The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Methodist Women Present Program on Human Rights
    About 100 members of Women's Society of Christian Service, First Methodist church, met recently in the parlors of the new church annex for the October business meeting and study program. The parlors were colorful with chrysanthemums, and the same flowers were used upon the luncheon tables during the noon hour.
    An interesting feature of the program was presented by boys from the senior high school who explained the various measures on the ballot to be voted on at the coming election. Mrs. J. S. Heatherington introduced the speakers, who were Lewis Bright, moderator; Don West, Charles Frost and Steve Nye.
    Devotions for the afternoon were led by Mrs. A. O. Walker.
    Mrs. Bryon Pierce was in charge of the program hour, and assisting her were Mrs. A. Minshall, Mrs. L. Rankin and Mrs. Horace Doolen. The program was designed to place greater importance on consideration of all phases pertaining to the study of human rights.
    Mrs. Rankin stated that "as creatures of God, each individual has a heritage in human rights and the church must proclaim, secure, exercise and defend these rights."
    Mrs. Minshall told of the Mexican migrant workers in Yakima. "These workers, while poor and ill clad, surprised members of the First Presbyterian church of that city by filing into church one Sunday morning for worship. Though they understood little English and spoke less, they were reverent during the prayer service. A real program of Christian brotherhood was the outgrowth of this first attendance of the Mexican laborers in that church."
    Mrs. Horace Doolen carried out a question-and-answer period in the program which stressed the importance of seriously studying our individual part in assisting the migrant worker toward a better way of life.
    Medford Council of Church Women is also assisting in a program of friendship toward the Mexican workers now in Southern Oregon, and this program will be advanced on World Community Day, which is to be observed Friday, November 7, in the St. Mark's Episcopal church beginning at 2 p.m. That evening a potluck supper will be served at the YMCA with Mexican laborers as guests under the leadership of Mr. Gonzales, states Mrs. Harlan P. Bosworth Jr., president of the council.
    During the business period, the WSCS president, Mrs. Jessie Minear, announced that each circle of the church is to be responsible for friendly gestures toward the foreign students in our local college. Each circle will be given the name of one student to remember during the various holidays and other important days in the life of the student.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 4, 1952, page 2

Human Rights Council Organized in Ashland
    Ashland--An Ashland human rights council has been organized, an outgrowth of the work of the social relations committee of Ashland Council of Church Women. The council was formed at a meeting of 38 persons February 13 who gathered to hear Ross Peyton of the Civil Rights Division, Oregon Bureau of Labor.
    Mrs. Peyton congratulated the social relations committee of Ashland Council of Church Women on its work to sponsor the council, saying "You have no idea the good you have already done by strengthening a great many people of good will by your action, and by warning the others that there is a strong and growing feeling for equality in Ashland."
    To bridge the gap between the committee of the Council of Church Women and the new Ashland Human Rights Council, a temporary steering committee was formed. Serving on it are Mrs. R. H. Westerfield, Mrs. May Schwiebert, Mrs. Betty Powell, the Rev. Fred Plocher, F. R. Neal and Mrs. Arthur Kreisman.
    During the evening Mark Martinez Infante spoke about the communities where it is said "Though we do have certain discriminatory incidents, we do not have discrimination here." He pointed out that some community pattern exists which makes it possible for Negroes to be "graciously invited to pass on through town."
    Mr. Infante continued by saying that no person, alone, can decide whether any other person may stay or may not stay within the city limits. Only when a community is apathetic and condones such action by its silence can such incidents occur, he said. Then one person can take it upon himself to become the voice of the community, he continued. "But," continued Mr. Infante, "That is not the American way. In America we are all one family, not made of identical members but of individuals from the whole human family. A community can live as a part of the whole human family, or it can try to survive by maintaining unofficial segregation."
    Several members of the audience reported having been told, when they were newcomers to Ashland, "This is a fine community; we do not permit Negroes or foreigners here." At the same time others of the audience reported a widespread feeling that there is no such problem in Ashland.
    In reply to this Mr. Peyton said, "That is true. You have no opportunity for a race problem in Ashland, for you do not have resident Negroes, but certainly what exists may be called a 'spiritual wall of segregation.'"
    Mr. Peyton continued with an account of the laws of Oregon, saying that the state can be proud of its civil rights code. He read from the statute public policy the following quotation: "Practices of discrimination . . . are a matter of state concern and such discrimination threatens not only the rights and privileges of its inhabitants, but menaces the institutions and foundations of a free democratic state."
    To enforce this policy, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor is empowered to take what steps he finds necessary to eliminate discrimination throughout the state. The law requires that there be no discrimination in employment, in places of public amusement, motels, hotels, or restaurants, nor in publicly assisted housing. Mr. Peyton pointed out what while formerly the offense was a civil one in which the complainant [must] hire a lawyer to bring suit, now it is a criminal offense in which the complaint need only to be filed with the Bureau of Labor, which is then empowered to bear the responsibility for action.
    There was discussion on the problem of how to "get at" the intangible discourtesies and the persistent rumors that Ashland is a "sundown town," and the discussion led to formation of the community-wide committee.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 17, 1958, page 2

