A Pathbreaking Politician: Highlighting the Senator Mark O. Hatfield Oral History Project

July 12, 2022

By Kerry Tymchuk

In honor of what would have been Senator Mark Hatfield’s 100th birthday, the Oregon Historical Society has just released his oral history interviews on OHS Digital Collections, which were restricted from public release until July 12, 2022. In this photo, Senator Hatfield sits with Kerry Tymchuk, who worked closely with the senator for many years during his time on Capitol Hill, and his wife, Becky Tymchuk, in Portland in 2009. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.

Today, July 12, 2022, would have been Senator Mark O. Hatfield’s 100th birthday. In a remarkable forty-six-year career in elected office, Hatfield earned a reputation as the most respected and influential politician in Oregon’s history. First elected as an Oregon state representative in 1950 at age twenty-eight, Hatfield never lost an election and would go on to serve Oregon as a state senator, secretary of state, governor, and a U.S. senator.

As we commemorate what we at the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) are calling the “Hatfield Centennial” this year, we are excited to highlight the senator’s legacy both through a popular traveling exhibit as well as twenty-five oral history interviews with Hatfield’s congressional aides, staff, and advisors that are currently available on OHS Digital Collections. The senator’s own interviews, which were restricted from public release until his 100th birthday, are now also available online.

Kerry Tymchuk and Senator Mark Hatfield en route to former President Richard Nixon’s funeral, April 27, 1994. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.
This photograph, signed by Senator Mark O. Hatfield, shows Kerry Tymchuk and Senator Hatfield en route to former President Richard Nixon’s funeral on April 27, 1994, aboard the congressional plane. Handwritten on the photo in blue ink by Senator Hatfield is, “To Kerry Tymchuk a friend and counselor — Mark Hatfield (en route to the Nixon funeral 4/27/94)”. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.

These oral histories provide an important window into Oregon’s political history and the career of one of Oregon’s most distinguished public servants. The Hatfield interviews are part of a decades-long OHS initiative conducted between the late 1980s and early 2000s that documents the stories of state officials who served between about 1960 and 1998.

Senator Hatfield and Mrs. Antoinette Hatfield at Kerry Tymchuk and Becky (Flowers) Tymchuk’s wedding, April 1, 1995. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.
In this photo, Senator Hatfield and Mrs. Antoinette Hatfield are pictured at the wedding of Kerry Tymchuk and Becky (Flowers) Tymchuk on April 1, 1995 (note that the date is incorrect on the photograph timestamp). Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.

One thing that makes the senator’s oral histories so compelling is that they provide a glimpse at Hatfield’s personality through candid interviews. Like many other Oregonians, I was privileged to serve as an intern in Senator Hatfield’s Salem office while attending Willamette University. I would later work closely with him during my years on Capitol Hill, where I served as an aide to Senator Bob Dole. My wife and I were honored beyond words when Senator Hatfield agreed to give the homily at our wedding, and we were blessed to have his friendship as part of our life until his passing in 2011. 

I will always remember attending a tribute dinner to Senator Hatfield in Washington, D.C., in 1996. The special guest for the evening was then-President Bill Clinton. In his remarks, President Clinton said that “because he loves his enemies, Senator Hatfield has no enemies.” In this era, when bitter partisanship has become the rule and not the exception, let us remember these words of Senator Hatfield: “All of us need each other; all of us must lift and pull others as we rise; all of us must rise together — powerful, free, one self-determined people.”

Senator Hatfield holds Kerry Tymchuk’s son, Clark Tymchuk, at a holiday party in December 1997. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.
Senator Hatfield holds Kerry Tymchuk’s son, Clark Tymchuk, at a holiday party in December 1997. Photo courtesy of Kerry Tymchuk.

Kerry Tymchuk’s Other Posts

The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of OHS. The Oregon Historical Society does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.