SALEM — Hardy Myers, a lawyer who became a politician in the Oregon Legislature in his 30s and rose to the position of House speaker, and then was elected state attorney general three times, has died at age 77.
He was remembered for defending Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, with Myers' Senior Assistant Attorney General Robert Atkinson successfully arguing the case in 2005. Myers also championed litigation against tobacco companies that brought in millions of dollars to Oregon, and still does.
Notes of praise and condolence poured in, including from Oregon's governor and its Senate president, after word spread that Myers had died Tuesday night in Portland from complications from pneumonia. He also had lung cancer.
Gov. Kate Brown said "Oregon lost a true statesman today," calling him "a man of unquestionable integrity and commitment to the rule of law."
Born in Mississippi and raised in the Central Oregon towns of Bend and Prineville, Myers returned to his birth state to earn an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi. He then graduated from the University of Oregon's law school.
He was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in the 1974 election, representing a Portland district, and served there until 1985. He became speaker of the House in 1979.
Senate President Peter Courtney said in a statement that Myers was an inspiration.
"He taught me everything," Courtney said. "He taught me to respect the institution. He taught me to respect the process. He taught me to respect other people and other viewpoints. He was a wonderful gentleman."
Myers is survived by his wife Mary Ann, their sons and grandchildren.