2001 Sun Journal photo of Larry Raymond, right, gathering with supporters at his law office on Park Street in Lewiston shortly after the polls closed. Marc Theriault, left, and Lucien Gosselin, center. 2001 Sun Journal file photo by Daryn Slover

AUBURN — Laurier T. Raymond, a former Androscoggin County attorney, probate judge and Lewiston mayor, died Saturday at a hospice in Auburn.

2003 Sun Journal photo of Lewiston Mayor Larry Raymond presiding over a city council meeting on Feb. 4, 2003. City Administrator Jim Bennett is at right. 2003 Sun Journal file photo by Daryn Slover

He was 87.

Raymond, who was known as Larry, practiced law for 61 years in the area, and for a time served on the board of directors for the Franco American Heritage Center.

“A native of Lewiston, Larry was proud of his city and contributed in countless ways to revitalize it and improve the lives of his fellow Mainers,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a prepared statement. “After graduating law school, Larry returned home and provided quality legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Lewiston-Auburn for more than six decades. He also gave back to his community through public service.”

Raymond served just one term as Lewiston mayor, but that term turned tumultuous in 2002 after Raymond wrote an open letter to leaders of the Somali immigrant community asking them to slow their migration to the city. At the time, more than 1,000 Somalis had moved to Lewiston in less than 18 months, and more were on the way.

“This large number of new arrivals cannot continue without negative results for all,” Raymond wrote. “The Somali community must exercise some discipline and reduce the stress on our limited finances and our generosity.”

Those who supported Raymond insisted his intentions were good. They said he was understandably concerned the growing waves of immigrants moving into Lewiston were straining the city’s resources.

2001 Sun Journal file photo of Mayor Larry Raymond after winning the election. 2001 Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dillingham

Others, however, reacted with outrage. Protests large and small formed in reaction to the letter, which had been published on the front page of the Sun Journal.

In January 2003, competing protests assembled in Lewiston, with members of the World Church of the Creator gathering in one location and those from the Many and One Coalition assembled at another.

In 2003, a documentary called “The Letter” was filmed in Lewiston and later premiered at the American Film Institute. That same year, Raymond announced he would not seek a second term as Lewiston’s mayor.

Nearly two decades after Raymond’s letter was published, even those who disagreed with him at the time now say Raymond did not deserve the scorn and allegations of racism he received.

“I disagreed with him in regards to the letter,” said Larry Gilbert Sr., who served with Raymond on the board of directors at the Franco Center. “But I understand why he did it. I think his intentions were good. I don’t believe he was being hateful at all.”

Robert MacDonald, another former Lewiston mayor, said when Raymond wrote the letter, he was doing what is expected of a mayor: He was looking out for the people he served by trying to keep city finances from falling into chaos.

“He got so much flak over it,” MacDonald said. “And he didn’t do anything other than to think about the people of Lewiston. He was a very good mayor. He really cared for this city.”

Raymond practiced law with two firms: Marshall, Raymond and Beliveau and, later, Isaacson & Raymond. He served as Androscoggin County attorney from 1960 to 1965, and as judge of probate from 1965 to 1998.

“He really cared about the people and about the community,” Gilbert said. “He was a really nice man.”

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