The Urban League of Portland honors the life of Senator Jackie Winters, who represented Oregon’s 10th Senate District, including Salem. Born in the Great Depression era, her family migrated from Kansas to live in Portland where her father worked in the Kaiser shipyards. As a child she became homeless after surviving the Vanport Flood of 1948. She attended Portland Public schools, and later was able to pursue studies at Portland Community College and then Oregon State University.
Senator Winters career in public service spanned five decades and included appointments from Gov. McCall, who recruited her to work in the Economic Opportunity Office and Gov. Atiyeh, who tapped Winters to work as his ombudsman. Sen. Winters helped create Oregon Food Share, the first of its kind in the state. In the 1980s, Winters opened up her restaurant, Jackie’s Ribs, while continuing to volunteer and promote civic engagement. Her community leadership included chairing Salem’s first million dollar United Way campaign, and helping to establish the Oregon NW Black Pioneers Association that raises money for student scholarships. She also served on the Salem-Keizer Blue Ribbon Committee for Excellence in Education, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Oregon College of Education Foundation, now the Western Oregon University Foundation.
In 1998 Winters became the first Black Republican senator in Oregon. She was elected to House Minority leader in 2017, making her the first Black member to ever serve in a leadership position. A strong supporter of justice reform, her last statement celebrated the passage of SB 1008, a bill she supported, which thoroughly modernized juvenile justice in our state, offering youth “hope and a chance for redemption.” Sen. Winters frequently attended Urban League’s Our Voices United Lobby days and received the NAACP President’s Award for Advancing the Cause of Civil Rights in Oregon.
We join our community around the State in mourning Sen. Winters, whose passing was announced May 29, 2019 on the House floor. May she rest in power.