February: Black History in Oregon Month

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Blacks in Oregon
by Darrell Millner

Periodically, newspaper or magazine articles appear proclaiming amazement at how white the population of Oregon and the City of Portland is compared to other parts of the country. It is not possible to argue with the figures—in 2013, there were an estimated 78,600 blacks in Oregon, about 2 percent of the population—but it is a profound mistake to think that these stories and statistics tell the story of the state's racial past. In fact, issues of race and the status and circumstances of black life in Oregon are central to understanding the history of the state, and perhaps its future as well. READ THE ESSAY


by Darrell Millner

York was William Clark's slave and an integral member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Territory and the Oregon Country in 1804-1806.

The written descriptions of York portray him as large, dark, strong, and agile. His date of birth is unknown, but his parents were owned by William Clark's father, and as a young child York had been assigned as the companion and later manservant to Clark. In the traditions of Southern slavery, that usually meant they were of about the same age, which means that York was probably born in about 1770.

Journal entries and Native American oral traditions note that Native people were impressed by York and that his presence operated as a valuable element in the expedition's diplomatic interactions with the Indians they encountered. On October 9, 1804, expedition member Sgt. John Ordway recorded in his journal: "the greatest curiousity to them was York Capt. Clark's Black man. all the nation made a great deal of him." York's contributions also included hunting, medical services, physical labor, and participation in special exploratory activities. During the difficult days of the return trip, when expedition members were near starvation, York was entrusted with the critical task of trading their few remaining valuables with the Natives for desperately needed provisions, ensuring the expedition's survival.




George Washington Bush
by Don Sederstrom

While many pioneers earned reputations as rugged individualists, George Washington Bush epitomized compassion and selflessness, traits that helped him become one of the most important leaders of the first group of American citizens to settle on the north bank of the Columbia River, in what is now Washington State. A veteran of the War of 1812, Bush traveled to the Pacific Coast in 1820, found work as a freelance trapper, and eventually became employed with the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1830, he returned to Missouri, married Isabella James, a German-American and minister’s daughter, raised five sons, and worked the family farm. Bush, who was African American, was the target of racial prejudice, a reality that inspired him to return to the West and start a new life in Oregon Territory.

In May 1844, Bush partnered with Michael Troutman Simmons, and they led a thirty-two-person party over the Oregon Trail. Although Bush and Simmons had the means to finance their journey, many of their fellow travelers did not. Demonstrating the compassion and charitable nature for which he would become known, Bush personally funded those of his party who could not afford to make it on their own. After four months, the wagon train arrived in Oregon. Unfortunately, the policies of racism against blacks had beat him to the West. In June 1844, Oregon's Provisional Government enacted the first of a series of exclusion laws, commonly known as the Lash Law. Through such legislation, citizens of Oregon Territory used community-sanctioned violence and intimidation to prohibit African Americans from owning land in the region.  


Louis Southworth
by Peggy Baldwin

Louis Southworth came to Oregon in 1853, a time that was less than hospitable to African Americans. Most people who traveled the Oregon Trail by wagon were from the nation’s midwestern and border states, and many hoped to avoid the conflicts caused by slavery. Slavery was not legal in Oregon, but African Americans had been prohibited from settling in Oregon since the days of the provisional government. The Oregon State Constitution, passed in 1859, contained an exclusion clause that made it illegal for African Americans to live in Oregon (the clause was not repealed until 1926, and the population of African Americans in Oregon did not surpass one percent until 1960). Those prejudices and restrictions did not stop Southworth from making a good life in the state.

Southworth first lived on an Oregon Donation Land Claim near Monroe that Benjamin Richardson allowed him to settle in 1853. The law did not allow him to apply for his own Oregon Donation Land Claim, since the privilege was only extended to whites and "half-breed Indians." In 1870, Southworth lived in Buena Vista, where he ran a livery stable and worked as a blacksmith. In 1873, he married Mary Cooper, whose adopted son, Alvin McCleary, Southworth would help raise.

