About Frederick G. Payne, Governor, U.S. Senator
Frederick George Payne (July 24, 1904 – June 15, 1978) was an American businessman and politician. A member of the Republican Party, he served as a U.S. Senator from Maine from 1953 to 1959. He previously served as the 60th Governor of Maine from 1949 to 1953.
Early life and education
Frederick Payne was born in Lewiston, Maine, to Frederick and Nellie (née Smart) Payne. He received his early education at public schools in his native city, graduating from Jordan High School. As a child, he worked as a newsboy, grocery clerk, theater usher, and dishwasher. He studied at the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1925.
Early business and political career
Payne then worked as a financial manager and chief disbursing officer for the Maine & New Hampshire Theaters Company, which operated 132 movie theaters in New England. He began his political career as mayor of Augusta, serving from 1935 to 1941. In 1940, he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for Governor of Maine, losing to state Senator Sumner Sewall. After Sewall was elected governor, he named Payne as the state finance commissioner and budget director. He resigned in 1942 in order to serve with the U.S. Air Force during World War II, reaching the rank of a lieutenant colonel. Following his military service, he worked as manager of Waldoboro Garage Company from 1945 to 1949.
Governor of Maine
In 1948, Payne was elected the 60th Governor of Maine after defeating his Democratic opponent, Biddeford mayor Louis Lausier, by a margin of 66%-34%. He was later re-elected in 1950, defeating Democrat Earl Grant by 61%-39%. During his tenure, he created a two-percent sales tax, expanded the Maine Development Commission, and began a long-range highway modernization program financed by a $27 million bond issue.
During Payne's second term as governor, he was accused of accepting a bribe involving the state liquor industry. A wine bottler claimed he paid $12,000 to a Boston promotion man for the latter's supposed influence with Payne and the state liquor chairman. However, after testifying before a special investigating committee, Payne was cleared of all charges.
In 1952, Payne was elected to the U.S. Senate. He defeated incumbent Senator Owen Brewster in the Republican primary, and went on to defeat Democrat Roger P. Dube in the general election.
During the late 1950s, after a series of lurid magazine articles and Hollywood films helped to sensationalize youth gangs and violence, Payne supported legislation to ban automatic-opening or switchblade knives. During congressional hearings, Payne suggested that he believed immigrants to be the source of gang violence: "Isn't it true that this type of knife, switchblade knife, in its several different forms, was developed, actually, abroad, and was developed by the so-called scum, if you want to call it, or the group who are always involved in crime?" The ban on switchblade knives was eventually enacted into law as the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958. Senator Payne and other congressmen supporting the Switchblade Knife Act believed that by stopping the importation and interstate sales of automatic knives (effectively halting sales of new switchblades), the law would reduce youth gang violence by blocking access by to what had become a symbolic weapon. However, while switchblade imports, domestic production, and sales to lawful owners soon ended, later legislative research demonstrated that youth gang violence rates had in fact rapidly increased, as gang members turned to firearms instead of knives.
Payne was soundly defeated for reelection in 1958 by the Democrat, Ed Muskie. He died in 1978 in Waldoboro, Maine, aged 73.