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Updating Oregon's presence in the U.S. Capitol

In the nation's capitol in Washington, D.C., the statues of two prominent pioneers represent Oregon in Statuary Hall. A state commission has recommended both statues be returned to Oregon and replaced with likenesses of other prominent figures from state history. A good case can be made for the move, although choosing the new honorees won't be easy.

The two statues there now are of missionary and pioneer Jason Lee, who founded an academy that became Willamette University, the first college in the Oregon Territory; and Dr. John McLoughlin, head of the Hudson's Bay Co., known as the "father of Oregon."

Admirers of Mark Hatfield, who served as a state legislator, secretary of state, governor and later a U.S. Senator for 30 years, have long argued for returning the Lee statue and replacing it with one of Hatfield, who died in 2011. Bills to that effect failed to pass in 2013 and 2014.

Last year, Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed the Statuary Hall Study Commission to take a closer look at the matter, and the commission has recommended that both the Lee and McLoughlin statues be replaced. The commission has named four finalists: Hatfield, former Gov. Tom McCall, suffragette Abigail Scott Duniway and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe.

Any two of the four would be fine choices. Duniway is probably the least well-known of the nominees, if only because she was a women's rights activist in the 19th century. Her outspoken advocacy in the Northwest region helped women win the right to vote in Idaho in 1896, Washington state in 1910 and Oregon in 1912.

Hatfield is arguably the most prominent Oregon politician in the state's history, as well as its longest-serving U.S. senator. McCall, however, was a truly groundbreaking governor. Under his tenure, the state enacted the beach bill, preventing private development of the coastline; the nation's first bottle-deposit law; and Senate Bill 100, the state's land-use planning law.

Chief Joseph is the most famous tribal leader in Oregon history, and deserving of commemoration for his courageous resistance to the exile of his people from their ancestral lands. He never gave up hope that this country's promise of freedom might one day apply to Native Americans, too.

The commission will take public testimony in Salem on March 4 and recommend two of the names to the Legislature, which will decide the matter along with the governor.

We could live with any two of the four, but our votes go to McCall and Chief Joseph.