Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

Douglas and Mabel McKay Papers, 1905-2014

Biographical Note:

Douglas (Doug) McKay, born James Douglas McKay, graduated from Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) in 1917 with a BS in Farm Crops. After serving in World War I, McKay became a successful businessman in Salem, Oregon, and a politician -- serving as an Oregon State Senator, Governor of Oregon, and Secretary of the Interior during the Eisenhower administration.

Doug McKay was born in 1893 in Portland, Oregon. Mabel Christine Hill was born in 1896 in Bloomfield, Nebraska. They met in Corvallis while McKay was attending Oregon Agricultural College and they were married in 1917. During World War I, First Lieutenant Douglas McKay of the 91st Division, known as "The Wild West Division", was severely wounded on October 3, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. McKay received the Purple Heart for his service and was partially disabled for the rest of his life. After the war, McKay worked in car sales and established his own Chevrolet and Cadillac dealerships in Salem beginning in the late 1920s.

McKay's political career began in 1932 with his election as mayor of Salem, Oregon. He subsequently served four terms in the Oregon State Senate from 1934 until 1948, with an interruption for military service. With the outbreak of World War II, Doug McKay enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Camp Adair just north of Corvallis. After the war, he resumed his political interests and was elected Governor of Oregon in 1948, a position he held until December 1952. McKay was active in the Republican Party and drew the attention of President Dwight Eisenhower, who named him as Secretary of the Interior. After three years in Eisenhower's Cabinet, McKay resigned in 1956 to run for the U.S. Senate against Wayne Morse. McKay lost the race and never campaigned for political office again. Early in 1957, President Eisenhower appointed McKay as Chairman of the International Joint Commission, which dealt with US-Canada water and boundary issues. Doug McKay died in 1959 and Mabel McKay died in 1970. They had three children: Douglas, Shirley, and Marylou.

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