Newspaper compositor and civil rights advocate Gerald Talbot, a Democrat from Portland, was elected to Maine House of Representatives on Nov. 7, 1972, making him the first Black member of the Maine Legislature.

Talbot, a Bangor native, attended the 1963 March on Washington and heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. Gov. Kenneth Curtis appointed him to a state Human Rights Task Force in 1968. He also was the first president of Portland’s NAACP chapter.

Talbot’s House victory occurs in the same election in which President Richard Nixon, a Republican, won re-election in a landslide that gives him majorities in 49 states, including Maine; and in which four-term U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine, lost her bid for re-election to Democrat William Hathaway.

During his three two-year House terms, Talbot championed migrant worker rights, Indian tribal sovereignty, fair housing and creating a holiday to honor King.

Gerald Talbot is a Black Mainer who was inspired by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

On Sept. 10, 2019, the University of Southern Maine honored Talbot by creating a teaching fellowship bearing his name. The accompanying ceremony occurred on USM’s Portland campus in the Glickman Library, the same place where Talbot worked as a janitor years earlier when it was an industrial building. Last year, Portland renamed the Riverton Elementary School for Talbot. In a ceremony on Aug. 31, Talbot shared his commitment to community service.

“Each and every one of us is important, but we’re not important if we don’t help other people,” Talbot said.

His daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland was recently elected assistant majority leader in the Maine House, making her the first person of color to hold a leadership post in the history of the Maine Legislature.

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