Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with Owen Panner
- 1994-11-24 - 1995-06-01 (Creation)
.1 cubic feet 24 audiocassettes (18 hr., 49 min., 15 sec.)
Name of creator
Owen Murphy Panner was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1924. He grew up in Oklahoma during the Depression. He attended the University of Oklahoma, but in 1943, before graduating, he joined the U.S. Army, serving until 1946. He met his first wife, Agnes Gilbert, while stationed in Los Angeles, California. After serving, he returned to the University of Oklahoma, where he graduated from its school of law in 1949. He moved to Bend, Oregon, where he practiced law from 1950 to 1980, was vice president of the Oregon State Bar from 1961 to 1963, and was on the Judicial Reform Commission of Oregon from 1971 to 1974. During his years as an attorney, he represented the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. In 1979, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, where he served from 1980 to 2018. He was chief justice from 1984 to 1990, and took senior status in 1992. During his time on the court, he met his second wife, Nancy Hanson, while horse riding in Hillsboro. He died in 2018.
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Scope and content
This oral history interview with Owen Panner was conducted by Michael O'Rourke in Panner's chambers in Portland, Oregon, from November 24, 1994, to June 1, 1995. In this interview, Panner discusses his family background and early life in rural Oklahoma, including his experiences during the Depression and the Dust Bowl, and his interest in playing golf. He also discusses the racism he observed during his childhood. Panner then talks about attending the University of Oklahoma and his service in the Army during World War II, including meeting his first wife, Agnes Gilbert, and moving to New York at the end of his service. He then discusses returning to the University of Oklahoma and studying law. Panner describes moving to Oregon and practicing law in Bend from 1950 to 1979, including his impressions of the area and people, and several cases he tried during his law career. He speaks at length about representing the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, particularly on cases regarding fishing rights at Celilo Falls, the development of Kah-Nee-Ta, and the termination of the Klamath tribe. Panner discusses national political events such as the Vietnam War, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the Nixon administration, as well as local politics in Bend, including the divorce of Oregon State Representative Al Ullman. Panner then describes his experience as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Portland from 1980 to 2018, including cases on civil rights, federal power, financial regulations, electrical utilities, and Tonya Harding. He also discusses the O.J. Simpson trial, mandatory sentencing, and the war on drugs. Panner discusses working with judges Otto Skopil, Robert Belloni, Gus Solomon, Jim Redden, and Edward Leavy. He also describes the relationship between the District Court and the Court of Appeals; the law system on the Warm Springs Reservation; and the day-to-day workings of the District Court. Panner closes the interview by discussing the modernization of the courts and his life outside the courtroom.
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Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions governing reproduction
Joint copyright is held by the Oregon Historical Society and the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society. In Copyright – Educational Use Permitted statement: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/
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Related archival materials
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Owen Panner, by Michael O'Rourke, SR 1241, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Forms part of the United States District Court Oral History Project.
Incomplete transcript (381 pages) and handwritten index (28 pages) available for in-person use in the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.