This oral history interview with Victor Atiyeh was conducted by Clark Hansen at Atiyeh's office in Portland, Oregon, from November 24, 1992, to September 10, 1993, and on June 11, 1998. In this interview, Atiyeh discusses his family background and early life in Portland, including his experience growing up as a Syrian American. He discusses his early education; talks about the family carpet business, Atiyeh Brothers; and his involvement in high school football. He describes his memories of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and his unsuccessful attempt to enlist in the military during World War II. He talks about the University of Oregon, including his social life and the development of his political beliefs. He also talks about his marriage to Delores Hewitt in 1944; dropping out of college to take over the family business; and his involvement in the Republican Party and other organizations.
Atiyeh discusses his service in Oregon state government and his political campaigns. He talks about serving in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1959 to 1964. He talks about his fellow legislators, including Stafford Hansell, Monte Montgomery, and Walter Pearson. He also talks about working with Governor Mark Hatfield. He discusses his committee assignments, legislation that came up during his service in the House, and working across party lines. Atiyeh then discusses serving in the Oregon Senate from 1965 to 1979, and describes the differences between the Senate and the House. He talks about his fellow senators, including Ted Hallock, Tony Yturri, and Don Willner. He discusses some of the legislation that came up during his service in the Senate, his committee assignments, and Senate procedures. He speaks at length about his involvement in taxation and environmental issues. Atiyeh also talks about national politics contemporary to 1992 and 1993; his voting record; and his relationship with the press.
Atiyeh discusses serving as Oregon governor from 1979 to 1987, including his campaigns. He talks about the transition, his staff, and administration appointments. He describes his philosophy of government, working with the Legislature, and the effect of the governorship on his family life. He discusses his administration's legislative agenda, including on energy and taxation; his use of the veto; and his relationships with other state governors. He discusses much of the legislation he signed as governor, his budgets, and many of the reforms he implemented. He also talks about Oregon's trade relationship with Japan, as well as a 1984 trip to the Middle East, particularly Syria. He describes the major issues of each legislative session during his government service.
Atiyeh discusses Oregon politics since he left elected office in 1987. He talks about Oregon governors Neil Goldschmidt and Barbara Roberts, as well as Oregon's congressional delegation. He discusses his involvement with the Boy Scouts, the Japan-America Society, and other organizations. The interview closes with a session conducted in 1998, in which Atiyeh discusses the Northwest Power Planning Council and his retirement activities, as well as a 1998 shooting at Thurston High School and his stance on gun control.