George J. Mitchell, Legendary Peacemaker
Senator George J. Mitchell was born in Waterville, Maine. His father, George John Mitchell, Sr. (born Joseph Kilroy), was of Irish descent and was raised by the Mitchell family (who were of Lebanese descent) after he was orphaned. Mitchell’s mother, Mary, emigrated to the United States from Lebanon.
George Mitchell graduated from high school at the age of sixteen and attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he graduated in 1954. He served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956, rising to First Lieutenant. In 1961, he received his law degree from Georgetown University and has since received honorary degrees from more than 50 colleges and universities around the world.
George Mitchell served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. from 1960 to 1962 and as executive assistant to Senator Edmund S. Muskie from 1962 to 1965. He returned to Maine to practice law in 1965. He was appointed assistant county attorney for Cumberland County in 1971. In 1977, he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine by President Jimmy Carter; he served in that capacity until 1979 when he was appointed as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.
Mitchell was appointed to the Senate by the then governor of Maine to complete the unexpired term of Senator Muskie. He served in the Senate for 15 years, the last 6 as the Senate Majority Leader.
Senator Mitchell rose quickly in the Senate and was elected the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1984 and served as Deputy President pro tempore in the 100th United States Congress; he is one of only two Senators to have held that position.
Senator Mitchell helped pass legislation to reauthorize the Clean Air Act and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under his leadership in the Senate, the United States Senate approved the North American Free Trade Agreement and the formation of the World Trade Organization.
In 1995 Senator Mitchell was appointed United States Special Representative for Northern Ireland by President Clinton and he played a pivotal role in the negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland. He led a commission that established the principles of non-violence to which all parties in Northern Ireland had to adhere and he subsequently chaired the all-party negotiations which led to the Peace Agreement signed on Good Friday 1998 (known since as the “Good Friday Agreement”). Mitchell’s personal intervention was crucial to the success of the Northern Ireland peace agreement. For his involvement in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations, Mitchell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal. In 1999 Mitchell was invested as an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for his services to the Northern Ireland peace process.
From 2002 to 2009, Senator Mitchell was a Senior Fellow and Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution. He served as the Founding Chairman of the International Crisis Group where he worked to help end or avert conflicts between nations. He was the Chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, from 1999 to 2009.
The Senator is the author of five books, the latest in 2015 entitled The Negotiator: A Memoir. Senator Mitchell is the founder of the Mitchell Institute in Portland, Maine; since its founding the Institute has provided over $11 million in financial assistance to help about 2,500 needy students to attend college.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Senator Mitchell as the United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace a position he held until 2011.
Senator George Mitchell is the primary architect of the 1996 “Mitchell Principles” on conflict resolution and he was the main investigator in two “Mitchell Reports”, one on the Arab-Israeli conflict in 2001 and one on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League baseball in 2007.
George J. Mitchell currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of the international law firm of DLA Piper; he previously served as the firm’s Chairman for seven years. Mitchell also served as chairman of The Walt Disney Company from March 2004 until January 2007. Over the years, Senator Mitchell served on a number of Boards of Directors of various well known U.S. companies, including Xerox, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, FedEx, and Staples.
Senator Mitchell is married to Heather MacLachlan and has three children Andrea, Andrew and Claire.