Group Plans for Human Rights Council in City
    First steps towards organization of a human rights council for Medford were taken at a meeting at First Methodist church last night.
    A group from the Ashland Human Rights Council, which has been in operation for some time, and Mark A. Smith, Portland, administrator of the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor, attended to assist the Medford group.
    The group met at the call of Mrs. W. D. Pearson, Applegate, member of the Medford Council of Church Women.
    Smith spoke of "changes in the whole broad area of human relations" which have made necessary formation of such community groups. He said the question of whether "people of different ethnic origins can live together in Oregon in peace" must be faced and said when this question is answered around the world we will "have the answer to war and peace."
Progress Made
    The speaker said great progress in human relations had been made in Oregon and the United States since World War II and listed influencing factors. These include integration of the armed forces and the National Guard, integration in national sports, supreme court decisions bearing on [such] questions as the right to equal public facilities and in education.
    He also called attention to Oregon's fair employment practice act, its integration of vocational schools, its repeal of the prohibition of interracial marriages and other [omission]
    Smith said that housing constitutes "one of the sharpest problems to be solved." In summing up he declared "the real answer lies in social concern and action in the community. The die is cast--the rest is up to us."
Medford Mail Tribune, June 19, 1959, page 1

Human Rights Council
    To the Editor: The Medford Human Rights Council was formed several years ago to serve a dual purpose: first, to assist in the application of Oregon's civil rights laws; and second, to help to make our community more truly democratic. To this end, we stand ready to assist those in need of assistance, particularly in cases of discrimination on account of race, creed, color, or national origin.
    Such councils as ours are provided for by Oregon law (ORS 69.115) and are under the auspices of the Civil Rights Division, Oregon Bureau of Labor.
    Besides our active membership, we have asked for and received pledges of support from church groups, service clubs, and other interested organizations in the valley. We welcome such expressions of moral support from individuals also.
    We realize that our community cannot and should not exist as an isolated area of discrimination in Oregon. Our state is noted for its leadership in the field of civil rights. Shall Medford be found wanting in this respect? We hope not.
    We believe that the majority of people in this valley will want to be fair and kind and Christian when given the opportunity to choose between this behavior and unkind discrimination.
    The Medford Human Rights Council will meet at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 17, in the First Methodist church, Main and Laurel sts. All interested persons are invited to attend.
Mrs. Robert B. Duncan, Secretary
1500 Terrace Dr.
"Communications," Medford Mail Tribune, March 16, 1960, page 4

