Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current, February 15, 2017, Image 1

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Volume XLVI • Number 7
Wednesday • February 15, 2017
Established in 1970
Committed to Cultural Diversity
A Legacy Preserved
Daughter of
pioneering civil
rights couple keeps
history alive
by Z achary S enn
t he p ortland o bServer
A snapshot of Portland’s black history is
being preserved at Portland State Univer-
sity, thanks to the efforts of the daughter
of two of the city’s most prominent civil
rights leaders.
Charlotte B. Rutherford, a Portland
native and herself a former civil rights
attorney, has helped to facilitate the pres-
ervation of her mother’s meticulous docu-
mentation of some of the black communi-
ty’s most prosperous days.
The Verdell Burdine and Otto G. Ruth-
erford Collection, which now resides on-
site at the PSU Library Special Collections
Division, continues to impact and inform
the community in unprecedented ways.
“She was a collector,” Charlotte Ruth-
erford says of her mother, Verdell Burdine
Rutherford. The family’s roots in Oregon
can be traced to when her mother was an
infant in 1913. But raised in Yakima and
educated as a secretary, she didn’t move
permanently to Portland until after her
high school graduation. Despite being pro-
ficient in shorthand and a talented typist,
like many black females during the time,
she was unable to obtain a job other than
domestic work.
Charlotte Rutherford explains that her
mother’s training as a secretary and her
meticulous nature helped guide her pres-
ervation of the black history artifacts that
are now in PSU’s collection, “I don’t know
why she saved, she just saved!”
The documents feature a wide array of
content, from recipes to newspaper clip-
pings to family photos to obituaries.
In regards to the newspaper clippings,
some of which date as far back as the late
1800s, Charlotte Rutherford says that her
mother began saving articles that reflected
the black community in a positive light,
“Because she wanted us, her children, to
have access to them.”
photo by Z achary S enn /t he p ortland o bServer
Charlotte Rutherford, a former civil rights attorney and the daughter of an historic Portland couple who worked tirelessly to
outlaw discrimination and pass other civil rights protections during the Civil Rights Era, honors her late parents by helping pre-
serve Portland’s Black History.
Charlotte’s father, Otto Rutherford,
served in the leadership of the Portland
Branch of the NAACP throughout the
1940s and 1950s, and was serving as the
organization’s president when the Oregon
Public Accommodations Act was passed
in 1953, the 21st state in the union to pass
legislation outlawing discrimination in
public places.
One of the collection’s most iconic im-
ages showcases both Otto and Verdell Bur-
dine Rutherford present with Rep. Mark
Hatfield at the bill’s signing. A copy of this
image now hangs in the State Capitol in
The couple’s persistence to enact the
watershed civil rights legislation came af-
ter 33 years of effort. All they did on be-
half of advancing civil rights at the time
c ontinued on p age 5