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Should Hatfield replace Lee and McLoughlin?

Oregonians invited to voice their opinions on statues in nation's capitals that represent the states


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregonians have been invited to voice their opinions on whether statues of Dr. John McLoughlin and Jason Lee should continue to represent the state in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol Building — or whether either or both should be returned to Oregon, and replaced by statues of other historic Oregonians, including former senator and governor Mark O. Hatfield.Photo Credit: SUBMITTED - A historial place - The National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol Building contains the busts of two men credited with formation of Oregon, Dr. John McLoughlin and Jason Lee.

The Oregon Historical Society has added a special section to its website which will allow Oregonians to access biographies of McLoughlin and Lee, as well as biographies of historic Oregonians who historians and various historic organizations have recommended as worthy of consideration as possible replacements. Those accessing the website will also be able to express their opinion on the question of the retention or replacement of the current statues, and the question of possible replacements.

The website is at ohs.org/get-involved/statuary-hall.cfm.

Oregonians can also share their opinions by mail by writing to the Statuary Hall Study Commission; c/o Oregon Historical Society; 1200 S.W. Park Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205.

Each state may be represented in the National Statuary Hall by two statues. Oregon designated Lee and John McLoughlin in 1953. Lee was a Methodist missionary; McLoughlin, acknowledged as the “father” of Oregon, was the chief trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver.

Legislation enacted by Congress in 2000 provided procedures for states to reclaim a statue in the collection and replace it with a new statue. Seven states have since replaced statues.

Some states have started to replace their statues. Three recent presidents — Dwight Eisenhower (Kansas), Gerald Ford (Michigan) and Ronald Reagan (California) — are now represented in the hall, although none of them was born in the state that his statue now represents.

The hall was the chamber for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1807 to 1857.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has stepped into a debate about who should represent Oregon in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. He issued an executive order creating a nine-member panel to consider whether the current statues should be replaced, who should be substituted instead, and what to do with the statues that may return to Oregon. It is chaired by Jerry Hudson, chairman, and a former president of Willamette University.

“I invite all Oregonians to join in this fascinating conversation on our state’s history, heritage, and shared values,” said Hudson. “I especially encourage school teachers across Oregon to ensure that Oregon’s future — our youth — become involved in this conversation.”

The order follows the introduction of bills in the 2013 and 2014 Oregon Legislature to replace the statue of Lee with one of Hatfield. The bills were introduced by state Rep. Vic Gilliam (R-Silverton), who once worked for Hatfield, who died in 2011.

Although both bills died in the Oregon Senate, Kitzhaber referred to those debates when he created the panel.

“There has been significant legislative interest in recent years about who would best represent the Oregon spirit in our nation’s capital,” Kitzhaber said. “This is a forum for Oregonians to have a conversation about which historic and modern pioneers to showcase to Washington, D.C., visitors. It also presents an opportunity to bring a statue of an honored Oregonian back home.”

The 2014 House debate centered on whether it was too soon to honor Hatfield, who held public office for 46 years.

No one spoke in the 2014 House debate on behalf of Lee, although his supporters say he represents religious roots in the founding of Oregon.

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