Jim Davitt, a former state legislator from Hampden and professor at the University of Maine at Augusta in Bangor, died on Wednesday after a brief illness.
A U.S. Army veteran who practiced law, taught, and ran a bed and breakfast before he was elected to the state Legislature, Davitt was 76.
Davitt was born in Wisconsin and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Chicago, Illinois, and later attended Georgetown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history and later a law degree. Between 1967 and 1970, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, for which he received a Bronze Star.
After his military service, Davitt operated a private practice law firm in Virginia before relocating with his family to the Bangor area in 1990, where his wife, pediatrician Mary Kate Davitt, co-founded the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Eastern Maine Medical Center. Mary Kate died in 1997.
After being admitted to the Maine Bar, Davitt became a professor at the University of Maine at Augusta’s Bangor campus, where he taught in the Justice Studies program. It was there that he met his second wife, Mary Louis, also a professor at the school.
Davitt is survived by his wife; his two children, Bangor City Councilor Clare Davitt and Brian Davitt; and two step-children, Catie Reed and Travers Kurr. He was still teaching classes at UMA-Bangor when he fell ill last month.
The 1850s farmhouse that Davitt purchased in the early 1990s on Hudson Road in Bangor was transformed in 2004 into Nonesuch Farm Bed & Breakfast, where in addition to hosting guests, the family raised chickens, sheep and llamas. In 2009, Davitt led a group of Maine innkeepers and members of the tourism industry in supporting a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.
The Davitts sold the farmhouse in 2011 and moved to Hampden, where he served on the Regional School Unit 22 school board and the Hampden Planning Board. In 2014, Davitt, a Democrat, was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, representing Hampden and Newburgh. He served one term before Republican David Haggan defeated him in 2016. Davitt ran against Haggan last year but lost again. Davitt also served on the Board of Visitors of the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston.
Dennis Marble, a Hampden resident and former director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, met Davitt when he and Mary Louis helped to raise funds for the shelter. Davitt later encouraged Marble to run for state Senate in 2016 in a race that he eventually lost to Republican Andre Cushing.
Jim and Mary Louis Davitt “weren’t the kind of people that would draw attention to the good they did. They would just do it,” Marble said. “Later, he was the person that really encouraged me to run for state Senate. He also lost, but his attitude was still one of, ‘Come on, it’ll be fun. You’ll meet lots of great people.’ And he said all that while he was dealing with chronic back pain. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”
Bangor City Council Chair Sarah Nichols recalled Davitt as a good-humored and generous person. She recalled an event she attended with Davitt at the Bangor Public Library to honor the installation of stones from The Summit Project — a “living memorial” honoring fallen soldiers from Maine with individually etched 10-pound stones.
“He stood there and saluted every stone representing a soldier placed in the case,” Nichols said. “It was one of the most powerful and moving moments I have ever witnessed.”
A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 17, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bangor. A reception will be held that day at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor at 4:30 p.m.