Notable Oregonians: Tom McCall - Governor, Journalist

photograph of Tom McCall
Tom McCall, 1913-1983. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Thomas Lawson McCall was born in Egypt, Massachusetts on March 22, 1913, the son of Henry McCall and Dorothy Lawson McCall. His parents had moved to Portland, Oregon from Massachusetts in 1909. Shortly thereafter they moved to a ranch near Prineville, Oregon on the Crooked River. McCall spent significant time during his childhood both on the ranch and in Massachusetts. He attended the University of Oregon, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1936. His first job was at the News-Review in Moscow, Idaho, from 1937-1942. In 1939 he married Audrey Owen. They moved back to Oregon and he began working for The Oregonian newspaper, and then as a news announcer at KGW radio. McCall enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and served as a war correspondent in the Pacific. In January of 1946 he returned to Oregon and began a nightly radio talk show on KEX in Portland. He joined the Young Republicans, and in 1949 he accepted a job as Governor Douglas McKay's assistant. McCall was elected Oregon secretary of state in 1964.
In 1966 he ran for governor and was opposed by his own party. Nevertheless, he ran on the issue of "livability" and defeated Robert Straub in the general election in November 1966. His first major political victory came with legislation known as the "Beach Bill," which granted the state government the power to zone Oregon's beaches, thus protecting them from private development. Perhaps the most famous environmental legislation enacted under McCall was House Bill 1036, the "Bottle Bill," which was the nation's first mandatory bottle-deposit law and was designed to decrease litter in Oregon. The bill was enacted in 1971.
Land use planning became a major issue in 1973, and Senate Bill 100 from that session was designed to provide state control over land use decisions. Although the final bill did not go as far as McCall originally intended, a compromise bill created the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC).
McCall left office on January 14, 1975. Despite his famous 1971 quote imploring people not to move to the state, Oregon's population grew by 25% during his eight years in office. He took a job as KATU television's news analyst, and also traveled nationwide supporting other states' efforts to enact bottle bills similar to Oregon's. He also actively opposed a 1976 effort to abolish the LCDC, and another effort to dismantle it in 1982. In February of 1978 McCall announced he would once again run for governor, however his campaign suffered from a lack of both funding and focus, and he was defeated by Victor Atiyeh in the Republican primary.
In December of 1982 he was hospitalized, and on January 8, 1983 Tom McCall lost a long battle with cancer. He was buried in Redmond Memorial Cemetery.
For more information, refer to the Tom McCall records finding aid
(Source: Oregon State Archives)
Next Notable Oregonian: Conde McCullough >