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It’s the 100th anniversary of the birth of Oregon political icon Mark Hatfield

OHS Research
Oregon Historical Society
Governor Mark Hatfield cutting the ribbon to celebrate the completion of Interstate 5 through Medford, Oregon in 1962.

Mark Hatfield, one of the most iconic figures in Oregon political history, would have turned 100 years old Tuesday.

Mark Hatfield, one of the most iconic figures in Oregon political history, would have turned 100 years old Tuesday.

Hatfield was born in Dallas, Oregon on July 12, 1922. After serving with the U.S. Navy in World War II, Hatfield returned to Oregon and was elected to the Oregon House, and later the Senate. Then, he was elected Oregon Secretary of State, and later, Oregon governor.

In 1966, Hatfield—a Republican—was elected to the U-S Senate, where he served for 30 years. He retired in 1996, having never lost an election in a 46-year political career.

He died in 2011. His name adorns a host of Oregon landmarks and institutions.

In one of his final public appearances, Hatfield addressed Oregon lawmakers on the first day of the 2007 legislative session.

"Years from now Oregonians will not remember how many members of this House of Representatives were Republicans or Democrats," he said. "Rather, what they will remember is whether or not you were men and women of good will, men and women who were Oregonians first, and politicians and partisans second."

Also that day, Hatfield administered the oath of office to then state representative Jeff Merkley. The Democrat was being sworn in as Speaker of the Oregon House. The next year, Merkley won election to the U.S. Senate, where he still serves.

As part of the centennial, the Oregon Historical Society is releasing a series of oral history interviews with Hatfield. They were off-limits to the public until Hatfield’s 100th birthday.
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Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.