Oregon Luminaries

By JONATHAN NICHOLAS of The Oregonian staff

Heroes and villains. Saints and scoundrels. Life here on the frontier lures an astonishing cast of characters.  Existence on the edge affords opportunity to all sorts of dreamers, both native sons and please-God-let-me-start-overs. Since 1850, this newspaper has documented the compelling drama unfolding on the Oregon stage.

 

Every 50 years or so, we attempt to list among these actors the most powerful, the most influential, the most newsworthy. This time around, however, we thought we might assemble a different lineup: the most interesting.

 

The names that follow make for an eclectic bunch, but, addicted as we are to the new, we confess a certain fondness for forerunners, for people who figure something out early, then work on persuading the rest of us to get with the program.

These folks, we know by experience, make for lively conversation.

But enough with the preamble. Let’s just say if we held a dead-or-alive party at our house this evening, these are the 150 people to whom we’d want to throw open our door.

 

John Ainsworth  Call him a traveling man. Before coming west to seek his fortune, Ainsworth worked the Mississippi steamboat that had young Mark Twain as its pilot. In the Oregon country, he pioneered steamships, railroads and the art of marrying well.

 

Jesse Applegate  Part pioneer, part philosopher. In 1843 he led the “cow column” of the first great covered-wagon migration, then went on to trailblaze settlement in Southern Oregon. He fought for universal education and the abolition of slavery. Everyone of import who passed through pioneer Oregon paused at his landmark home to pay court to “The Sage of Yoncalla.”

 

Ray Atkeson  From his early photographs of burlesque dancers to the coffee-table books that capped his career, Atkeson used his camera to tap into something potent: Oregon’s image of itself as the Garden of Eden.

 

Bill Bakke  In 1980, Bakke was a loner with some wacko notion about salmon being the soul of the Pacific Northwest. Twenty years later, he was the revered archdruid of the movement to save native fish.

 

Lola Greene Baldwin  In 1908, the Portland crusader against vice became America’s first policewoman, leading the ragtime drive for “social hygiene” in Stumptown.

 

James Beard  The bow-tied, amply waisted, butter-loving Beard is the father figure of foodies everywhere.

 

Spencer Beebe  In 1991, he founded an organization called Ecotrust. Working to find economic solutions to environmental problems, Beebe became the standard-bearer of a reOregonized way of life.

 

John Beeson  From the state’s bloodstained beginnings, voices were raised for Native American rights. None was more eloquent than that of Beeson, who settled along the Rogue River in the 1850s only to be driven from the state when his published “Plea for the Indians” fell on outraged ears.

 

Pietro Belluschi  One of a handful of genuine Oregon visionaries, the architect all but invented modernism. His two great gifts to his city are its art museum and, in 1948, the Equitable Building, forerunner of so many high-rises to follow.

 

Simon Benson  He started as a logger; he ended as a lumber baron. Benson pioneered the use of machinery in the woods, led the project to build the Columbia Gorge Highway, donated 1,000 acres surrounding Multnomah Falls to the city of Portland and gave a thirsty downtown its trademark “Benson bubblers,” the drinking fountains.

 

Bertha Blancett  In 1914, she came within 12 points of winning the all-around cowboy title at the Pendleton Round-Up. Local buckaroos knew exactly how to herald this sort of prowess. They barred women from the competition.

 

Mary Boggs In the 1880s, she and her lady friends anchored their brightly painted brig in the middle of the Willamette. They dispensed whisky and other favors to all who boarded the vessel, reminding us that prim and proper Portland always finds a place for vice in the flow of civic life.

 

Bill Bowerman Let’s not waffle, this guy was key to Nike’s soul.

 

Angus Bowmer In 1931, Bowmer wandered through Ashland, came upon the old chautauqua building, minus its roof, and thought it looked like Shakespeare’s open-air Globe Theatre. He was right.

 

Tabitha Moffat Brown She was 66 when she walked 2,000 miles to Oregon in 1846, arriving with 6 cents. One year later, she founded a school for children orphaned on the Oregon Trail. It grew into Pacific University in Forest Grove.

 

Rex Burkholder Almost 100 years after the bicycle went out of fashion, Burkholder began peddling the notion that Portland, with its temperate climate and compact neighborhoods, was (still) custom-made for bicycle transportation.

