This oral history interview with Bill Curtin was conducted by Greta K. Smith at Curtin's home in Portland, Oregon, from September 24 to November 16, 2018. Bill Curtin was nominated by Oregonians to be interviewed as part of a program by the Oregon Historical Society Research Library to enhance and expand the range of voices in the library's collections. Interviewees are selected from the pool of nominees by a staff committee appointed by the historical society's executive director. The interview was conducted in four sessions.
In the first interview session, conducted on September 24, 2018, Curtin discusses his family history and early life in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Portland, including his Irish-Catholic heritage and discrimination his family faced as a result. He speaks at length about his father, Victor Aloysius Curtin, and his father's career as a police officer in the Portland Police Bureau and involvement with Portland's black community. He discusses his early interest in joining the Catholic priesthood. He then talks about his education at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, including the changes in the Catholic Church after World War II, some of his professors and fellow students, and his interest in social justice issues. He also talks about community service he did during seminary; shares his memories of Vietnam War protests; and discusses how the issue of birth control affected the church.
In the second interview session, conducted on October 12, 2018, Curtin revisits the topic of his father's career as a police officer in the Portland Police Bureau. He talks about his reasons for joining the Catholic priesthood; briefly discusses his involvement in Vietnam War protests; and speaks about his experiences as a priest at St. Charles Church in Portland, including his involvement with Adams High School and going on ride-alongs with the Portland Police Bureau. He then discusses his service as a priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in the Albina neighborhood of Portland, including his involvement with Portland's black community, his role with the school at Immaculate Heart, and providing pastoral care to patients at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. He also talks about funding the church's programs, as well as the arrest of priest Tom Laughlin for child molestation.
In the third interview session, conducted on October 29, 2018, Curtin continues discussing his service as a priest at Immaculate Heart, including his involvement with Portland's black community, his role with the school at Immaculate Heart, and the church's relationship with the Portland Police Bureau. He talks about the effect the Legacy Emanuel Hospital expansion project had on the Albina neighborhood and community; discusses his involvement with the Model Cities program; and talks about his work with the Albina Fair Share program. He also speaks about his father's involvement with addiction recovery programs. He then discusses his decision to leave the priesthood in 1981.
In the fourth and final interview session, conducted on November 16, 2018, Curtin revisits the topic of his work with Albina Fair Share. He also talks about his work towards utility rate reform with Oregon Fair Share. He discusses the relationship between the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland black community; talks about his friendship with Penny Harrington, the first woman police chief in Portland; and speaks about his involvement with Central City Concern and talks about its roots in detoxification programs. He talks about taking his parishioners camping and on other nature excursions. He then revisits the topic of leaving the priesthood in 1981, describing his transition to secular life. He talks about working in security at Reed College and then Lewis and Clark College; discusses his marriage to Liddy Krier, and talks about her children, their families, and their careers; and talks about his activities since retiring in 2006. He reflects on his relationship with Portland's black community and on racism he observed, and shares his thoughts on prison and police reform. He closes the interview by discussing current politics and talking about his own role in politics with both Albina Fair Share and Oregon Fair Share.