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Mark Odom Hatfield Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Mark Odom Hatfield passes away in 2011.

Mark Odom Hatfield was an American politician.

Hatfield was born on July 12th, 1922 in Dallas, Oregon. At the age of 10 he had his first political experience when he campaigned for Herbert Hoover's reelection campaign. In the late 1930's he worked as a tour guide in the Oregon state capitol. Using his keys he was able to enter the Governor's office and sit in the Governor's chair. In 1940 he enrolled in Willamette University after graduating from Salem High School. He graduated from Willamette with a bachelor of arts in 1943.

After graduation Hatfield enlisted in the United States Navy to serve during World War II. He served in Iwo Jima and Okinawa as a landing craft officer. He was also one of the first Americans to see the ruins of Hiroshima. This would impact Hatfield greatly and would color his future opinions on nuclear weapons.

After the war, Hatfield briefly studied law before getting a master's degree in political science from Stanford University. He then began teaching at Willamette College. In 1950, while still teaching Willamette, Hatfield was elected, as a Republican, to serve in the Oregon House of Representatives. He would teach in the morning and then go across the street to be legislator in the afternoon.

One of the more important pieces of legislation that Hatfield sponsored came from his time at Willamette before World War II. It was then that he saw first hand the discrimination against African Americans. He was asked by his fraternity to give a ride home to Portland to an African American artist who had visited Hatfield's fraternity. At the time African Americans were prohibited by law from staying in hotels in Salem. Hatfield got his bill passed in Oregon before federal courts and national laws had been passed prohibiting such discrimination.

In 1956, Hatfield was elected as the youngest Secretary of State in Oregon history. In 1958 he ran for the Republican nomination for Governor. Despite opposition from the party, Hatfield won the Republican nomination. He ran against an incumbent Democrat. The turning point in the election was win a support of the sitting Governor claimed that Hatfield lied in court about a car accident that happened when he was 17, a woman had lost her life when Hatfield hit her with a car. He was found to not be criminally at fault. This strategy backfired when the media and the incumbent governor came out and said that Hatfield had in fact told the truth. This ended up giving Hatfield the election.

Hatfield served two terms as governor from 1959 to 1967. In 1966 he announced that he would run for a United States Senate seat from Oregon. This was a hard run for him since just two years before he had been the only governor at the National Governors Association who voted against President Johnson's plan for Vietnam. At the time 75% of the United States were in favor of the war. Despite this potential negative, Hatfield was elected to the United States Senate. He would become the longest serving Senator in the Oregon's history. During his time in the United States Senate, Hatfield was well liked and was hard to pin down when it came to his political stances. He was a Republican, although his voting record shows that he went against the party when it came to matters of Civil Rights, Nuclear Armaments and Abortion Rights. He also voted against the 1990 Gulf War (often referred to as the first Gulf War), he was one of only two Republicans in the Senate to do so.

After retiring from the United States Senate, Hatfield remained active in politics until his passing on August 7th, 2011.

Hatfield was a member of Pacific Lodge No. 50 in Salem, Oregon.