Former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt Passes Away at 83

Additional Coverage:

Neil Goldschmidt, a key figure in Oregon’s political landscape who served as Portland’s mayor and as the state’s governor, passed away just days before his 84th birthday, as initially reported by The Oregonian.

Born in Eugene, Oregon, Goldschmidt embarked on his political career by securing a seat on the Portland City Council in 1970, after working as a legal aid lawyer. Three years later, at the age of 33, he made history as the nation’s youngest mayor of a large city, a role he maintained for six years.

Goldschmidt’s influence during his time at City Hall was transformative, steering the city from a conservative environment led by business executives to a beacon of progressive innovation. He is notably remembered for his efforts to block the proposed Mount Hood Freeway, advocating instead for the investment in a new light rail system.

In 1979, his career took a national turn when President Jimmy Carter appointed him as the secretary of transportation, making him one of the youngest cabinet officials before the age of 40. Following Carter’s loss in the 1980 presidential election, Goldschmidt returned to Oregon to take up a senior role at Nike.

Resuming his political career in 1986, Goldschmidt won the governorship in a closely watched race against Norma Paulus, marking the beginning of continued Democratic governance in Oregon. Under his leadership, Oregon transitioned from a reliance on natural resources to a focus on technology and sportswear industries.

Goldschmidt unexpectedly did not seek reelection in 1990, a decision that puzzled many and ended a promising political career prematurely. After leaving office, he established a lucrative consulting firm, working with prominent figures and companies, including late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Bechtel Corp. He also played a pivotal role in advising on the sale of Portland General Electric during Enron’s bankruptcy.

However, Goldschmidt’s legacy is marred by his abuse of Elizabeth Dunham, a young woman he sexually assaulted beginning when she was just 13 or 14 years old. This abuse, which took place during his tenure as mayor, came to light in 2004 but resulted in no criminal charges due to the statute of limitations.

The revelation of his heinous acts led to a steep decline in his public life and influence, with many former allies distancing themselves. Despite the initial support from some leaders post-disclosure, public opinion shifted significantly against him.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden commented on Goldschmidt’s passing by emphasizing the devastating impact of his actions on Dunham’s life and urged support for organizations fighting sexual abuse.

Goldschmidt spent his last years out of the public eye, living in Southwest Portland. His membership in various prestigious clubs was revoked following the exposure of his crimes. Goldschmidt died of heart failure at his home, his family reported, mere days from his 84th birthday.

Read More About This Story: