FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — John H. Reed, who served as Maine’s governor from 1959 to 1966 and later was appointed to a US ambassadorship, died Wednesday in a hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 91.
The Fort Fairfield native grew up in a potato-farming family and served in the US Navy during World War II. Mr. Reed served in the Maine Legislature from 1955 to 1959. He served a two-year term in the House before being elected twice to the Senate.
While he was president of the state Senate, Mr. Reed became governor in September 1959 upon the death of Clinton Clauson. The following year, Mr. Reed defeated Democrat Frank Coffin to serve out Clauson’s term. He won Maine’s first four-year term as governor in 1962, defeating Democrat Maynard Dolloff.
While governor, the Republican was instrumental in starting educational television in Maine and oversaw creation of a network of University of Maine colleges, now known as the University of Maine System. After his service as governor, he was appointed in 1967 to the National Transportation Safety Board and was US ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives in 1976-77.
Maine’s current governor, Paul LePage, said Friday that the state has lost a great man and offered his condolences to Mr. Reed’s family.
‘‘Having the opportunity to have met him, I know he was a kind man, dedicated Navy veteran, and passionate about public service,’’ LePage said in a statement. “It is a sad day for Maine, as we have lost a man who contributed so much to our great state.’’
US Senator Susan Collins, who like Reed came from northern Maine’s Aroostook County, said that no matter where Mr. Reed went, ‘‘he never forgot his County roots.’’
‘‘In an interview a few years ago, Governor Reed was asked by a reporter what he’d like to be remembered for,’’ Collins said in a statement. ‘‘He said that he wanted to be remembered for doing what was right and that he always sought what was best for the people of Maine. For this, the people of Maine will forever be grateful.’’
US Senator Olympia Snowe and her husband, former governor John McKernan, both Republicans, said Reed was well respected by national leaders on both sides of the political aisle, noting that Democratic and Republican presidents appointed him to the national posts he held.
Mr. Reed’s wife, Cora Davison Reed, died in 2004.
A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Christ United Methodist Church in Washington, according to the McGuire Funeral Home in Washington, D.C. Mr. Reed will be buried in Fort Fairfield, the Giberson-Dorsey Funeral Home in Fort Fairfield said Friday.