McKay, Douglas, 1893-1959

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1893-06-24
Death 1959-07-22
English

Biographical notes:

A descendant of Oregon pioneers, Oregon Governor James Douglas McKay (he later dropped the first name) was born in Portland, Oregon, on June 24, 1893, the son of E.D. and Minnie A. Musgrove McKay. He was elected mayor of Salem in 1932. In January 1934, Douglas McKay announced his candidacy for the State Legislature as a Senator from Marion County. He was elected for the terms 1935-1937, 1939-1941, 1943-1945, and after World War II service, for 1945-1947. McKay was elected governor of Oregon in 1948. He left the governorship in 1952 when President Eisenhower appointed him Secretary of the Interior. In 1956, McKay resigned from his post to run for United States Senator. He lost to the Democratic incumbent, Wayne Morse. McKay died on July 22, 1959 after an extended illness.

From the description of Douglas McKay papers, 1925-1958. (University of Oregon Libraries). WorldCat record id: 56124461

A descendant of Oregon pioneers, Oregon Governor James Douglas McKay (he later dropped the first name) was born in Portland, Oregon, on June 24, 1893, the son of E. D. and Minnie A. Musgrove McKay. His paternal grandfather, Malcolm McKay, had previously been a Hudson Bay Company storekeeper at Fort Vancouver. Douglas McKay's father was a carpenter, and all of McKay's grandparents were in Oregon by 1852, seven years before the Territory became a State.

Throughout his childhood, McKay worked to help support his family. Information in the Oregon State Archives stated that his father abandoned them, leaving his mother with little money. But according to an article in the Portland Oregonian about Mrs. McKay, the father died. Nevertheless, when he was thirteen, McKay began to work after school and on Saturdays. He left school at the age of eighteen, without receiving a diploma, to enroll in night classes so that he might take a job at a salary of $35 a month as office boy in the office of division superintendent of the Union Pacific railroad.

Two years later McKay entered Oregon State College at Corvallis as a "sub-freshman" in agriculture. From the time he was chosen president of his freshman class, he never lost his interest in politics. He was awarded the B.S. degree in the spring of 1917.

McKay married Mabel C. Hill on March 31, 1917, just before gong to Officers' Training School at the Presidio in San Francisco for service in World War I. According to Biographies Plus Illustrated, he became a second lieutenant in the 361st Infantry Regiment of the Ninety-first (Pacific Coast) Division, and served with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. On October 3, 1918, during the battle for Sedan in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a severe shell wound removed him from combat. He had been wounded in six places around his right shoulder and almost lost his arm; he underwent several operations to restore the use of his shoulder. McKay was awarded the Purple Heart.

After the war, 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 in 1932.

In January 1934, Douglas McKay announced his candidacy for the State Legislature as a Senator from Marion County. He was elected for the terms 1935-1937, 1939-1941, 1943-1945, and after World War II service, for 1945-1947.

McKay volunteered for active service in W.W. II, (he was 49) and was given limited service status because of his World War I injury, according to Biographies Plus Illustrated. Commissioned a Captain in October 1942, McKay served at Camp Murray, Washington, and later as public relations officer at Camp Adair, Oregon. McKay's seat in the Senate was filled by an appointment of the Marion County court. He was discharged at the end of W.W. II as a Major.

In 1946, McKay was State campaign chairman for Earl Snell when the latter ran for his second term. Less than a year after his re-election Governor Snell lost his life in an airplane accident. Also killed in the accident were some of Oregon's top political figures, Robert S. Farrell, Jr., Secretary of State, and Marshall E. Cornett, president of the State Senate. Speaker of the Oregon House John H. Hall automatically became Governor.

The consummate politician launched his campaign for governor with the slogan "You Can Count on Doug McKay." In the November 1948, election Oregon voted Douglas McKay into office, after a three-way race involving McKay, Democrat Lew Wallace, and Independent Wendell E. Barnett.

McKay left the governorship in 1952 when President Eisenhower appointed him Secretary of the Interior. He was instrumental in running Eisenhower's Western campaign. McKay's popularity dropped after accepting the appointment, because many felt he was abandoning his state for the federal government. In 1956, McKay resigned from his post to run for United States Senator. He lost to the Democratic incumbent, Wayne Morse.

The life-long Oregonian of pioneer stock retired from political life and the car business in the late 1950s. According to the Oregon State Archives materials, he spent his last years in Salem with his wife. McKay died on July 22, 1959 after an extended illness. He was 66. Douglas McKay was survived by his wife Shirley, and their two daughters, Shirley (Mrs. Wayne Hadley), and Mary Lou, and two grandchildren, Eileen Patricia and Allan Craig Hadley. A son, Douglas McKay, Jr., was killed in an automobile accident in November 1939.

Sources: Oregon State Archives; Biography Plus Illustrated ; Portland Oregonian p24 Ja. 2 '49 pors.; Portland (Ore.) Sunday Journal p1C N 7 '48 pors.; and New York Times p27 Jl. 23 '59.

From the guide to the Douglas McKay papers, 1925-1958, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

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Subjects:

  • Mayor
  • Political Campaigns
  • Government and Politics
  • Political campaigns--Oregon
  • Photographs
  • Transportation
  • Mayors--Oregon--Salem
  • Governors--Oregon
  • Oregon
  • Governor

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • Oregon--Salem (as recorded)
  • Camp Adair (Or.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Camp Adair (Or.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)