Black Exclusion Laws
by Greg Nokes

Oregon's small white population voted on July 5, 1843, to prohibit slavery by incorporating into Oregon's 1843 Organic laws a provision of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance: "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.'' The law was amended on June 26, 1844, by the provisional government's new legislative council, headed by Missouri immigrant Peter Burnett. The new law prohibited slavery, gave slaveholders a time limit to “remove” their slaves “out of the country,” and freed slaves if their owners refused to remove them. The effect was to legalize slavery in Oregon for three years.

Once freed, a former slave could not stay in Oregon—a male would have to leave after two years, a female after three. Any free black who refused to leave would be subject to lashing. Burnett, who later became the first U.S. governor of California, gave this explanation for his support for the law: "The object is to keep clear of that most troublesome class of population [blacks]. We are in a new world, under the most favorable circumstances and we wish to avoid most of those evils that have so much afflicted the United States and other countries.''




Moses Williams
by Greg Shine

Born in rural Louisiana in 1845, Moses Williams joined the U.S. Army in 1866 and embarked on a thirty-one-year military career in the American West, leading troopers of the 9th U.S. Cavalry’s Buffalo Soldiers. On October 15, 1895, he arrived for duty at Fort Stevens, where he served out the last three years of his career as that post’s ordnance sergeant. It must have been a lonely duty, since he was the only soldier assigned to the post. While there, he learned that the army had awarded the Medal of Honor to two fellow soldiers for action in the Cuchillo Negro Mountains in 1881—action in which Williams had participated. His former commanding officer provided a detailed letter of recommendation, and Williams applied to the War Department for consideration. On November 23, 1896, the department awarded Williams a Medal of Honor for most distinguished gallantry in action. “This soldier rallied the detachment when his commanding officer was dismounted and unable to reach it,” the citation read. “His coolness, bravery, and unflinching devotion to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under a heavy fire...was undoubtedly the means of saving the lives of at least three of his comrades.”

Williams retired from the army on May 12, 1898 and moved to Vancouver, Washington,. He died on August 23, 1899, and was buried at the Vancouver Barracks cemetery. Buffalo Soldiers from the 24th U.S. Infantry, assigned to the post at the time, probably provided the burial detail.

Salem’s Colored School and Little Central
by Susan Bell

The first school open to African American students in Oregon—referred to as the Colored School—was founded in March 1867 by African American residents in Salem. In 1868, the original school closed when the city opened a segregated public school called Little Central, which was also called the “Colored School.” Oregon did not have a state superintendent of schools to institute and manage free and uniform schools in every district until 1872, so people often organized their own schools and determined enrollment requirements and school fees. In a state where African Americans were legally, economically, and socially marginalized by the white population, the children of black families were routinely barred from school attendance.

School-age children in Salem in the 1850s had only one public school to attend: the Old Log Schoolhouse on the corner of Marion and Commercial Streets. The school required tuition of from four to five dollars per child each term (from late September to March) to pay for maintenance. Black students were not allowed to attend.


  salem school

15th amend`  

15th Amendment
by David Peterson del Mar

The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, a year after Congress passed it, stated that voting rights "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The amendment left the door open for states to discriminate on purportedly nonracial grounds, such as property ownership or literacy, but it extended to African Americans a crucial right that only eight northern states had granted in 1868.

Oregon, which joined California as two of the five western states that rejected the amendment, did not formally ratify the Fifteenth Amendment until 1959. This refusal was largely symbolic, since Oregon could not overturn the rule of the land. Hence, Oregon's Supreme Court in 1870 upheld the rights of two African American men in Wasco County to vote for county commissioner, explaining: "To hold otherwise would be to unwarrantably overthrow certain well established principles of law. . . ." 


Harriet “Hattie” Redmond
by Janice Dilg

Harriet “Hattie” Redmond was a leader in the long struggle for Oregon woman suffrage, especially during the successful campaign of 1912. The right to vote was especially important to Redmond as a black woman living in a state that had codified black exclusion laws in its constitution. Her work for voting rights helped lay the groundwork for the Black Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Her parents, Reuben and LaVinia “Vina” Crawford, were emancipated slaves who instilled their quest for freedom and full citizenship in their daughter. Hattie helped bring those dreams to fruition through her civic activism.

