Oregon state Sen. Alan Bates, a physician who represented Southern Oregon for 15 years, died Friday.
Bates, 71, of Ashland, died suddenly while on a fishing trip with his son.
Senate President Peter Courtney confirmed his death early Saturday.
Courtney said he learned of Bates’ death late Friday from Gov. Kate Brown.
His family issued a statement Saturday indicating that Bates’ death was unexpected.
Bates served in the Senate since 2004 and served for four years before that in the House.
“We are comforted in the fact that he passed after a day of doing something he loved: Fly fishing his son,” Bates’ family said. “We will always think of him when we hear the sound of the river, feel the summer sunlight and see a fly line cast upon the water.”
Bates practiced for more than 30 years as a primary care physician in Medford, his family said. He is credited with saving lives both in his practice and at the Capitol. Sen. Alan Olsen, a Republican from Canby, said Bates saved his life when he had a heart attack in 2015 at the Capitol, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported early Saturday.
“What are we going to do without Doc?” Courtney asked. “He was always there to take care of us and all Oregon.
“Along with his family, we are stunned and sad.”
Before joining the Legislature, Bates, a Vietnam War veteran, served 10 years on the Eagle Point School Board and two years on the governor’s task force on quality education. As a member of the state’s Health Services Commission for several years, he was instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Health Plan.
The Senate Democrats Office praised Bates for his policy and leadership on health care, education, the environment and the state’s budget and bringing opposing sides together.
In a statement released Saturday morning, Brown indicated she plans to order flags lowered in honer of the longtime statesman. “Alan was a close friend, a statesman, and a doctor who was deeply committed to ensuring that every Oregonian had access to health care,” Brown said. “He left an indelible impression on Oregon, and I will miss him forever.”
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who served with Bates during his five terms in the Oregon House, praised Bates as “a good man, a wonderful friend, and a powerful voice in the Legislature.”
“It was a pleasure to serve with him,” Merkley said. “His leadership and expertise will be deeply missed. Mary and I are holding his family in our hearts.”
Oregon House Republican Leader Mike McLane and Medford Representative Sal Esquivel also remembered Bates as “a truly selfless public servant” and “a statesman.”
“Our hearts are in mourning today as we grieve the loss of our friend,” McLane said. “Sen. Bates was a man of enormous integrity and a truly selfless public servant. He touched the lives of thousands of Oregonians through his work as both a senator and family physician.
“On behalf of House Republicans, I extend the deepest condolences to Senator Bates’ family and to his colleagues and friends in the Senate. He will be dearly missed by many.”
“The sudden passing of Dr. Bates is a great loss for our community and the state of Oregon,” Esquivel said. “He was always a statesman and it was an honor serving with a fellow Vietnam veteran and a gentleman.”