The former state lawmaker from York who championed legislation to ban billboards in Maine has died.

Marion Fuller Brown died Friday at her beloved Ram’s Head Farm in York, surrounded by her family and friends. She was 94 and had lived at the farm since 1944.

“It was her most important wish, to live and to die on her farm,” said a daughter, Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth, N.H.

Brown, who served in the Legislature from 1966 to 1972, sponsored the bill that banned billboards, which made Maine just the second state to do so. “She was up against a very powerful industry at the time,” Clark said.

The ban was challenged during the current legislative session. Brown’s daughters spoke out at hearings in April against proposed legislation that would have allowed larger on-premises signs for businesses and let the state rent highway space for companies to place billboards.

Brown was unable to attend those hearings, but Clark and her sister Emily Fuller Hawkins of Deer Isle served as her voice in Augusta.

“She couldn’t believe it was happening,” Clark, a former New Hampshire legislator, said. “It was heartbreaking for her.”

Brown was a friend of Maine’s Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who visited Brown at her home in October.

“She was a true leader in land conservation and a longtime champion of the environment who was passionate about preserving the natural beauty of Maine and America,” Collins said in a prepared statement.

“She will forever be remembered as the driving force behind the successful effort to ban billboards in Maine, thus ridding our roadways, communities and landscapes of visual clutter,” Collins said. “Maine is a beautiful state, and we, as well as generations to come, owe a debt of gratitude to Marion Fuller Brown.”

Brown was born in Kansas City, Mo., on May 14, 1917. She married an attorney, Henry M. Fuller of Milton, Mass. The couple moved to York in 1939. In 1944, they acquired Ram’s Head Farm.

Fuller died in a haying accident on the farm in 1962. He was just 47.

At the age of 45, Brown was left to raise four children. She remarried Brooks Brown Jr. five years later. He died in 1987.

Brown become involved in local and state affairs. In 1960, she was appointed to the Maine Milk Commission by Gov. John Reed.

She became the first woman to serve as chair of the commission, and in 1966 became the first woman from York elected to the Legislature.

She served in the House for six years. She was the prime sponsor of Maine’s returnable bottle law, one of the first bills of its kind in the nation.

“My mother was dedicated for years to conservation and the protection of the quality of life in Maine,” Clark said.

Brown, a lifelong Republican until seven weeks ago, when she became an independent, was appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1971 to serve on the National Highway Beautification Commission.

In 1977, she became the founder of the Coalition for Scenic Beauty, the only national organization dedicated to advocating for the preservation of scenic views and the reduction of visual pollution. It is now called Scenic America.

Gov. James Longley appointed Brown to serve on the state’s Travel Advisory Council in 1977, a position she held for 20 years. She also served for nearly a decade on the Land for Maine’s Future Board.

Brown served on York’s Planning Board from 1968 to 1983, and in 1985 became the founder and director of the York Land Trust.

Gov. Angus King proclaimed May 14, 1997 – her 80th birthday – Marion Fuller Brown Day in Maine. King cited her dedication and vision that led to the elimination of billboards, the acquisition of 65,000 acres under the Land For Maine’s Future program, and the beautification of Maine highways.

A celebration of Brown’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 at First Parish Church in York.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]