Hattie Redmond’s civic activities centered on the Oregon Colored Women’s Council (later named the Oregon Colored Women’s Club) and the Portland YWCA. During the campaign for woman suffrage in Oregon, she was president of the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association. She organized meetings and educational lectures on woman suffrage at Mt. Olivet First Baptist Church and served on the State Central Campaign Committee. Following the triumph of the woman suffrage vote on November 5, 1912, she used her newly gained right by registering to vote in April 1913.

Throughout her life, Redmond labored at some of the limited jobs then open to African American women. She worked as a hairdresser, a domestic, and a department store duster. Her employment as a janitor for Oregon’s U.S. District Court judges lasted twenty-nine years, and she received a pension when she retired in 1939.



Lizzie Weeks
by Kim Jensen

In the fall of 1914, in the first national election after the success of woman’s suffrage in Oregon, Lizzie Koontz Weeks helped organize a meeting in Portland of African American women who supported the Republican Party, the party of most blacks from the time of the Civil War until the Great Depression. The group formed the Colored Women’s Republican Club and elected Weeks, who was already a registered voter, as president. At the conclusion of the meeting, the group went to the Multnomah County courthouse so that those who were not yet registered could do so.

Weeks and her colleagues then focused on voter registration of other African American women in Portland, urging them to vote the Republican ticket and inviting local candidates to present their positions at club meetings at the Central Library. In 1916, Weeks took part in a citywide voter registration drive sponsored by Republican women. Two years later, in 1918, she was a candidate for Republican precinct committee member.

A path-breaking social worker in Portland, Weeks was the first African American woman employed as a matron at the Frazier Detention Home, a juvenile facility in Multnomah County. Judge George Tazwell appointed her as a probation officer for the Juvenile Court. In 1920, she began work as a probation officer in the Multnomah County Court of Domestic Relations, even as some white social workers objected.

Buffalo Soldiers at Vancouver Barracks
by Greg Shine

For thirteen months beginning in 1899, a company of 103 soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry—one of four African American regiments known as Buffalo Soldiers—garrisoned at Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington. The company arrived at the barracks during the brief period of time when respect for African American soldiers was buoyed by their recent success in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. While in the Northwest, the soldiers participated in military, political, and social activities, introducing many residents of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho to blacks and raising local awareness of the national policies and practices that beleaguered African Americans.

The soldiers interacted with the public differently in Portland and Vancouver, primarily through formal events and activities. Soldiers of Company B took part in ceremonies that previously had been the responsibility of white soldiers, including parades, escorts, military band concerts, and funerals. The soldiers of Company B made the most of their leisure time, organizing dances, parties, and baseball games. The Portland New Age, a black-owned newspaper, reported on the soldiers’ involvement in social activities, including a wedding in Vancouver where “quite a number of friends from Portland attended.” The company’s baseball team, called the Hard Hitters and the Brownies in local newspapers, played several games, including some against white teams.

  buffalo soldier



golden west  

Golden West Hotel
by Stan Fonseca

The Golden West Hotel, at Northwest Broadway and Everett Streets in Portland, was the first hotel in the city to accommodate African American patrons. For twenty-five years, from 1906 through 1931, it was a social center and a focal point of the black community, a place for African Americans of all ages to gather and socialize in a segregated and largely unfriendly city. On the lower floors of the hotel, there were several black-owned businesses, including a bar, a barbershop, an ice cream parlor, and an athletic club.

Entrepreneur William G. Allen opened the 100-room Golden West in 1906 to provide accommodations for those who worked for the railroads as porters, cooks, and waiters, the primary source of employment for black men in Portland. None of the city’s hotels allowed African American patrons, so the Golden West was a necessity for traveling railroad workers.

Beatrice Morrow Cannady
by Quintard Taylor

Beatrice Morrow Cannady was the most noted civil rights activist in early twentieth-century Oregon. Using her position as editor of the Advocate, Oregon's largest, and at times the only, African American newspaper, Cannady launched numerous efforts to defend the civil rights of the approximately 2,500 African Americans in the state (in 1930) and to challenge racial discrimination in its varied forms.

