- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Jane Gray Muskie, 77, senator’s widow

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Jane Gray Muskie, whose husband Edmund S. Muskie’s 1972 presidential campaign collapsed after he defended her honor with what appeared to be tears in his eyes, died Dec. 25 at her home in Bethesda. She was 77 and had Alzheimer’s disease.

Her death was announced yesterday by Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

Mrs. Muskie accompanied her husband, a native of Rumford, Maine, during his rise in Democratic politics from the Maine Legislature to the governor’s house, the U.S. Senate and to President Carter’s Cabinet as secretary of state. Mr. Muskie died of a heart attack in 1996 at 81.

“When you’re married to someone who is in political life, you’re as much a politician as your spouse,” said Edmund S. Muskie Jr., the couple’s son. “She actively participated in their campaigns and the issues they both cared about.”

While running in the 1972 New Hampshire primary, Mr. Muskie denounced the conservative Union Leader newspaper of Manchester for reprinting an uncomplimentary Newsweek editorial that said his wife liked to tell dirty jokes and smoke cigarettes.

Mr. Muskie choked up several times during the speech, and several news organizations reported that he cried, but a dispute has persisted for years whether it was tears or melted snowflakes on his face.

The campaign never recovered, and Sen. George McGovern went on to win the nomination and lose the general election to President Richard M. Nixon.

“I was right at Muskie’s shoes, so at the time he sort of chokes up, I’m doing the old wire service thing of watching carefully for tears, because I know it’s important for us to say, ‘Did he cry or didn’t he?’” John Milne, then New Hampshire bureau chief for United Press International, recalled after Mr. Muskie’s death. “And I don’t think he did.”

Mrs. Muskie was born in Waterville, Maine, and married Mr. Muskie in 1948, two years after he had been elected to the Maine House of Representatives.

Mr. Muskie was elected governor in 1954, then a U.S. senator four years later, moving his family to Washington. He gained national prominence in 1968 when Democratic presidential nominee Hubert H. Humphrey chose him as his running mate. They lost to Mr. Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

Mr. Muskie and his wife had five children.

Family members said Mrs. Muskie will be buried next to her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

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