John Rensenbrink, a co-founder of the Maine Green Party and the Green Party of the United States, died July 30 at age 93.
Born in Minnesota, Rensenbrink was unable to attend high school as the death of his father required him to work on the family dairy farm. Nevertheless, he eventually earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago and taught at several colleges, retiring in 1989 from Bowdoin College in Maine.
Rensenbrink spent the 1970s and early 1980s active in Democratic, anti-war, and environmental politics, and was one of the leaders of the anti-nuclear movement in Maine. While traveling in Europe in 1983, Rensenbrink learned of the election of over twenty Greens to the then-West German parliament. Upon his return to Maine Rensenbrink was contacted by his colleague Alan Philbrook, who had attended a meeting of Greens in Canada.
Rensenbrink and Philbrook called a meeting in Augusta, Maine on January 14, 1984, where what is now Maine’s Green Independent Party was founded. This was the first Green Party in the United States. Rensenbrink’s continued political and networking activity led to the formation of the Green Party of the United States in 2001.
The Green Independent Party in Maine has over 40,000 voter registrations or 4% of the total in the state. They are the second largest party in Portland, Maine’s largest city, have had gubernatorial candidates that received over 10% of the vote, and have elected a member to the state’s House of Representatives. Rensenbrink was the party’s candidate for the US Senate in 1996, receiving 4% of the vote in an election won by Susan Collins.
Rensenbrink is survived by Carla, his wife of 63 years, two sisters, three daughters, and a granddaughter.