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Oral history interview with Clay Myers
- 1994 June 17-October 27 (Creation)
.1 cubic feet 23 audiocassettes (21 hr., 25 min., 23 sec.) + transcript (529 pages)
Name of creator
Henry Clay Myers, Jr. was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1927. He grew up in Tillamook, Oregon, and also spent a year of his childhood in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1938 to 1939. In 1945, he graduated from Benson High School in Portland and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was reassigned to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, then discharged later that same year. He returned to Oregon, and in 1946, he began attending the University of Oregon, where he was involved with the Young Republicans. After graduating in 1949, he continued his studies at Northwestern College of Law in Portland, graduating in 1953. He started his career as an estate planner and insurance salesman for Aetna in 1953. His insurance work took him to New England, where he met Elizabeth Lex Arndt through the Young Republicans. They were married in 1955; they later had one child and adopted two. They returned to Oregon in 1956. Myers was active in Republican politics and served as Oregon secretary of state from 1967 to 1977, and then as Oregon treasurer from 1977 to 1984. He was also deeply involved in the Episcopalian church. Late in his life, he changed his party affiliation, first to Independent in 1999, then to Democrat in 2003. He died in 2004.
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This oral history interview with Clay Myers was conducted by Tom Wright at the Oregon Historical Society and at Wright's home in Portland, Oregon, from June 17 to October 27, 1994. In this interview, Myers describes his family background and early life at length. He discusses the year he spent in South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and how that experience helped form his politics. He also talks about life on a farm in Tillamook, Oregon, during the Depression. He talks about attending Benson High School, enlisting in the U.S. Navy immediately after graduation in 1945, and attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut until his discharge later that same year. He also talks about choosing the Episcopalian Church and the Republican Party as a teenager. He then discusses attending the University of Oregon, including his social life, his involvement with the Young Republicans, and fraternities. He discusses attending Northwestern College of Law in Portland and working in real estate at the Trust Department of the First National Bank. He then discusses campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and the controversy surrounding Wayne Morse at the 1952 Republican convention. He also discusses going to work for Aetna Insurance. He talks about meeting Elizabeth Arndt through the Young Republicans, their courtship, and their wedding in 1955. He goes on to talk about returning to Oregon in 1956 and raising a family, the houses the family lived in, and his children's educations. He discusses his friendship with Tom McCall, his relationship with the press, and the election of Mark Hatfield to the governorship in 1958, as well as the effect it had on McCall. He goes on to discuss his involvement in Republican politics, both national and in Oregon, in the 1950s through the 1980s, including his work campaigning. He also discusses his work with the Episcopalian Church, particularly his work toward allowing women, as well as lesbians and gays, to become priests. He also talks about his personal health history.
Myers discusses his political career, beginning with his service on the Multnomah County Welfare Commission, then on the State Welfare Commission under Governor Mark Hatfield. He also talks about serving as assistant secretary of state to Tom McCall from 1965 to 1966, and about his own term as secretary of state from 1967 to 1977. He talks at length about working with McCall and helping him campaign. He discusses the duties of the office, particularly overseeing elections and audits. He also discusses the behind-the-scenes political machinations of the Republican presidential nomination of 1968. He closes the interview by talking about acting as governor during the prison riots of 1968.
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Copyright held by the Oregon Historical Society. Licensed under Creative Commons, BY-NC-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
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Related archival materials
This interview is continued by: Oral history interview with Clay Myers, by Ellen Nesbitt, SR 1168-1, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Clay Myers photographic collection, Org. Lot 813, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Clay Myers papers, 1937-1991, Mss 6040, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Clay Myers, by Tom Wright, SR 1168, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Forms part of the Oregon Legislature Oral History Series.
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Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.