 

Peter Burnett The Oregon pioneer who went south to become first governor of California was the first to capture the essence of Oregonians: “They were all honest, because there was nothing to steal; they were all sober, because there was no liquor to drink; there were no misers, because there was no money to hoard; and they were all industrious, because it was work or starve.”

 

Beatrice Morrow Cannady Admitted to the Oregon Bar in 1922, she was a pioneer in three fields: lawyering, newspapering and the arts.

 

Richard Chambers One of Oregon’s unsung heroes, he’s the true father of the nation’s first bottle bill.

 

Joseph Champion In 1851, ignoring everyone flocking to the Willamette Valley, Champion settled instead on the coast. Near present-day Tillamook, he set up house . . . in a tree.

 

Bud Clark With his genuine charm and unfeigned populism, the immensely popular barkeep-turned-mayor helped create the national image of modern Portland, a city in which every day is Casual Friday.

 

Beverly Cleary From a farm in Yamhill County, with her best friend, Ramona, via Klickitat Street, she held America’s children in the palm of her hand.

 

Truman W. Collins He wore work boots in the office and thought about the future, insisting that Collins Pine leave enough trees standing to provide for distant harvests. When he died in 1964, Collins left a $27 million estate, which grew to become one of Oregon’s largest charitable foundations.

 

Thomas Condon He was a Congregationalist minister with a calling — for geology. “Oregon’s Grand Old Man of Science” discovered the John Day Fossil Beds and, in 1906, wrote “Oregon Geology,” still a standard text.

 

Mrs. Henry Corbett Long after animals had been driven from the central city, the widow of banker Henry Corbett insisted on keeping her milk cow on the lawn out back of the family mansion on Fifth Avenue. The cow in “the million dollar pasture” came to symbolize what many considered an enduring Portland trait — resistance to change.

 

John Couch The earring-wearing sea captain determined that Portland, not Oregon City, would be the head of seagoing navigation. In the 1860s, his great gifts to his city were five North Park Blocks and four daughters. Newcomers were told the best way to get ahead in Portland was to “marry a Couch.”

 

Luther Cressman In 1983 in a cave near Fort Rock, the archaeologist uncovered pairs of primitive Nikes, reminding Oregonians that their heritage predates the first wagon train . . . by about 10,000 years.

 

Anna B. Crocker The visionary leader of the Portland Art Museum dreamed in 1932 of building a revolutionary new kind of art museum. Then she did exactly that.

 

Homer Davenport The lad from Silverton achieved fame as a Hearst newspaper political cartoonist at the turn of the century. A pal of Teddy Roosevelt, Davenport visited Arabia and brought home two mares and a stallion, among the first Arabian horses seen in America. He’s the only Oregonian honored in his hometown each year by a festival during which citizens race sofas down Main Street.

 

Elijah Davidson The first man in Oregon to tell a story of the one that got away. In 1874, he swore he was chasing a bear “this big” when he stumbled into the Siskiyou national monument now known as the Oregon Caves.

 

H.L. Davis In 1935, when Davis won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “Honey in the Horn,” H. L. Mencken called it the best first novel ever published in America.

 

Matthew Deady The great 19th-century judge confided daily in a best friend — his diary. In it he faithfully recorded an astonishing portrait of Portland life: who was hot, who was not, who, at parties, turned out to be “as stupid as an oyster.”

 

A.E. Doyle He came to the city as a child, rose to cast it in his own image. Many of the architect’s early 20th-century designs — Central Library, the Benson Hotel, U.S. National Bank, Meier & Frank — became enduring civic landmarks.

 

Andrew Dufur Jr He arrived in Portland in 1860 and spent 12 years farming in the mud. Finally he decided there had to be a better place to grow wheat. He crossed the mountains and bought 460 acres where the town of Dufur now stands. Ever since, many Oregonians have enjoyed being left high and dry.

 

Abigail Scott Duniway  Before Xena, before Gloria Steinem, before Betty Friedan, there was Abigail. A prototypical feminist, she came west in a covered wagon, then fought a 40-year campaign that brought Oregon women the vote in 1912.

 

Thomas Lamb Eliot The Unitarian pastor arrived in Oregon in 1867, then spent 70 years in service to his passions: public libraries, public schools and public parks. His 1899 dream of an urban forest became, in 1948, Forest Park.

