AUBURN – John T. Jenkins, 68, of Auburn, died at Maine Medical Center in Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, after a brief but valiant battle with cancer.
Born in Newark, N.J., on May 29, 1952, he was the son of John and Jane Ingram Jenkins.
Educated in Newark schools, he was a graduate of Malcolm X Shabazz High School, class of ’70. As student body president he met Martin Luther King, just a week before Dr. King’s assassination. John fell in love with Maine while earning a B.A. in Psychology at Bates College, graduating in 1974, and made Lewiston his home.
A gifted student athlete, John’s martial arts skills took him all over the world, including touring Japan while competing in the Karate World Championship. He won the championship in 1977, and went on to win numerous world championships in a variety of martial arts disciplines. Among his many accolades, John was a member of the Maine State Sports Hall of Fame, World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and USA International Black Belt Hall of Fame.
In 1980, he became Director of Housing at Bates College, and in 1993 started his political career with a successful run for Mayor of Lewiston. After serving as State Senator for Maine’s 21st District he left politics for a while and worked as a business consultant and motivational speaker. He moved to Auburn, and in 2007 became mayor, running as a write-in candidate. In a lifetime of firsts, he was the first African American ever to be elected to the Maine State Senate, and when he became Mayor of Auburn he was the first person in the history of Maine to win any office as a write-in candidate.
John is survived by his long-time closest friend and caregiver, his “Person,” Ann Parker of Auburn; a sister, Mujiba Wadud and her husband Aleem Razzaqq of Newark, N.J., a brother, Walter Jenkins of New Jersey; an aunt, Beaurina Mobley; and a host of nieces, nephews, other relations, and many, many close friends.
Besides his parents, he was predeceased by two uncles, Jacob Simmons and Jake Ingram; a niece, Khabira Lateef; and a cousin, Eddie Jackson.
John’s remarkable life will be celebrated next summer, time and place to be announced. Private memorial services were held at the Albert and Burpee Funeral Home. Donations, condolences, and a video tribute may be found at http://www.albert-burpee.com.