Victor G. Atiyeh

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Victor G. Atiyeh
Victor Atiyeh in 1986.jpg
Atiyeh in 1986
32nd Governor of Oregon
In office
January 8, 1979 – January 12, 1987
Preceded by Robert Straub
Succeeded by Neil Goldschmidt
Personal details
Born Victor George Atiyeh
(1923-02-20) February 20, 1923 (age 91)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Oregon

Victor George Atiyeh (born February 20, 1923) is an American politician, elected the 32nd Governor of Oregon in 1978. A member of the Republican Party, Atiyeh was the first elected governor of Arab descent in the United States. He served as governor for eight years, from 1979 through 1987.[1][2] He was re-elected against future governor Ted Kulongoski with 61.6 percent of the vote in 1982, the largest margin in 32 years.[1] As of 2014, Atiyeh is the last Republican to serve as governor of Oregon.[3]

Early life[edit]

As a young man, Atiyeh spent two years at the University of Oregon in Eugene and became a leader of the Boy Scouts of America.[4] Later he worked in his family's rug and carpet business, Atiyeh Brothers, established by his Syrian immigrant father at the turn of the 20th century.[4][5]


Governor Atiyeh (2nd from left) meeting with delegation in Oregon State Capitol, 1980

Atiyeh served as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives from 1959 to 1964 and in the Oregon State Senate from 1965 to 1978.[6] In 1974, he ran for governor and lost to Robert W. Straub.[7] Atiyeh ran against Straub again in the 1978 election, but won this time with 55 percent of the vote.[7] In November 1982, he won re-election to a second four-year term, winning by the largest margin in 32 years for a gubernatorial election in Oregon.[6]

As governor, Atiyeh established new public safety programs for Oregon's traditional fishing and lumber trades.[7] He provided incentives to bring new industries to the state to diversify the economy, including the opening of a trade office in Tokyo, Japan, Oregon's first overseas trade office.[7] He launched a worldwide tourism initiative and worked towards the designation of the Columbia River Gorge as a national scenic preservation area.[6]

Atiyeh helped to establish a statewide food bank, which was the nation's first.[6] He also worked to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and signed new laws against the practice.[4][7] He chaired the Republican Governors Association and was the Republican National Convention's floor leader for President Ronald Reagan in 1984.[8]

Volunteer and charitable work[edit]

Atiyeh had a long relationship with Forest Grove-based Pacific University, serving as a trustee and trustee emeritus and accepting an honorary doctorate from the university in 1996. He donated a trove of his memorabilia to the university library in 2011.[9]

Later life[edit]

Atiyeh in 2012

After leaving office, Atiyeh became an international trade consultant.[4] On August 31, 2005, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery; he drove himself to St. Vincent Medical Center after suffering chest pains. Atiyeh was noted for his fiscal conservatism; his spokesman noted that he had stopped on his way to the hospital to fill his car with gas, having observed the sharply rising prices. In the weeks following the surgery, Atiyeh was readmitted to the hospital for several brief stays after suffering shortness of breath and pain in his arms.

In 2006, Atiyeh co-chaired the "Yes on 49" campaign, supporting Ballot Measure 49, along with Democratic former governor Barbara Roberts, former and future governor John Kitzhaber, and then-governor Ted Kulongoski. He solicited a $100,000 donation to the campaign from Phil Knight, CEO of Nike.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Atiyeh currently lives in Portland with his wife, Dolores.[4] Atiyeh and his wife have two children, Tom and Suzanne,[11] and five grandchildren, Megan, Sonia, Cody, Jimmy, and Becky.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Senate Joint Resolution 24: Oregon Laws 2005". Oregon Legislature. August 3, 2005. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ Harsham, Philip; Azzi, Robert (March–April 1975). "Arabs in America: The Native Sons". Saudi Aramco World 6 (2). Retrieved September 8, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Oregon : Past Governors Bios". National Governors Association. 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Governor Victor G. Atiyeh's Administration: Biographical Note". Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ "History". Atiyeh Bros. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Hon. Victor G. Atiyeh". Ellis Island Medals of Honor. NECO, Inc. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Governor Victor G. Atiyeh". Focus. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  8. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (August 23, 1984). "Convention in Dallas: The Republicans; Some Republican Governors Fear Reagan is Ignoring Them". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  9. ^ Lang, Joe (May 25, 2011). "Former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh donates collection of memorabilia to Pacific University Library". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  10. ^ Associated Press (October 6, 2007). "Nike co-founder backs Measure 49 with $100,000". KGW. Archived from the original on January 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Dolores Atiyeh". Victor Atiyeh Collection. Pacific University Archives. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Straub
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
Neil Goldschmidt