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Mark O. Hatfield, the former governor and senator who transformed Oregon's economy and landscape while becoming one of the nation's most prominent opponents of the war in Vietnam, died Sunday. He was 89.
Hatfield, who had been in ill health for several years, died at a care center in Portland. His family did not have an immediate cause of death. He had lived in Oregon since his retirement from the Senate in 1996 but had recently spent several months in a hospital at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
Through nearly five decades in public office, Hatfield was both Oregon's most durable politician and -- after his rise to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1981 -- its most important.
Throughout his long Senate career, Hatfield repeatedly opposed defense spending and urged the country to focus on combating world hunger, poverty and illness. As a well-known Christian evangelical who often spoke to religious groups, Hatfield was a beacon for many who believed their faith called them to oppose war and to care for those in need.
The Republican lawmaker brought the state more than $3 billion in federal money that affected how Oregonians work, play and commute. He helped transform Oregon Health & Science University into a nationally recognized research institution that is now Portland's largest employer. And he fueled creation of the region's lauded and widely imitated light rail system.
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. At the same time, he was an important ally of the timber industry in the 1980s and 1990s in the pitched battles over federal harvest levels.
As governor from 1959-67, he sought to diversify Oregon's economy as he encouraged the growth of the high-tech industry and championed higher education. Oregon's community-college system and the Oregon Graduate Institute -- now part of OHSU -- were both created under his watch.
Hatfield, deeply affected by the destruction he witnessed as a veteran of World War II, was an early opponent of Vietnam. Despite that, Richard Nixon -- no one's idea of a dove when it came to Vietnam -- publicly floated Hatfield as one of his vice presidential possibilities at the 1968 Republican convention.
Nixon instead picked Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew, who was more acceptable to the South. Hatfield went on to battle Nixon over the war as the co-author of a resolution with Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., to cut off war funding. While the two failed to bring an early halt to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Hatfield became an enduring figure in the peace community.
"No one has had a more profound impact on Oregon in the last half century than Mark Hatfield," Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement. "We've lost a true statesman whose legacy lives on in his countless contributions to Oregon's quality of life. Senator Hatfield's moral compass, independence and willingness to reach across the aisle are an inspiration to me and countless Oregonians."
An accomplished man
Hatfield's long list of accomplishments became memorialized around the state long before his death as buildings, research centers, lecture series and institutes were named for him.
Behind the statuary and brushed metallic letters that came to represent the Hatfield legacy was a complex man who knew how play raw power politics but was also willing to take great risks for his principles. Doubters sarcastically dubbed him "Saint Mark" while supporters saw him as that rare politician who deserved to be called a statesman. Travis Cross, his closest aide and alter ego during the first half of his political career, once said people were either struck by Hatfield's sincerity and one-on-one warmth, or eager to pick apart the man behind an image too good to be true.
"I like to be thought of as a person who strove to reconcile," Hatfield said in a 2002 interview, one of the last of his life. He expressed sorrow at "how much money we are spending to destroy life and how little money we are really giving now for a strategy of sustaining of life."
Always immaculately attired, and blessed with a stentorian voice, Hatfield carried himself with such perfect posture that writers often described him as taller than his actual height of 5-feet, 10-inches. He was a model of courtliness with his colleagues and unfailingly gracious in conversation with his constituents.
Unlike many politicians, though, he had a certain reserve and was regarded by some as aloof. His speeches were more educational than fiery; his humor, in public at least, sedate and suitable for the strictest of churches.
Throughout his life, Hatfield was surrounded by a succession of strong people who devoted themselves to him and to his potential -- and to protecting his image. It allowed him early on to cultivate a statesmanlike aura that masked his own ambition. He kidded fellow Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood, legendary for his love of campaigning: "Bob, you run for office, but I stand for office."
A politician is born
Hatfield was born in the Willamette Valley farm town of Dallas on July 12, 1922, the only child of Charles Hatfield, a railroad blacksmith, and Dovie Odom Hatfield, who later became a teacher.
Both parents were deeply religious Baptists. His father taught Sunday school and steeped his son in the Bible. His mother, a fierce Republican, passed on a deep loyalty to her party and gave him his first political hero: President Herbert Hoover.
