Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eugene H. Bird
BIRD: Well, he was. I'll never forget one session I had with him. Several other “young Turks” in the Republican Party and I told him how we were being “ostracized” by the Taft forces [supporters of Senator Robert Taft, son of President Taft and a staunch conservative] and by others in the Oregon Republican hierarchy. He shook his head and said, “Yes, yes.” He was getting the same treatment. He was an early supporter of Eisenhower. He couldn't understand their behavior. Then he was denied a chance of even being on the platform committee at the Republican Convention of 1952. That's what led to his resignation from the Republican Party. You may remember this. It was a volcanic moment when he resigned from the party. I also resigned at the same time and really was not a “Morse-ite” or a Democrat until 1975 following my retirement [from the Foreign Service]. Then I went back into politics, becoming the co-chair [in Oregon] for then Governor [Jimmy] Carter. We did pretty well in the primary election and I worked in the general election for Carter and the Carter forces in Oregon. We came close to carrying the state but failed because former Senator Eugene McCarthy came in at the last minute and drew 40,000 votes away from us in a write-in campaign. That was in 1976.
So politics in Oregon has always been in my background, even during my career in the Foreign Service. In Jerusalem, during my first assignment overseas, we were accredited to the Palestinian Governor of East Jerusalem and the Israeli Mayor of West Jerusalem. When we passed across the demarcation line [between East and West Jerusalem] at the Mandelbaum Gate, because I was the “Mandelbaum Gate” man, we used to do it in our old Chrysler with Oregon license plates because we couldn't accept license plates from either side. So I went all over the West Bank [of the Jordan River] with Oregon license plates.
Q: You got out of the Navy when?
BIRD: I got out in 1947.
Q: Then you went into newspaper work.
BIRD: I got into newspaper work after a year of studying journalism at the University of Oregon—the United Press first and then a small town newspaper.
Q: What attracted you toward the State Department and the Foreign Service?