Jean Byers Sampson, NAACP, University of Maine System Board of Trustees, University of Maine, Gay Rights, League of Women Voters, Maine State Board of Education, Civil Rights, Academic Freedom, Maine Civil Liberties Union, MCLU, Maine, Jean Byers Samspon Center for Diversity in Maine, Wilde-Stein Club
Jean Byers Sampson was a 1944 graduate of Smith College. Early in her post-Smith career, she conducted and wrote the 1947, “A Study of the Negro in Military Service,” which contributed to President Harry Truman’s decision to desegregate the armed forces. Sampson moved to Maine in the early 1950s with her husband, Richard Sampson, a Bates College mathematics professor, and she played a unique and critical role in the state until her death in 1996. Over the course of her life in Maine, she served as the founder of the first chapter of the NAACP in Maine, local and state chair of the League of Women Voters, a member of the Maine State Board of Education, and executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, among other roles. At the national level, shewas founder and director of “Catalyst in Education,” an organization which assisted adult women with education and training to enter the work force. She also served as a member and subsequent chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. As chair, she upheld academic freedom by supporting the right of gay students to hold a conference on the University of Maine campus. When then-Governor James Longley asked all members of the Board to resign, Mrs. Sampson led the Board in refusing to do so. As a result of this action and her commitment to academics, she and the Board received the Andrew Mikeljohn Award presented in recognition of an outstanding contribution to academic freedom. She believed deeply in the right of all people to a free and unbiased life, and she devoted her adultlife to that accomplishment. The Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine is named in honor of her commitment. The Papers span the period 1939-1998, with the bulk of the material dating from 1963-1994. They document her work for the NAACP, civil rights and liberties through the Maine Civil Liberties Union, education and academic freedom through Catalyst in Education, serving Bowdoin College and University of Maine, and developing opportunities for minorities and women.
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Jean Byers Sampson Papers, Sampson Center General Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.