Well, I think I’ve finally gathered together all of my research for my essay on vice in Portland. After plowing through the majority of it, I’m sitting down and writing summaries for each piece to figure out how I want to work it into my essay. I am working off of about 25 newspaper articles, and five City Club reports, as well as a handful of autobiographies, secondary sources, and Robert F. Kennedy’s book The Enemy Within, which covers the McClellan Committee’s investigation into corrupt labor unions.
As you can see, it’s a lot of information to digest, and it is very difficult piecing it all together. Remember, I’m dealing with people who were involved in the vice rackets, doing a lot of illegal things, so there are many contradicting stories.
As I continue my journey through this, I figured I’d provide some highlights. Today I’d like to highlight Dorothy McCullough Lee. In 1949, Lee became Portland’s first female mayor, but prior to that, she was pretty groundbreaking. She graduated from the University of California at Berkley, earning a Law degree. She practiced law for a year in San Francisco, and after her marriage, she and her husband moved to Portland in 1924. After failing to be hired by Portland’s firms based upon her gender, she opened her own office and in 1931 she formed a partnership with another female lawyer, creating Oregon’s first all women law firm. In ’32, she sat on Oregon’s Senate, and in ’43 was appointed to the City Council, and became the first woman to serve as the city’s commissioner. In the ’48 mayoral election, she won the vote by 70 percent, beating incumbent Earl Riley. Early in office, she started a crusade against vice, and got the city council to outlaw pinball machines and went after slots, and punchboards as well. Slots were not just in after hour clubs though, they were also in private clubs such as the Press and Veterans clubs. The operators of these clubs felt that Lee had gone too far, since the slots provided extra revenue. Press Club manager Charley Summer reported that the slots raked in $4,000 a month. And Mrs. C.S. Johnson of the Veterans club referred to Lee as “Mrs. Air-Wick”. She also gained the nick name “Dotty-Do-Good” and in Portland Confidential she is called “No Sin” Lee. Lee’s warpath on vice ended when she lost to Fred Peterson in 1952.
After holding the mayor’s seat, Lee was appointed the to the federal Parole Boardin DC by President Eisenhower, a position she held until ’56, and then served on the Subversive Activities Control Board as their chairwoman from ’57 to ’62. After the national scene, Lee returned to Portland and to practicing law. She passed away in 1981.
Sources: Rose City Justice by Fred Leeson, 1998 and Life Magazine, March 21, 1949