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Hatfield remembered for ability to reach across aisle

by:  In this July 10, 1961, photo, Gov. Mark Hatfield poses with his wife, Antoinette, and former Outlook owner Tom Percell following the Gresham Kiwanis Ladies night banquet.

With the recent passing of former U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, people from around the state and across party lines have praised Oregon's last great statesman.

'Sen. Hatfield played an enormous role in making Oregon what it is today,' said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. 'His hands were at work in the development of so many institutions we treasure as Oregonians, from the Oregon Health and Science University, to the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, to the Opal Creek Wilderness, to name just a few.'

While all of those projects were dreams of Hatfield's, he knew that the work required to accomplish those goals would not be easy. What made Hatfield so popular, however, was not necessarily what he got done, but how he did it.

'He was the essence of bipartisanship. He was always working with his own party and the Democrats to get things done,' said Kerry Tymchuck, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society. 'He was the original Hatfield Republican.'

That term has long been used to describe a moderate Republican who is willing to reach across party lines to forge compromises on even the most difficult issues.

One of the biggest issues that faced Hatfield during his tenure was the ongoing war between conservationists and the state's growing timber industry.

'Mark was very knowledgeable on the importance of the timber industry within the state and the jobs it involved, but he was also very motivated to keep Oregon the beautiful place that it is, being that he was a native son,' longtime aide Gerry Frank said.

While Hatfield was definitely an ally of the timber industry, a great example of his ability to find the middle ground was his work to create the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986.

Bowen Blair, the executive director of Friends of the Columbia River Gorge at the time, remembers all of the opposition Hatfield faced throughout the process.

'He told us that if we built an army of diverse citizens, he would help lead that army,' Blair recalls, 'and time and time again we found powerful opposition from a senate chairman or from the presidential office, but when Sen. Hatfield chimed in, he was able to use his power to ultimately prevail.'

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act was the only new public lands bill approved during the Reagan administration.

As news of Hatfield's death spread over the weekend, it was only fitting that Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, summed up Hatfield's legacy best in a statement released Monday.

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

Hatfield was born to a Democratic father and Republican mother July 12, 1922, in Dallas, Ore., before moving to Salem early in his childhood. Hatfield earned an undergraduate degree from Willamette University before entering the Navy to serve during World War II.

After returning from the war, Hatfield earned his master's degree in political science from Stanford University and began his foray into Oregon politics.

After serving as both a state representative and state senator, Hatfield became Oregon's youngest secretary of state in 1957 at the age of 34. Just two years later, Hatfield became governor, a position that he would hold for two terms.

After completing his stint as governor, Hatfield won the election to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1967, a position he would hold until retiring in 1997. In his entire political career, Hatfield never lost an election.

'Next to my father, there was no man that I loved or admired more than Mark Hatfield, and he left us each with a wonderful gift of our most cherished impression of him. Because of him, I am a better citizen and better friend,' said Mary Hart, Hatfield's longtime secretary and Lake Oswego resident.

Hatfield is survived by his wife, Antoinette, and their four children as well as several grandchildren.