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Tributes paid to former Oregon Senate president

Republican Brady Adams, a banker, led chamber from 1997 to 2001.

Tributes are being paid from both parties to Brady Adams, a Republican from Grants Pass who was president of the Oregon Senate.

Adams died Monday, a few days after he was placed in hospice care after complications from Parkinson’s disease. He also had diabetes. He was 70.

Adams was in the Senate from 1993 to 2001, representing a district covering most of Josephine County and part of Jackson County.

In 1995, when Republicans gained their first majority in the Oregon Senate in 40 years, Adams became majority leader. Two years later, after Gordon Smith of Pendleton was elected to the U.S. Senate, Adams succeeded him in the Senate presidency.

Gene Derfler of Salem succeeded Adams as majority leader, and they worked together over the four years Adams was president, until Adams left in 2001 and Derfler succeeded him.

“I did most of the policy, he did all the budgeting, and it really worked out well,” Derfler recalled Tuesday. “Being a banker, he was knowledgeable about how money was being spent. His interests were in that direction.”

Adams joined what is now Evergreen Federal Bank in 1972 and became executive vice president a few years later. He became its president in 1988 — it was then a savings and loan — and stepped down when he turned 65 in 2010, although he remained involved with it.

But Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass, a Republican who holds Adams’ Senate seat today, says Adams’ involvement in community programs and projects went well beyond his role at the bank.

“He was an icon,” Baertschiger says. “His dedication to his community over the past 30 years has been over the top.”

According to Rep. Carl Wilson, a Republican from Grants Pass whose first three years in the Legislature coincided with Adams’ final years, Adams served on 20 nonprofit boards and was involved in 50 projects.

“He had such a passion for this community,” says Wilson, who ended up serving on the Evergreen board during the mid-2000s, when both he and Adams were out of the Legislature. “He wanted it to be a destination for people from all over. He called it the best river city in America — a big statement to make, but he absolutely believed it.”

Wilson also says Adams gave personal effort, not just money, even in his final years.

Adams won an open seat in the Oregon Senate in 1992 and was unopposed for re-election four years later.

“He was my role model for patient, wise, accommodating leadership during my first years in the Senate,” says Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day, who came to the chamber in 1997. “He was principled, fair and unswervingly loyal to his family, his community and to the Oregon way of governance.”

Democratic praise

Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem who is the current Senate president, came to the chamber in 1999 after four cycles as the House Democratic leader. His first two years in the Senate coincided with Adams’ final two years as president.

“What Brady taught me was total respect for the other person – getting into their shoes and where they are coming from in a sincere way,” Courtney says.

“So when you got into the give-and-take, you truly feel what the other person is feeling — and they in turn should be doing the same thing with you. I think nobody I have served with taught me that better than Brady.”

Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, came to the chamber in 1997 and says she and Adams did not always agree.

“But if he gave you his word, you could literally take it to the bank, because he was a banker,” she says.

Burdick did not specify the bill, but back in 1999, Adams cast the deciding vote for a bill Burdick sponsored to extend criminal background checks for firearms sales at gun shows. The bill died in the House, and in 2000, Burdick sponsored a successful effort to enact it via a ballot measure.

Adams drew strong criticism for his vote from the bill’s opponents, and Burdick approached him at his desk one day to say she was sorry about the reaction.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘It was the right thing to do and I have no regrets,’ " Burdick says of that vote.

Burdick now occupies the same desk Adams had back then.

Adams was mentioned as a potential candidate for state treasurer or governor, but decided in 2000 to end his political career.

“I am a small-town banker,” he said.

Adams was born in 1945 in Vanport, which was washed away by a flood on the Columbia River in 1948.

While in the Senate in 1997, he was a prime mover behind a state earned-income tax credit, modeled on a similar federal tax credit benefiting low-income working families.

Adams is survived by his wife of 50 years, Patricia; a son, Ted; a daughter, Jennifer, and a grandson.


(503) 385-4899 or 363-0888


Adds tribune from Rep. Carl Wilson; clarifies that Sen. Burdick did not specify 1999 vote. JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT