights that George has, it makes you very proud. We were fortunate. Ed Muskie followed the same path, and I would like to think that George’s stature and impact, because he’s still doing it, were slightly greater than Muskie’s, so you’d have to say that in all the years that we can record, that he probably is the most outstanding person that’s come out of Waterville, Maine, with the impact upon our country and on the world. So I think that’s important. Margaret Chase Smith has done that for Skowhegan, but I think that Margaret Chase Smith was different because the impact that she had did not have as great of importance to where the world is and where it’s going as George has, because of his work in Ireland and his work in the Mideast.

I think it’s fortunate, you know, everybody thought he was going to be commissioner of baseball, and everybody thought he had it locked up. And I happened to be flying back from the west coast and sitting next to somebody who was a baseball umpire, who was out of Texas, and I said, “Looks like our Senator Mitchell’s going to be the next commissioner of baseball.” And he said, “No, he’s not going to be.” And I said, “Well, why do you say that?” He says, “Well, because I’m from Texas and George Bush is not going to support him and it’s just not going to go through.” And George Bush the Second kept him from being the commissioner of baseball, because of what he felt that George had done working for Clinton to defeat his father. I don’t know whether George would have been better off or not, but I don’t think so. I think George is better off, and certainly the world is better off.

CS: The world is better off, absolutely.

SS: And just in closing, is that it’s a privilege for me to have known him, to have worked with him, to be his friend. When you alluded to the picture of me and Clinton on the wall, I’ll allude to the fact, there’s two of George up there, too, where he personally signed, “Warmest regards to my very, very dear friend,” and that’s very important to me.

AL: Thank you so much. Carol, is there anything you’d like to add?

CS: No, thank you.

AL: Thank you.

End of Interview

 
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Interview with Sam and Carol Shapiro by Andrea L’Hommedieu

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