Beatrice Morrow was born in 1889 in Littig, Texas. She reportedly graduated from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, in 1908, worked briefly as a teacher in Oklahoma, and then enrolled in the University of Chicago, where she studied music. In 1912, she left the city for Portland, Oregon, to marry Edward Daniel Cannady, the founder and editor of the Advocate. Upon their marriage, Beatrice Cannady became assistant editor of the newspaper, beginning an affiliation that would continue for the next twenty-four years; she would become the editor and owner of the Advocate in 1930 after her divorce from Edward. In 1922, at the age of thirty-three, Cannady became the first African American woman to graduate from Northwestern College of Law in Portland. She was one of only two women in a class of twenty-two.



Black Cowboys in Oregon
by Stan Fonseca

The transformation of the cowboy to a figure of entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century opened up new opportunities for African Americans to participate in commercial horse racing, bull riding, wrangling, and bucking. While black cowboys were still subject to racist treatment—including being expected to play a racial stereotype as a part of their act and being judged unfairly alongside white competitors—they also had opportunities to demonstrate their skill on horseback.

The Pendleton Round-Up, started in 1910, included African American competitors from the beginning. The Round-Up’s most famous black rider, George Fletcher moved to Pendleton as a young man, learning from horsemen on the nearby Umatilla Reservation. Throughout the 1910s, he enthralled audiences with his flamboyant style, which included wearing bright orange chaps, and his loose, relaxed way of riding that made every movement look as though it would fling him off.

In 1911, Fletcher competed against John Spain, who was white, and Jackson Sundown, who was Nez Perce, in the bucking finals. Spain was awarded first prize, but the crowd disagreed with the judge’s decision and cheered loudest for Fletcher. Most spectators agreed that Fletcher had ridden better and that the decision derived from the judge’s reluctance to award the first prize to a nonwhite man. Fletcher would later serve in the military during World War I, where he sustained injuries that ended his rodeo career.


by Gwen Trice

Maxville, east of the town of Wallowa, was home to African American loggers at a time when Oregon’s constitution included a provision excluding blacks from the state. It was largest town in Wallowa County between 1923 and 1933, with a population of about 400 residents, 40 to 60 of them African American.

The Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company, based in Missouri, built the railroad-logging town for loggers and their families, both white and black, in Bishop’s Meadows. Company jobs were typically segregated based on ethnic origin. Black workers felled the trees in teams, using cross-cut saws, and many had experience as log loaders, log cutters, railroad builders, tong hookers, and section foremen. In Maxville, the primary use of their expertise was log cutting, and there are firsthand accounts of black workers repairing and maintaining the railroad engine.



triple nickles  

Triple Nickles—555th Parachute Infantry Batallion
by Warren Aney

The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, nicknamed the Triple Nickles (using the English spelling of 'nickel'), was a World War II African American unit of the U.S. Army stationed in Pendleton in 1945. The battalion, first organized in November 1943 at Fort Benning, Georgia, was made up of voluntary transfers from other organizations. Created when the U.S. military was segregated by race, the 555th was the only African American parachute unit.

The distinctive insignia for the 555th was a white parachute with a black panther crouching on top. According to Lt. Col. (ret.) John Cannon, "We were the first Black Panthers because that was our emblem, the black panther."


William McClendon
by Stan Fonseca

With the start of World War II and the arrival of wartime industries in Portland, thousands of black workers moved to the city, causing serious housing shortages and a panic among the white population. Segregated housing policies became commonplace, and "We Cater to White Trade Only" signs appeared in businesses throughout the city. Discriminatory hiring practices in the shipyards were enforced by the Boilermaker's Union, a group of avid segregationists, ensuring that black shipyard workers were given the most menial jobs with no union protection. In response to workplace racism, segregated housing practices in private and public facilities, and prejudice throughout the city, blacks created numerous civil rights coalitions to address injustices and fight for equality. William McClendon— writer, journalist, intellectual, activist, and jazz musician—was at the forefront of that battle.

