LA Metro Magazine Last Word
John Jenkins - Last word - LA Metro Magazine


Graduating from Bates, John Jenkins remained in the community to uplift and challenge his audience to be better people.



(1952 -2020)

John Jenkins helped me understand what integrity meant… He understood the word ‘endure,’ and what ‘endure’ means to me is taking on more than you can handle and then adding more to it.”

Those are the words from Dan Campbell’s acceptance speech for the John Jenkins Hands & Hearts Leadership & Service Award.

John Jenkins showed Maine what qualities a leader and role model should possess. Jenkins was the first man of color to be mayor of Lewiston and Maine State Senator, and he also was mayor of Auburn from 2007 to 2009. Jenkins had a strong relationship with the citizenry of LA, from the Franco-American to the Somali population, and sought to bring people of seemingly divergent paths together. 

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on May 29, 1952,  Jenkins faced abuse and violence from an early age. He cites educational opportunities and a strong religious faith as what helped him persevere. As a student at Bates College, Jenkins enacted the Afro-American Society in 1970. He received a BA in Psychology

from Bates and later became Director of Housing there. 

A karate expert, winning four world martial arts titles in his lifetime, Jenkins would visit schools, businesses, and other groups, displaying his physical prowess while seeking to uplift and challenge his audiences to be better people. His political career ran parallel to his work as a motivational speaker and consultant at his company, PepTalk. 

“I think a lot of the karate stuff that John did translated to his relationships with people, and I think they helped him manage adversity,” his friend and biographer Chuck Radis states. “John was an extraordinarily jovial and happy-go-lucky guy, but he was also extremely focused on his goals — he quietly had this inner strength of knowing where he wanted to go.”

Jenkins died of esophageal cancer in 2020, and the state of Maine mourned one of its true heroes. The “John Jenkins Hands & Hearts Leadership & Service Award” was enacted in his honor, annually recognizing an Auburn resident, group, or organization for significant and meaningful service to the community.

Information provided by | | photo courtesy of Brewster Burns