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Governor Victor Atiyeh Papers (REVISED)

Identifier: MS-96X

Scope and Contents

The Victor Atiyeh Papers contain materials from his business, political, and personal activities, dating from 1923-2012, as well as collected materials and family papers predating the primary body of the collection. The bulk of the materials pertain to his campaigns for and his service in political office, particularly his two terms as Governor of Oregon, 1979-1987, and to the international consulting business he established after leaving office in 1987. Collection materials include appointment books, audiocassettes, awards, budgets, campaign materials, certificates, correspondence, directories, memoranda, memorabilia, notes, photographs, poll results, posters, press clippings, publications, receipts, reports, schedules, scrapbooks, speeches, and video tapes.

Beyond offering insight into the life and career of Atiyeh and into Oregon politics from the 1960s-1980s, the collection contains significant materials regarding issues and organizations such as the Republican Party; Oregon tax policy; Japanese-Oregon international and trade relations; Rajneeshpuram; the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation;

For more detailed information on collection contents, please see series and folder descriptions.


  • 1918-2014


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. One file of materials is currently restricted to protect confidential identification and medical information. The collection includes sound recordings and moving images on obsolete media to which access may be limited based on playback equipment limitations and preservation concerns.

Conditions Governing Use

Pacific University owns the copyright to some, but not all, of the materials housed in its archives. Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced as official business of Pacific University is retained by Pacific University and requires its permission for publication. Copyright status for other collection materials varies. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical Note

Victor George Atiyeh (1923-) served as Oregon’s 32nd governor from 1979-1987.

Atiyeh was born Alfred George Atiyeh February 20, 1923 in Portland, OR, to two Syrian immigrants, George and Linda Asly Atiyeh. His parents never used the name Alfred, and he was christened Victor George Atiyeh. He has two older brothers, twins Edward and Richard. After graduating from Portland’s Washington High School, where he was a standout football player and president of his senior class, Atiyeh attended the University of Oregon as a pre-law major from 1941-1943. A member of the Epsilon Omicron chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, he continued to be involved with the fraternity throughout his life. He was a guard on the University of Oregon football team, and was scouted by several NFL teams and offered a position with the Green Bay Packers. After his father’s 1943 death, however, with both of his brothers away at war, Atiyeh left school to assume the presidency of Atiyeh Bros. Carpets, the family business that his father and uncle founded in 1900. He held that position until 1979, when he resigned after winning the governorship. In 1944 he married Dolores Hewett, with whom he attended high school and college. They have two children, Tom and Suzanne.

Atiyeh served three terms in the Oregon House of Representatives (1959-1964). He then served four terms in the Oregon State Senate (1965-1978), serving as Minority Leader from 1971-1978. With almost 20 years in the legislature, Atiyeh had a longer state legislative career than any other Oregon governor.

He first ran for governor in 1974, with the slogan "Oregon's Next Great Governor," but was defeated in the general election by Democrat Robert (Bob) Straub in Atiyeh’s only electoral defeat. In 1978 Atiyeh, running with the slogan “It’s Time for Atiyeh,” defeated incumbent Straub to become the first Arab-American governor in the United States. As governor, Atiyeh’s agenda included tax reform, increasing government efficiency, workers’ compensation, economic diversification, international economic development initiatives, responsible land-use, environmental conservation, and the establishment of Oregon Food Share, the nation’s first statewide food bank. Faced with an economic downturn and a state budget deficit, Atiyeh's cost-cutting measures included cutting his own salary--three times. As governor, Atiyeh appointed Oregon’s first female chief of staff, Geraldine (Gerry) Thompson, as well as Oregon’s first female Supreme Court justice, Betty Roberts.

Active in the Republican party, Atiyeh chaired the Republican Governors’ Association as well as the Western Governors’ Association. He served as a National Republican Convention delegate in 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1984.

After leaving office in 1987, Atiyeh founded Victor Atiyeh & Company, an international consulting and trade firm of which he was the president. On retainer for firms such as Fujitsu America and Seiko Epson, he continued to travel widely and contribute to Oregon’s economic development activities and to national foreign policy concerns under the George H.W. Bush administration. He served as president of the Japan-America Society of Oregon and as an Executive Committee member of the American Task Force for Lebanon.

A Boy Scout leader since the age of 21, Atiyeh served in several positions in that organization, including Council President. Atiyeh served on the boards of Equitable Savings & Loan, Cedars Bank, Key Knife, Greenbrier Companies, Inc., the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Museum, the National Association of Arab-Americans, and the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, among other organizations. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Atiyeh International, Ltd., his son Tom’s carpet company. Atiyeh is a former Pacific University trustee and served on the University of Oregon’s President’s Committee. An avid collector of guns, historical documents, and materials regarding the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Atiyeh has been a member of the Oregon Historical Society and the Washington County Historical Society. He was appointed by President Reagan to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 1984. A lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), he helped found the NRA-affiliated Oregon Arms Collectors group. Atiyeh continues to be active in civic and community organizations.


116 Cubic Feet (Roughly 200 boxes, 24 oversize volumes, approx. 25 oversize items)

Language of Materials



Victor Atiyeh served as Oregon’s 32nd governor from 1979-1987. This collection documents Atiyeh's activities as Governor, State Senator and State Representative, as well as his business and family life. It includes correspondence, photographs, speeches, reports, audiovisual recordings, press clippings, memorabilia, scrapbooks, and other items relating to both his professional and personal life.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the Victor Atiyeh Papers were donated by Gov. Atiyeh to the Pacific University Archives in a series of accessions received from 2011 through 2014. A copy of Atiyeh’s oral history was donated by the Oregon Historical Society in 2012, and two accessions of materials (primarily slides and video) relating to Atiyeh’s gubernatorial career were donated by his former press secretary, Denny Miles, in 2012.


Additional accruals are expected.

Related Archival Materials

Atiyeh's official gubernatorial papers are held at the Oregon State Archives in the papers of Governor Victor G. Atiyeh's Administration. The Oregon Historical Society holds several collections of related materials, including the Victor Atiyeh Photographic Collection and the Victor Atiyeh Papers. The University of Oklahoma’s Political Commercials Archive holds 18 of Atiyeh’s 1978 and 1982 political ads.

Separated Materials

Some non-rare books donated by Victor Atiyeh and Denny Miles have been separated from the archive and placed in the general circulating collection of the Pacific University Library. Several pieces of art collected and donated by Atiyeh have been separated to the University's art collection. The Archives also holds other material donated by Atiyeh that are not a part of this collection.

Processing Information

Initial arrangement and description of this collection (then comprising approximately 40 cubic feet) were conducted in 2012 by Katrina Windon. In 2014, the arrangement and description were revised to include more material (approximately 40 additional cubic feet) by Eva Guggemos. In 2021, the final arrangement and description were completed to include a total of 116 cubic feet by Emily Johns.

Guide to the Governor Victor Atiyeh Papers
In Progress
Emily Johns, Eva Guggemos, and Katrina Windon
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
This guide to the collection was sponsored by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant

Repository Details

Part of the Pacific University Archives Repository

2043 College Way
Forest Grove OR 97116 United States