 

Jack Ely In 1963, the Kingsmen cut their immortal version of “Louie, Louie.” Ely’s innocent lyrics set the standard for 40 years of rock ‘n’ roll: If parents couldn’t understand the words, they must be dirty.

 

John Emrick  The keeper of the Norm Thompson flame made environmental concerns a key issue for his company. In 1995, his new headquarters became one of the first “green” buildings in Oregon.

 

Josiah Failing The merchant and third mayor of Portland arrived in town in 1851 and immediately set to forming a school district. It made much more sense, he said, to pay taxes to support schools than to support jails.

 

Ken “Pappy” Ford Roseburg’s legendarily shy lumber baron spent the 1930s paying $4 an acre for “worthless” old-growth fir. After his death in 1997, the Ford Family Foundation became one of the largest private charitable endeavors in the state.

 

Bob Frasca His is the sure hand on the tiller of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, the powerhouse architectural firm that designed modern Portland.

 

Pete French In the late 1800s, the pioneer cattleman created a vast ranch in Southeast Oregon and built one of the state’s finest architectural achievements, the Round Barn near Diamond. French met the quintessential Western end: He was shot from his saddle on Sagebrush Flat.

 

Martin Goebel In 1994, with Oregon’s trees gone, her rivers tamed, her deserts drained and valleys paved, Goebel’s timing was just right. He became founding director of Sustainable Northwest, an organization committed to ending the cycles of boom and bust by creating enduring economies based on enduring ecosystems.

 

Neil Goldschmidt As effective in the backroom as he was in the bully pulpit, Goldschmidt in the 1970s defined the activist, urban mayor.

 

John Gray An industrialist, a developer and a gentleman, Gray created the Oregon style of resort development represented by the understated elegance of Sunriver and Salishan.

Matt Groening He’s the father of Bart Simpson. Doh!

 

Ted Hallock During his 20 years in the Oregon Senate, starting in 1963, Hallock carried the torch for statewide land-use planning.

Stafford Hansell: Thomas Jefferson would have loved this example of a “citizen legislator”: part-time pig farmer, part-time politician.

Heck Harper  Every Western state needs a singing cowboy, a hero on a horse . . . and on TV.

  

Connie Hatfield  At her cattle ranch near Brothers, Hatfield and her husband Doc showed, starting in 1976, that new ways of grazing cattle could enhance, not degrade, the range.

 

Mark Hatfield  First elected as a 28-year-old to the Oregon House in 1950, he went on to serve as governor and U.S. senator, setting the standard by which others will be judged.

 

Tinker Hatfield  Nike is all about cool design. Among early Nike designers, Tinker was the coolest.

 

Ron Herndon  In the second half of the 20th century, Herndon was a singular voice reminding Oregonians that the measure of a community is the manner in which it educates its children.

 

Greg Higgins  One day, the idea of eating food grown halfway around the world may be politically incorrect. Then Portland chef Greg “Eat Local” Higgins will be hailed as a pioneer.

 

Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt Thunder-Rolling-in-the-Mountains, known as Chief Joseph, was a martyr and a mythmaker. The inspired orator led his Nez Perce people on their great fighting retreat from their beloved Wallowa Valley into exile. In 1904, his doctor determined the cause of death: “a broken heart.”

 

Julia Hoffman  If the barista who makes your cappuccino every morning is also a painter and a poet, blame Hoffman. A photographer, sculptor, metalworker and weaver, she insisted that anyone, given the chance, can be creative. Early in the 20th century, she founded what is now the Oregon College of Art & Craft.

 

Stewart Holbrook “The Lumberjack Boswell” gave 1930s America the lowdown on life in the Great Northwest.

 

Mike Houck  Portland’s homegrown urban naturalist was way ahead of everybody in the “green city” movement.

 

Robert D. Hume  An industrialist and inventor, Hume was the cannery owner who became a proponent of hatcheries: “to call the attention of both producer and consumer to the danger of the total extinction of this most valuable of food fishes, and provide a simple method for their preservation.” Right idea; wrong solution.

 

Mary Frances Isom  In 1913, she oversaw construction of the city’s Central Library and charted the course of citywide literary public outreach.

