On Sunday, Monroe Sweetland passed away. He was 96.
As Congressman Earl Blumenauer told the Oregonian, "He is probably -- as much as anyone -- the father of the modern Democratic Party of Oregon."
In his later years, Sweetland was fond of saying, "My eyesight may be dim, but my vision is clear." And it was true. He never gave up fighting for progressive change in Oregon - running in 1998 for the State Senate, and serving as a delegate to the 2000 Democratic Convention.
In 1948, he became Oregon's national committeman to the Democratic Party. At the time, ours was a one-party state controlled by Republicans. He won a seat in the Oregon House in 1952, and a seat in the Senate in 1954. In 1956 and 1960, he ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State.
While he lost his statewide campaigns, he led a 1956 resurgence in which Democrats won control of the House, the Senate, the Governor's office, both US Senate seats, and three of four US House seats.
He was - as Phil Keisling wrote in 1998 - part of "a generation of great Oregon leaders like Richard Neuberger, Tom McCall, and Wayne Morse." When visiting Oregon, President John Kennedy made sure to visit the Sweetland home to say hello.
As a legislator, he was a founding father of Portland State University and won passage of a civil rights bill that had failed 17 previous times. As an activist, he shepherded the Bilingual Education Act. As US Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor in 2004, "Without his efforts, it would not have passed."
Monroe Sweetland will be deeply missed. From the Oregonian:
A memorial service will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 in the ballroom of PSU's Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 355, 1825 S.W. Broadway, Portland.
His family asks that remembrances be contributions to the Monroe Sweetland Scholarship at PSU. Checks, payable to the PSU Foundation, can be mailed to P.O. Box 243, Portland, OR 97207, with Sweetland Scholarship written on the memo line. [Editor's note: Gifts can also be made online. Be sure to designate it for the Sweetland Scholarship.]
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