Last Friday, July 12th, Karl McCreary and Mike Dicianna embarked on an excellent adventure to evaluate the Governor Douglas McKay papers and Mike has written this post to share the story.
The OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center is presently negotiating with McKay’s family for acquisition of a rather complete collection of papers, photographs, ephemera and correspondence. The McKay collection is full of exciting items from this famous Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) alumni’s life.
Douglas McKay is a 1917 Graduate from OAC. He was student body president his senior year. When the United States entered World War I, McKay enlisted in the army and was sent to Europe, where he attained the rank of second lieutenant in the 361st Infantry Regiment of the Ninety-first (Pacific Coast) Division. On October 3, 1918, during the battle for Sedan in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a severe shell wound removed him from combat; it was for that injury that McKay was awarded the Purple Heart.
Upon returning to Oregon, McKay lived with his wife and children in Portland where he sold insurance and worked as a car salesman. In 1927 he moved to Salem and purchased his own car dealership, which he called Douglas McKay Chevrolet. After living in Salem for five years, he was elected mayor. During WWII, McKay again volunteered for military service, and at age 48, was assigned to Camp Adair, near Corvallis as the gunnery range officer.
McKay served as an Oregon State Senator from 1934-1943, and was elected Governor in 1948. McKay left the governorship in 1952 when President Eisenhower appointed him Secretary of the Interior. After one term in Washington DC, he returned to run for U.S. Senate against Wayne Morse; his bid was unsuccessful. McKay retired from political life and the car business in the late 1950’s. He spent his last years in Salem with his wife. McKay died on July 22, 1959, after an extended illness.
The McKay collection is important to OSU Special Collections and Archive Research Center on many levels. Most importantly as an alum, his connection to OAC would be highlighted here since the collection includes numerous items from McKay’s years as a college student. Period photos, ephemera, and correspondence are poignant windows into university history during the pre-WWI years.
Secondly, the researcher value of the documents, records and scrapbooks is stellar. Historians looking at the post-WWII years in Oregon and issues of natural resources on the national front, will have the opportunity to work with these papers in our reading room — we’re all about access! And again, Karl and I feel that this collection would have the greatest exposure and prominence here at Oregon State. Of course, you understand that we are biased.