Archiving the Franco-American biography of Albert Beliveau

Every biography is interesting.

In my opinion, a biography is as unique as fingerprints. Archiving Franco-Americans’ biographies are among the important objectives of the Franco-American Collection, a special archives located at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College, in Lewiston (USM LAC).  Among the biographical data available at the FAC are the papers on loan to the archives from the family of Judge Albert Beliveau (1887-1971). He was the state’s first Franco-American federal justice appointed to the Maine Superior Court and he served on the state Supreme Court. His biography parallels the concept of the American Dream.

In  fact, Beliveau’s interesting Franco-American biography has been particularly interesting because of his ability to struggle through professional challenges.

During his life, Beliveau achieved social, political, military and judicial respect while overcoming obstacles related to his humble French-Canadian roots, growing up in Rumford. The respect for Beliveau was highlighted in an article published in the July 28, 1928, edition of the The Rumford Times newspaper, where his credibility was proudly reported in this paragraph: “Not since the days of the immortal Abraham Lincoln, whose career begins in the backwoods and ends in the White House, has the ideal of America, that of the equality of opportunity for every citizen, been so pronounced as it has been (with) Attorney Beliveau (of Rumford).”

Notably, Beliveau wrote detailed notes about his activities, throughout his career.  His writings and the salient aspects about his life are currently being researched by the writer and journalist, Douglas Rooks, for the purpose of eventually publishing a biography about the Franco-American judge.

Severin Beliveau and Douglas Rooks

Attorney Severin Beliveau (left) with Douglas Rooks, the biographer of Albert Beliveau at USM LAC in the Franco-American Collection. (L’Heureux photograph)

Rooks presented a program at the FAC, on November 13, titled “Archive Richness“, whereby he highlighted research conducted on Beliveau’s life. His efforts were supported by the access he had to the papers made available at the FAC archives. Attending the public presentation was Beliveau’s son,  Severin Beliveau, a Maine attorney.

Beliveau was born in 1887, in Lewiston. His parents were French Canadians. His family moved to Jay and then to Rumford, at the turn of the 20th century. During his youth, Albert worked in local foundries and mills. His ambition to learn caused him to change his life. In fact, he studied law in Rumford and graduated in 1912, from the University of Maine’s College of Law.  Moreover, he passed the bar exam with the highest score in state history and even graduated a year ahead of his class.  Throughout his professional career, beginning when he became a lawyer and later when he entered politics, Beliveau was dedicated to the Maine Democratic Party.

Beliveau family

Beliveau family photograph is in the Franco-American Collection at USM LAC in Lewiston. (L’Heureux photograph)

Beliveau family picture ID

Names of the Beliveau family pictured in the photograph at USM LAC Franco-American Collection. (L’Heureux photograph)

In The Rumford Times article, published in 1928, Beliveau’s life was reported to have changed in 1906, when he “saw a new light”.  At the time, he had been working at the International Mill. At  19 years old, he made a decision to “never go back to it again”. That’s when he started a new career. That same day, Beliveau went into the law office of Matthew McCarthy, where he was to remain for three years. His job was to collect bills, attend to office routine and study to create a new future for himself.

During World War I, Beliveau served with the U.S. Army in France, where his French-Canadian heritage and legal experience was helpful in negotiations with the French, who were qualified to receive reparations for their war claims. He was an advocate for veterans and was influential in the creation of the American Legion, in Paris France.

Beliveau was appointed to the Maine Superior Court in the 1935, by Governor Louis J. Brann.  In 1954, he was nominated to the Maine Supreme Court.  In 1958, he retired.  When he died, in Portland ME, in 1971, his obituary was published in The New York Times.

Rooks continues to research information for the Beliveau biography. His previous books are a biography of Senator George Mitchell titled “George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible“, published in 2016 by Down East Books. He also authored “Rise, Decline and Renewal: The Democratic Party in Maine“, published by Hamilton Books.

A video link to the FAC presentation is available for viewing at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mYQQU015d38qv1uacVZ1K3rAflhcnJ3Q/view?usp=sharing_eil&ts=5bedc33e

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.