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Richard Charles Harmon was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1952. When he was six years old, his family moved to the West Coast. In 1975, he earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, San Diego. He attended Columbia University in New York, then transferred back to UCSD. A few years later, he left graduate school and began working in publishing in Southern California. In the early 1980s, he began working in the UCLA oral history program. In 1984, he became an oral historian at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, and the next year, he also became the editor of Oregon Historical Quarterly, the historical society's journal. For a year, he held both positions, and he served as editor of OHQ until 1999.
Harmon was married twice. He and Candice Gaucher married in 1975, then divorced in 1985. He remarried, to Jane Malarkey, in 1990. Harmon died in 2004.
Sources: Information provided by Harmon in an oral history interview, SR 2531, held by the Oregon Historical Society Research Library; vital records on Ancestry.com.
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Kristine Olson was born in New York City in 1947. She grew up in Queens, New York, and her family moved to Manhasset when she was 13 years old. As a teenager, she was active in the civil rights movement, participating in several marches. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1969, and from Yale Law School in 1972. While at Yale, she lived in the Cosey Beach Commune until her marriage with Jeff Rogers in 1971. They later had two children. She was a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Robert Zampano in Connecticut for a year. Then, in 1973, she and Rogers moved to Oregon, where she clerked for U.S. District Court Judge James Burns until 1974. From 1974 to 1984, she was an assistant U.S. attorney under Sid Lezak. She then taught law at Lewis and Clark College until 1994, when she was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. That same year, she and Jeff Rogers divorced. Sid Lezak introduced her to Les Swanson, and she and Swanson married in 1996. In 2001, early in the George W. Bush administration, she resigned from her position as a U.S. attorney. She then served as legal counsel for Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer until her retirement in 2003. In her retirement, she was active in numerous civic organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trust for Public Land, and the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation. She also authored a biography, entitled "Standing Tall," of Grand Ronde Tribal Council member Kathryn Jones Harrison.
Gus Jerome Solomon was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1906. He attended Reed College, then transferred to the University of Chicago his junior year. He graduated in 1926. He went on to study law at Columbia University, transferring to Stanford University in 1927. He earned his law degree in 1929. He returned to Portland to practice law. He met Elisabeth Willer through his involvement in the Democratic Party and they were married in 1939; they later had three children. Solomon served as a U.S. District Court judge in Portland from 1949 to 1971, when he took senior status. He served as chief judge from 1959 to 1971. He died in 1987.
Cynthia Dee Cumfer was born in Ohio in 1949. She attended college in Florida, earning a bachelor's degree in 1971. That same year, she moved to Portland, Oregon. In 1977, she earned a law degree, and began working as a lawyer for the Community Law Project in Portland. She was one of the first lawyers to take domestic relations cases for same-sex couples in Oregon, and was the first lawyer to represent a same-sex couple in an adoption case. She wrote several books, including "The Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples in Oregon" and "Oregon Nonprofit Corporation Handbook." She earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and taught history at Reed College and at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. In 2013, she and Valerie M. Lyon were married. She retired in 2015.
Adair M. Law (1959- ) is an historian in Portland, Oregon. She was the editor of the Oregon Historical Society Press 1986-1990, Assistant to the OHS Executive Director, 1991-1994, and Director of Publication at OHS 1994-2001.
Betty Lucille Roberts, nee Cantrell, was born in Kansas in 1923. She grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, where her family struggled greatly throughout the Depression. In 1942, she married Bill Rice, a drill instructor in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and after the end of World War II, they settled in Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a banker. Roberts continued her education while raising a family, and she graduated from Portland State College in 1958. Rice objected to her acceptance of a high school teaching position, and they divorced soon after. She soon got involved in local politics and was elected to the school board in the Lynch Elementary School District in East Portland, Oregon. In 1960, she married Oregon politician Frank L. Roberts. In 1961, she earned a Master of Science in political science from the University of Oregon, then took night classes at Northwestern College of Law in Portland. She graduated in 1965 and passed the bar in 1966. She was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives as a Democrat while still in law school. She represented Multnomah County in the Oregon House from 1965 to 1968. She and Frank L. Roberts divorced in 1966, and she married Oregon Representative Keith Skelton in 1968, the same year she won a seat in the Oregon Senate, where she served from 1969 to 1977. She ran unsuccessfully for Oregon governor in 1974, and was appointed by Governor Bob Straub to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 1977. She was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1982 by Governor Vic Atiyeh, and she retired in 1986. After retiring, she focused her efforts on women's rights. She helped found Oregon Women Lawyers in 1989, and she presided over the state's first legal same-sex marriage ceremony in 2004. She died in 2011.
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Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church first began as the First Baptist Church of Burton Homes, an urban African-American church in Vancouver, Washington. It was formed in 1944 under the Rev. James William Brown. Most church members were employees of the Kaiser Company, which operated shipyards and the housing project of Burton Homes, among others. Soon after its formation, 26-year-old Reverend Oliver Booker “O.B.” Williams came to the Northwest with his new bride, Willa Ida Jackson-Williams. He took over leadership of the congregation in March 1945.
When the Kaiser Co. closed its Washington operations and Burton Homes, the church and many members moved to one of its other housing projects, Bagley Downs. When this also closed a year later, the church migrated in 1946 to the Albina area of North Portland, temporarily holding services in the Prince Hall’s Masonic Temple building at N. Rodney and N. Russell Streets. Here, the church and the St. James Baptist Church (which also occupied the Masonic Temple space) merged, with Rev. Williams as its spiritual leader. In 1947 Rev. Williams located a condemned building at N. Vancouver and N. Hancock Streets in northeast Portland, and with the help of the entire congregation rehabilitated the structure into their new spiritual home, naming it the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church. That year the church joined the National Baptist Convention of America, and in 1948, it became affiliated with the National Baptist Sunday School and the Baptist Young Peoples Union.
By 1950, rapid membership growth caused Rev. Williams to seek out a larger gathering place. He found it at 3138 N. Vancouver Ave., just blocks away from its current location. The original church and parsonage, built in 1909, could hold 600 worshippers. The church took possession in March 1951. Also that year, under Rev. Williams, the Baptist State Convention of Oregon was officially organized, uniting local churches. The Convention created four initial organizational auxiliaries, including the Senior Mission, the Junior Mission, the Brotherhood, and the Ushers. In 1959 neighboring states joined the organization, and the name was changed to the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest. In 1968, Rev. Williams was elected president of the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest for a life term, in honor of his dedication and leadership. As membership surpassed 800, in 1955 Rev. Williams embarked on a renovation and expansion plan. This was completed in 1958, making the church the largest African-American house of worship in Oregon.
The 1960s brought the civil rights movement, and the church was actively involved. The highlight was Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Portland in 1961, where he met with local African-American church leaders, including Rev. Williams. Vancouver Avenue became a central polling place in North Portland for African-Americans. Also by the 1960s, the church had an exceptionally strong choir program, with seven full-voice ensembles.
In 1970, on his 25th pastoral anniversary, Rev. Williams received an honorary doctorate degree in theology from the Central Theological Seminary. On May 18, 1993, he passed away after illness, at the age of 76. He was survived by his wife Willa, who also received great accolades for her support of her husband and dedication to the church. She was actively involved in the National and Regional Baptist conventions, and received the “Woman of Dedication” award for 1977-78 from Church Women United.
Rev. Williams was succeeded by two pastors before Pastor J. W. Matt Hennessee was elected. He served as the church’s leader beginning in 2005.