|James Douglas McKay was born in Portland in 1893,
the son of E. D. McKay, a farmer, and his wife Minnie Musgrove
whose pioneer family had come across the plains to settle in
Oregon. As a boy, Douglas worked for his grandfather, Malcolm
McKay, on Sauvie Island, Oregon. Malcolm was an 1842 immigrant
from Glasgow, Scotland, who had come to America to be a Hudsons
Bay Company storekeeper at Fort Vancouver.
Douglas McKays first job off the farm was at the age
of 13 to help support himself and his mother. Later he sold
candy in Portland theaters, delivered papers, and drove a
meat wagon. He quit high school to work at a railroad office.
He attended Oregon Agriculture College (now Oregon State University)
in Corvallis where he was elected student body president in
1916 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1917. That
year he married Mabel Hill.
Their children, Douglas, Shirley and Marylou, were all born
in Portland. McKay served in the First World War, rising to
the rank of First Lieutenant. A severe arm injury suffered
in the Argonne combat almost cost him his life: his death
notice was printed in the Oregonian. Fortunately, his family
had already received a cable assuring them of his care in
a field hospital. This injury shaped his future life as it
prevented his hoped-for career in agriculture.
He saw the growing popularity of automobiles and began selling
for Francis Ford, becoming sales manager. In 1927 he was offered
a automobile sales organization in Salem, then at Center and
Commercial. He purchased the automobile agency, Douglas McKay
Chevrolet - now Capitol Chevrolet.
By 1929, his family was in their home at 395 Jerris Street.
In 1941 Mabel McKay and the landscape gardening firm of Lord
and Schryver created a garden there. It would be the familys
only home in Salem. A natural-born politician, McKay was Salem
mayor 1933 to 1934 and elected as state Senator 1935 to 1949.
In that time the political positions in Salem were unpaid
jobs, the state legislators met only two months a year. He
continued to support his family with his automobile business.
A family tragedy occurred in 1939 when his son died in an
automobile accident. In early December of 1941, McKay accompanied
his daughter, Shirley, to Honolulu to attend the Willamette
University versus University of Hawaii football game. After
the Japanese air attack on the 7th, Douglas immediately volunteered
for military service, but was turned down. He then assembled
the football players and other young men, conducting military
drills with rifles. Father and daughter returned to San Francisco
on a hospital ship, three weeks after the attack.
McKay was anxious to return to his responsibilities here
in Salem as Defense Chairman for Marion County. But his efforts
did not end there: at the age of 48, he again joined the Army,
serving at the nearby Camp Adair near Corvallis. He later
enjoyed telling the story of how he was sent to Bakers
School, then returned to the post to be made Range Officer.
In 1948, a plane crash killed Oregons top officials
and the position of governor was filled by John Hall who served
until Douglas McKay was elected that same year. In 1952 he
met General Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention
and later campaigned in Oregon for this candidate. After his
election, President Eisenhower appointed McKay as Secretary
of the Interior. The McKays spent four years in the nations
capital, but were always eager to return to their home in
Salem whenever possible. While in the nations busy,
urban capital city, he enjoyed riding his horse - transported
from Salem by auto van - in the woodlands of Rock Creek Park.
In 1956 his political supporters convinced McKay to run against
Wayne Morse for the United States Senate. This was the first
election he lost. He then served President Eisenhower on the
International Waterways Commission. In 1959 his health declined
quickly and he died here in Salem. His wifes grief and
loss continued until her own death ten years later. His life
is memorialized by the love of his family and the continuing
benefits his efforts have brought to Salem and the nation
he served with energy and devotion.
Compiled by Virginia Green.
Biographical information supplied by his daughter, Marylou