The Legacy of Mark O. Hatfield

Expounding on the principles of the distinguished Mark O. Hatfield, our namesake school of government seeks to develop engaged citizens throughout Oregon and beyond.

Mark Odom Hatfield (1922-2011)

Born in Dallas, Oregon on July 12, 1922, Mark Odom Hatfield was the only child of Charles D. and Dovie Odom Hatfield. His father was a blacksmith and mother a school teacher. He grew up in Dallas and Salem and earned a B.A. degree from Willamette University in 1943 and a M.A. degree from Stanford University in 1948. His education was interrupted during 1943-1946, when Hatfield served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant junior grade. During WW II he served in the Pacific in landing craft operations in invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as an ensign assigned to amphibious landing craft duty. Soon after the war ended he was deployed to both Hiroshima and Vietnam, visits that profoundly affected his political views about nuclear disarmament, peace, and the evils of colonialism.

After the war, Hatfield returned to Willamette as an assistant professor and then dean of students. While still teaching at Willamette, he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1950 and then to the Oregon Senate in 1954. He served in the House of Representatives from 1951 to 1955 and in the Senate from 1955 to 1957. He became the youngest Secretary of State in Oregon history in 1957 and was elected the youngest governor of Oregon in 1958. In that office, he later became the state’s first two-term governor of the 20th century.

Throughout his career, Hatfield believed in the principle of good government and pursued a balance between liberal and conservative political philosophies, while maintaining his Christian faith. As Governor, Hatfield presided over construction of the Oregon interstate highway system, expanded the state park system, spearheaded a range of environmental policies, including fish conservation and pollution control, while remaining attentive to the needs of agriculture and the timber industry. Both fit into his concept of protecting and developing Oregon's "livability." He created the statewide community college system and raised teacher salaries as part of his “payrolls and playgrounds” campaign, promoted civil rights by creating a public defender system, secured the prohibition of capital punishment in the state, and increased workers compensation benefits. Hatfield insisted that everyone has responsibilities for their own life and the freedom to make important decisions about it consistent with meeting their personal and also civic obligations. They needed to be engaged citizens if Oregon’s commitment to good government and active participation were to be fulfilled. In that regard, he understood that much of governance happened at the local and state level and that the federal government needed to support and not weaken that foundation.

Known as a maverick, Hatfield began to speak out against the war as President Johnson accelerated a troop buildup in Vietnam. At the annual governors meeting in 1965, he was the only governor to oppose a resolution supporting the war.

Hatfield held the office of U.S. Senator from Oregon from 1967 to 1997, making him the longest serving Oregon Senator in history. He consistently voted against military appropriations, voted to end the war in Vietnam, co-sponsored a nuclear freeze resolution with Senator Edward Kennedy and called for a Code of Conduct to regulate U.S. arms sales. Hatfield established the first registry for rare and orphan diseases at the National Institutes of Health as well as putting programs in place for AIDS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease research.

Although he represented a state with a relatively small population, Hatfield rose to a position of prominence in the U.S. Senate. Twice he served as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, a position he used to steer more than $3 billion of funding for a variety of public projects in Oregon. Among the recipients were Oregon Health & Science University, the MAX light rail system in Portland, new locks at the Bonneville Dam among many other public projects. Hatfield played the decisive role in the 1986 designation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as well as protection of several other wilderness areas, parks and scenic rivers. Hatfield quadrupled Oregon’s wilderness areas to more than two million acres and worked successfully to protect the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon Dunes and Oregon’s rivers. During his last session of Congress, Hatfield helped preserve the Opal Creek Wilderness from logging. Hatfield was a longtime defender of Native American tribes and served on the Indian Review Commission to protect treaty rights on tribal lands. He was instrumental in the adoption of the Umatilla Basin Project Completion Act by the US Senate in 1996. By the time he retired in 1997, Hatfield was the second-most senior Republican Senator.

Over the years after leaving the U.S. Senate, Hatfield taught at George Fox University in Newberg and at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. He also served on the Oregon Health & Science University board of directors for several years and led the Campaign for Medical Research after his retirement which helped the campaign to double funding for the National Institutes for Health over a five-year period.

Mark O. Hatfield married the former Antoinette Kuzmanich on July 8, 1958 and the couple had four children: two sons, Mark O. Hatfield Jr. and Charles Hatfield (known as Visko); two daughters, Elizabeth Hatfield Keller and Theresa Hatfield Cooney; seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.