PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If there was a Mount Rushmore of Oregon politics, former Governor and U.S. Senator Mark Odom Hatfield would be on it.
Hatfield would have been 100 years old in 2022. Leading up to his birthday centennial, the Oregon Historical Society unveiled a traveling exhibit in his honor.
Institutions across Oregon bear Hatfield’s name, from the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, to the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University and the Mark O. Hatfield Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University.
“I think, clearly, he was the most significant, iconic, influential political figure of the last half of the 20th century,” said Kerry Tymchuk with the Oregon Historical Society.
As the Oregon Historical Society unveils its traveling tribute to Hatfield, Hatfield’s legacy is being celebrated.
Hatfield was a native Oregonian and Navy veteran. He spent 46 years in public life as legislator, secretary of state, two-term governor starting in 1959 and a ranking U.S. senator. Hatfield never lost an election.
The self-described moderate Republican was committed to social issues and guided by deep religious faith. In a 1963 interview with CBS News, then-Governor Hatfield described his view of politics.
“I think there are politicians that do compromise principle, but I don’t think this is the statesman type of politics that we need,” he said.
Hatfield was known for working across the aisle.
“President Clinton once said of Mark Hatfield: ‘because he tries to love his enemies, he has no enemies,'” recalled Sen. Betsy Johnson.
Hatfield’s wife Antoinette was a political force in her own right.
“In a marriage, are you happy with your husband or are you not happy? Well, I was happy and I was happy to help him,” she said.
Hatfield spent 30 years in the Senate and twice chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“He made sure that Oregon got its fair share and probably more than its fair share,” said Tymchuk.
Hatfield passed away in 2011 at the age of 89, leaving a legacy few politicians can match.
“You can’t go anywhere in Oregon without seeing Senator Hatfield’s influence,” said Tymchuk.
The Hatfield exhibit will remain at the Oregon Historical Society for the next couple of weeks before it begins traveling. In 2022 on his 100th birthday, Hatfield’s official papers will be made public at Willamette University in Salem — his alma mater.