She also dressed him in fine clothes -- the better for him to be admired by the other church mothers -- and gave him a lifelong habit of precise neatness.
"In those early years, the boy did nothing to detract from his image as almost a young dandy," wrote Robert Eells, co-author of a 1979 Hatfield biography. "Before long, no doubt, he accepted such public attention as normal. ... Dovie Hatfield's determination had created, or at least nurtured, a deep emotional need for public service and acclaim within her son's psyche."
Hatfield spent most of his youth in Salem, where he immersed himself in the state's political culture with the zeal that most boys of the era reserved for baseball. He worked as a guide at the new state Capitol and watched how Secretary of State Earl Snell, a future governor, ran a vast operation to send letters of congratulations and condolences for the landmark events in the lives of the state's citizens. And he carefully noted how the best politicians would spend as much time shaking hands as giving speeches.
Like many men of his generation, World War II shaped his international outlook. After graduating from Willamette University in 1943, he became a Naval officer and commanded landing craft at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, two of the war's bloodiest conflicts. Two months after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he saw the city and its devastated survivors, creating a strong aversion to war and militarism that he carried through his political career. He also visited Vietnam, where he saw extreme poverty that later informed his opposition to U.S. involvement there, which he likened to a furthering of French colonialism.
After serving in the Pacific, Hatfield went to graduate school at Stanford University and formed his political partnership with fellow student Travis Cross. When then-Gov. Snell and the two other top officials in the line of succession died in a 1947 plane crash, Hatfield and Cross realized political opportunity would come earlier than expected.
Hatfield cut short his graduate education and returned to Oregon to teach at Willamette University, where he eventually became dean of men. While at Willamette, Hatfield said he turned from what had been a religion of habit into a true Christian. Hatfield said he was inspired by the faith of a student, Doug Coe, who became the leader of The Fellowship, a behind-the-scenes Christian group in Washington, D.C., that runs the National Prayer Breakfast and seeks to influence world leaders. Hatfield later became an important figure in the Fellowship.
Hatfield was elected to the state House in 1950 and quickly achieved national notice for initiating a movement to draft Dwight Eisenhower into the presidential race. In Salem, Hatfield never became a legislative insider, but he was a tireless campaigner willing to talk to any group that would listen. And he was an early and key supporter of a new civil-rights law, one of the first signs that he would try to seek out the higher moral ground in politics.
Hatfield jumped to statewide office in 1956, when he was elected secretary of state. With the governor's election looming in 1958, the initial Republican favorite was state Treasurer Sig Unander. But many Republicans worried that Unander was too conservative to beat the Democratic incumbent, Robert Holmes.
Hatfield, who saw the secretary of state's office as just a way stop, jumped into the race. Gerry Frank, an heir to the Meier & Frank fortune and a new figure in Hatfield's political orbit, gave the young politician entree to many of Oregon's wealthy, behind-the-scenes power brokers. The most important was Glenn Jackson, who ran Pacific Power & Light and had business interests throughout the state. Hatfield later cemented Jackson's power by appointing him chairman of the highway commission.
Hatfield rolled over Unander and a third candidate in the primary election and became Oregon's new Republican star, albeit one who played down his own party label and ran as a good-government reformer. "The Mark Hatfield story is an Horatio Alger-Prince Charming tale that has left Oregonians breathless," remarked an account of the campaign in The Progressive.
More headlines followed in July of the election year when Hatfield married Antoinette Kuzmanich, the dean of women at what was then Portland State College. They eventually had four children, all born while he was governor.
Holmes and Hatfield barely differed on issues, and the race was a toss-up until Oregon's combative senior senator, Democrat Wayne Morse, attacked Hatfield's character five days before the election. He charged that Hatfield, who as a teenage driver struck and killed a young girl as she darted across a road, had lied in testimony in a subsequent civil case.
Even many Holmes supporters recoiled at the charge. The voter backlash turned the race into a big victory for Hatfield. At 36, he became the youngest governor in Oregon history. The Saturday Evening Post called him "Oregon's Golden Boy."
A moderate Republican dove
In office, the new governor preached efficient management while staying above the political fray as much as possible. He let Cross and Warne Nunn, his chief of staff, cut the political deals with legislators and lobbyists.
