- Associated Press - Monday, August 8, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As a 23-year-old Navy officer in 1945, Mark O. Hatfield was among the first American servicemen to see personally the destruction wrought upon Hiroshima by an atomic bomb. It was an experience that helped shape Mr. Hatfield into an outspoken critic of war as he went on to become a two-term Republican Oregon governor, then the longest-serving U.S. senator in Oregon history.

Mr. Hatfield — one of the most influential politicians this state has seen — died in Portland on Sunday night at age 89, said his longtime friend and former aide, Gerry Frank. The Oregonian newspaper reported he died at a care center. The cause of death was not immediately released, but Mr. Hatfield had become increasingly frail over the years.

He was elected governor of Oregon in 1958 and re-elected in 1962 before winning his first U.S. Senate campaign in 1966. He served five terms in the Senate, from 1967 to 1997.

Mr. Hatfield is best known at the national level for his pacifist ways, which often put him at odds with fellow Republicans but endeared him to many Oregonians.

At the 1965 National Governors Conference in Los Angeles, he was denounced as a traitor for casting the lone “no” vote among 50 governors on a resolution supporting President Johnson’s policy in Vietnam. In the early 1970s, he joined then-Sen. George McGovern, South Dakota Democrat, to sponsor an amendment seeking to end the Vietnam War. A decade later, he helped launch a campaign for a nuclear weapons freeze.

Oregonians are remembering Mr. Hatfield for his considerable accomplishments and for an independent streak the moderate Republican showed during five decades in public office.

“Senator Hatfield played an enormous role in making Oregon what it is today,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat. “He should also be remembered, in this age of bitter partisanship, for his bipartisan and gracious diplomacy.”

Similar words were spoken by Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat: “He was a giant and the kind of senator America needs now more than ever. He was the person who brought the Senate together on issue after issue.”

As chairman and later ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mr. Hatfield steered millions of dollars to public works projects in his home state. They ranged from national scenic areas and hydropower dams to the state university system and the Marine Science Center that bears his name in Newport, Ore.

“No one has had a more profound impact on Oregon in the last half century than Mark Hatfield,” said Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat. “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.”

Allen Alley, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, called Mr. Hatfield “a quintessential Oregonian and a true national statesman. In his exemplary career as Republican U.S. Senator, Governor, Secretary of State and State Representative, he will be remembered for his courage and conscience in a life of public service for the people of Oregon and the country.”

Mr. Hatfield once said that one of his major accomplishments was to usher through Congress a ban on U.S. nuclear weapons testing in 1987.

“Every president other than Eisenhower has been seduced by the military concept that that is our sole measurement of our national security and the more bombs we build, the more secure we are,” Mr. Hatfield said a decade later.

“That’s just not true. We are vulnerable in our national security today, and we are vulnerable in many ways we are not addressing — the needs of education, the needs of housing, the needs of nutrition, the needs of health, the needs of infrastructure.”

The devastation witnessed by Mr. Hatfield as a young naval officer at Hiroshima in 1945 helped shape his politics. When the war was officially over, Mr. Hatfield and his shipmates were instructed to take a boat and chronicle what was left of Hiroshima.

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