Atlantic Legal Foundation presented its Annual Award to former United States Senator George J. Mitchell at a dinner held on October 7, 2004 at The Union League Club in New York City. Having left the Senate in 1995, Senator Mitchell now serves as Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company, and as a partner of Piper Rudnick LLP. The Foundation has presented its Annual Award each year since 1988 to a person who exemplifies the ideals and principles of public service and private enterprise. For a list of prior honorees, see Atlantic Legal Honorees .
George J. Mitchell entered the U.S. Senate in 1980 when he was appointed to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career in the Senate that spanned 14 years. In January 1989, he became Senate majority leader. He held that position until he left the Senate in 1995. During his tenure, Senator Mitchell won enormous bipartisan respect. For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.
In 1996, the governments of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland asked Senator Mitchell to chair the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. He led the negotiations that ultimately resulted in an historic accord that ended decades of conflict. He has received numerous awards and honors recognizing his service in the peace talks, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the U.S. government can give.
While in the Senate, Senator Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation’s first childcare bill and was principal author of the low-income housing tax credit program. Senator Mitchell’s efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. He led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.
Senator Mitchell was an officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1954 to 1956. He was a trial lawyer in the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and served as executive assistant to Senator Muskie. In 1965, he returned to Maine where he engaged in private practice of law in Portland until 1977. He was then appointed U.S. attorney for Maine, a position he held until 1979, when he was appointed U.S. district judge for Maine.
In addition to the board of Disney, he serves on the boards of FedEx and Staples, Inc. He is also chancellor of The Queen’s University of Northern Ireland. He has served as chairman of the International Crisis Group, as chairman of the Special Commission investing allegations of impropriety in the bidding process for the Olympic Games, and as chairman of the National Health Care Commission. Working on a pro bono basis, he was the independent overseer of the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, an organization formed to help victims of the 9/11 attacks.