Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with William G. East
- 1984-11-08 - 1984-11-15 (Creation)
0.1 cubic feet; 4 audiocassettes (3 hr., 57 min., 38 sec.) + transcript (97 pages)
Name of creator
William G. East was born in Kansas in 1908. The "G," he insisted, stood for nothing, despite one aunt telling him it stood for Grant. He came to Salem, Oregon, with his family at a young age, where his father worked at a bank. His father was killed in a fire at the bank around 1910. He attended the University of Oregon, earning his bachelor of law degree in 1931 and his juris doctorate in 1932. While in college, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps to help pay his tuition. In 1933, he and Louise Frances Wilhelm were married; they had later one child. He practiced law in Eugene, Oregon, until 1942, when he was called up to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He served from 1942 to 1946. After his discharge, he returned to private law practice in Eugene. He served as city attorney for Eugene from 1946 to 1947, and in 1949 he was appointed judge for the second district of the Oregon Circuit Court by Governor Douglas McKay. He served on that bench until he was appointed to the U.S. District Court of Oregon by President Dwight D. Eisenhowser. In 1967, he took senior status, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1985.
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Scope and content
This oral history interview with William G. East was conducted by Rick Harmon in East's chambers in Eugene, Oregon, in two sessions from November 8-15, 1984, as part of the United States District Court Oral History Project.
In the first interview session, conducted on November 8, 1984, East discusses his family background and early life in Salem, Oregon, including his education and interest in journalism and sports. He then discusses attending the University of Oregon from 1927 to 1932 and studying law. He talks about the Depression hitting in the middle of his studies, his social life, and his developing political outlook. He also talks about Orlando Hollis and Wayne Morse as law professors. He then discusses practicing law in Eugene from 1932 to 1942, including law firms he worked at and cases he tried. He describes his experience in the U.S. Army during World War II, including his training, service in Germany, and his involvement in the capture of Hermann Göring. He describes his return to civilian life and law practice, as well as his position as city attorney for Eugene.
In the second interview session, conducted on November 15, 1984, East talks about his service on the Oregon Circuit Court from 1949 to 1955, including his appointment, conflict with the press, and various cases he heard. East goes on to discuss his service on the U.S. District Court of Oregon from 1955 to 1967, including his appointment. He particularly focuses on a scandal that nearly derailed his appointment and on a meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also discusses cases he heard, including a negligence case involving Booth-Kelly Lumber Company that he heard twice, and a case on public defender compensation. He describes the changes to court procedures implemented by Judge Gus Solomon. He then discusses his decision to take senior status in 1967, as well as his activities since then, including cases on Native American rights and sovereignty. He closes the interview with a discussion of his judicial philosophy, his involvement with various civic organizations, and his hobbies and family life.
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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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Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
The William G. East papers, Mss 2716, and the William G. East collection, Accession 25185, are also held at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with William G. East, by Rick Harmon, SR 1213, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Forms part of the United States District Court Oral History Project.
A summary (15 pages) is available for in-person use at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Harmon, Rick (Contributor)
- United States. Circuit Court (Oregon) (Subject)
- United States. District Court (Oregon) (Subject)
- Booth-Kelly Lumber Company (Subject)