Lou Gehrig's disease, medically known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, has claimed the life of former Marion County Republican legislator Vic Gilliam. He was just shy of his 67th birthday. The debilitating disease had forced an end to his legislative career in 2017 after completing five terms in the Oregon House. He had announced the diagnosis at the beginning of the legislative session in 2015, but managed to complete the session and gain re-election in 2016. The commissioners of Clackamas and Marion counties appointed Silverton mayor Rick Lewis to succeed him.
Victor S. Gilliam was born on 21 July 1953 in Dover, Ohio. He earned a bachelor's degree from Portland's Warner Pacific [University], a Christian liberal arts institution, in 1975. He went on to earn a Master's degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of South Carolina in 1982. At its May graduation ceremony in 2016, his alma mater Warner Pacific conferred on him an honorary Doctorate of Law degree to recognize his decade of service in the Oregon Legislature.
His legislative service began in 2007 when he was appointed to the seat following the sudden death of Rep. Mac Sumner. He was perhaps best known around the Capitol for his easy, wide smile that accompanied his ready wit. Colleagues of both parties respected and appreciated his personality and style. Current House Speaker Tina Kotek commented to his retirement announcement, "[he is] the model of a statesman and a true public servant. He served his community with honesty and integrity, and he is, without a doubt, the funniest guy in the Capitol." The Oregon Business Association named him their "Statesman of the Year" for 2016.
His smile and overall handsome demeanor (it had to be the hair!) landed him roles in four Hollywood productions and a 16-minute short "rom-com". His first credit, in a 1996 episode of Nowhere Man, a TV series that ran one season, emphasized his looks, identifying him as "good-looking cop" (as opposed to "ugly cop"?). Over the next 20 years he appeared as "a reporter" in the 2009 feature film Follow the Prophet, a "baseball team owner" in a 2010 episode of the TV series Leverage, "Bill" in the 2011 short film, and, finally, an uncle to Fred Armisen's character in a 2016 episode of the local cult favorite Portlandia.
House Republican leader, Rep. Christine Drazan (Dist. 39), issued a statement this afternoon, the first from the Capitol:
Representative Gilliam represented his community in the legislature for nearly a decade,
and was respected and admired by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. While I never
had the opportunity of serving with him, he was known for encouraging both parties to
find common ground and work together for all Oregonians and for his legendary sense of
humor. He championed protections for the elderly and most vulnerable among us. He left
a long shadow and a lasting impact. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and
friends at this difficult time.
Rep. Gilliam is survived by his wife, Becky, their two sons, and her daughter.