Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with Keith D. Skelton
- 1994-11-09 - 1995-05-12 (Creation)
.1 cubic feet; 21 audiocassettes (20 hr., 51 min., 44 sec.) + transcript (593 pages)
Name of creator
Keith Dexter Skelton was born in Pennsylvania in 1918. He graduated from Edinboro State Teachers College in 1939. He then studied history at the University of Michigan until 1941, when he was forced to drop out due to financial hardship. He then worked as an insurance adjuster for Liberty Mutual in various cities around New England. He was drafted in 1941, but his service was deferred because he was engaged to be married. He and Ruth Ellen Blake married that year and later had four children. Skelton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1942 and served in the Pacific theater during World War II. After his discharge in 1945, he returned to his job at Liberty Mutual. He completed a master's degree through the University of Michigan by mail, then attended Syracuse Law School, then transferred to the University of Washington Law School and earned his law degree in 1949. He practiced law in Eugene, Oregon, beginning in 1951. He also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon. He was a Democratic politician and represented Lane County in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1957 to 1960. He relocated to Portland and represented Multnomah County in the House from 1965 to 1974. Skelton and Ruth Ellen Blake divorced in 1967, and he and fellow legislator Betty Roberts married in 1968. After leaving the Legislature, he returned to the practice of law in Portland and also served on the Portland Community College Board. He died in 1995.
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Scope and content
This oral history interview with Keith D. Skelton was conducted by Clark Hansen at Skelton's home in Portland, Oregon, from November 9, 1994, to May 12, 1995. In this interview, Skelton discusses his family background and early life on a farm in Pennsylvania, including his early education and his memories of the Depression. He talks about attending Edinboro State Teachers College, including his summer jobs and social life. He talks about working for a zipper company after graduating, studying history at the University of Michigan, and dropping out to earn money as an insurance adjuster for Liberty Mutual in various cities around New England. He describes getting his draft notice in 1941 and his subsequent marriage to Ruth Ellen Blake. He describes the lead-up to World War II and his service in the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1945. He talks about his pilot training and service in the Pacific theater. He discusses the effect that his war experience had on his political beliefs; the difficulty of returning to civilian life; and relocating to Seattle, Washington, in 1947. He talks about attending the University of Washington Law School and his involvement with progressive political groups. He describes trying to find regular work in Seattle before relocating to Eugene, Oregon, in 1951 to begin his own law firm.
Skelton next discusses his involvement with the Democratic Party. He talks about working with Charlie Porter to reinvigorate the party in Lane County during the 1950s. He describes a riot that broke out during vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon's 1952 visit to Eugene. He talks about his service in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1957 to 1960. He talks about his constituency and his campaigns, and also describes each of his legislative sessions. He discusses his committee assignments and fellow legislators, including Dick Eymann. He talks about some of the legislation he worked on, including on worker compensation, the justice system, and taxes. He discusses working with the administration of Governor Mark Hatfield. He also talks about his activities after leaving the Legislature in 1960, including his involvement with civic organizations, lobbying, and his law practice in Eugene. He describes some of the cases he handled.
Skelton discusses serving in the Oregon House of Representatives again from 1965 to 1974. He describes each of his legislative sessions, including his committee assignments and fellow legislators. He discusses working with the administration of Governor Tom McCall. He also talks about meeting fellow legislator Betty Roberts and their subsequent marriage; relocating to Portland in 1967; and his experience at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. He discusses some of the legislation that came up during his legislative service, including on abortion, public transportation, and worker compensation. He describes the reasons he didn't run for re-election in 1974.
Skelton talks about his activities since leaving the Legislature. He discusses the governors that have held office between 1974 and the time of the interview in 1995; Betty Roberts' service in the Oregon Senate; and the role of lobbyists. He talks about returning to the practice of law and serving on the board for Portland Community College. He closes the interview by talking about the influence of television on society and discussing his Christian faith and his family.
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Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following license: Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
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Related archival materials
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Keith D. Skelton, by Clark Hansen, SR 1161, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Forms part of the Oregon Legislature Oral History Series.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.