 

John Jackson  He moved to Portland in 1964 when he became pastor of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, then spent 30 years working as a husband, minister, role model, agitator, activist, healer and lighthouse.

 

Glenn Jackson  Known as “Mr. Oregon,” the newspaper owner, rancher, boss of Pacific Power & Light and chairman of the Oregon State Transportation Commission reveled in his role of power broker, the last of Oregon’s old-time economic warlords.

 

William Jamison  His charisma gilded his civic impact, adding to the charm of this gallery owner and Pearl District pioneer. With his early passion for “outsider” art, Jamison cast a spell over his city.

 

Jantzen Diving Girl  From her earliest appearance in the company’s 1920 catalog, one thing was clear: This was the shape of things to come.

 

Tecumtum  In the 1850s, the Rogue River Indians fought settlers, then were confined to reservations. Their leader uttered the dictum that rings through history: “It’s not your war but your peace which has killed my people.”

 

Ira Keller  His work leading the Portland Development Commission set the standard for the marriage of private money and public interest that became the hallmark of Portland development.

 

Andy Kerr  His battle to end old-growth logging led to him being called “the most hated man in Oregon.” It also led to him being hailed as having been right all along.

 

Ken Kesey  Sometimes a writer gets a great notion. In 1964, Kesey wrote the definitive Oregon novel.

 

Bill Kittredge  A Warner Valley rancher until he was 33, Kittredge became a writer, then a teacher who raised up a generation of “Western” writers, then one of the most eloquent voices for a new kind of communalism in the West.

 

Phil Knight  The Sultan of Swoosh understood before anyone else which way our world was turning.

 

Dick Kohnstamm  Every state needs a Hood ornament. During his 45-year stint on the mountain, “Mr. K” saved Oregon Timberline Lodge . . . and furthered our enduring passion for architectural heritage.

 

Hoichi Kurisu The landscape designer set the standard for a million Oregon gardens.

 

Samuel Lancaster  He was the road engineer whose dream became the Columbia Gorge Highway, hailed as “the most beautiful road in America.”

 

Harry Lane  Portland takes great pride in its urban planning. Lane, mayor from 1905 to 1909, hatched a plan to tear out every other residential street to plant shade trees and flowers.

 

Ross Langlitz  Early in the 1940s, the Portland motorcycle racer went down to his basement and designed the perfect leather jacket. He opened Langlitz Leathers in 1947; the company still makes the best black leather jacket in the world.

 

Ursula K. Le Guin  Feminism meets fantasy in Le Guin’s work, which leads the astute reader to questions at the core of the human condition.

 

David Lett  In the 1960s in McMinnville, Lett, a refugee from dental school, made a pinot noir he named Eyrie. To some, “Oregon wine” sounded like a joke. It turned into a world beater.

 

Reub Long  A lifetime buckaroo, “The Sage of the Oregon Desert” was as good a philosopher as he was a horseman.

 

Barry Lopez  His love of language and his searing scientific intelligence combine to make this writer the conscience of the state.

 

Asa Lovejoy  The only loser on this list. If Lovejoy had not lost the famous coin flip with Francis Overton, Portland would have been named Boston.

 

Henderson Luelling  In 1847, he came west in a covered wagon containing two long boxes bearing nearly 1,000 young trees and shrubs. Thus started the Oregon nursery industry, currently one of the state’s most prosperous economic engines.

 

E. Kimbark MacColl  You’re not a real city until a real historian has inked the story of your birth. MacColl’s books on the genesis of Portland are definitive texts.

 

Will Martin  The Portland artist, architect and dream weaver inspired the team that created Pioneer Courthouse Square.

 

Lewis A. McArthur  In 1928, he published the first edition of “Oregon Geographic Names,” still the only Oregon book found in as many glove compartments as bookcases.

 

Tom McCall  You think of Oregon, you think of Tom.

 

Conde B. McCullough  He could have made them all look-alikes; instead, in the 1920s, the state engineer danced with every form and function as he began designing the astonishing series of soaring bridges that grace the Oregon coast.

 

Douglas McKay  In 1954, as secretary of the interior, McKay, a former governor of Oregon, terminated 109 Native American tribes, 62 of them from Western Oregon. The blow to Oregon tribes, and to Oregon culture, was devastating.

