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The formation of Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry dates back to 1952, when Saul Sheriff and Kenneth Baird formed the partnership of Sheriff & Baird. Mr. Sheriff, a graduate of Brown University and Boston University Law School, was an eminent trial attorney and had practiced in Portland with Francis Sullivan, who was appointed in 1952 the first Roman Catholic judge in the State's history. Mr. Baird had practiced with Harry Sweetsir, whose firm, with offices on Exchange Street, had its beginnings with Mr. Sweetsir's father in the 1840's.
In June of 1960, Mr. Sheriff died suddenly of a heart attack, which ultimately led to the formation of a new partnership with Raymond Jensen. Mr. Jensen, a Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School graduate, had practiced for many years with Carroll Chaplin, the judge of Probate in Cumberland County, who had died in the late 1950's. In addition, Sheriff & Baird represented Cumberland Savings and Loan Association, and Mr. Jensen represented Federal Loan and Building Association, the two largest savings and loans in the State. On January 1, 1961, Baird and Jensen joined with Robert Donovan and Merton Henry, who had been Sheriff & Baird associates, to form the new firm of Jensen & Baird.
On January 1, 1971, Jensen & Baird merged with Chapman, Chapman & Gardner, which was a partnership of Clark Chapman, Sr., and his son-in-law, M. Donald Gardner, a Colby College and Boston University Law graduate. The name of the new firm was Jensen Baird Chapman & Gardner. Following Mr. Chapman's untimely death just after the merger, the name of the firm was changed to Jensen Baird Gardner Donovan & Henry, effective January 1, 1973. Mr. Donovan, another Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School graduate, was appointed a Maine District Court Judge in 1978, and his name had to be removed under the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Thus, Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry has been the firm name since 1978, with Merton Henry, a Bowdoin College and George Washington University Law School graduate, serving as its managing partner for many of those years.
The offices of Jensen & Baird were originally located on the 12th floor of 477 Congress Street where the offices of both Sheriff & Baird and Judge Sullivan had been located. Judge Sullivan had moved into 477 Congress Street as one of the first occupants when it was completed in 1928 as the tallest office building north of Boston. The firm remained in that building until 1988 when the Ten Free Street property was purchased and renovated.
The founding members of the firm were actively involved in community activities. Mr. Jensen was a Portland City Councilor and President of the Woodfords Club and Portland Kiwanis. Mr. Baird was Cumberland County's Assistant County Attorney (the District Attorney’s title at the time), Recorder of the South Portland Municipal Court and Chairman of the South Portland School Board. Mr. Gardner was Chairman of the Salvation Army Board, Grandmaster of the Masons and served as President of the Woodfords Club. Among his many community activities, Mert Henry has been a Trustee of Maine Medical Center, the Portland Museum of Art, and Bowdoin College, served as Chairman of the Portland School Committee, and was a long-time advisor to Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
Consistent with this tradition, the firm has made a practice of encouraging its attorneys to be involved in charitable, civic and political activities throughout Greater Portland and the State of Maine. For example, Walter Webber served on the Executive Committee for the Scottish Rite Masons and was Chairman of the Brighton Medical Center Trustees; both Ken Cole and Lee Lowry have served on the Portland Planning Board, and Ken has been the Republican National Committeeman from Maine; Frank Frye has been active at Maine Medical Center and Opportunity Farm for Boys; Nick Nadzo served as chair of the Portland School Committee, and on the boards of PCA Great Performances and the Portland Public Library; David Jones was Chair of School Administrative District 71 (Kennebunk & Kennebunkport); Joe Groff was Chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council; Bill Dale was elected to the South Portland City Council and has served as Mayor; Brendan Rielly was elected to the Westbrook City Council; and Pat Dunn has served as Maine's Commissioner of Labor. For more information on our involvement in community activities, please visit the biographies of the individual attorneys.
Among the distinguished alumni of the firm is George J. Mitchell, former Majority Leader of the United States Senate. Senator Mitchell, who ran unsuccessfully for governor, was with the firm from 1964 until 1977, at which time he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine. He later became a United States District Court Judge for Maine, and then was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy created when Edmund S. Muskie was appointed United States Secretary of State. In addition, Diantha Carragin, who was associated with the firm in the 1970's, became the first female Commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, and Will Lund, a former associate, has served as Director of the Maine office of Consumer Credit Regulation.
Among ancillary historical notes of interest, Mert Henry's wife, Harriet Henry, was appointed Maine's first female judge in 1973. The firm has had a York County office since 1985, and in 1988 merged with Walker & Bradford, which was the oldest law firm in York County, dating back to the nineteenth century.
The traditions of Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry reflect a commitment to legal excellence and civic responsibility, which continue to be the hallmarks of the firm today.