Legacy of Oregon's influential senator is felt all around the metro area, state
by:  Mark O. Hatfield
July 12, 1922 - Aug. 7, 2011

From where he's sitting, 91-year-old Forrest Soth of Beaverton can see Mark O. Hatfield's legacy all around him.

Soth, a former Beaverton City Councilor and the city's historian, has seen Hatfield's hand in a lot of things that helped build Washington County's economy - and the state's economy - for the past 50 years. That includes transportation systems and the region's electronics industry.

'His influence was regionwide,' Soth says, ticking off Portland's light-rail system stretching from Gresham to Hillsboro, expansion of Oregon Health and Science University and efforts to lay the foundation for Oregon's high-tech industry in the 1960s as projects Hatfield supported and sometimes inspired. 'You can't isolate one particular area. His influence and regional, statewide attitude influenced everyone, and it benefited everyone in this state as a result - even though it might not have been known at the time.'

Hatfield, one of the longest-serving senators in U.S. history, died Sunday in Portland. He was 89. He lived for a number of years with his wife Antoinette, in Mary's Woods at Marylhurst.

Among his colleagues, he was remembered with fondness.

Bob Packwood, of Dunthorpe, served as the junior Republican senator from Oregon from 1968 to 1995. Hatfield began his senate career a year earlier and retired two years after Packwood resigned in 1997.

'It is strange the things you remember,' Packwood said. 'Mark and I were political soulmates for almost half a century. I was a freshman at Willamette in the fall of 1950. Mark was running for his first term in the state Legislature. I worked on his campaign.

'He was a political science teacher. I majored in political science and took numerous courses from him. He was Dean of Men at Willamette and a fraternity brother (Beta Theta Pi).

'Mark was then single and would come to the fraternity house about every two weeks for dinner. As we both played bridge we would partner after dinner.

'In my senior year I was fraternity president. Every fraternity has an errant brother or two. From time to time therefore, I would have to go to Mark and say some thing like 'Mark, you don't want to punish poor ole Dave too harshly.' Mark would half relent and civilization would go on.

'He was compassionate then. He was compassionate to the end.'

Brenda Hart, a Lake Oswego resident, served as secretary to Hatfield from 1990 to 1996 in Washington, D.C., and from 2002-2006 in Oregon.

'Next to my father, there was no man that I loved or admired more than Mark Hatfield,' she said. '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.'

Hatfield served the state of Oregon first as a Marion County legislator in 1951 and later as the youngest governor - elected at 36. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 and was the senior Republican in the Senate when he retired in 1997.

Hatfield's death brought an outpouring of accolades from friends, families, office-holders and politicians who worked with him for decades. It also reminded people that the former governor's work could be seen in nearly every corner of the state.

'Sen. Hatfield played an enormous role in making Oregon what it is today,' says U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Portland Democrat who worked on Hatfield's Washington, D.C., staff. '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 bi-partisanship. He was always working with his own party and the Democrats to get things done,' says Kerry Tymchuck, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society. 'He was the original Hatfield Republican.'

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

'Sen. Hatfield was never one to be driven by party affiliation or ideological litmus tests,' says U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Portland Democrat. '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.'

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,' says longtime aide Gerry Frank.

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 land bill approved during the Reagan administration.

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 the World War II.

After returning from the war, Hatfield earned his masters degree in political science from Stanford 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.

In many respects, OHSU is the greatest achievement of Hatfield's political career. As a state senator, he sponsored the original legislation that created it. As a U.S. senator, he secured hundreds of millions of dollars for its facilities and programs.

OHSU is among the largest employers in the state and a well-known Portland landmark.

In 1951, when Hatfield was first elected to the Legislature from Marion County, Oregon did not have a teaching health care university. Instead, students were taught in local hospitals throughout the state.

Hatfield co-sponsored the bill that created OHSU in 1955. He was inspired in large part by the poor health conditions he had seen as a Navy lieutenant during action in World War II's Pacific Theater.

In the mid-1980s, as chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Hatfield continued his commitment to OHSU. During the next decade and a half, he steered about $314.5 million in federal funds to OHSU and the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. The OHSU Foundation often matched the funds, doubling the value of his work.

In 1998, OHSU honored Hatfield's contributions by naming its new Clinical Research Center after him. Two years later, Hatfield joined the OHSU board, where he was supportive of the university's plans to expand to South Waterfront, the site of new buildings and a coming satellite campus connected to Marquam Hill by the OHSU Tram.

Hatfield's commitment to health improvements extended well beyond OHSU, however. Among other things, he fought hard to fund the National Institutes of Health. Its Clinical Research Center is also named after him.

Hatfield also helped create registries and fund research centers for individual diseases and conditions. They include the disfiguring disease Epidermolysis Bullosa, Alzheimer's, sleep disorders, Parkinson's, AIDs, cancer and heart disease, multiple sclerosis, infertility and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Hatfield spoke about his longtime involvement with OHSU in 2004, saying, 'Sometimes medical discussions can dissolve into jargon and acronyms, but I've always believed very strongly in the social value of medicine. Health care should be first and foremost about making people's lives better.'

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

The family plans a private funeral service; a later memorial service was still being planned at presstime.

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