Item SR1111_T05S1 - Oral history interview with William L. Dickson [Sound Recording 09]

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Oral history interview with William L. Dickson [Sound Recording 09]


  • 1991-09-26 (Creation)


Audiocassette; 00:20:51

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William Lucas Dickson was born in Texas in 1907. His family came to Oregon while he was still an infant, and he grew up in Portland. He graduated from Northwestern College of Law in 1929, and began practicing law in Portland that same year. He met Dorothy Adelaide Unk in 1931, and they married in 1932; they had two children. Dickson decided to run for the Oregon Legislature after working as a debt collector during the Depression. He was a Democratic politician and represented Multnomah County in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1933 to 1936 and then in the Senate from 1937 to 1939. He joined the federal Department of Justice during World War II and in 1954, he was elected to the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for Multnomah County. He retired in 1973, and died in 2002.

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Tape 5, Side 1. This oral history interview with William Dickson was conducted by Jim Strassmaier at Dickson’s apartment in San Diego, California, from September 25 to 26, 1991. In this interview, Dickson discusses his family background and early life in Portland, Oregon, including contracting polio while in high school and his early interest in politics, including his admiration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as a fellow polio survivor. He then discusses attending Northwestern Law School and many of his professors; clerking at the probate court in Portland; his family’s religious faith; and getting started in a law practice in Portland. He talks about his experience as a debt collector during the Depression; his first run for the Oregon Legislature in 1930; and meeting his wife, Dorothy Adelaide Unk, in 1931. Dickson goes on to discuss his time in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1933 to 1936, and in the Oregon Senate from 1937 to 1939, including his desire to help people burdened by debt; coordinating with his uncle, Ashby Dickson, to pass a constitutional amendment making judges nonpartisan positions; and legislation he worked on, particularly on the probate and guardianship code. He also talks about the role of lobbyists; the pay scale for legislators; and many of the legislators he served with, including Nan Wood Honeyman, Monroe Sweetland, and Frank Lonergan. He discusses his involvement with the Democratic Party; the impact of the Depression on his politics and career; and New Deal legislation. Dickson then discusses his career after leaving the Legislature. He talks about working for the Federal Department of Justice during World War II, particularly his work on cases involving land condemnation for military use, and arguing before Judge James Alger Fee. He then talks about serving as a judge on the Circuit Court of Multnomah County from 1954 to 1973. He discusses cases involving mental health and guardianship. He then talks about the lives and careers of his children. Dickson closes the interview with a discussion of national politics in the 1990s.

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

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  • English

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28.6 MiB


January 30, 2020 12:42 PM

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