The first African American elected to the Maine Senate has died. According to the Sun Journal, John Jenkins died this week at the age of 68.
Jenkins was a graduate of Bates College and started his political career in 1993 as the mayor of Lewiston, where he served two terms. He later became the mayor of Auburn.
Auburn City Manager Phil Crowell says Jenkins worked tirelessly to support the community and youth in particular. He says Jenkins’ life was marked by accomplishments, from his landmark election to the Maine Senate to winning the mayoral race in Auburn as a write-in candidate.
“To me, that was a remarkable achievement for him, and it spoke greatly to the work that he did in our community, and the trust that our community had with him,” Crowell says.
Democratic state Reps. Craig Hickman of Winthrop and Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland issued a joint statement on the passing of Jenkins, calling him a trailblazer.
“As the first and only African American to serve in the Maine Senate, John helped to pave the way for both of us to serve as legislators and has set a strong path for future generations of leaders to follow in our beloved state,” they said.
Hickman and Talbot Ross said Jenkins was a person of enormous integrity.
“The loss of such a great man is even more poignant during these troubled times,” they said.
Jenkins was also inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame after becoming a four-time international karate champion and world jujitsu titlist. On his Facebook page, Jenkins is described by many as a friend and mentor.