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Jackie Winters
When asked about the pivotal moments in her life, and who influenced her most, Jackie Winters recalls these family memories; “ I was the youngest of six children and my siblings played a part in my leadership development - - whether they knew it or not. I had the advantage of learning from their experiences and surviving in a group. We also debated a lot in my family, prompted by my father with his daily newspaper and old almanac.

“My father was my political influence. He held no office, but discussed all local, state, and national elections, explaining why they were important and which candidate deserved his vote. In my office at the Capitol I have the original receipt of my grandfather’s poll tax. My father’s favorite political figure was Vice President Charles (Charley) Curtis who was raised by my great-great-grandmother. A half Native American himself, he obtained an Indian Entitlement for my great-grandmother in 1912."

Both of Winters' parents were born in Kansas. She said "(they) were the youngest in their respective families and the most adventurous, leaving Kansas in the early (1940's) to make what was then a long and arduous trip to Oregon to work in the war industries.”

Winters' family settled in Portland. After she graduated from high school came marriage, motherhood, and efforts to hurdle the barriers of racial prejudice in employment. Undaunted, she passed the state civil service examination in 1959 and began her public service career at Oregon's Health Sciences University as a clerk typist.

Her involvement in the Model Cities program led to leadership training where she was noticed by Oregon Governor Tom McCall. She joined his staff in 1969. She became Assistant to Governor Atiyeh as Oregon's Ombudsman in 1979.

“I commuted from Portland to Salem from 1969 until 1971. On June 19, 1971, Ted and I were married at Westminister Presbyterian Church here in Salem and with my four sons in tow we moved into the home where we currently reside.

" I started my business in 1985 which was a big undertaking and risk; leaving the comfort of a pay check to rely on your own ingenuity can be perilous at best. (My business,) Jackie’s Ribs, exists because of my mother. She loved Kansas City barbecue, and watching her eat it was a delight, especially for my father. She did not cook it herself, but my father would go to the barbecue “joint” to get it; it was his gift to her.

“My involvement in this community has been extensive, from the NAACP to United Way to developing jobs for youth and working on excellence in education. My four sons are the joy of my life and the reason for so much of this effort. They have blessed me with three wonderful daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren. When I add Ted’s two, our brood of grandchildren jumps to ten. We are a ‘universal’ family, very mixed and integrated. Ted's support and encouragement in of all of my endeavors has allowed me the freedom to grow and to stretch my limits.

“Salem has been good to me. It has been the place where I have been able to raise my sons, achieve goals that I never in my wildest dream believe could happen to this person who grew up in Portland’s Albina ghetto where job opportunities were limited to being a domestic worker or a practical nurse, neither of which were my choices. When Salem honored me with a “roast” in 1980, I was overwhelmed. Although I grew up in Portland, this is my place.”

In 1998 Jackie Winters was elected to the Oregon State Legislature as the state's first African-American Republican. She is at the forefront of legislative debate to increase state funding for all levels of education. Her leadership and consensus building has assured the continuation of funding for the Oregon State Fair in Salem.

Recently Winters served as one of four members of a national panel discussion on women's issues shown on the Lifetime Television Network. But the honor of which she is most proud is her election - by her Salem neighbors - as a representative to the Oregon legislature.

Note: During the summer of 2000, Ms. Winters was interviewed by Salem History Volunteer Virginia Green. Information from the interview was used in this article with Winters' permission.


Jackie Winters
Jackie Winters
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