Today would be Tom McCall's 100th birthday and memories are flowing from all quarters about Oregon's iconic and maverick former governor.
Historian Matt Love, writing on the Powell's Books blog, relates an sentimental anecdote from Jay Nicholls who played golf with McCall at the Devil's Lake Golf Course in Lincoln City after McCall had exited politics and had a home at Roads End. After a round of apparently bad golf, Nicholls said his 1964 Volkswagen microbus broke down and he wasn't able to give McCall his usual ride home.
Nicholls recalls he and McCall got behind the vehicle and pushed until there was enough momentum to allow Nicholls to hop in and jump-start it. McCall loped alongside the now moving bus and dived in the passenger side, smiling broadly and saying, "Jay, they can never tell you I'm not a man of the people."
Most people then and now view McCall as a man deeply committed to preserving the richness and natural beauty of Oregon — from its beaches to litter-free roadsides to a cleaner Willamette River.
McCall was a Republican, at least in party affiliation, and a hulking man with a New England accent, which gave him his charm. But it was his candor and passion that made people love him, even when they disagreed with him, which for some was often.
Capitol reporters loved McCall because he was prone to wander out of his office after a drink or two to offer up opinions on almost any subject. His well-known and respected press secretary, Ron Schmidt, was left to pick up the pieces and translate what McCall really meant to say.
While McCall might at times seem careless, he was, in fact, careful. He picked his fights to fit a larger narrative of the Oregon he wanted to preserve. He famously told the rest of the world to visit Oregon, but not stay, which became an irresistible siren call for thousands of people to move to someplace with a governor who would talk like that.