 

John McLoughlin  The father of Oregon, British representative in these parts of the Hudson’s Bay Company, gave immigrants from the United States the Holy Trinity of welcoming gifts: advice, supplies . . . and credit.

 

Mike McMenamin  Having America’s best beer wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without having America’a best places to drink beer. With his brother, Brian, McMenamin gave Portland a tavern culture that obviates any need for village greens.

 

Charles McNary  Orphaned, raised on a pioneer homestead, the U.S. senator was a keen proponent of dams on the Columbia River. In the 1920s, he led the campaign for federal aid for farmers, handing Uncle Sam a brand new role — with tractor and plow.

 

Joe Meek  The retired mountain man wore buckskins when he first went back to Washington, D.C., presenting himself as “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Oregon.” Folks back there have thought us odd ever since.

 

Ezra Meeker  He made his first trip west in a wagon in 1852. He retraced the route by ox cart in 1906, painting inscriptions on landmarks along the way. In 1916, he completed the journey by automobile. In 1924, he did it in an airplane. Meeker’s campaign inspired the movement to mark, then to celebrate, the migratory path known as the Oregon Trail.

 

Aaron Meier  He wandered the Oregon country in 1855 peddling merchandise from a pack. In 1867, partnering with Sigmund Frank, he founded the department store that served for almost a century as the center of the city.

 

Fred Meyer  Tiring of hawking coffee door to door, Meyer opened his first store in 1922. The My-Te-Fine businessman built a retail empire, then created one of the largest charitable foundations in the state.

 

Cincinnatus “Joaquin” Miller  A poet and a poseur, “The Byron of Oregon” was lionized in Europe in the 1870s where he toured in Stetson and chaps waxing eloquent about the wonders of the West. He was the first to write of the natural enmity between “webfoots” and those hapless souls to our south.

 

Wayne Morse  His feistiness, independence, keen intellect and integrity earned him the nickname “Tiger of the Senate.” In 1964, he was one of only two U.S. senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that opened the door for ground troops to enter Vietnam.

 

Melvin “Jack” Murdock  He began in a small shop servicing radios. In 1937, he teamed up with a guy named Howard Vollum. Together they founded an outfit called Tektronix. His legacy is The Murdock Trust, founded in 1975 with assets of $90 million.

 

Bill Naito  The man had a million ideas a month: 60 percent of them were misses. If he’d been a ballplayer instead of a civic visionary, this batting average would have made him Ty Cobb.

 

Maurine Neuberger  In 1955, she caused a ruckus at a Democratic fund-raiser where Senate wives were asked to model clothes from their home state. Neuberger showed up in a black Jantzen swimsuit. After the death of her husband Richard, she was elected to his seat in 1960, the first woman U.S. senator from Oregon and only the third in the nation.

 

Terence O’Donnell  Portland’s celebrated boulevardier is a historian who writes, beautifully, about the reality rather than the myth of Oregon.

 

William Overton  A “desperate rollicking fellow,” Overton shared with distinguished Asa Lovejoy the original claim to the Portland town site. A drifter, he wandered early off the page of history, leaving Portland with what it’s always retained: a split personality.

 

Bethenia Owens-Adair  A wagon-train child raised near Astoria, she was married at 14, left an abusive husband, taught herself to read and write, fought her way into medical school and became one of the first women to practice medicine on the frontier.

 

Joel Palmer  He pioneered almost everything he touched, from writing the guide to the Oregon Trail to fighting for Indian rights. He thought concentrating Native Oregonians on reservations was their best hope for survival.

 

Bud Parsons  Don’t like the world of 150 channels and nothing on? Blame Bud. In 1948, the Astoria man cabled together a few homes and linked them to a community antenna atop the Astoria Hotel. One small step for Astoria; one giant leap for cable TV.

 

Linus Pauling  The founding father of molecular biology, a graduate of Oregon State University, remains the only person ever to receive two unshared Nobel prizes, one for chemistry in 1954 and the Peace Prize in 1962.

 

Sylvester Pennoyer  Ever wonder where Oregon got its independent streak? As governor, responding to an official query from President Cleveland, Pennoyer wired: “You attend to your business, and I’ll attend to mine.

 

 

 

Portlandia  We’ve always had a weakness for the strong, silent type.

