Tom McCall's Way with Words

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, we let Oregon's most legendary governor speak for himself

By Zach Dundas February 20, 2013

Many hands shaped Oregon’s green image, but no voice lent that aura a more verdant glow than that of Gov. Tom McCall. Born 100 years ago this month, the Massachusetts native and maverick Republican preserved beaches, fought polluters, and curbed urban sprawl in his two terms (1967–1975) and beyond. In the process, he turned Oregon political history’s most pungent phrases. Some of his best:





... Oregon is demure and lovely, and it oughta play a little hard to get. And I think you’ll all be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that’s offered.” 

—from a 1982 event, after critics claimed that mccall’s environmental policies hurt the economy

Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal condomania, and the ravenous rampage of suburbia ... threaten to mock Oregon’s status as an environmental model....Oregon ... must be protected from the grasping wastrels of the land.

—from a 1973 speech demanding tough new land-use law

I sense that I’m headed for Valhalla like a bat out of hell.

—to reporters after a hospital stay in 1982

On some mornings, when the city should sparkle in the sun, guarded by the clean silver cone of Mount Hood, Portland is shrouded as if by the murk of some filthy twilight in a shadow world.” 

—from Pollution in Paradise, a 1962 KGW documentary narrated by McCall

Some highway engineers have a mentality ... that would run an eight-lane freeway through the Taj Mahal. That is our problem.

—from a 1970 interview

This activist loves Oregon more than he loves life.... But if the legacy we helped give Oregon ... goes, then I guess I wouldn’t want to live in Oregon anyhow.”

—From a successful 1982 campaign to save the land-use laws he championed. McCall died months later.

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