Former Senate President from Madras

Photo Credit: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Helena Bova shows a photo to Jerry Ramsey of her father, Boyd Overhulse from when he was serving in the Oregon Legislature in the 1950s.Relatives of Boyd Overhulse, one of Jefferson County’s most notable residents, recently traveled from California and the East Coast to present his memorabilia to the Jefferson County Historic Society.

Known as a soft-spoken, but highly effective legislator, Overhulse was elected Oregon Senate president in 1957 after a cliff-hanger vote. The Republican and Democrat sides each controlled 15 of the Senate’s 30 votes in balloting for the presidency, and after 11 days of voting, they were still deadlocked.

Finally, Overhulse, a Democrat, won the vote. “He was a conservative Democrat and the only one both parties could agree on,” said his daughter, Helena Bova, of Los Angeles, who grew up in Madras.

According to a 1966 article in The Bulletin, “He ran the Senate wisely and well, and won the respect of his colleagues for the job he performed under difficult circumstances. Overhulse also served as interim governor during periods of absence from the state of then governor Robert D. Holmes.”

“My sister, Emiline (Vranizan), was his secretary when he was president of the Senate,” Bova noted, showing a photo taken of them in his Senate office.

Bova, her children, grandchildren and other relatives met Aug. 14, with Jefferson County Historical Society President Jerry Ramsey to donate Overhulse’s records and photos to the society’s museum.

Included was Overhulse’s Senate gavel, a scrap book of news articles from his years in office, many photos and a political cartoon that ran in the Oregonian showing him staying astride a hybrid donkey/elephant labeled “State Senate” while others had been bucked off.

Boyd OverhulseBova’s son, Michael traveled from Boston, and her daughter, Heather and grandsons, from Connecticut for a combined family reunion and memorabilia presentation in Madras.

“I wanted the kids to come here and see where I’m from and where my father was from, and they love it,” Bova said.

Just two years after leaving the Senate to return to his law practice in Madras, Overhulse passed away at his Culver home on Jan. 2, 1966, at age 56, from a sudden heart attack.

A front page article in the Madras Pioneer noted Overhulse was a graduate of the University of Oregon Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 1933.

“He began his law practice in Madras in 1933, and in 1934 began the first of several terms as a Jefferson County district attorney,” the article said. Joining with attorney Sumner Rodriguez, they formed the law firm Overhulse and Rodriguez, which has changed associates through the years and today is known as Glenn, Reeder and Gassner.

Of his early years in Madras, Bova laughed, “Those were the days when they did things with a handshake and they paid him in 100-pound sacks of potatoes.”

His long legislative career included serving three terms (1951, 1953 and 1955) as a state representative, and serving as a state senator from 1957-64. He also served as a Madras city attorney, was on the school board, and was a past president of the Oregon Bar Association.

All these years, Bova and her late sister Emiline, kept their father’s historic records and memorabilia stored in boxes. Bora subscribes to the Pioneer, and said reading about Jefferson County’s centennial celebration prompted her to bring his records back where they belonged.

“My father loved the Central Oregon area and it seemed right that his gavel and memorabilia belonged in Central Oregon,” she said, adding, “He’s buried at the cemetery here.”

“I’m so happy. My sister Emiline and I always talked about getting these things up to the historical society, and now I know he’s happy,” she said of accomplishing the donation.

Ramsey said the historical society was delighted to have the donation of articles related to Overhulse’s career in the state senate.

“It will be good to rediscover a very important figure who has sort of been forgotten. He was a very prominent, low-key figure here from the 1930s on until his death, and it was quite amazing that someone from east of the mountains became the state senate president,” Ramsey said.

“Boyd was one of those indispensable people, and he had enormous respect around here. It’s great to get these things to display when the museum eventually opens,” Ramsey added.

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