 

Michael Powell  Every great city is famous for something. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. New Delhi has the Red Fort. Portland has a bookstore.

 

Steve Prefontaine  “Pre” was sports star as cultural icon when Eugene was the running capital of the world. He’s the only Oregonian to have two (bad) Hollywood movies made about him in the same year.

Jim Quinn The president of Collins Pine led the first company in the United States to have a private forest certified for its commitment to ecosystem health.

 

Sam Rosenburg  He planted pear trees in the Rogue Valley. He had two sons. Their names were Harry and David. In 1934, they hit on a new idea: giving fruit by mail for Christmas.

Johnnie Ray  Elvis may have learned that wiggle from “The Prince of Wails.” Johnny cried; women swooned.

 

Amanda Reed In 1904, the wife of Simeon Reed left the bulk of her $1.8 million estate to establish in Portland “an institution for the promotion of literature, science and art.”

 

John Reed  Socially prominent Portlander Charles Jerome Reed had a restless son who wandered the world, journalist’s pen in hand, in search of a revolution. He found at least three: the Mexican, the Russian and the women’s.

Rosie the Riveter  In the 1940s, she went to work every day in the Portland shipyards propelling the war effort.

 

Dick Roy  The lawyer gave up a partnership in one of Portland’s biggest law firms to start the Northwest Earth Institute and promote living simply.

 

Nancy Russell  She was First Friend to the Columbia River Gorge.

 

Otto Rutherford His dad was a room-service barber in the Portland Hotel, barred by the color of his skin from working in the hotel’s barbershop. In 1953, he led the 18th legislative fight in Oregon to outlaw discrimination in hotels, motels and restaurants. He won.

 

August Scherneckau  Reminding us that much that is Oregon is fleeting, in 1876 Scherneckau founded a settlement — locals pronounced it Shaniko — that became a rip-snortin’, bawdy-house-boasting, whiskey-toting wool capital of the West. Then, suddenly, it was gone.

 

Arlene Schnitzer: Armed with a shoot-from-the-lip wit, a keen eye and a philanthropic heart, she opened her first art gallery in Portland in 1961. Modern art was on the Oregon map at last.

 

Les Schwab: He opened a tire store in Prineville in 1952. Beef, and changing a flat, has often been free since.

 

Jack Shipley The president of the Applegate Partnership in Southern Oregon charted the course for a new kind of community organizing with timber companies, ranchers and conservationists working together in the watershed they share.

 

John Scharff  He retired in 1971 after 36 years as founding manager of the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge. To wander Steens Mountain with Scharff was to hike high places with a giant.

 

Stephen Skidmore  He started in Portland, penniless, in 1850. When he died, a wealthy man, at age 44 in 1885, he willed $5,000 to create a drinking fountain for men, horses and dogs. It’s inscription, “Good citizens are the riches of a city,” became Portland’s motto.

 

William Stafford  Oregon’s poet laureate walked softly and carried a morally huge stick.

 

Albert Starr In 1960, working with Portland engineer Lowell Edwards, the surgeon introduced the world’s first successful artificial heart valve.

 

Bunny Suit  By the 1990s, the “clean-room” wardrobe of Oregon’s high-tech industry had replaced the plaid shirt as the defining uniform of the state.

 

Mariah Taylor  In 1980, she opened in Portland a clinic that was supposed to provide health care to the kind of kids who never got to see a doctor. Actually, what Taylor offered was something ever more healing than medical treatment: love.

 

Jack Ward Thomas  A wildlife biologist based in La Grande, his research of the relationships among wildlife, cattle and loggers led to his appointment in 1993 as chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Timber production off public lands would never be the same again.

 

Robert Thompson  I have seen the future, and it looks a lot like the campus the Portland architect designed for Nike. In 500 years, these ruins will make Machu Picchu look humble.

 

Dave Tucker  Oregon is the natural home of redemption. In 1896, Tucker got his trigger finger blown off during a horseback bank robbery in Joseph. He later returned and became vice president of the bank he held up.

  

DeNorval Unthank  In 1930, the Portland physician pioneered a civic right, the right of a family, whatever its creed or color, to live in whatever neighborhood it darn well pleased.

