Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell of Maine has been diagnosed with leukemia and will begin treatment Friday at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

News of the diagnosis for the former Senate majority leader, who marked his 87th birthday Thursday, was shared in an email obtained by the Press Herald that was sent by Meg Baxter, president and CEO of the Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute. The email was sent to the institute’s staff and board of directors.

George Mitchell gives the commencement address during the University of Maine at Augusta graduation on May 12, 2018, at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Baxter’s email said Mitchell told her of his diagnosis Wednesday night. He told her that he has leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow, would receive treatment and, with the help of doctors and his supportive family, hoped to achieve remission.

Mitchell was diagnosed with what was termed “small, low-grade and localized” prostate cancer in 2007.

Until late last year, Mitchell was chairman of the board of DLA Piper, a global law firm with lawyers in more than 40 countries. Mitchell is currently listed on the firm’s website as a consultant.

His political career started with a defeat in the 1974 Maine gubernatorial election to James B. Longley, an independent.


Mitchell, a Waterville native and Bowdoin College graduate, was then appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine by President Jimmy Carter and named a federal District Court judge in 1979.

In 1980, he was appointed a U.S. senator by then-Gov. Joseph B. Brennan, replacing Edmund Muskie, who had resigned after being tapped to serve as secretary of state by Carter. Mitchell had served as a top aide to Muskie in the mid-60s.

Mitchell easily won re-election twice and was Senate majority leader from 1989-94, when he decided to retire. He subsequently served on a number of corporate boards, including Disney, Federal Express and Xerox.

He also embarked on diplomatic missions, brokering the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, for which he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.

Mitchell, whose mother was Lebanese, was named a special envoy for Middle East Peace in 2009, serving for two years.

He also was tapped by Major League Baseball to investigate steroid use by players, producing a report in late 2007 that named several of the game’s biggest stars as users of performance-enhancing drugs.


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