|Sen. Mark O.|
A student, teacher and practitioner of American politics for nearly his entire life, Mark Hatfield has devoted himself to improving the human condition through a lifetime of public service. Hatfield supported medical research throughout his career in Congress.
He began his political career in the Oregon legislature in 1950. At that time he was teaching political science and serving as dean of students at his alma mater, Willamette University. After serving two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives and two years in the Oregon Senate, in 1956 he became the youngest secretary of state in Oregon history. He was only 34. Elected governor of Oregon in 1958, he was Oregon’s first two-term governor in the twentieth century when he was re-elected in 1962. He has never lost a political election.
Hatfield was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 while he was serving as Oregon’s governor. He became the longest-serving U.S. senator from Oregon in 1993, surpassing the previous record set by Charles McNary.
During his 30-year career, Hatfield made great strides in obtaining increased funding for the NIH. Under his leadership as chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, NIH funding increased by more than $2.5 billion. One of his main goals was to find ways to fund NIH above and beyond the federal budget appropriations process. He worked closely with Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to introduce a National Fund for Health Research to generate research funds through a 1-percent set-aside of health insurance premiums and a voluntary federal income tax check-off.
He was known for opposing increases in defense spending and for U.S. military support abroad, supporting instead improvements in health, education and social services programs. He often reminded his Senate colleagues of "the desperate human needs in our midst."
A deeply religious man, Hatfield always sought peaceful resolutions to world conflicts and domestic disputes. As a Lieutenant j.g. in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he saw battle at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was among the first U.S. servicemen to enter Hiroshima following the atomic bombing. His war experiences and his passion for life have made him an ardent proponent of nuclear disarmament. Hatfield's tireless efforts to bring an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons culminated in 1992 with the passage of legislation he authored calling for an end to U.S. nuclear testing.
His distinguished public service career ended in January 1997 with his retirement from the United States Senate.