This oral history interview with John D. Burns was conducted by Clark Hansen at Burns' office in Portland, Oregon, from April 22, 1992, to February 28, 1993. In this interview, Burns discusses his family background and early life in Condon, Oregon, particularly life on a ranch. He then discusses attending Notre Dame University, including his involvement in athletics; and attending Georgetown University Law School, including how his political views solidified during this time. He also talks about working for Senator Dick Neuberger. Burns discusses returning to Oregon to work as a lawyer, then as deputy district attorney in Multnomah County, including working with George Van Hoomissen, and cases he tried. He discusses his time as a lawyer in a firm with Pat Dooley, working on insurance cases. He also talks about his involvement in the Democratic Party and politics. He speaks briefly about his marriage to Brooke Claridge and their four children.
Burns discusses his legislative career in the Oregon Senate from 1967 to 1975, including his campaigns. He discusses legislation he worked on, including revising the criminal code, taxes, environmental legislation, abortion, transportation, mental health, his committee assignments, and Senate procedure. He also talks about his fellow legislators, including Tony Yturri, Stafford Hansell, Lynn Newbry, and Debbs Potts. He discusses the coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans that controlled the Senate for many decades. Burns then discusses his time as president of the Senate from 1971 to 1973, including the process of getting elected to the position, reducing the number of committees, and reapportionment. He talks about many of the landmark pieces of legislation that passed during his tenure, including the Bottle Bill and the raising of the voting age to 18. He also discusses his relationship with the press; the election of Jason Boe as Senate president in 1973; and the land-use bill SB 100.
After a year-long break, the interview resumes with a discussion of Oregon politics in 1993, including politicians that Burns considered rising stars, such as John Kitzhaber and Gordon Smith. He also discusses his work as a lobbyist and lawyer after leaving the Legislature. He then returns to the topic of legislation during his time in the Senate. He discusses the changes in the Legislature and the Democratic Party in the years since he left. He closes the interview by discussing his current activities and hopes for the future.
Burns, John D. (John David), 1936-