Gerald Talbot, 1932 -

USM Digital Commons

  • Known For: Maine State Representative, Civil Rights campaigning.
  • Maine Connection: Gerald E. Talbot was the first African American to be elected to the Maine State Legislature. He served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978, and worked with the Maine chapter of the NAACP and the State Board of Education. He also took part in the struggle for civil rights in other parts of the country, as well as in Maine.


Gerald E. "Jerry" Talbot was born in 1932 in Bangor, ME, which at the time was home to Maine's largest African American community, many people having come to the state from Canada. His family traced their history in Maine back to the mid-18th century and the black Revolutionary War veteran Abraham Talbett. Talbot worked for some time with his father, W. Edgerton Edgar Talbot, the head chef at the Bangor House hotel, and graduated from Bangor High School in 1952. After serving in the army from 1953 to 1956, he moved to Portland and wed Anita Cummings of Portland, with whom he raised four daughters. The family faced job and housing discrimination, but Talbot eventually secured steady work in 1966 as a compositor with the Guy Gannett Publishing Company, where he would work for 25 years.

In Portland, Talbot also became actively involved with the civil rights movement in Maine, particularly through the NAACP. He served as president of the Portland branch of this organization three times, in 1964-66, 1970-71, and 1978-80, and was a vice president of the New England Regional NAACP. He joined the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. in 1963, participated in a voter registration drive in Mississippi in 1965, and played an important role in passing Maine's 1966 Fair Housing Bill. He was the first African American elected to the Maine State Legislature, serving three terms from 1972 to 1978. During his time there, he proposed a 1977 bill titled, An Act to Prohibit the Use of Offensive Names for Geographic Features and Other Places in the State of Maine, which passed. He also co-sponsored, with the late Larry Connolly, the first "Sexual or Affectional Preference" (1977) amendment to the Maine Human Rights Act. He was the first black chair of a legislative committee - the Human Resources Committee (two terms) and was the first black speaker pro-tem of the Maine House of Representatives.

Talbot also served on the Maine State Board of Education from 1980-84, as chair in 1984. Simultaneously, he was on the New England States Board of Education Commission. He has been on the Maine Vocational Technical Institutes Board of Trustees and the Muskie Board of Visitors at the University of Southern Maine. In 1980, he founded Black Education and Cultural History, Inc. (BEACH), which sponsors conferences, offers scholarships, and serves as a vehicle for speaking out against discrimination. Talbot is co-author with H.H. Price of several articles and the book, Maines Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People, published in 2006.

Biographical information taken from the finding aid for the Gerald E. Talbot Collection, African American Collection of Maine, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.

Works by Gerald E. Talbot

  • Maine's Visible Black History, The First Chronicle of Its People, 2006. Co-authored with H. H. Price.