Item SR11126_T06S1 - Oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer [Sound Recording 09]

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Oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer [Sound Recording 09]


  • 2006-04-04 (Creation)


Microcassette; 00:10:12

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Biographical history

Jacob Bruno Tanzer was born in Longview, Washington, in 1935. His family moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1945. He attended the University of Oregon, Stanford University, and Reed College. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1956, and a law degree from the University of Oregon in 1959. He practiced law in Portland for a few years before deciding that he would rather be a public prosecutor. In 1962, he began working for the organized crime division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In 1964, he was the criminal law advisor for the team investigating the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi that year. Later in 1964, he returned to Portland and worked as a Multnomah County deputy district attorney until 1969, when he was appointed Oregon's first solicitor general. In 1971, he became the first director of the Oregon Department of Human Services. He was appointed to the Oregon Court of Appeals by Governor Tom McCall in 1973. He resigned in 1980 and was immediately appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Governor Vic Atiyeh. Although he won an election later that year for a six-year term on the court, he resigned in 1982 and returned to private practice in Portland. He was named Legal Citizen of the Year in 2014 by the Classroom Law Project.

Tanzer was married twice. He and Miriam Albert were married in 1962; they later had four children. In 1972, they divorced, and in 1974, he and Elaine Rhine were married. Together, they founded Elephants Delicatessen in Portland in 1979. Tanzer died in 2018.

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Tape 6, Side 1. This oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer was conducted by Peter C. Richter from October 5, 2005, to April 4, 2006. In this interview, Tanzer discusses his family background and early life in Portland, Oregon. He briefly talks about his college experiences at the University of Oregon, Stanford University, and Reed College. He then talks about studying law at the University of Oregon, including his part-time jobs. He discusses practicing law in Portland and deciding to pursue a career as a public prosecutor instead. He talks about working for the U.S. Department of Justice in the organized crime division during the John F. Kennedy administration, particularly his work on the case of civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964. Tanzer discusses his reasons for leaving the U.S. Department of Justice that same year to return to Portland as a Multnomah County deputy district attorney. He talks about his fellow prosecutors, defense lawyers he argued against, and some of the judges he argued before. He discusses his appointment as Oregon’s first solicitor general in 1969 and describes some of the cases he prosecuted. He also talks about serving as director of the Oregon Department of Human Services from its inception in 1971 until 1973. He describes the types of social welfare programs he administered, discusses fighting budget cuts, and talks about working with Governor Tom McCall. He also speaks at length about volunteering with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Mississippi for one month in 1967 and describes many of the cases he worked on. Tanzer discusses serving on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1973 to 1980, and on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1980 to 1982. He talks about some of the judges he served with, particularly Hans Linde, and some of the opinions he wrote. He closes the interview by discussing the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches of state government; changes in the judiciary; and his advice for aspiring lawyers.

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Joint copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society and the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following statement: In Copyright – Educational Use Permitted:

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  • English

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14 MiB


May 15, 2020 2:20 PM

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