Oregon political leader dies Sunday evening in Portland
by: Tribune File Photo Former Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, seen here in 2002, was considered an icon of Oregon and national politics.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield was remembered Sunday evening as a 'man of conviction and vision' who left his mark on state and federal government and Oregon Health and Science University.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that Hatfield died at about 6 p.m. Sunday in Portland. He was 89 and reportedly had been in ill health for some time.

The former Oregon governor, who never lost a statewide election, represented the state in the U.S. Senate for 30 years. He was one of the longest serving senators in history and was the senior Republican in the Senate when he retired in 1996.

Hatfield was one of a few Republican senators who opposed the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s.

Gov. John Kitzhaber said Hatfield 'had a more profound impact on Oregon.' The governor also ordered flags across the state lowered to half staff in honor of Hatfield's passing.

'We've lost a true statesman whose legacy lives on in his countless contributions to Oregon's quality of life,' Kitzhaber said. 'Sen. Hatfield's moral compass, independence and willingness to reach across the aisle are an inspiration to me and countless Oregonians.'

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said the state and the nation had lost 'one of its former giants' in Hatfield.

'Oregon has lost a great son,' Wyden said. 'The nation has lost a man who represented honesty and decency. And I have lost a very good friend.

'Sen. Hatfield was never one to be driven by party affiliation or ideological litmus tests. He was religious but not intolerant; idealistic but not naïve; a politician but not partisan. He was willing to stand alone, but never one to grandstand.'

Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Portland Democrat who was an intern in Hatfield's office, said the former senator should be remembered 'for his bipartisan and gracious diplomacy' in this time of bitter partisanship.

'Sen. Hatfield took courageous positions of conscience, from opposing the Vietnam War to advocating for the abolition of the death penalty, in the face of substantial political opposition,' Merkley said. 'He inspired many to public service, encouraging them to work to do what is right rather than what is convenient or popular.'

Named in his honor

Hatfield's legacy includes support for OHSU, where the research center was named in his honor. Hatfield's name also graces Oregon's federal courthouse and Oregon State University's marine science center. The library at Willamette University in Salem was named in Hatfield's honor.

The Clinical Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., also is named for Hatfield.

OHSU President Joe Robertson said Sunday evening that Hatfield's death was a blow to the region and the programs he helped for years.

'Sen. Hatfield was a man of conviction and vision who left his mark on many of us here at Oregon Health and Science University,' Robertson said. 'He led the charge to fund medical research and helped transform OHSU into a leading health and science university. The School of Nursing, the Vollum Institute for Biomedical Research, the Hatfield Research Center and the skybridge that links OHSU with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center are all examples of investments he championed that have brought healing, teaching, discovery and outreach together at OHSU. We will miss his wisdom and courage.'

The medical and health research community across the nation also mourned the loss of Hatfield, calling him 'a giant of the Congress who believed deeply in bipartisanship . . . to make good things happen for the country.'

'Sen. Hatfield demonstrated a passionate belief that health and research for the health of all Americans are national priorities,' said Research!America's Chairman John Edward Porter, a former Illinois congressman.

In 2005, the 87,000-square-foot Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center opened on the campus of the National Institutes of Health. It is the largest clinical research hospital in the world.

'Sen. Hatfield understood that medical and health research not only improves the quality of life, but affords the nation the highest economic return of any federal investment,' said Mary Woolley, president and chief executive officer of Research!America.

Plans for a memorial service have not been announced.

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