Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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In Our View: Leader’s Legacy

Respected advocate, politician Dan Ogden put community at the forefront

The Columbian

Throughout a lifetime of public service, including more than 20 years in Clark County, Dan Ogden amassed a treasure trove of stories.

As The Columbian wrote in 2013 about Ogden’s role as an advance man during John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign for president: “When he arrived at Bowling Green, Ky., there was no Democratic central committee to provide the groundwork for Kennedy’s visit. So Ogden wound up working with local Democratic candidates — including the county jailer. Then, as Kennedy and the local Democratic notables motored down the street, this announcement boomed through a loud speaker: ‘Here comes the next president of the U-U-U-U-United States and the next jailer of Warren County.’ ”

Leave it to Ogden to find a connection with people ranging from a future president to a future county jailer. As demonstrated throughout his life and his career, he had an unending ability to engage with people of all backgrounds and interests, unfailingly putting commitment to his country and his community at the forefront.

When Ogden died last week at the age of 95, he left behind a towering legacy in Clark County. It is a legacy matched by few, with one of those being his wife, Val, who died in 2014 at the age of 90. They were married for 67 years.

Dan Ogden’s story took him from what was then Washington State College to military service to the University of Chicago to working as a college professor to rubbing elbows with political titans. After helping Kennedy win the presidency, he worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the 1960s, playing a role in the creation of national parks and other scenic areas.

Another story: When Interior Secretary Stuart Udall wanted to impress Lady Bird Johnson and garner support for protection of wild rivers, he planned a raft trip along the Snake River for the First Lady. When the water level was too low for rafting, Ogden remembered, “We called the Bureau of Reclamation and told them to open up the dam.” The trip was successful, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson later signed the National Wild Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act.

Dan and Val Ogden moved to Clark County in 1985, transferring their interest in the public good and their community to a new location. Val Ogden served 12 years in the state Legislature, often receiving campaign help from her most ardent supporter, and Dan Ogden quickly became a respected advocate and voice of reason regarding political issues of the day. When Val Ogden was elected as a Clark County freeholder in 2013 but died before the committee had completed its work, Dan Ogden was appointed to fill the spot.

As former Congressman Brian Baird commented at “We’ve lost a true friend, teacher, role model and mentor. Dan Ogden always put country first and was a true patriot — one dedicated to making his nation and the world better.” As former legislator Tim Probst wrote: “Let’s all live just a little more like Dan and Val did. Dan Ogden, there goes a great and good man.”

Those sentiments are being echoed by many in Clark County, recognizing a man who brought a thoughtful and personable approach to a lifetime of service.

A memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, 4505 E. 18th St. We’re guessing that plenty of memorable stories will be shared.