Maine artist and educator Ashley Bryan was honored Monday on his 97th birthday. Gov. Mills issued a proclamation declaring the day "Ashley Frederick Bryan Day" in honor of his lifetime of contributions to the state.
Bryan has lived on Little Cranberry Island in Maine since 1988 and is being celebrated for his work related to the African-American experience and for furthering representation and diversity in the arts and in children's literature.
"As a soldier, a teacher, an author and illustrator, a philanthropist and a resident of the State of Maine for over sixty years, Mr. Bryan has taught us to celebrate the unique spirit of every person and, together, to create a brighter future for us all," Mills says in a statement.
Bryan first visited Maine in 1946, as a student at the Skowhegan School of Art. He previously served in a segregated battalion of the U.S. Army during World War II and participated in the D-Day invasion.
He has written and illustrated more than 50 childrens books, including "Beautiful Blackbird" and "Freedom Over Me." In 2013, the Ashley Bryan Center was created to preserve Bryan's work and to promote the arts.
Maine Public digital producer Barbara Cariddi contributed to this story.