Edgar May


Muckross State Park officially opened during the summer of 2016.  Its addition into the State Park system was the result of Edgar May's determination and desire that the place that he loved and called home for over 45 years should become a center for outdoor recreation and learning in the community, with a special focus of making it accessible for the younger generation.  Edgar's journey to that point was an amazing mix of fate, courage, and most of all, determination.

In 1940 a ten year old Edgar arrived in the United States with his widowed mother and 6 year old sister, Madeline, having fled their native Switzerland during the Holocaust and Nazi threat.  He often reflected on that journey, his arrival in America, and the influence it had on his life.   From his own memoirs and an interview he and Madeline did for StoryCorp in 2008, Edgar reflected,

We arrived on the USS Manhattan on June 10, 1940.  It was a ship built for 900 passengers and there were 2,000 passengers, many of them refugees like us on that ship.  I remember early that morning our mother had us go out on deck and there appeared the Statue of Liberty out of this fog.  And all of sudden everybody on deck - there must have been hundreds of people on deck - started to applaud and yell and shout.

Edgar's journey from that day to his last years at Muckross was as full as it was complex and inspiring.  Not one to sit still and watch the world pass by, Edgar set out to make a difference.  His focus quickly turned to advocating for the disadvantaged.  Beginning with his work in journalism, he focused increasingly on poverty and the inequality which had simmered in the background for so many years.  In 1961, after spending a year working undercover for the Buffalo Evening News, he published a fourteen part series on the troubled welfare system entitled, "Our Costly Dilemma" for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.  This was followed by his first book, The Wasted Americans,  which expanded on his local reporting on poverty and widened the focus to the way poverty was (or was not) being recognized and addressed nationally.

His writings caught the attention of the Johnson administration and Sargent Shriver.  Edgar often recalled with fondness and humor his first interaction with "Sarge".  Out of the blue Edgar had received a phone call from Washington.  The person at the other end, Sargent Shriver as it turned out, opened the conversation with, "I read your book last night and I want to know how long you are going to criticize this problem and when are you going to do something about it?"

And so began a decades-long relationship with Sargent Shriver, first joining him in the War on Poverty. Edgar also served as Inspector General of the Office of Economic Opportunity and helped establish Head Start programs throughout the country. He served as the Deputy Director of the Domestic Peace Corp (VISTA) and later joined Shriver in France, serving as the Special Advisor to the Ambassador.

On his return to Vermont in the early 70's Edgar served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 1974 to 1982 and the Vermont Senate from 1984 to1990, where he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Edgar often fondly shared many of the interactions between himself and his sister, the Governor of Vermont, at the time.

In the early 1990's he worked with Eunice Shriver as CEO of the International Special Olympics.

Back in Vermont Edgar was not ready to retire and turned his focus on bringing a health and recreation center to Springfield that could be affordable to anyone who wanted to join.  The culmination of this effort was the Southern Vermont Health and Recreation Center, renamed in his honor as the Edgar May Health and Recreation Center in 2009.

Edgar's membership on local and State-wide boards was wide-ranging and included programs such as Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), the University of Vermont, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

During the last few years of his life Edgar began work on his memoirs, the final result of which was published by his family after his passing in 2012.  Thank you for my Green Card is the wonderful and fascinating story of Edgar's life from his arrival in America, right up through his time in the legislature. 

Much of this summary of Edgar's life was pulled from his book which can still be found on Amazon.  For anyone interested in Edgar's life, from the story of what life was like for an immigrant in the 1940s to what it was like going door to door while trying to get elected as a Democrat in the early 70's in a state that had barely voted for a Democrat in 200 years, this book is highly recommended.

Other sources include articles from The Valley News, The Rutland Herald, Vermont Public Radio, The Eagle Times, and other news outlets.

Below are a few in PDF form-

Valley News Dec 29, 2012

Rutland Herald Dec 28, 2012

VPR News Dec 27, 2012

Remembrance from the EMHRC