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Oregon. Court of Appeals Oregon--Politics and government--20th century
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Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

This oral history interview of Betty Roberts was conducted by Clark Hansen from March 24, 1992, to September 19, 1994, at Roberts' home in Portland, Oregon. In the interview, Roberts describes her early life and family background, including growing up in Texas during the Depression and her father's alcohol poisoning. She also discusses meeting her first husband, John Willard "Bill" Rice, as well as their marriage and starting a family in Oregon. Roberts discusses attending Portland State College and the strain it put on her marriage to Rice; discrimination she encountered as an older woman student; and pursuing a master's degree at the University of Oregon. She also talks about her divorce from Rice due to his objection to her working outside the home, the divorce's effect on her children, and her subsequent marriage to Frank L. Roberts. She also discusses her divorce from Frank Roberts in 1965.

Roberts discusses her career as an educator, including teaching at high schools in East Portland; serving on school boards; and her activity in the Oregon Education Association. She talks about meeting her third husband, Keith Skelton; civil liberties; her involvement in the Democratic Party; and practicing law. She then talks about her experiences in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, including campaigning, sexist media coverage, and teaching high school and attending law school at Northwestern College of Law while in the Legislature. Roberts discusses legislation she worked on during her time in the House, primarily on education, including sick leave for teachers and universal kindergarten.

Roberts also discusses her 1968 campaign for the Oregon Senate against Tom Mahoney, as well as the 1968 presidential campaign, including the debate around the Vietnam War and her attendance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, with U.S. Senator Wayne Morse. She then discusses her experience in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977, including legislation on taxes, particularly sales taxes; women's rights; abortion; environmental issues; rape shield laws; and child custody. She discusses working with Debbs Potts, John D. Burns, and Gracie Peck, and and talks about running for governor against Bob Straub in 1974. She also discusses her run for the U.S. Senate against Bob Packwood the same year. She talks about the various forms of sexism she encountered while in the Senate, the formation of the Women's Caucus in 1973, and support for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Roberts talks about her time as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1982, and about working alongside judges Herbert Schwabe and W. Michael Gillette. She describes being appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Governor Vic Atiyeh and the encouragement she received from Norma Paulus. She discusses several cases from the years 1982 to 1986, including cases regarding sex discrimination and misuse of taxpayer monies. She also talks about her law clerk, Maureen Leonard, and about working alongside judges Jacob Tanzer and Mercedes Deiz. Roberts relates her opinion on the efficacy and procedures of the judicial system in Oregon. She discusses her activities after resigning from the court, including her involvement with Oregon Women Lawyers and the Bob Packwood sexual harassment scandal.

Roberts, Betty, 1923-2011

Oral history interview with Robert Y. Thornton

This oral history interview with Robert Thornton was conducted by Jim Strassmaier at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, from May 21 to September 10, 1990. In this interview, Thornton discusses his family background and early life in the Ladd's Addition neighborhood of Portland. He talks about his education, including his study of Japanese and music, and attending Stanford University. He also describes his experiences during the Depression and how it and the New Deal shaped his political views. He then discusses studying law at the University of Oregon and George Washington University. He discusses his career path, from working for Congress, the Court of Appeals, and the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., to his return to Oregon, where he practiced law in Medford and Tillamook. He briefly discusses some of the cases he worked on before he joined the U.S. Army in 1941. He talks about his military experience during World War II, particularly his work teaching Japanese and conducting interrogations of Japanese prisoners of war. He then talks about returning to law practice in Tillamook after his discharge in 1946. He mentions his continued occasional intelligence work for the U.S. Army throughout the interview.

Thornton discusses his political career, beginning with his term in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1951 to 1952. He talks about his involvement with the Democratic Party, his campaign, and his constituency. He discusses legislation he worked on, including on law enforcement, fishing, and relations with Japan. He also discusses some of his fellow legislators, including Dick Neuberger and Maurine Neuberger, and Rudie Wilhelm. He then discusses his service as Oregon attorney general from 1953 to 1967. He discusses his campaigns, his relationships with district attorneys throughout Oregon, and working with various Oregon governmental agencies. He talks about some of the cases he prosecuted, including on vice, particularly the Jim Elkins case. He also talks about his efforts toward a crime prevention program, as well as his observations on the corruption of law enforcement. He briefly talks about running for other offices during his term as district attorney, including his 1962 campaign for governor. He also discusses the court case surrounding his re-election defeat by Lee Johnson in 1966. He goes on to discuss his service as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1971 to 1983. He speaks about the role and procedures of the judicial branch in Oregon. He also talks about his fellow judges, including George Joseph and Betty Roberts. He also gives his opinions on national politics of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, including the John F. Kennedy administration, the Vietnam era, and the economic policies of the Ronald Reagan administration. He closes the interview with a discussion of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, particularly regarding gun control.

Thornton, Robert Y.

Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

  • SR 9066
  • Collection
  • 1980-10-29 - 1980-11-14

This oral history interview with Betty Roberts was conducted by Linda S. Dodds in Portland, Oregon, from October 29 to November 14, 1980. At the time of the interview, Dodds' name was Linda S. Brody.

In the interview, Roberts discusses her early life in Texas, including her memories of the Depression and her childhood activities. She then talks about attending Texas Wesleyan University for a year; meeting Bill Rice and their subsequent marriage; and her early years as a housewife in Oregon, where she and Rice moved after World War II. She talks about returning to college in 1955 at Eastern Oregon College of Education (now Eastern Oregon University), then transferring to Portland State University. She talks about the difficulty of balancing school, a part-time job, and family life; her interest in both a teaching career and politics; and her involvement with the Lynch School Board from 1960 to 1966. She also talks briefly about studying at Northwestern College of Law.

Roberts discusses her service in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, and in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977. She also talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for the House in 1962 and her successful one in 1964. She discusses some of the legislation she worked on, including on universal kindergarten and victims' rights, and particularly regarding women's rights. She talks about her experiences as a woman in the Legislature. She describes her 1968 primary campaign against incumbent Senator Tom Mahoney; the casual sexism she observed; and the formation of the women's caucus in the 1973 legislative session. She discusses her committee assignments, including the judiciary committee and Ways and Means. She also gives a brief history of the coalition of Republicans and Conservative Democrats that controlled the Senate throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She then talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for governor in 1974, and the U.S. Senate later that same year. She describes the passage of the Bottle Bill in 1971 and the opposition the legislation faced.

Roberts closes the interview by discussing her service as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to the time of the interview in 1980.

Roberts, Betty, 1923-2011