The 2017–2018 edition of the Oregon Blue Book
is dedicated to the memory of Governor Vic Atiyeh.
Victor “Vic” Atiyeh was a first-generation American who grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Northeast Portland. His father had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s from what is now Syria.
As a youth, Atiyeh began his lifelong involvement with the Boy Scouts of America and played football at Portland’s Washington High School. While at Washington, he was nominated by his fellow students to serve as senior class president. It was his first experience with public service and would not be his last.
As a successful businessman, Atiyeh was running his family’s rug and carpet business when he was recruited to campaign for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. He was elected in 1958 and represented Washington County in the House until being elected to the state Senate in 1964.
In 1979, Atiyeh became the nation’s first Arab-American governor. His election came just before the lingering effects of a national recession had devastated the housing market, which, in turn, hurt Oregon’s timber industry.
Out of economic necessity, Governor Atiyeh worked to diversify the state’s economy. Many of Oregon’s largest industries can be traced back to the leadership of Governor Atiyeh, including viticulture, tourism and technology. Today’s trade with Asian countries, which has become a key component of Oregon’s economy, was initiated in part by his many trips abroad to promote Oregon and the many products manufactured and grown here.
Throughout his political career, Vic Atiyeh emphasized inclusion and recognized the importance of diversity through his work with the state’s many minority populations and groups. His ability to reach across the aisle and find common ground with others was a true testament to his character and effectiveness as a legislator and governor.
After leaving the governor’s office in 1987, aspiring political candidates often sought Governor Atiyeh’s sage wisdom and counsel. He was always generous with his time and happy to share his experience with others.
Those who knew Governor Vic Atiyeh speak of him with respect and reverence. His calm and reasoned approach helped Oregonians through challenging times. He was Oregon’s senior statesman until his death on July 20, 2014 at age 91. This year’s Oregon Blue Book is dedicated to honoring Vic Atiyeh and his lifetime of dedicated service to family, to community and to his beloved State of Oregon.