The first Oregon governor in the 20th century to serve two full terms, Hatfield had the advantage of guiding the state during a time of rising national prosperity and rapid technological advancement.
Most importantly, Hatfield's governorship gave him an enduring interest in the state's economic development and modernization. His motto for the state, "Payrolls and Playgrounds," shaped how he later doled out federal money to Oregon. One of his top Senate aides, Tom Imeson, said that for the rest of his career, Hatfield always asked what was going on any time he saw a construction crane anywhere in Oregon.
Nationally, Hatfield became a favorite of moderate Republicans when he denounced the far-right John Birch Society in a keynote speech at the 1964 Republican convention, delivered over boos from conservatives.
But it was the Vietnam War that made Hatfield a true national figure -- and changed him forever as a politician. Over the objections of his top aides, Hatfield began to speak out against the war as President Johnson accelerated a troop buildup. In 1965, he was one of only two governors -- George Romney of Michigan was the other -- to oppose a resolution supporting the war. In 1966, he was the only "no" vote at the annual governors' meeting.
That same year, Hatfield's anti-war stance became the issue when he ran for the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Democrat Robert Duncan, backed the war with a famous line about either fighting the communists in the buffalo grass of Vietnam or the rye grass of Oregon. Ironically, Hatfield's former nemesis, Wayne Morse, fiercely anti-war himself, crossed party lines to endorse Hatfield.
Once in the Senate, Hatfield spoke admiringly of Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy's anti-war candidacy for president in 1968. But Hatfield remained tied to his own party and endorsed Nixon for president. While many scoffed at Hatfield's reasoning, the Oregon senator insisted that Nixon was the candidate best positioned to make a clean break with the war.
Hatfield was on Nixon's short list of running mates at the subsequent Republican convention. Evangelist Billy Graham, close to both men, went to bat for Hatfield. But Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was adamant he didn't want the liberal Oregonian. Nixon hinted in his memoirs that he never seriously considered Hatfield.
Once in office, Nixon further disappointed Hatfield by expanding the war. The ensuing congressional debate over the war consumed Hatfield, who became a sought-after speaker on campuses and a frequent voice in the national media. But many Oregonians complained he wasn't paying enough attention to local problems. By 1971, his poll numbers were low and he seriously considered leaving the Senate.
Instead, Gerry Frank, unmoored after the sale of his family's department stores, stepped in to reshape Hatfield's Senate office as his chief of staff. Frank cleaned up the office's chaotic operations and put a new emphasis on serving voters back home. And Hatfield passed up a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee to join Appropriations.
A power position
From then on, Hatfield's Senate career took on a new rhythm. The senator continued to be an influential figure on issues of war and peace and world poverty. But Frank -- who became known as "Oregon's third senator" -- also made sure that Hatfield kept up regular tours of the state and brought home an increasing number of federal projects. In a metaphorical sense, Oregonians lined up for the free bacon breakfasts that Hatfield served and were quite willing to listen to his high-minded sermons in exchange.
Unlike many senators, Hatfield had no personal wealth and found it hard to live on a Senate salary, in part because he and his wife tended to spend freely, according to Warne Nunn, his old chief of staff.
Hatfield's money issues landed him in hot water in 1984 when columnist Jack Anderson revealed that Antoinette Hatfield had received $55,000 in real estate and decorating fees from a Greek financier who had enlisted Hatfield's help in paving the way for a trans-Africa oil pipeline.
In a dramatic election-year press conference, the Hatfields announced they would donate the $55,000 to charity. Their act of contrition improved Hatfield's standing in the polls and he was re-elected that year by his largest margin ever.
In part, Hatfield's resiliency with voters was due to the powerful position he had reached as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The 1980 elections had put Ronald Reagan in the presidency and the Republicans in charge of the Senate for the first time since 1955.
Hatfield, who always voted against defense spending, was suddenly in charge of the federal purse strings for a president intent on the biggest peacetime military buildup in history.
Hatfield fought many of Reagan's defense proposals, but he was careful not to use his powers as chairman to try to block projects if he didn't have the votes. Most importantly, he kept close friendships on both sides of the aisle as he followed the model of the two Washington senators -- Democrats Henry Jackson and Warren Magnuson -- who had been influential in bringing home federal dollars in the 1970s.
