Item SR473_T07S1 - Oral history interview with Russell Peyton [Sound Recording 14]

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Oral history interview with Russell Peyton [Sound Recording 14]


  • 1987-08-12 (Creation)


Audiocassette; 00:28:46

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Russell Ackerman Peyton was born in New Jersey in 1903. He was raised by his maternal grandparents in Virginia. He got involved in a successful lawsuit against Shell Oil while working at a service station in San Francisco, California, which led to his getting a job with the law firm Shepard & Peyton. He then attended the University of Oklahoma in 1936, and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts. He came to Portland, Oregon, to work for the Kaiser shipyards as manager of the testing department from 1943 to 1946. After the war, he decided to remain in Oregon. He got involved with the Urban League, which led to his being hired as an investigator for the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon State Bureau of Labor. He was also involved with the Joint Council for Social Welfare for many years and was named Social Worker of the Year in 1972. He later was an executive director of the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, and an award named for him is awarded each year to human rights activists. After retirement, Peyton served on the boards of numerous humanitarian organizations. He died in 1996.

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Tape 7, Side 1. This interview with Russell Peyton was conducted by Dan Malone at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, from July 28 to August 12, 1987. In the interview, Peyton discusses his family history and early life in Virginia. He also discusses his early jobs, including working as an assistant to a Chinese diplomat. He then talks about going to California and working in service stations, where he got involved in a lawsuit against the Shell Oil company. Peyton then discusses attending the University of Oklahoma and confronting his own racism. In talking about the lead-up to World War II, he discusses coming to Oregon and working for the Kaiser shipyards and his impressions of Portland. He then talks about a trip he took to Europe shortly after the end of the war. Peyton discusses his involvement with the Urban League and his work towards integration, particularly on housing discrimination. He also discusses the different forms that racism took in the North and South. He then talks about his work as an investigator for the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon State Bureau of Labor, detailing many of his cases. Peyton discusses his work with the Joint Council on Social Welfare and the legislation they lobbied for. He also discusses the achievements of the Oregon Prison Association; working with Portland General Electric to cease cutting off power to people who couldn’t pay their bills in winter; and school bussing. Peyton discusses his time as executive director of the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, including affirmative action policies, working to improve the Portland police, food security, pay equality, and employment discrimination. He also discusses working with the Portland City Council and the Metro government. In addition, he talks briefly about Vietnam War protests in Portland. Peyton talks often about Edwin "Bill" C. Berry of the Urban League, as well as other leaders in Portland’s black community. He then briefly describes each winner of the Russell Peyton Award from its inception to 1987. Peyton also talks about the numerous humanitarian organizations whose boards he served on after retirement. He closes the interview by reflecting on his career and accomplishments in civil rights.

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Copyright held by the Oregon Historical Society. Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0,

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  • eng

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39.5 MiB


January 13, 2020 4:44 PM

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