Gentleman, visionary and last Republican governor elected in Oregon, Vic Atiyeh, has died in Portland.
*This post has been updated to include more reaction.
Vic Atiyeh, who fought for the Oregon logging industry, introduced Oregon products to Asia, navigated the state through the deep recession of the 1980s and set the state universities’ compasses toward technology has died at Providence St. Vincents Hospital. He was 91 years old.
The former governor died at 8:15 p.m. PDT at Portland’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center of complications from renal failure, said Denny Miles, who had formerly served as Atiyeh’s press secretary.
He said that Atiyeh was at home but had returned to the hospital Saturday due to shortness of breath and possible internal bleeding.
Political observer and friend, Jim Pasero, often credited Atiyeh with pulling Oregon out of the 1982-83 recession by cutting back government costs and raising taxes. Before this current recession started, the recession of the early 1980’s was the worst since the Great Depression. Though Atiyeh caught political hell for raising taxes, he was credited with minimizing the impact of the recession.
Political analyst and KXL talk host, Rob Kremer, said Governor Atiyeh, “was a wonderful man and a mentor to two generations of Republican candidates who tried to build on his legacy.”
But Kremer says there’s one distinction Atiyeh wanted nothing more than to shed, “I’m saddened that he didn’t live to see the day that he fulfilled his last political goal: to lose the title of the last Republican Governor of Oregon.”
During his tenure as governor between 1979-1987, Atiyeh battled with environmental groups over reducing timber harvest over the spotted owl issue. Environmentalists claimed the spotted owl was being killed off by cutting trees. Time and science proved the claims untrue, but not before Oregon’s timber industry was decimated by what turned out to be the environmentalists’ phony stories.
Atiyeh was of Syrian descent and worked in the family’s high end rug business based in Portland.
Politicos would often seek him out for advice, especially at the annual Republican confab the Dorchester Conference. In fact, it was at the Dorchester Conference a few years ago where I last saw him. The governor was alone and unsuccessfully trying to navigate the stairs at his hotel. Seeing he needed help, my husband provided a steady hand to get him up to level ground. Governor Atiyeh gratefully accepted the assist.
Oregon hasn’t had a statesmen at Mahonia Hall in years. After a series of leftist ideologues, the people of Oregon may not know what true statesmen even looks like anymore. Governor Atiyeh would be a good place to start.