Tony Williams, a top aide to former Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., remembered that Hatfield used to tell his boss that Washington used to get all of the money, but "now I'm chairman. And now Oregon is getting all of the money."
One of Hatfield's signature projects was Portland's light rail, which received more than $1 billion in federal money thanks in part to the senator. Hatfield bought into the vision put forth by many local and state officials of a helping to create a new model of a livable city.
The Oregon senator was also taken with pleas for help from OHSU. A longtime champion of medical research, he also believed that building up the school's research labs would be good for economic development. Pill Hill became a forest of construction cranes as Hatfield poured in money for such projects as a new nursing school, the Vollum Institute for biomedical research, and a research center that bore his name. Even geographical barriers were breached by his largesse: he pushed through $6.7 million for an enclosed pedestrian bridge spanning the canyon between OHSU and the veterans hospital.
At Hatfield's behest, the federal government put huge new locks at the Bonneville Dam that eased the shipping of wheat and other commodities, provided improvements for the small ports along the coast and built one of the country's most expensive federal courthouses -- also named for Hatfield -- in downtown Portland.
Critics accused Hatfield of pork-barreling, but the senator had a ready response: Oregon received little in the way of defense spending and this federal money was a way of evening the score. And, he would say, it was all for the public good.
Hatfield's fifth and last term in the Senate -- from 1991-97 -- almost didn't happen. In 1990, his little-known Democratic opponent, Harry Lonsdale, launched a negative advertising blitz that caught the Hatfield campaign unaware. The senator, who previously had refused even to debate opponents in his campaigns, responded with the first negative ads of his career as allies rushed to his rescue and put him over the top.
Less than a year later, he was dogged by another financial scandal. He acknowledged accepting nearly $43,000 in unreported gifts, including several from a South Carolina university president who had sought funding from Hatfield's committee and had given one of Hatfield's sons a scholarship.
Hatfield was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee, which said it found no evidence that Hatfield's official actions were affected by the gifts.
Hatfield, who had been out of the chairmanship when Democrats took back the Senate in 1986, was swept back into the majority in the Republican landslide of 1994. But he quickly found himself out of step with the revolution-minded Republican conservatives led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In 1995, Hatfield was the only Senate Republican opposing a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kans., who planned to use the amendment as a key issue in his upcoming presidential race, put heavy pressure on Hatfield. At one point, Hatfield offered to resign, but Dole rejected the idea.
In the end, the amendment failed by just one vote -- Hatfield's no. That led two freshman GOP senators to try to yank his committee chairmanship. They didn't succeed, but as a result of the controversy, the Republicans agreed in the future to limit the appropriations chairman to a six-year term.
Hatfield, who had always told friends he didn't want to be one of those doddering senators held up by aides, decided to retire at the end of 1996, at the age of 74. Unlike many of his colleagues, he and Antoinette didn't stay on in Washington, D.C. They returned to Oregon, where he lived – with the exception of some winter months spent in Southern California –until he went back east to enter the National Institutes of Health unit named in his honor.
Hatfield served on several corporate and charitable boards, including the OHSU board of directors, and aided the campaign to double funding for the National Institutes for Health.
He was a guest professor at several local colleges and lent his name to a lecture series at the Oregon Historical Society featuring historians that interested him. He continued to amass his library of presidential biographies and avidly searched the Internet for memorabilia associated with Oregon governors.
In 2000, Portland State University created the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government. Ronald Tammen, the school's director, said PSU officials were not just making a sentimental gesture. They knew the Hatfield name meant something.
"It's a brand name," he said. "It gives you instant national recognition. It's like Xerox or IBM. And it has paid off. The school has grown quite a bit."
He is survived by his wife and by four children: Elizabeth Hatfield-Keller of Portland, Theresa Cooney of Bethesda, Mark of Miami and Visko of Bantam, Conn., and by several grandchildren; a grandson, Mark, a marine and combat veteran, died four weeks ago.
The family is planning a private funeral service. Plans for a later memorial service are pending.
-- Jeff Mapes
Former Oregonian staff writers Greg Nokes and James Long contributed to this report.