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Robert W. "Bob" Packwood papers

Identifier: WUA104

Scope and Contents

The Robert W. "Bob" Packwood Papers collection is comprised of six series: the Dorchester Conference records; the Packwood Senate campaign files; the Unites States Senate legislative files; personal/political files; press and public relations files; and his autobiographical writings. Each series includes its own respective description and arrangement. The entire collection consists of over 2,000 linear feet with the bulk of the date range extending from 1968 to 1995.


  • 1957-2018
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1992


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers by appointment with the exception of selected files.

This collection is stored off-site. Please make an appointment and provide a list of requested boxes at least 72 hours in advance of planned visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

Robert William “Bob” Packwood was born in Portland, Oregon in 1932 to Fred and Gladys Packwood. He attended Grant High School in Portland and graduated from Willamette University in Salem in 1954 with a degree in political science. As an undergraduate, he served as an officer in the Young Republicans Club and worked on Mark O. Hatfield’s successful initial bid for the Oregon legislature.

After graduation, Packwood was awarded a prestigious Root-Tilden Scholarship to attend New York University Law School. As a law student, he won a first-round national moot court competition and was elected student body president. In 1957, Packwood worked as a law clerk for Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Warner in Salem, and subsequently found work in 1958 with Portland law firm Koerner, Young, McColloch and Dezendorf. He became a Republican precinct committeeman in 1959 and was named Republican Party Chairman of Multnomah County the following year.

At the age of thirty-one, Packwood successfully ran for the Oregon legislature, becoming the state’s youngest legislator when he began his term as a state representative from Portland in January 1963. The following year, Representative Packwood gained political notoriety by working with business groups and party leaders to successfully recruit, train, and coordinate GOP candidates for the state legislature in the 1964 general election. His strategy allowed the Oregon House to become the only legislative chamber in the country to switch to GOP control that year, despite a landslide election for Democrats across the nation.

As chair of the House Local Government and Elections Committee, Packwood worked to create single-member districts in Oregon, a measure adopted after he left the state legislature in 1967. In 1965, Packwood founded the Dorchester Conference, a state-wide meeting of Republican politicians and activists on the coast in Lincoln City, Oregon, with the goal of mobilizing and energizing moderate Republicans within the Oregon Republican Party.

In 1968, Packwood won the Republican nomination in Oregon to run against four-time incumbent U.S. Senator Wayne Morse. In a close race, Packwood defeated Morse, becoming the youngest member of the U.S. Senate at age thirty-six. Working alongside Senator Mark O. Hatfield in representing Oregon in congress, Packwood served his early tenure on the Banking and Housing and Labor and Public Works Committees.

Packwood was an early and fervent supporter of abortion rights and the equal rights amendment, gaining widespread support from various feminist groups as women’s rights issues became salient during the 1970’s. In 1970, he introduced the Senate’s first national (pro)-abortion legislation, but was unsuccessful in guiding its’ passage after multiple attempts. In defiance of most members of his party, Packwood spent most of his career in Congress working to prevent the passage of numerous anti-abortion bills introduced throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Packwood’s other early legislative efforts included a push to abolish the seniority system within the U.S. Senate and the championing of successful environmental conservation efforts in Oregon. His environmental achievements culminated in the passage of legislation to preserve Cascade Head (1973), Hells Canyon (1975), French Pete (1978) and the Columbia Gorge (1985) in Oregon. Packwood served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate (1977-1979; 1981-1983), where he skillfully worked to increase the fundraising capacity of the GOP, aiding the election victories of several GOP Senators during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

During the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, Packwood chaired both the Commerce Committee (1981-1985) and Finance Committee (1985-1987). As a member and chair of the Commerce Committee, he successfully passed legislation to deregulate several industries, including airline, trucking, railroad, and telecommunications. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Packwood was instrumental in proposing and guiding a bi-partisan effort to pass the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

In 1992, the Washington Post published a story detailing claims of sexual abuse by Packwood brought forward by several women, chiefly former staffers and lobbyists. Over the course of the next three years, several more women came forward with similar claims and an investigation was opened by the Senate Ethics Committee, resulting in a recommendation for his expulsion. Packwood resigned from the Senate in the fall of 1995.

In 1998, Packwood founded the lobbying firm Sunrise Research Corporation, whose clients have included FedEx, Marriott, Northwest Airlines, the Building and Construction Trades Council of the AFL-CIO and Molina Healthcare. He continues to lobby part-time.


867 Linear Feet (867 boxes)


The Robert W. “Bob” Packwood papers comprise the records of the Dorchester Conference started by then-Oregon state representative Robert Packwood, legislative material generated and received by Packwood’s office during his five terms as a United States Senator from Oregon, material related to his campaigns, press and public relations material, personal/political files, and autobiographical writings.


The Robert W. "Bob" Packwood papers retain original order and are grouped into five series: Series I contains the records of the Dorchester Conference; Series II consists of files and memorabilia related to his Senate campaigns; Series III contains papers from Packwood's legislative career in the United States Senate; and Series IV includes personal and political files related to invitations received, events attended, and travel by the Senator and his family; Series V encompasses the press and public relations material from the Senator's office, and Series VI contains this autobiographical writings. Most series are further broken down into subseries and sub-subseries as necessary. Additional information on the arrangements within series can be found at the series level.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert W. "Bob" Packwood, 2008-2018.


Guide to the Robert W. "Bob" Packwood papers, 1957-2018
Finding aid processed by Ivy Major-McDowall (Dorchester Conference), Paul Meuse, and Amber D'Ambrosio.
© 2017
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
A special thank you to Sybil Westenhouse for investing in experiential learning through the Sybil Westenhouse Archives Excellence Fund, which supported the processing of the Dorchester Conference Records series.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States