By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

City club hears about Tom McCall

Nearly 40 years after he served as governor, Tom McCall still stands tall among Oregon politicians. His legacy includes much of what Oregonians take for granted today, including public ownership of beaches, bottle recycling and bike path set-asides.

Now McCall is the subject of a K-12 curriculum from the Oregon Historical Society.Yamhill resident Marilyn Walster developed the curriculum in time for his 100th birthday in 1913.

Walster told the McMinnville City Club on Tuesday that she hopes schools will use the curriculum to teach students about McCall and other figures who helped make Oregon unique — that young people not only will learn about the former governor’s emphasis on service and environmentalism, but also will emulate him.

McCall, a former journalist, served as Oregon’s 30th governor from 1967 to 1975. In a 1972 speech to the state Legislature, he called  “respect for life and reverence for nature” his top goals.

During his tenure, the state began cleaning up the Willamette River. It enacted legislation to protect and manage forests and to regulate land use.

During the 1970s, when gasoline was in short supply, the state voluntarily conserved energy, implemented odd-even gas rationing and made 55 mph the maximum speed on highways.

“He made Oregon one of the most desirable places to live,” Walter said, quoting one of her collaborators, Newport teacher Matt Love.

Walster lived in Oregon when McCall was governor, as she attended Linfield College in the early 1970s. She remembers some of the battles that led to his successes.

As an adult, she has always posted one of his quotes in her workspace: “Heroes are not great statues framed against the blood red sky; they are people who say this is my community and it’s my responsibility to make it better.”

She was thrilled when she was asked to create the OHS curriculum.

The comprehensive package is available on the OHS website,

It requires a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching about McCall and his legacy. In addition to social studies and history lessons, it incorporates art, music, literature and other subjects, and features links to state and national standards.

An important part of the curriculum is service learning, Walster said. “Kids learn more and learn better when they are active and involved,” she said.

The curriculum also includes information about other key figures in Oregon, such as poet laureate Kim Stafford and musician Mason Williams.

It is divided into three study units. In each, students are asked to answer questions designed to make them think, such as, “What is special about Oregon?” and “What does it mean to be a hero?” and “Who’s a hero in your community?”

Music and video clips are included, including footage of McCall’s 1983 funeral.

He died of cancer. But even during the final stages of his illness, he remained active, fighting a ballot measure that would have eliminated statewide land-use planning.

“This activist loves Oregon more than life,” he said.

The curriculum also includes many other quotes from McCall. “He loved words” and was memorably outspoken, Walster said, so “we included quotes kids could repeat.”

Perhaps his most famous was this: “Come here and visit, but for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.”


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