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Bill Rutherford Oral History Interview

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Bill Rutherford Oral History Interview


In this interview, Bill Rutherford reflects on his childhood and experience as a young man in college. Rutherford recounts that he rarely ran into trouble on account of his race when he was young, so long as he stayed in the parts of town where Black people could safely travel. He also recounts that he often had trouble socializing with other Black people in his community, as he was not an athlete as most of the other young Black men around him were. He also discusses his experiences growing up in his grandfather’s house, his experience growing up in a neighborhood largely populated by eastern European immigrants post-World War I, and his experience attending Black churches as a young boy.

Rutherford goes on to recall his experiences serving in the Air Force, including his motivations for joining, the path that led him to learn cartography, and how military service allowed him to travel across the country. He pays particular attention to a memorable summer he spent in Washington, DC. As part of this, Rutherford also compares his experience growing up Black on the west coast with his experiences in other parts of the country. Rutherford also discusses his relationship with his wife, Martha, who is white, and the family difficulties that created with both his parents and his in-laws. Rutherford also discusses his life and career after leaving military service, including his time in Los Angeles and his eventual return to Portland to raise his children.

Bill Rutherford was born in Portland, Oregon in 1937, the oldest of four. He was the first Black person born at the Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Rutherford was raised in Portland and lived there until 1954, when he went to Eugene, Oregon, to attend the University of Oregon. After a brief stint there, he joined the Air Force, which allowed him the opportunity to travel across the United States, as he was educated in cartography. It was also during the time that he met his wife, Martha, with whom he had two children. After leaving the Air Force, Rutherford returned to Portland where he worked as a milkman. In August 1965, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he again found work as a milkman before landing a job in cartography. After returning to Portland in 1971, where he raised his two children, he continued to work in technical illustration.


Bill Rutherford


Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection (OH 42)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


March 16, 2018


Ruth Kornberg


Born Digital Video




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Ruth Kornberg


Bill Rutherford


Rutherford residence, Eugene, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital Video



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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