Scion of a family steeped
in Maine business and politics, Joe Sewall was born on December 17, 1921 in a house in Old
Town, Maine, built by his great grandfather who was Speaker of the Maine House in 1851. That fact is
significant because Joe Sewall was a man of tradition, a gentleman of the old school who believed that
to have done something is not enough unless it is done with grace and style.
Educated in local schools and graduated from Bowdoin College,
Sewall served in Naval Aviation as a navigator in World War II before returning to Old Town to run his father’s
land surveying and forestry business. Sewall became the owner and President of James W. Sewall Company, one of
the most successful engineering and consulting firms of its type.
After serving for nine years as a member of the Old Town City
Council, Sewall was elected to the Maine State Senate in 1967. He moved from the chairmanship of the
Legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee to the post of Senate President in 1975.
He served four terms (8 years) as Senate President from 1975 to
1982, making him, to date, the longest serving in that post.
Sewall was a moderate Republican who advocated conciliation and
compromise before confrontation. Sewall nevertheless lead and molded the Senate in his own way. Respected for
his honesty and integrity by both parties, he was a man who did not suffer petty squabbling and refined to an
art form the ability to wring consensus from a roomful of individuals.
The Bangor Daily News recognized him as a unique individual when
he was locked in a tight race for reelection in 1974: "As a rule the success or failure of a candidate’s bid for
the Maine Legislature isn’t likely to alter the complexion of the State lawmaking body. Yet the incumbent
candidacy of Senator Joseph Sewall, from District 27, could..."
The Honorable Joseph Sewall passed away November 23, 2011 at the
age of 89, but leaves behind a legacy of tradition and service to the people of the State of Maine.