 

William U’Ren  He’d been a miner, a blacksmith, a newspaperman and a spiritualist’s medium before becoming a populist and political reformer. In 1902, he helped create Oregon’s initiative and referendum system, allowing voters to bypass their elected representatives at the ballot box.

 

Thomas Vaughan  Starting in 1954, in 35 years he all but hand-built a major institution, the Oregon Historical Society. In his spare time, he saved the Pioneer Courthouse from the wrecking ball.

 

George Venn  The university professor and poet from La Grande served as general editor of the Oregon Literature Series, a six-volume set, completed in 1994, that showcases in stunning fashion the full voice of Oregon.

 

Frances Fuller Victor A literary child prodigy, she reluctantly moved with her husband to Portland in 1864 only to be reduced to selling toiletries door-to-door. She became the state’s leading early historian and friend to many prominent pioneers.

 

Michael Vidor  Way ahead of the taste curve, Vidor created a series of Portland restaurants unlike any that had come before: L’Auberge, Genoa, The Wood Stove, Tanuki and Macheesmo Mouse.

 

Howard Vollum  The first logger to see the Silicon Forest, he co-founded Tektronix in 1946.

 

John Waldo “There are educational uses in the mountains and the wilderness which might well justify a wise people in preserving and reserving them for such uses:” The 19th-century chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court helped secure the designation of Crater Lake as a national park.

 

Barbara Walker  Portland is an uneasy metropolis, guilty of the way it thrusts through the pristine wilderness. Walker outranks almost everyone with her work to nurture nature in the city.

 

Bill Walton  Two words: world champion.

 

Henry Wemme  Next time you get stuck in rush-hour traffic, blame the Portland tentmaker. In 1899, Wemme decided to try something new to speed up his day: He bought a horseless carriage.

 

Oswald West  Ever wondered why nobody owns the Oregon coast? As governor from 1911 to 1915 West cracked down on drinking and gambling, in one instance using the Oregon National Guard to enforce martial law in the Eastern Oregon mining town of Copperfield. He also enacted numerous progressive reforms, but his most memorable accomplishment was the public seizure of Oregon’s beaches in 1913.

 

Opal Whiteley In 1920, America was riveted by a childhood diary from Oregon. “The Story of Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart” was either the astonishing work of a 6-year-old genius or an enormous hoax. Was Opal really the illegitimate child of French nobility? Or a master forger from Cottage Grove?

 

Dan Wieden  The ad exec who just does it for Nike first put the gas in Portland’s latest economic powerhouse, its “creative community.”

 

Sarah Winnemucca The daughter of a renowned Paiute chief, she became an interpreter and scout for the Army, had friends and admirers in high places, wrote her autobiography and drew attention to the plight of the Paiutes.

 

James Withycombe  Raised on a farm in England, elected Oregon governor in 1914, he was the father of soil conservation and crop rotation in the Pacific Northwest.

 

C.E.S. Wood He was a noted soldier, artist, jurist, poet and cad. Portlanders have been multi-tasking ever since. Wood came to Oregon to kill Indians. Then he fell in love with them and their ways. He was an advocate for the state’s poor and underprivileged, and a plutocrat. He was a dandy and a debtor. Between his birth in 1852 and his death in 1944, one foot in caulk boot, the other in silk slipper, he shattered almost every expectation society held of him, capturing for almost a century the core spirit of what it meant to be an Oregonian.

 

Minoru Yasui  The young Portland lawyer, interned during World War II, fought a 44-year campaign that eventually persuaded Uncle Sam, in 1988, to pay reparations to his citizens deprived of their civil rights.

 

John Yeon In 1932, at age 17, he borrowed $4,500 to buy Chapman Point, the glorious headland at the north end of Cannon Beach. Late in life, he turned down a series of development proposals that could have made him millions. He worked, often behind the scenes, as an architect and landscape designer. Through the 20th century, nobody did more, and was recognized less, for defining an Oregon aesthetic.

 

And so, our cast is complete: role models and rascals alike. What’s that? But your favorite Oregon character isn’t here? Don’t despair. This is a guest list, not a soccer team. There’s always room for one more.

 

I’m sure you can think of at least . . . but don’t get me started.

 


Researchers Lynne Palombo and Gail Hulden of The Oregonian library contributed to this report. You can reach Nicholas at 503-221-8533 or at

PDXcolumn@aol.com

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