Senator George J. Mitchell entered the U.S. Senate in 1980 when he was appointed to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become secretary of state. Before the 1982 election, Senator Mitchell trailed in opinion polls by 36 points. His stunning come-from-behind victory gave him 61 percent of the votes cast. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career in the Senate that spanned 14 years.
In 1988, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Maine history. In January 1989, he became Senate majority leader. He held that position until he left the Senate in 1995.
During his tenure, Senator Mitchell earned enormous bipartisan respect. 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.
In 1996, the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland asked Senator Mitchell to chair the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. Senator Mitchell led the negotiations for two years, work that ultimately resulted in a historic accord that ended decades of conflict. In May 1998, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He has received numerous awards and honors recognizing his service in the peace talks. These include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the U.S. government can give; the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; the Truman Institute Peace Prize; the German (Hesse) Peace Prize; and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize. Senator Mitchell has received honorary degrees from more than 40 colleges and universities from several countries.
While in the Senate, Senator Mitchell served on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, and Environment and Public Works committees. He 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 cleanup law. Senator 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. Senator Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. He 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 was stationed in Berlin, Germany, as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1954 to 1956. From 1960 to 1962, he was a trial lawyer in the Department of Justice 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 his Senate appointment.
After leaving the Senate, Senator Mitchell joined the law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, joining DLA Piper US in 2003 along with many other members of that firm. He served as chairman of the board of The Walt Disney Company. He is also chancellor of The Queen’s University of Northern Ireland. He served as chairman of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs, as chairman of the Special Commission investigating allegations of impropriety in the bidding process for the Olympic Games, and as chairman of the National Health Care Commission. Working on a pro bono basis, Senator Mitchell was the independent overseer of the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, an organization formed to help victims of the 9/11 attacks.
At the request of President Bill Clinton and Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Senator Mitchell served as chairman of an international fact-finding committee on violence in the Middle East. The committee’s recommendation, widely known as The Mitchell Report, was endorsed by the Bush Administration, the European Union, and many other governments.
Most recently, Senator Mitchell has led Major League Baseball's investigation into potential usage of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones (HGH) by its players. The full report was released on December 17, 2007.
Senator Mitchell is the author of four books: Men of Zeal, co-authored with his colleague, then-Senator William S. Cohen, on the Iran-Contra investigation; World on Fire, speaking to the threat of the greenhouse effect and recommending steps to curb it; Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism; and Making Peace, an account of his experiences in Northern Ireland.
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