Gov. Vic Atiyeh
  • Oregon State Representative, 1959-1964.
  • Oregon State Senator, 1965-1978.
  • Oregon Governor, 1979-1987.

About Gov. Atiyeh

Victor George Atiyeh, governor of Oregon from 1979 to 1987, was the first Arab American governor in the United States.

Born in Portland in 1923, Atiyeh grew up as the son of immigrants from the Ottoman Empire. He helped in the family carpet business from when he was a child until 1978, when he was elected governor.

Atiyeh served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1959-1964. He represented Washington County, and brought a business perspective to the legislature. He continued this business interest during his time in the Oregon Senate from 1965-1978. 

Atiyeh took office as governor in 1979. His focus as governor was on finance, taxation and economic growth. He recruited businesses to Oregon that went on to stay in the state for the long term. To do so, he traveled many times to east Asia, and he repealed the unitary tax.

During his time as governor, Atiyeh helped the social fabric of Oregon as well. He pushed for one of the earliest laws against hate crimes in the country, and he encouraged Jackie Winters to create the Oregon Food Share.

One of the most challenging times of Atiyeh’s time as governor was dealing with the Rajneeshees. The group settled on a ranch in central Oregon, took over the politics of the area and made threats to public officials. Behind the scenes, Atiyeh and Gerry Thompson bargained with the Rajneeshees and helped to disintegrate the group’s leadership team. 

After leaving governorship in 1987, Atiyeh worked as an international business consultant. He also continued work with community organizations, including Special Olympics and the Boy Scouts of America.

– Interview recorded January 10, 2005.