In June 1943, McClendon revived his newspaper, the Portland Observer, as the People’s Observer at the behest of the Shipyard Negro Organization for Victory, an activist group formed in November 1942. McClendon was employed at the shipyards when the first issue of the Observer was printed, but would be fired that July after leading a protest to address complaints about racial epithets aimed at black female employees. He agreed to run the newspaper as long as the members of SNOV subscribed to it. The bimonthly newspaper was intended to "fight social and economic evils detrimental to the Negro people and other minorities," according to McClendon, and it became a mouthpiece of the civil rights coalition and an important part of the black community.


Arthur Lee “Artie” Wilson
by Greg P. Jacob

Arthur “Artie” Wilson was a professional baseball player who was a longtime Portland resident. Playing for the Pacific Coast League for most of his baseball career, he was the first African American player hired on an integrated team, the Oakland Oaks. “He was an impressive gentleman,” Reverend Leroy Haynes of the Allen Temple Christian Methodist Church remembered in 2011. “I saw in him a man of purpose, a man of destiny.”

Artie Wilson, who was born on October 28, 1920, in Springfield, Alabama, grew up in Tarrant City, Alabama, and worked for the American Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham. While employed at the pipe company, he joined the company’s baseball team. His talent earned him the position of shortstop with the Birmingham Black Barons, a Negro League team, from 1942 to 1948. During his last year with the Barons, the team competed in the Negro League World Series, and Wilson became the last professional baseball player to bat over 400 (.402). That year, Wilson mentored the young Willie Mays, who played for the team.

In 1949, both the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians wanted to sign Wilson. Commissioner Happy Chandler awarded his rights to the Yankees, who then sold his contract to the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Wilson often heard racial slurs and taunts. "People used to yell at you,” he told the Oregonian in April 1997. “They'd call you every name in the book." Billy Martin heard the slurs and invited Wilson to be his roommate when they were on the road. In 1950, the Oakland Oaks won the PCL championship, and Wilson won the PCL batting title with a .348 average; he led the league with 47 stolen bases.

For sixteen years, he played for PCL teams—the Oakland Oaks (1949-1950; 1951), the Seattle Rainiers (1952-1954; 1956), the Sacramento Solons (1957), and the Portland Beavers (1955-1956; 1961). By the time he retired in 1962, he had won six batting titles, had over 3,000 hits, and had maintained over a .338 batting average in more than 1,900 games.


DeNorval Unthank
by Sara Piasecki

In 1929, Portland was a city deeply divided. Only three years had passed since Oregonians had voted to amend their constitution to allow blacks to permanently settle in Oregon, and there was little employment open to African Americans. By tacit agreement among business and political leaders, the vast majority of blacks worked for railroads and hotels. Into this milieu stepped thirty-year-old African American physician DeNorval Unthank, who would become one of the city’s most visible civil rights activists. Unthank was recruited to Oregon by the Union Pacific Railroad and its local physician, James A. Merriman, who had been hired to care for the railroad’s black workers. When Merriman moved to Arizona in 1931, Unthank became the only black physician in Portland.

Upon his arrival in 1929, Unthank was harassed so mercilessly by the whites in his neighborhood that his family was forced to move. The family relocated four times before finding a home on Southeast 29th Street where they could live peacefully. Unthank expanded his practice to serve not only the black community but also Asians and whites. Many of his early patients were loggers, since, as he later noted, “they were about the only people working during the Depression.”


Black Panthers in Oregon
by Martha Gies

In April 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, blacks across the nation took to the streets in grief and anger. In Portland, a group of about twenty disillusioned young blacks began meeting to study the writings of Malcolm X and the Little Red Book of quotations from China’s chairman Mao Tse-Tung. In June 1969, one of the members of the study group was beaten and jailed by Portland Police. Upon his release on bail, Kent Ford held a press conference on the steps of the Portland police station at Southwest Third and Oak. “If they keep coming in with these fascist tactics,” he announced, “we´re going to defend ourselves.” With this public pronouncement, members of the original group, now down to about half a dozen, retooled themselves as a chapter of the Black Panther Party. The chapter opened an office on the southeast corner of Northeast Cook Street and Union Avenue (present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard), the first of four locations.