Human Rights Council Meets to Begin Year
    Ashland--The Ashland Human Rights Council began its third year last week with a general meeting and election of board of directors to fill eight vacancies. Newly elected for two-year terms were Ed Harmon, Joe Burrow, the Rev. Edward G. Wulfekuehler, Charles Frederickson, Walter Arron and Ken Jones.
    Fred Roy Neal and Mrs. Richard Westerfield, outgoing directors, were reelected for a one-year term each. Incumbent board members are Jack Kelly, Arthur Hamilton, Mrs. Sam Davis and Mrs. Charles Forrest.
    Guest speaker for the meeting was Dr. Frances Horowitz, associate consultant at Southern Oregon College. Dr. Horowitz talked on the causes of human behavior in the field of racial prejudice. Her subject was "Can Tolerance Be Taught?"
    Dr. Horowitz discussed two theoretical considerations of prejudice. One theory holds that prejudiced people are that way because of certain personality structures which make them feel insecure when faced with things which are not clearly defined or are different. They attribute unfavorable characteristics to all members of a minority group. By maintaining strong attitudes of prejudice they ensure a sense of security and always know ahead of time what to think.
Environment Considered
    The second theory attributes prejudice to what one has learned in his environment and through experiences. From this point of view the prejudice can be unlearned, provided the subject is given a new set of learning experiences. Dr. Horowitz concluded that probably both theories are right for different people.
    During the discussion period of the meeting, it was proposed that the Ashland council maintain a close liaison with the Medford Human Rights Council with interchange of ideas and attendance at each others' meetings, since the problem of human rights in the field of racial relations is not limited to one community but is county- and statewide.
    The first meeting of the new board of directors of the Ashland group will be May 12th at 8 p.m. in the Gresham Room of the Ashland public library.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 10, 1960, page 10

Medford Human Rights Council Reorganized After Two Years
    The Medford Human Rights Council met Thursday evening at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Padgham.
    Twenty-eight persons, including several specially invited guests, were present. It was the second recent meeting of the Council, which has been reorganized after two years of inactivity.
    The Council's chairman, the Rev. Robert W. Tull of the Congregational Church, presided.
    Robertson E. Collins, Jacksonville, reported on conversations with Mark Smith, administrator of the civil rights division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor, giving information about other groups like the Medford Human Rights Council that are presently active in the state.
Expresses Opinion
    Collins expressed the opinion that protest demonstrations and the deliberate testing of community attitudes toward minority groups would be out of place in Medford at this time.
    Omar Bacon, Jackson County librarian, brought to the meeting much of the published material on civil rights and intergroup relations that is available at the Medford library.
    James A. Redden, Medford attorney and state representative, was asked to inform the group of the actions of the recent legislature in the area of human rights. The laws that were passed in this section, he stated, served to strengthen Oregon's position as one of the nation's most. progressive states in guaranteeing just and equal treatment to all persons, regardless of race, religion, national background or age.
Optimistic Appraisal
    Don McNeil, manager of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, gave an optimistic appraisal of the attitudes and practices of businessmen, motel operators, restaurateurs, merchants and employers in the city toward the members of minority groups. Acknowledging that there have been some incidents of discrimination against Negro visitors to the community, he expressed his conviction that the members of the chamber of commerce are well informed on the fair housing, fair employment and public accommodations laws of Oregon, and are seeking to abide by them.
    McNeil said Medford would have much less difficulty with the inevitable entrance of minority group families into the valley in the next few years if groups such as the Medford Human Rights Council could help the community to do some intelligent planning for the changes ahead.
    DeArmond Leigh, Jackson County sheriff, expressed his gratitude for being invited to the Council's meeting and his appreciation of a group of citizens who could offer support and counsel to the public officials responsible for law enforcement and community welfare.
    He reported that the sheriff's department had not been informed of any recent incidents of discriminatory practice in the valley. But he urged the Council to invite representatives of other law enforcement agencies in the area to future meetings.
Members Were Present
    Six members of the Ashland Human Rights Council were present. They shared some of the experiences and plans of their organization, which has been active for
over five years.
    The latter portion of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the continuing purpose and program of the Council. Dunbar Carpenter suggested that the civil rights division of the Oregon bureau of labor be asked whether it has received reports of discriminatory practice in the Medford area of which citizens of the community might not be aware. Collins and Redden were asked to make such an
    Ben J. Trowbridge Jr. and others reported seeing Negroes in downtown Medford more frequently now that the tourist season is open. Trowbridge said he did not know of any incidents of discrimination or refusal of service.
A Growing Number
    Judge Edward C. Kelly suggested that there will be a growing number of Negro tourists coming through Medford in the years ahead. If each one of them, he stated, were treated with the respect and courtesy normally offered to any money-spending tourist, all possibility of a "testing" of the racial attitudes and
practices of the community by outside groups would soon be eliminated.
    Members of the group expressed concern over the increasing prevalence of rumors that Negro families are being or might be placed in Medford by national organizations in order to test and force community acceptance.
    No one in the group had knowledge of any such plan, and a procedure was established whereby all such rumors could be traced to their source and stopped before they could have a disturbing influence in the community.
    As the meeting ended, it was agreed that it would not be in the best interest of the community, or of any minority persons or groups, for the Council to seek intentionally to bring Negro families into the Medford area. But it was decided that, if any families of minority background did establish residence here, the Council would uphold their right to do so and would make every effort to assist them in their adjustment to the community.
    The next meeting of the Council will be in September upon the call of the chairman.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 14, 1963, page 6

