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Leave Lee statue in D.C.; honor Hatfield in Salem

The (Bend) Bulletin, Feb. 20: Leave Lee statue in D.C.; honor Hatfield in Salem:

Last year Oregon lawmakers ended their session without passing a bill that would have put a statue of Mark Hatfield in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Now the idea is back, and once again it should be allowed to die, this time for good.

Not that we don’t believe one of Oregon’s most memorable governors and, later, U.S. senators, should not be honored. Hatfield was a man of principle who served the state exceedingly well.

But a Hatfield statue in Washington would require the removal of another statue, that of Jason Lee. Lee was not a native Oregonian — there was no state of Oregon when he was born in Canada in 1803 — but he came west in 1834 as a missionary to the Indians. After a trip to the United States he returned to the Willamette Valley with the supplies to build grist and saw mills, a move that helped end the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade monopoly in the region.

Also, Lee lobbied tirelessly for the creation of the Oregon Territory and in 1843 helped establish the Oregon Provisional Government, the first civil organization of American settlement in what was to become the state, according to the Oregon Historical Society. He was one of the founders of Willamette University. Lee died in 1845, some 14 years before Oregon became a state.

Hatfield, meanwhile, was the state’s first two-term governor of the 20th century, serving from 1959 to 1967. He went to the U.S. Senate in 1967, where he served the state for 30 years.

He was noted for his belief in nonviolence and his opposition to nuclear proliferation and the Vietnam War. He never lost an election in his 38 years in political life in this state.

Both men, clearly, were important in shaping Oregon. Both are worthy of honor. But Lee, today the lesser-known of the two, is already in Washington, and he should be allowed to stay there.

Hatfield, meanwhile, deserves a place of honor as well. The Oregon Capitol, it seems to us, is the perfect place to do that.

Hatfield served there as a legislator and as a governor, and a statue of him would be a fitting addition to the building.


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