Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer
- 2005-10-05 - 2006-04-04 (Creation)
0.1 cubic feet; 6 audiocassettes (microcassette, 3 hr., 35 min., 39 sec.) + transcript (81 pages)
Name of creator
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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Scope and content
This oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer was conducted by Peter C. Richter from October 5, 2005, to April 4, 2006 as part of the United States District Court Oral History Project. The interview was conducted in two sessions, and a transcript is available.
In the first interview session, conducted on October 5, 2005, 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.
In the second interview session, conducted on April 4, 2006, Tanzer continues to discuss serving on the Oregon Supreme Court. He speaks further about serving on the bench with Hans Linde, and talks about some of the opinions he wrote. He discusses how the procedures of the court changed during his tenure, the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches of state government, and his return to private legal practice in 1983. He closes the interview by sharing advice for aspiring lawyers.
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Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
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: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/
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Acquisition and appraisal elements
Immediate source of acquisition
Gift of the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society, June 2007 (Lib. Acc. 26282).
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Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
An additional interview with Jacob B. Tanzer, SR 1764, is also held by the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Jacob B. Tanzer, by Peter C. Richter, SR 11126, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Forms part of the United States District Court Oral History Project.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.