Welcome Assurance Will Be Sought by Portland NAACP
    Sometime during October, the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will request assurances from Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass city officials that Negroes would be welcome in this area.
    The announcement of the impending NAACP action was made during an interview in Portland Wednesday with Mayfield K. Webb, president of the Portland branch.
    Webb said the move was planned as a result of a meeting at the Winema Hotel in Klamath Falls on Aug. 24 and 25 between representatives of the Portland and Klamath chapters of the NAACP.
Resolution Was Passed
    At a meeting a resolution was passed declaring the intent of the organization "to take action" on some "problems" in this area.
    Webb said city officials of the three cities will be notified of the resolution by mail during October, and the city councils will be urged to adopt statements during a public meeting that Negroes would be welcome to use such facilities as motels and restaurants or to become permanent residents of the communities if they should so choose.
    The chapter president, a lawyer and the father of six children, said that his group had received some complaints during the summer by Negroes who had received less than hospitable treatment in this area.
    He cited in particular a Negro family which arrived 15 minutes late to claim a reservation at an Ashland motel and were told that their reservation had been canceled.
Went into Restaurants
    Webb said that he and his family had gone into a hotel restaurant in Medford this summer to have lunch and had to wait an unusually long time before the waitress came to take their order.
    "My wife and I talked it over," Webb said, "and we decided to just sit quietly and wait it out." They were finally served.
    The lawyer hastened to say that this area was not considered a prime trouble spot in the state. He said he had received assurances that the three communities were no longer "sundown" towns.
    "We hope that is true," he said, "but we just want to be sure."
    Webb said that if any of the three cities should decline to pass a resolution that Negroes would be welcome in the community, the Portland chapter of NAACP might send some people down to "test" its motels and restaurants.
    He said he considered Portland to be the area of most concern to Negroes in the state.
    Oregon law forbids discrimination in public places because of race, creed or color.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 12, 1963, page 1

Treatment of Minorities Noted
    Medford was praised yesterday as one of the "better communities" in the state for its treatment of minority groups by the administrator of the civil rights division of the Oregon bureau of labor.
    The official, Mark A. Smith, noted, however, that "this has only come in recent years," adding "I hope you will not rest on your laurels."
    Smith was the featured speaker at a luncheon in the Jackson Hotel sponsored by the Medford Human Rights Council. Medford mayor James Dunlevy was the official host. More than 100 persons attended.
Compiles Record
    "Beginning with the Fair Employment Practices Act in 1949, the Oregon Legislature has compiled a tremendous record of civil rights legislation," Smith said.
    He pointed to such actions as the 1959 repeal of the miscegenation law and passage of the 1953 public accommodations law. Smith said there has been "no organized opposition" to civil rights measures in the state since 1949.
    He said that government involvement in the field of civil rights was a "proper role" for government, and that government's "influence must be brought to bear on problems of discrimination in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the land."
    He said there is a "mounting demand" against injustices, and that minorities are now receiving support from responsible leadership in the majority group.
    "We must not relegate anyone to unemployment or slum living," Smith said. "Any man ought to have the opportunity to rise as high as possible on his own merits."
Undergoing Change
He said social patterns are undergoing change in the Northwest. "We can create the kind of community we want," he said, "if we accord the same rights to others that we seek for ourselves."
    Smith urged community leaders to "prepare for the change," noting that "no racial violence has ever occurred where people were living together in a democratic way."
    The Rev. Robert Tull, pastor of the Community Congregational Church and president of the Medford Human Rights Council, presided over the luncheon meeting.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 13, 1963, page 1

Last revised February 15, 2023