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MailTribune.com
  • S. Oregon roots led Vic Snyder to Congress

  • When anyone asks U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas why he decided to run for office, he simply points to his Southern Oregon roots.
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  • When anyone asks U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas why he decided to run for office, he simply points to his Southern Oregon roots.
    "I always tell them about the eighth-grade civics class at McLoughlin Junior High in Medford," he says. "We studied the U.S. Constitution, which I learned to love.
    "We had grand, elegant teachers who motivated you," adds the Medford native, who graduated from Medford Senior High School in 1965. "As a kid, you are unaware of life and the world. But it soon became very clear to me that I had an exceptionally high-quality education in Medford."
    This comes from an avid learner who is not only a member of Congress but also a medical doctor and an attorney.
    A Democrat representing Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, which includes the capital city of Little Rock, Snyder made national news early last month when the Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War was the target of an anonymous death threat. His sin? He had voted in favor of President Obama's health care package.
    The congressman, who will tell you the challenge of raising his three young triplet boys is far more scary than a cowardly anonymous threat, shrugs it off as a sign of the political times.
    "You never know what stirs some people," he says.
    His reaction won't surprise Dick Thieroff, a Medford attorney and a 1966 Medford Senior High School graduate who was on the high school debate team with Snyder back in the day.
    "He's a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy," Thieroff says.
    The congressman's mother, Marjorie "Marge" J. Snyder, was a single mom who worked for a local electronics business.
    "She divorced when I was 2 and never remarried," says Snyder, now 62. "There weren't a lot of single moms back in those days. Money was real tight."
    But there was time for recreation.
    "When I was a kid, about 14 or so, we would ride our bikes out to Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River and fish with night crawlers," he recalls. "It seemed like a long ways back then."
    When it came to politics, you'd think he would have been a member of the GOP. After all, he was born in the Medford district office of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican who represents our 2nd Congressional District.
    Obviously, an explanation is in order.
    "I told Greg I was born in his district office in Medford — that's where the old maternity ward was back then," he says of 1947, the year he was born.
    Although his mom was a Democrat, young Snyder belonged to the Teenage Republicans.
    He parked cars for a gathering when Nelson Rockefeller visited the Rogue Valley seeking the GOP nomination for president in 1964, and listened to Barry Goldwater at the Medford Armory that same year.
    After going to what is now Southern Oregon University, Snyder walked into the post office building in Medford, then climbed the stairs up to the second floor where he talked to a Marine Corps recruiter. That was in 1967. He would serve with the First Marine Division a dozen miles north of Da Nang.
    Upon completing his hitch, he went to summer school, worked in a series of different jobs around the West, from owning and operating a gas station to substitute teaching.
    He returned to college, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Willamette University in 1979, followed by a medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University in 1979. That same year he moved to Little Rock to complete his residency in family practice, a task he finished in 1982.
    While practicing medicine, he began law school in 1985, earning a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
    "But I've never made a dime practicing law," he says.
    Indeed, his medical practice and public office have kept him too busy to pursue that interest. He also has volunteered his time as a medical doctor in places such as Cambodia and West Africa.
    After being elected to the state senate in 1990, he ran for and won the congressional seat in 1996. But after 14 years of traveling between D.C. and Little Rock, he has decided to hang up his congressional shingle. He announced several months ago that he is not running for re-election.
    "I like the job and the process," he says. "I'd love to continue doing it. But it does not work when you have young boys like we do."
    He and his wife, Betsy Singleton, have four youngsters, including 16-month-old triplets and a 3-year-old. You can check out their youngsters on her lively blog called "Stepping on Cheerios."
    They're all cute as a bug's ear, so it's easy to understand why he wants to work closer to home to be near his family.
    "I'm still licensed as a physician — I still want to work," he says. "I'm exploring some possibilities now."
    And he does have one impressive resume, thanks in part to fundamentals he learned back in Medford.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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