Mainer who spearheaded billboard ban dies at 94

Posted June 06, 2011, at 3:59 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 2:42 p.m.

YORK, Maine — A former state lawmaker who spearheaded a legislative effort that removed billboards from Maine roadways more than three decades ago has died. Marion Fuller Brown was 94.

She was surrounded by family when she died Friday night at her home in York, her daughter Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth, N.H., said Monday.

Brown, who served as a Republican representative, was a feisty opponent of billboards who was the driving force behind Maine’s billboard ban 34 years ago. Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska are the only other states that ban roadside billboards.

After leaving the Legislature, Brown helped found Scenic America, a national organization dedicated to preserving the visual character of America’s countryside.

Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America, said Brown did the smart thing by getting rid of visual pollution while it was still possible. The billboard industry has grown so big in the years since then, she said, that it would be virtually impossible to fully eradicate it now.

“She really saved Maine from countless legal battles by cleaning out this industry and these signs. I wish there were more Marion Fuller Browns throughout the country who had the vision and the dedication to America’s scenic beauty, to have this happen in more areas,” Tracy said.

Brown’s daughters attended a legislative hearing in late April to thwart a pair of bills to roll back Maine’s billboard ban. One bill was rejected; action was deferred on the other.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said motorists and others who enjoy Maine’s natural beauty “owe a debt of gratitude to Marion Fuller Brown.”

“To me, she was a great role model and an invaluable source of guidance and support,” Collins said. “She was a true leader in land conservation and a long-time champion of the environment who was passionate about preserving the natural beauty of Maine and America.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and former Gov. John McKernan also mourned Brown’s death.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our wonderful friend, Marion Fuller Brown, an extraordinary advocate for Maine and an environmental champion who was way ahead of her time.  Indeed, her contributions to our great state are simply incalculable. From her election to the State Legislature in 1966 and her iconic sponsorship of the bill banning billboards along Maine’s highways to her service on numerous organizations and commissions, including the Travel Advisory Council, Maine is truly blessed to have known this selfless public servant,” Snowe and McKernan said in a statement Tuesday.

Charles Floyd, a Scenic America founder, said Brown greeted him at their first meeting with some salty language directed at the billboard industry.

“She spoke her mind. She didn’t pussyfoot around. That’s one of the reasons I liked her,” Floyd said from his home outside Salisbury, N.C.

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