The following write-up takes us to Maine to examine the life and political exploits of a man named Zelma. After locating the name "Zelma M. Dwinal" amongst a listing of Maine County Attorneys in the 1921 Maine State Register I was quite certain that Dwinal was an early example of a woman being elected as a county attorney, this mainly due to the appearance of the name Zelma (predominantly a female first name). After further research I was rewarded with the above portrait from the Lewiston Evening Journal, proving that Dwinal was in actuality a male and had previously been a municipal judge in Rockland, Maine, a one-term state representative, two-term state senator and a Republican candidate for Congress in 1934....truly a man of many achievements!
The son of Fred and Luetta Briggs Dwinal, Zelma Merwyn Dwinal was born on March 12, 1884 in Mechanic Falls, Maine. He would attend local schools and later studied at the Bates College, graduating in the class of 1906. Following his leaving college Dwinal settled into an educational career that saw him serve as principal in several Maine school districts, including those in Richmond (1906-09), Livermore Falls (1909-11) and Camden (1912-17). He married in December 1907 to Harriette Newall (birth-date unknown), with whom he had three children, Charles, Barbara and Lucille.
Zelma Dwinal was called to a very different area of public service during the early 1910s, being selected by then U.S. Senator from Maine William P. Frye to be a member of the U.S. Senate police force. Dwinal's appointment was successful and he served at the Capitol from 1910-1912, during which time he also studied at Georgetown University. Dwinal continued to serve at the Capitol until the year following Senator Frye's death, afterward returning to Camden, Maine. He continued to teach school and study law for the next five years and in 1918 was admitted to the bar. Establishing his practice at Camden, Dwinal also entered the business life of that community in 1919 when he took over ownership of the Talbot Insurance Agency.
In 1920 Zelma Dwinal entered the political life of Maine when he won election as County Attorney for Knox County. He would serve in that post from 1921-23 and in 1924 was elected to represent Knox County in the Maine State House of Representatives for the 1925-27 session. Dwinal continued his political ascent in 1927 when he began serving the first of two terms in the Maine State Senate, the last of which concluded in 1931. In addition to the aforementioned posts, Dwinal was a delegate from Maine to both the 1928 and 1932 Republican National Convention and in 1930 lost out in the Republican primary for U.S. Representative from Maine, being bested by Oxford County clerk Donald Barrows Partridge.
Dwinal's longest term of public service began in 1932 when he entered into the office of Judge of the Municipal Court of Rockland, Maine. He would continue to serve on the bench for over two decades before stepping down in 1954 at age seventy. Early in his tenure as judge Dwinal made another run for Congress, announcing his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 2nd Congressional district in early 1934. Hitting the stump hard, Dwinal made a number of speaking appearances over the course of his campaign, including one stop at the Lewiston-Auburn Kiwanis Club in August 1934. During his address at the club, Dwinal took the Roosevelt administration and it's policies to task, emphasizing that:
"Too many theorists and too few practical authorities are dictating the operation of the Nation's business today."
A Dwinal campaign notice from the Lewiston Evening Journal.
Continuing his speaking engagements throughout the late summer of 1934, Dwinal stepped up his attacks on Roosevelt's policies, arguing that the government's "lavish and record-breaking expenditures" had caused hardship in his state and made light of his opponent's enthusiastic support of Roosevelt and the New Deal programs. Dwinal's opponent for Congress that year was Edward Carleton Moran Jr (1894-1967), a former candidate for Maine Governor who had taken his seat in Congress the previous year. On election day in September 1934, it was Moran who won out in the vote count, besting Dwinal by a vote of 52, 491 to 46, 200.
Following his congressional candidacy, Dwinal returned to the office of Rockland Municipal Judge, retiring in 1954. He died three years later on September 30, 1957 at age 73 and was later interred at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Camden, Maine.