The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jim Edmunson Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

November 10, 2014


James L. Edmunson was born in Eugene, Oregon in 1951. Edmunson was raised on a farm outside of Springfield, Oregon until the fifth grade, at which point his family moved to Junction City, Oregon. Interested in farming and the sciences as a boy, Edmunson became involved with the student newspaper during his high school years. When it came time to choose a college, Edmunson opted for Oregon State University, intrigued by its offerings in horticulture and technical journalism.

Edmunson began attending OSU in 1969. Originally a technical journalism major, Edmunson also took classes in the sciences and ultimately opted to tailor his own curriculum through the university's liberal studies major. He first became involved with The Daily Barometer newspaper in spring 1969, during his freshman year of college, and worked as an intramural sports writer, general assignment reporter, and photographer until his junior year. During the 1971-72 academic year, Edmunson filled the role of campus editor for the newspaper, and in this capacity he directed the Barometer's news coverage of the Nancy Wyckoff murder on campus, as well as anti-war protests in the community.

During his time at OSU, Edmunson was involved with other journalism ventures beyond the Barometer. As a senior, he was the copy editor of the Beaver yearbook, and he also served on the university's Publications Committee. Edmunson worked as well for the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the Albany Democrat-Herald during his later years at OSU, and also freelanced for The Oregonian and the Associated Press.

Edmunson completed his bachelor's degree during the summer of 1973. From there, he and his wife moved to Pendleton, Oregon, where he worked as the sports editor for the East Oregonian, and later become the paper's news editor. In 1976, Edmunson applied to law school at the University of Oregon, where he was admitted but decided against enrolling. Instead, Edmunson moved to Astoria, Oregon to work as a government and investigative reporter for the Daily Astorian. He later received an Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association award for his writing, which included reporting on organized crime activities on the north Oregon coast.

In 1980, Edmunson decided that the time was right to go to law school. As a graduate student, Edmunson was the vice president of the UO student body. He also served on the university's incidental fee committee and was chairman of the Oregon Daily Emerald newspaper. He graduated from Oregon in 1983 and began practicing law in Eugene.

In 1987, the Lane County Board of Commissioners appointed Edmunson to fill a seat that had been vacated by state representative Ron Eachus. After completing that term, Edmunson, a Democrat, was elected to three successive terms of his own, representing north and west Eugene in the Oregon legislature. During his final term, which ended in 1995, he filled the role of assistant minority leader.

Though no longer in the legislature, Edmunson's involvement in politics continued for several years following. In 1999, he was named chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon, a position that he held until 2007 - a tenure that exceeded that of any other party chair in state history. In 2000 and 2004, Edmunson also served as a presidential elector, leading the Oregon presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry respectively.

Today, Edmunson continues to practices law in Eugene, focusing in particular on representation of injured and disabled clients.