Arts & Culture

Building Legacies: Who was Clifton McArthur?

The Emerald is continuing its series on names of University of Oregon campus buildings this week with McArthur Court. Check out the previous building stories on the Collier House, Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, Lillis Hall, Gerlinger Hall and Condon Hall.

With the men’s basketball team on the verge of advancing to the school’s first national championship game since 1939, the women’s basketball team’s improbable run to the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed and the continued success of the women’s volleyball team, it is easy to forget that these squads did not always play at the lavishly modern Matthew Knight Arena. As recently as 2010, the teams called McArthur Court home. 

More commonly known as “Mac Court,” the arena was built in 1926 in response to growing student demands for an on-campus arena. Prior to Mac Court, indoor arena games were played at the National Guard Gym in downtown Eugene. To fund the new arena, ASUO self-imposed a $15 fee on all students, and was able to completely pay off the debt by 1931, according to Daily Emerald archives. 

According to the January 1927 edition of Old Oregon, the arena was dedicated to Clifton McArthur, a local hero and university alumnus. Born in The Dalles, Oregon, McArthur was heavily involved as a student with the early development of the UO. In 1900, he drafted the constitution for what would later develop into the Associated Students of University of Oregon (ASUO), and he was elected by the students to be the first president of the ASUO. 

Additionally, McArthur was the first editor of the campus newspaper Oregon Weekly. Being a member of both the track and football teams, he used his editorial space and position in student government to push for a stronger UO athletic program, earning him the moniker the “Father of Athletics” for the university.

McArthur also organized and led UO’s first ever debate team during his undergraduate years. 

After graduating from the UO, McArthur went to work for the Oregonian and the Associated Press wire services in Portland. In 1906 he entered into political life and became secretary of the Oregon Republican State Central Committee. Eventually he was elected to the Oregon state house of representatives where he served from 1909-1910 and again from 1913-1914. He was named speaker of the house during both terms.

As an alumnus, McArthur never lost touch with the university he helped mold. McArthur continued to serve as the alumni representative of the athletic department until 1909 when he was elected to the state house of representatives. During his tenure in the state legislature, he pushed for increased funding for the university and even helped save the UO from bankruptcy by passing a bill to bail out the university, according to Old Oregon.

McArthur kept rising up the ranks, and ultimately became a US congressman, serving four sessions in Washington D.C from 1915 to 1923. After finishing his time in office, McArthur returned to Portland. He died later that year after a botched sinus operation, according to the The Oregonian.

Today “The Pit” itself lies dormant. The last basketball game at Mac Court was played in 2011 and the many corridors of the arena house classes for the Robert D Clark Honors College while Chapman Hall is being renovated. Yet Clifton McArthur’s mark on the university is still seen today in the numerous athletic achievements of the university.

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Franklin Lewis

Franklin Lewis

Franklin is a senior News writer for the Daily Emerald. Born and raised in San Francisco, he writes about university culture past, present and future. He also hosts the Spotlight on Science podcast for the Emerald Podcast Network.

Email: [email protected]
Follow on twitter: @flewis_1