Harry Bailey, a retired Maine State Police sergeant who led an elite task force that resulted in hundreds of drug prosecutions and the seizure of tons of illegal narcotics, died Wednesday. He was 73.

In recent years, Mr. Bailey was a private investigator for a law firm in Portland. He also served for six years in the Legislature.

Mr. Bailey joined the state police in 1966 as a trooper assigned to Troop D in Thomaston. He was promoted to corporal in 1973, sergeant in 1977, and received the Meritorious Service Award in 1978.

For several years, Mr. Bailey supervised a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigated criminal organizations involved in smuggling multi-ton marijuana shipments along Maine’s coast. His work resulted in some 600 successful prosecutions, the seizure of tons of illegal narcotics, and $3 million in asset seizures.

“He was one of the top drug agents in state police history, credited with over 500 (drug) arrests and playing decisive roles in some of the state’s largest marijuana smuggling cases of the late ’70s and early ’80s,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

John Ford Sr., a retired game warden and sheriff of Waldo County, recalled Bailey’s investigation of a drug smuggling operation in Stonington that led to the seizure of 34 tons of marijuana and 50 or so arrests. Ford said he recruited people along the coast, like game wardens, to help with his investigations.

“His work ethic … no one could ever match it,” Ford said. “He was a dedicated public servant. There were times I met up with him and I thought he was sleeping standing up. He was on the go all the time.”

State police Lt. Scott Ireland remembered his positive attitude and compassion for others. “His work ethic was just incredible,” Ireland said.

Mr. Bailey retired from the state police in 1986, and was recognized as a “Legendary Trooper” in 2006.

In recent years, he worked as a private investigator and senior case manager for the Portland law firm McCloskey, Mina, and Cunniff LLC. Jay McCloskey, a longtime friend and colleague, said he was a likable and trustworthy man.

“When he was investigating a case, he was extremely good at getting people to talk,” McCloskey said. “He could knock on a stranger’s door, and they would invite Harry in for tea and tell him about their life. Everyone trusted Harry.”

Mr. Bailey also was a state representative for District 139 for six years, and served a stint on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

He and his wife, Sandra Bailey, were married for 51 years and had three daughters.

“Our life together was beautiful. It really was,” his wife said. “He was the greatest guy I ever knew. He was very strong physically and mentally and did many things.”

The Baileys once owned a 200-acre farm in Belmont, where they helped rescue injured wildlife. Soon after he retired, the couple moved to Grand Lake Stream, where they operated Bailey’s Camps on Big Lake.

Mr. Bailey belonged to several organizations and was instrumental in the creation of St. Croix Regional Family Health Center in Princeton, where he served as chairman of the board.

“He was very, very busy and never complained. It’s really who he was,” his wife said.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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