News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Restoring the Hatfield legacy

The Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland, which has become the epicenter of more than two months of protests and clashes between rioters and federal law enforcement bears the name of one of the truly great Oregonians.

Mark Hatfield was not a mere politician — he was a genuine public servant; a statesman, in fact. A state representative, state senator, governor and U.S. Senator, Hatfield served Oregon and America for almost a half a century, and was, with notable (and honorably-earned) exceptions, loved, trusted and respected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Hatfield was a Republican, but of a stripe that, sadly, no longer has a place in the GOP. He’d be known today as a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He was pro-business (particularly small business) and favored limited and fiscally responsible government and the sacred rights of all individuals. But he understood that government has an important role in civil society, and that political divides can and must be bridged in order to do the people’s work; that politics and policy are about good governance, not ideological and cultural warfare.

Gerry Frank, who knew Hatfield for decades, wrote a guest column in last Sunday’s Oregonian contemplating what his friend would think about the current state of affairs in Portland, the state of Oregon, and the United States ( It’s worth taking the time to read.

There’s a certain symbolic poignancy to seeing the landmark federal building named after this towering figure in its current state.

“Mark would … have defended the absolute right of citizens to peacefully protest,” Frank wrote. “Mark was one of the earliest and most prominent opponents of America’s military involvement in Vietnam. He earned his spot on President Nixon’s ‘enemies list’ through his sponsorship of the McGovern-Hatfield amendment, which called for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Mark was heartened by peaceful anti-war protests on the nation’s college campuses and traveled to many of them to lend his prestige and support.

“Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that decency, civility and bipartisanship were the hallmarks of Mark’s years in public service. He was, first and foremost, a statesman. For that reason, he would grieve over the lack of those qualities coming from the White House, Congress, social media and the streets of Portland, where some have used the protests as an excuse for vandalism and violence. A strong supporter of Oregon’s small businesses, he would also sympathize and stand with the many shops and restaurants in downtown Portland who have been harmed by their proximity to the Hatfield Courthouse.”

The unrest around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse will eventually abate, the damage that scars it will be repaired; the graffiti will be scrubbed and sandblasted away. The years-long deterioration of the values of “decency, civility and bipartisanship” that Hatfield embodied will be harder to restore. But maybe we owe it to him — and even more to ourselves — to start.

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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