In the years 1956-1974, State Government was fairly serene. What Oregon had never had before was percolating, but hidden from the eye of the average Oregonian.
The impact of the Vanport flood combined with the reduction in ship building devastated blacks in Oregon. Before WWII, blacks in Oregon were numbered in the hundreds. Due to pressures for workers in Portland shipyards, Oregon saw a rise in the black population of 15-thousand between 1940 and 1950. And close to all of those lived in Vanport by 1945, the area of Portland we now call Delta Park.
As the war ended, most of those who had moved to Oregon to work in defense industries had left. At the time of the Vanport flood, May 30, 1948, a majority of residents were white, returning servicemen and their families. In fact, whites outnumbered blacks by 4 to 1. But Vanport, which at its height was Oregon's second largest city, was known as black. And since the majority of blacks lived in the nearby Albina district in Portland, generally, the north side of Portland was "black".
If your reading this, chances are you're old enough to remember the press coverage of the "Katrina" disaster in New Orleans. Reading historical accounts of the Vanport flood you'll be struck by the parallels in the press coverage.
When you buy a home in Oregon, if you do due diligence, take a look at the property deeds that have been filed for your home. Chances are, if you go back far enough, you'll find restrictions on your deed that were put in place years ago, restricting to whom you could sell your property, based on race. Across the country, in the United States Supreme Court, a decision in the case of Shelley v. Kraemer meant that restrictions on landholders that forbade them selling to blacks, or any minority, were no longer legally enforceable. (It would take another 20 years for Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968--the Fair Housing Act--and the Supreme Court in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co to end the "voluntary" enforcement of racial restrictions). But, in 1948, Shelley v. Kraemer meant in middle-class, and upper-middle class neighborhoods, words like "there goes the neighborhood" were being spoken.
Our governor, John Hall had his own issues at the time. When Governor Earl Snell died, as Speaker of the House, Hall succeeded Snell. And Liquor was the issue. So, while Portland was busy ignoring problems of housing and jobs, families in neighborhoods in the Grant District, the Wilson District were worrying about property values, the state was arguing over the Oregon Liquor Commission.
Another problem was brewing in the background.
Hall was quickly replaced by Governor James Douglas McKay in 1949. It is Governor McKay who is, was, Oregon's most important governor. The next five governors of Oregon would follow the rules of government practiced by Governor McKay. That year would be 1974, and it would mark a change in the way Oregon did business.
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