Victor Atiyeh

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Vic Atiyeh
Victor G. Atiyeh 2012.jpg
Atiyeh in 2012
32nd Governor of Oregon
In office
January 8, 1979 – January 12, 1987
Preceded byBob Straub
Succeeded byNeil Goldschmidt
Member of the Oregon State Senate
from the 9th district
In office
Member of the
Oregon House of Representatives
from Washington County
In office
Personal details
Victor George Atiyeh

(1923-02-20)February 20, 1923
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
DiedJuly 20, 2014(2014-07-20) (aged 91)
West Haven-Sylvan, Oregon, U.S.
Resting placeRiver View Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1944)
EducationUniversity of Oregon

Victor George Atiyeh (/əˈtjə/; February 20, 1923 – July 20, 2014) was an American politician who served as the 32nd Governor of Oregon from 1979 to 1987. He was also the first elected governor of Middle Eastern descent and of Syrian descent in the United States.[1][2]

Atiyeh was elected in 1978, defeating incumbent Democratic Governor Robert W. Straub. He was re-elected against future Governor Ted Kulongoski with 61.6% of the vote in 1982, the largest margin in 32 years.[1] Prior to being elected Governor, Atiyeh had served continuously in the Oregon Legislature since 1959, initially in the House and later in the Senate.

As of 2023, Atiyeh is the most recent Republican elected governor of Oregon.[3]

Early life[edit]

Atiyeh's parents, George Atiyeh and Linda Asly, immigrated to the United States from Al Husn, Syria and Beirut, Lebanon respectively.[4][5] Atiyeh's father came through Ellis Island in 1898 to join his brother Aziz's carpet business. Atiyeh's mother's family belonged to the Antiochian Orthodox Church though Atiyeh would join the Episcopal Church later in life.[6]

Atiyeh grew up in Portland, Oregon, attending Holladay Grade School and Washington High School.[7] He spent two years at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he played guard for the Oregon Ducks football program and became a regional leader in the Boy Scouts of America.[8] When his father died, Atiyeh dropped out of college and took over his family's rug and carpet business, Atiyeh Brothers.[8][9]


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

Atiyeh served as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives for Washington County from 1959 to 1964 and in the Oregon State Senate for the 9th district from 1965 to 1978.[10][11]

Governor of Oregon[edit]

In 1974, Atiyeh ran for governor and lost to Democrat Robert W. Straub.[12] After defeating former governor Tom McCall in the primary, Atiyeh ran against Straub again in the 1978 election, but won this time with 55 percent of the vote.[12] He was the first Arab American to be elected as a U.S. governor.[7]

In 1982, Atiyeh won re-election to a second four-year term, winning 61.4% of the vote over Democrat Ted Kulongoski - the largest victory margin in 32 years for a gubernatorial election in Oregon.[10] Atiyeh carried all 36 counties in the state.

Atiyeh in 1986

As governor, Atiyeh established new public safety programs for Oregon's traditional fishing and lumber trades.[12] 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.[12] He launched a worldwide tourism initiative and worked towards the designation of the Columbia River Gorge as a national scenic preservation area.[10] These efforts earned him the nickname "Trader Vic."[13]

Atiyeh helped establish a statewide food bank, which was the nation's first.[10] He also worked to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and signed new laws against the practice.[8][12] He chaired the Republican Governors Association and was the Republican National Convention's floor leader for President Ronald Reagan in 1984.[14]

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.[15]

Later career[edit]

After leaving office, Atiyeh became an international trade consultant.[8]

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.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Atiyeh lived in Portland with his wife, Dolores (née Hewitt), whom he married on July 5, 1944.[8][17] They had two children, Tom and Suzanne.[18] Dolores Atiyeh died on August 29, 2016, in Portland at the age of 92.[19]

Health and death[edit]

On August 31, 2005, Atiyeh 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.[7]

On July 5, 2014, Atiyeh fell at his home. He was admitted again to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, where he was treated for internal bleeding; while he was briefly released, he was re-hospitalized after incurring an adverse reaction to pain medication, and died from kidney failure on July 20, at age 91.[7][20]


  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". National Governors Association. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Pulera, Dominic (2004). Sharing the Dream: White Males in Multicultural America. p. 33. ISBN 9780826416438.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "The Atiyeh Brothers and Portland's Royal Rosarians". Royal Rosarians.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Guggemos, Eva (October 3, 2013). Atiyeh!. Pacific University Libraries. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Mapes, Jeff (July 20, 2014). "Republican Vic Atiyeh, who guided Oregon through economic upheaval, dies at 91". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Governor Victor G. Atiyeh's Administration: Biographical Note". Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  9. ^ "History". Atiyeh Bros. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d "Hon. Victor G. Atiyeh". Ellis Island Medals of Honor. NECO, Inc. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012.
  11. ^ "Archives West: Victor Atiyeh Papers, 1958-1996". Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Governor Victor G. Atiyeh". Focus. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  13. ^ "Trader Vic · heritage". Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Lang, Joe (May 25, 2011). "Former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh donates collection of memorabilia to Pacific University Library". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  16. ^ "Nike co-founder backs Measure 49 with $100,000". KGW. Associated Press. October 6, 2007. Archived from the original on January 7, 2009.
  17. ^ "Pacific University Archives Exhibits | * Victor Atiyeh Collection * : Dolores Atiyeh". Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  18. ^ "Dolores Atiyeh". Victor Atiyeh Collection. Pacific University Archives. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  19. ^ Theen, Andrew (August 29, 2016). "Dolores Atiyeh, wife of former Oregon governor, dies at 92". The Oregonian/OregonLive. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  20. ^ Currie, Carrie McAlice; Staver, Anna (July 21, 2014). "Former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh dead at 91". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. Retrieved May 15, 2016.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee Governor of Oregon
1974, 1978, 1982
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Republican Governors Association
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by