Mark Hatfield, Anti-War Republican Senator, Dies at 89

Former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield
Former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. Photographer: Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Hatfield, an Oregon Republican whose anti-war views put him out of step with his party throughout much of a 30-year career in the U.S. Senate, has died. He was 89.

Hatfield died last night in Portland, the Associated Press reported, citing a former aide, Gerry Frank. The Oregonian newspaper said he died at a care center after being in ill health for several years. No cause of death was given.

Mindful of the destruction he witnessed as a Navy ensign during World War II and when he visited the Japanese city of Hiroshima soon after it was hit with an atomic bomb, Hatfield regularly dismissed as “madness” U.S. efforts to develop or increase weapons of warfare. “The issue that Hatfield has always cared most about is peace,” the Almanac of American Politics wrote.

In a statement, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, recalled Hatfield’s “moral compass, independence and willingness to reach across the aisle.”

Hatfield won election to the Senate in 1966, after two terms as governor, and served until 1997.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for the first six years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he succeeded in diverting $100 billion from Reagan’s military buildup to social programs. He joined Democrats in mocking Reagan’s plans for the space-based missile-defense system known as Star Wars.

‘Sheer Madness’

He derided as “sheer madness” Reagan’s request to resume production of nerve gas for chemical warfare. In 1982 he joined with Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts to propose an immediate nuclear-weapons freeze in the U.S. He opposed development of the mobile, multiple-warhead nuclear MX missile, which he deemed “a monument to madness.” In 1986 he criticized as an “immoral act” the U.S. bombing raid on Libya.

He and Charles Grassley of Iowa were the only two Republicans to oppose the 1991 Senate resolution authorizing military action to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

“I’m often pegged as a pacifist. In fact, I am not,” he wrote in a 2001 memoir. “I’m not totally opposed to military force (for example World War II), yet I believe force should not be used until all other options have been exhausted. And most critically, we ought to address the causes of war -- poverty, lack of education, health, racism, militarism, or conflict over raw materials (such as oil) -- and work to prevent war in the first place.”

Religious Beliefs

Mark Odom Hatfield was born on July 12, 1922, in Dallas, Oregon, and grew up in nearby Salem, the state capital. An only child, he inherited his religious beliefs from his devoutly Baptist father, Charles, a railroad blacksmith, and his political beliefs from his staunchly Republican mother, Dovie, a teacher, according to a biography by Willamette University.

A freshman at Willamette when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Hatfield joined the Naval Reserve and accelerated his studies in political science to begin combat training by late 1943.

In the Navy, he served on landing crafts that ferried U.S. Marines to battlefield beaches during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In 1945, he visited Hiroshima as it began recovering from the atomic bomb.

“A great deal of what I feel now goes back to World War II,” he told the Associated Press in 1986. “If you’ve been in a war, you cannot help but have your views altered. And then, of course, being in Hiroshima a month afterwards, that has left an indelible impression. The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets.”

Political Science

After earning a master’s degree at Stanford University in 1948, Hatfield worked as associate professor of political science and dean of students at Willamette until 1956. He served in the Oregon legislature, became secretary of state in 1957 and ran successfully for governor in 1958, defeating incumbent Democrat Robert Holmes.

From the start, Hatfield played down party labels. His billboards during the governor’s race didn’t include the word Republican, and he told audiences he wanted to be “governor of all the people,” according to an account in the New York Times.

In 1966, when the National Governors Association passed a resolution reaffirming its support for the war in Vietnam, Hatfield cast the only dissenting vote.

Limited to two terms as governor, he ran for Senate in 1966 and won the seat vacated by Maurine Neuberger, a Democrat who retired.

McGovern-Hatfield Amendment

In 1970, Hatfield partnered with Democratic Senator George McGovern of South Dakota to propose legislation that would have set a deadline for the end of U.S. military operations in Vietnam. Strongly opposed by President Richard Nixon, the so-called McGovern-Hatfield amendment was defeated, 55 to 39.

He won four more terms, maintaining his popularity in Oregon for bringing home federal funds for transportation, environmental and health-care projects. He served a second stint as chairman of the Appropriations Committee from 1995 until his retirement in 1997.

Though Hatfield was known among some colleagues as “Saint Mark,” his ethics came into question on occasion. He supported a proposal for a trans-Africa pipeline by a Greek financier, Basil Tsakos, who was paying Hatfield’s wife, a real-estate agent, $55,000 for helping him find and decorate an apartment in Washington. A U.S. Justice Department investigation resulted in no charges, and Hatfield donated the money to charity.

Hatfield and his wife, Antoinette, had four children.

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