I first met Mark in 1957 or early 1958 when he made his first ever TV appearance. It was on the public TV station, where I ran the small Statehouse studio for Oregon public TV and radio. I remember Mark as a handsome, cheerful, almost too well dressed (cuffs with cufflinks) man, amiable and with a sense of humor. He came to the studio with his aides Travis Cross and Elections Director Freeman Holmer.
Soon after Freeman hosted and presented a weekly series at the station, focusing on different aspects of Oregon’s unique and important history of elections, such as the initiative and referendum. Mark appeared in at least two of these programs.
Later that year I met with Mark, then Oregon Secretary of State, along with State Treasurer Sig Unander and Gov. Robert Holmes. It was a meeting in the Governor’s office where I met these top state officials in their capacity as the Oregon Board of Control. They agreed to appropriate a small sum of money ($1,200) for me to spend in the production of a series of 12 documentaries about the Board of Control institutions—prison, mental hospital, schools for troubled girls and boys, etc.
From 1958 to 1960 I made those documentaries, unprecedented at that time, broadcast on the Oregon public station and then, also unprecedented, re-run on commercial TV stations in Portland and Medford. I managed to show the last of the films, about the severely retarded confined to Fairview Home, to the right people at CBS Reports – then run by Oregon-connected Fred Friendly and Washington-connected Edward R. Murrow. I was hired as a producer for that CBS series, a dream come true in part due to Mark’s support.
But meanwhile I was also a journalist, covering Oregon for public radio and TV, and occasionally talking to Mark who was then Governor. I will always remember going to his home for dinner and to meet Antoinette, his wife, who invited me and others in the journalistic community.
When I became the New York Times reporter for Oregon in 1962 I quickly learned of that paper’s interest in Mark. Every time I wrote a story based on my interviewing him it became a front page item. Mark was then viewed as a leader of the liberal wing of the Republican Party and often it was speculated that he would be New York’s Governor Rockefeller’s ideal running mate in the 1964 Presidential race.
In late 1966 the National Governor’s Conference met, and I was assigned to cover it for CBS News. When the governor’s voted 49-1 to back Pres. Johnson’s leadership on the war in Vietnam, I was secretly pleased to see that Mark was the one governor who had cast the “no” vote.
Over the years that he was in the U.S. Senate I was delighted to see how he had voted for health and human services related projects for Oregon instead of the Pentagon pork barrel projects the rest of his fellow Senators did. His efforts led to an incredibly important legacy.
I’ve often regretted that I did not continue to keep in touch with Mark, although I often thought about him as an old friend. I will miss him.