The four-mile Donald L. Stathos Bikeway between Jacksonville and Medford was named for the father of the 1971 Oregon Bicycle Bill.

The four-mile Donald L. Stathos Bikeway between Jacksonville and Medford was named for the father of the 1971 Oregon Bicycle Bill.

Donald Stathos, who lived in Jacksonville, was a former state representative who tapped a portion of state highway funds to finance bikeways and pedestrian walkways. The Republican died at age 81 in 2005.

Concerned about the perils of riding a bike along the highway, the bicycle buff introduced and pushed through legislation that set aside 1 percent of all state highway funds for construction and maintenance of pedal and pedestrian paths.

The Stathos bikeway is believed to be the first official bike path in the nation. It was dedicated to Stathos in fall 1979. Several other states enacted similar legislation after the passage of his pioneering bill.

Former 2nd District Congressman Bob Smith, a Republican who served in the Oregon Legislature with the father of the bicycle bill, recalled Stathos as an outstanding state legislator.

"He was a sponsor of a bill that in those days was alien to most of us in the state," Smith said in an interview shortly after Stathos died.

"It is very seldom that one person out of 90 in the Legislature can successfully be identified as supporting one subject," Smith added.

Smith said Stathos' support helped him in his bid to become speaker of the House. "We got along famously," he said.

In addition to serving in the Legislature from 1969 to 1972, Stathos, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and an Oregon State University graduate with a degree in business, worked in the insurance business in the Medford area. He was the owner of Mission Insurance.

He served on the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee for more than 30 years.

And in 2003 he helped launch the Afghanistan and Iraq Needy Children's Bicycle Foundation, a non-profit effort to buy bicycles for poverty-stricken children in those war-torn nations. Helping the children would also help American military personnel by spreading goodwill, he said in a June 27, 2003, interview with the Mail Tribune.

Stathos, who purchased the first new bicycle to launch the project, explained the project would include purchasing new bicycles and have them distributed by charitable organizations such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. Each bike would be given in the name of a serviceman or woman who is serving or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The key is just to do something good for those kids," he said. "Usually out of good, good comes. But I don't think we ought to sit back and expect it."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at