The Betty Roberts papers are comprised primarily of paper records, photographs, sound recordings, and a videotape documenting Betty Roberts’ political and judicial careers (1965-1986). This collection is arranged into 12 series: Audio and Video; Campaigns; Clippings; Issues; Legal Career; Legal Organizations and Associations; Photographs; Political Career; Presidential Campaigns; Speeches; Women in Law and Politics; and Oversized.
Portland State University Library Special Collections & University Archives
Betty Roberts was born in Arkansas City, Kansas on February 5, 1923. Her family relocated to Texas, where Roberts was raised, in the 1930s. She attended Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth for one year in 1940 before marrying Bill Rice in 1942. They moved to Oregon after World War II where Bill became a banker and Roberts raised their four children.
In 1955, Roberts enrolled in evening classes at Eastern Oregon College in La Grande before the family relocated to Portland. She graduated from Portland State College in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Roberts earned her Master’s degree in political science in 1962 from the University of Oregon and then her Juris Doctorate from Northwest School of Law in 1966. Between 1958 and 1967 she taught high school in the Portland area before taking a job teaching business law and political science at Mt. Hood Community College from 1967 until 1978. In 1959 she divorced Rice, and in 1960 married Frank Roberts whom she stayed married to until 1965. In 1968 she married fellow Representative, Keith D. Skelton.
In 1964, and again in 1966, she was elected as a Democrat to the Oregon House of Representatives. In 1968, and again in 1972, she was elected to the Oregon Senate and was the only woman serving in the state senate at that time. In 1974 she ran for governor of Oregon, but lost in the Democratic primary. That same year she was chosen to run for Oregon United States Senate - following the death of Democratic nominee Wayne Morse - against Bob Packwood but was ultimately unsuccessful.
In 1977, Roberts was appointed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The next year she ran a successful election to keep her seat on the appeals court for the full six-year term. She resigned from the appeals court in 1982 when Governor Victor Atiyeh appointed her to the Oregon Supreme Court where she became the first woman on the court. She retired from the Oregon Supreme Court in 1986.
During and since her retirement, Roberts has been awarded numerous awards and honorariums for her work. Since her retirement from the Oregon Supreme Court she has worked as a mediator and arbitrator in alternative dispute resolution. In March 2004, she presided over the first legal same-sex marriage in Oregon.
This collection is arranged into 12 series: Audio and Video; Campaigns; Clippings; Issues; Legal Career; Legal Organizations and Associations; Photographs; Political Career; Presidential Campaigns; Speeches; Women in Law and Politics; and Oversized.
The bulk of the material within this collection is comprised of paper records, photographs, sound recordings, and a videotape documenting Betty Roberts’ political and judicial careers (1965-1986). Additional material consists of Roberts’ various interests, activities, speeches, and awards from her public service career as well as after her resignation from the Oregon Supreme Court. The paper records consist of campaign materials and ephemera, correspondence, court books and case files, legislative session reports, media clippings, photographs, posters, publications, reports, studies, speeches and presentations.
There are often two sets of dates assigned to any given folder title. The first set of dates encompasses the material that the folder seeks to collect, while the second date reflects the inclusive dates (e.g., in the Abortion sub-series of the Issues series, there is the folder "1973 Benson v. Johnson, 1971-2009"). This two-date system is a result of Roberts' frequent updates of foldered material. The bulk of these updates are from newspaper/magazine clippings or email correspondence. When only the first date is present, the material in the folder or sub-series is all from that year.
Use of the Collection
Restrictions on Access :
This collection is open for research
Restrictions on Use :
There are no restrictions on the materials
Acquisition Information :
Materials were donated by Betty Roberts and her family.
Detailed Description of the Collection
Audio and Video, 1962-2009
Pledge of allegiance controversy at Lynch Elementary School Board meeting
2 1/4 in. reel-to-reel tapes
"Oh What a Night"
2 tapes: Oregon Historical Sociery program with Gretchen Kafoury, Vera Katz, Norma Paulus, Betty Roberts, and Melody Rose.
6 tapes: Betty Roberts oral history with Katherin O'Neil
CDs and DVDs
Oregon State Capital Foundation - Betty Roberts Interview
Betty Roberts - With Grit and by Grace: Breaking Trails in Politics and Law, A Memoir
2 DVDs: Back Page no. 145. Produced at OSU Media Services
Oregon Historical Society interview with Linda Brody, 1981
Her Honor, Betty Roberts, Judge, Oregon Court of Appeals by Joy A. Mills, 1979
Oregon Woman Lawyers with Betty Roberts and Mercedes Diaz. Interview by Katherin O'Neil, 1999
Women Trailblazer in the Law Betty Roberts oral history
KATU 2 News - Betty Roberts archive footage
Oregon Women Lawyers: A Conversation with Betty Roberts and Mercedes Deiz
November 22, 1999
Oregon Women Lawyers Spring Conference
Keynote speaker: Betty Roberts held at Willamette University Law School
2006 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award luncheon
33 photos Contains all material regarding the 2006 award events except for the Barbara Roberts presentation.
2006 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award presentation
The presentation of Betty Roberts life, career, and achievements. Includes: a biography of Roberts; news articles and speeches from her past; a DVD of the award luncheon; 40 photograps detailing important events throughout her life; and a photo index including thumbnail images with descriptions of all 40 photographs present as well as several others which were ultimately not included in the presentation
Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award nominations
Two separate unsuccessful nominations
1996 and 1999
Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS)
2006 Betty Roberts and Mercedes Deiz Awards Dinner
Mercedes Deiz slide show CD
Photos from OWLS Book Event
OWL's 2007 Roberts / Diez Awards Dinner
Betty Roberts Acceptance Speech and ABA Margaret Brent Award DVD - 00:11:00
With Grit and by Grace: Breaking Trails in Politice and Law poster
Caricatures of Oregon Supreme Court
Signed by all each justice
Female symbol with judicial gavel handmade poster
Similar to the feminist symbol of the female sign with a fist it the circle, only in this case the fist has been replaced with a gavel
Pencil sketch of Betty Roberts
Opened to page 46B depicting "Oregon's nearly perfect delegation." Signed by 16 of the delegation members
June 30, 1972
Art Bimrose editorial cartoon "1981 Decorations"
Original sketch inked over into final cartoon. Depicts <span lang="la">Justitia (Lady Justice) without blindfold </span>hanging female symbols on a tree. "Sandra Day O'Conner U.S. Supreme Court" is already present, and Justitia has just finished hanging "Betty Roberts Oregon Supreme Court." Justitia is saying "And the one... After 124 years!"
Congratulatory cards and notes
11 pages pasted with cards front and back
Laminated Oregonian and Statesman-Journal clippings regarding Justice Roberts retirement