Of Cabbages and Kings: Morse, McCall and Hatfield

LOGO Of Cabbages and Kings

Of three prominent Oregon politicians whom I knew at close range - Wayne Morse, Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield - I watched Hatfield over a sustained period of a decade.

What disparate personalities those three men presented - the cold prosecutorial Morse, the ham actor McCall and the always charming Hatfield.

These three came from an America of small rural places where ambition and poverty lived side by side. Morse was a distillation of early 20th Century Wisconsin Progressivism. McCall grew up around Boston Brahmins and Eastern Oregon cowboys, And the most telling detail about Mark?Hatfield is that his mother went to Oregon State College to obtain a teaching certificate, so she could move the family to Salem for the sake of her son's education.

The psychiatrist Karl Jung writes of the importance of the mother-son relationship. To understand Tom McCall, you had to know his mother, the matriarch Dorothy Lawson McCall. When I met Dorothy one day at Willamette Week, her vivid personality left me dumbstruck. She was Tom, and he was her. I never met Dovie Hatfield, but I sat in the Hatfield living room one evening while he spoke to her via what we called in those days "long distance." The deep affection between mother and son was palpable.

January 1967 was a watershed moment in postwar Oregon. Gov. Hatfield looked on as the new governor, Tom McCall, took his oath of office. Cary Grant was being replaced by a hybrid of James Stewart and John Wayne.

Rather than resign as governor prematurely to gain seniority in the Senate, Hatfield purposefully chose to serve out his term. Once the new governor was sworn in, Hatfield left by a side door from the building in which he had been state representative, senator, secretary of state and governor, for the drive to Portland International Airport and the flight to Washington, D.C. It must have been an enormously nostalgic ride up Interstate 5 that morning.

McCall's record as governor would be more consequential than Hatfield's. The new governor's poetic side (his Jimmy Stewart) would fit the sometime raucous cultural swing of the late sixties and the seventies.

"Fame," wrote Rainier Maria Rilke, "is the sum of misunderstanding that gathers around a new name." I suspect that if you wanted to observe Wayne Morse's humanity, you needed to go with him to his farm and watch him feed the bulls and horses. Tom McCall had been born into one of the wealthiest families of the East, but fortune slipped away. McCall and my father had known each other in Idaho, early in their careers. Visiting our Pendleton home, early in his first term as governor, McCall said to my dad:?"Do you know that when we left Twin Falls we left with the clothes on our backs?" McCall was astonished at how far he had come.

In about 1997, I received a phone call from Mark Hatfield. He had been out of office for at least a year, and the timbre of his voice reflected that. Its plaintive tone reflected anguish. The Columbia River National Scenic Area was being threatened by Republicans in Congress. Like his public relations genius Travis Cross, Hatfield didn't ask me to write something, but the message of our conversation was clear. If we cared about the Scenic Area, it was time to speak up.

- S.A.F.