By the end of that year, the Portland Panthers had started a Children´s Breakfast Program at Highland United Church of Christ—where they fed up to 125 children each morning before school—as well as the Fred Hampton Memorial People´s Health Clinic, extending free medical care five evenings a week at 109 North Russell to anyone of any race. In February 1970, the BPP opened a dental clinic at 2341 North Williams. “It felt good,” Oscar Johnson recalls. “We were doing something. We had the respect of the community.”

panthers breakfast    

William A. Hilliard
by David Sarasohn

Growing up in Portland, William A. Hilliard was refused a paper route for the Oregonian for fear that white subscribers would resent it, and he transferred from the University of Oregon after a professor told him there was no place for blacks on newspapers.

In 1987, Hilliard was named editor of the Oregonian. His first accomplishments were to expand the paper’s reach into the suburbs and to institute practices that encouraged diversity in hiring and news coverage. In 1992, he directed the Oregonian's sports department not to use Indian-themed nicknames for professional and college sports teams, a policy that drew national attention. He also championed tolerance for gays and lesbians. "It is imperative that our newspapers reflect the multiculturality of America," he told an Oregon newspaper group in 1993. "Let's respect the sexual orientation of others."

In 1993, Hilliard was named president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the first African American to hold that position. At the end of his one-year term, he retired as editor of the Oregonian. "I want to believe," Hilliard said at his retirement, "that over the years, scores of young people of color have looked at me and said, ‘It can happen.'"



Fred Milton
by Willam G. Robbins

In a time of social and racial turmoil in the late 1960s, the Black Student Union at Oregon State University staged a protest, walking off campus on March 5, 1969, because football coach Dee Andros had kicked African American linebacker Fred Milton off the team for sporting a mustache and goatee. Andros, a demanding, old-school coach, would not tolerate players who breached disciplinary rules, including those related to hair. After a forty-minute meeting between coach and player, neither side would budge, with Milton arguing that Andros’s prohibition of facial hair violated his human rights.

Andros’s decision made national news and connected OSU to other racially charged incidents on college campuses and riots taking place in the black neighborhoods of many major American cities. The incident highlighted the issue of racial and cultural differences at the university and in the conservative Corvallis community. Although the football team had been integrated for several years, no black players on the men’s basketball team had scholarships until 1966. 

Marianne Mayfield
by Lynn Darroch

During more than thirty years on the Portland jazz scene, singer and bassist Marianne Mayfield was a rare female instrumentalist in a male-dominated jazz world and was proud of her place in it. “I’m grateful for…the fact that I have enjoyed the respect of my contemporaries, the musicians, the guys. Not as a woman but as a musician and as a person,” she said in a 1985 interview. She also faced obstacles as an African American entertainer. When she started performing in the early 1950s, she couldn’t enter through the venue’s front door nor could her mother sit in the audience. 

Mayfield's nurturing personality made her a beloved figure among local jazz musicians, according to drummer Mel Brown, who worked with her at The Mural Room in 1961. “I’d have to go back to the kitchen between sets,” recalled Brown, who was underage at the time, “and she’d come in, check my homework and buy me a hamburger." She became “everybody’s surrogate mother,” according to the Oregonian’s pop music critic Marty Hughley. “She loved everybody," said Portland drummer Ron Steen, "and you could tell by who came to see her play; there’d be folks from the ghetto and folks from Lake Oswego.” 

Mayfield was touring with an all-woman vocal harmony trio called The Three V’s when she came to Portland. She didn’t leave until she retired and moved to Hawaii in 1993. In the mid-1960s, she was a member of the Julian Henson Trio and was later a singer with the Woody Hite Big Band. Beginning in the late 1970s, she led her own groups in Portland nightclubs. In 1994, she released the CD, Close Your Eyes


Jim Hill
by Grant Schott

Jim Hill was the first person of color to be elected to statewide office in Oregon, winning the state treasurer’s post as a Democrat in 1992. Ten years earlier, he was only the second African American elected to the state legislature. Born in segregated Atlanta in 1947, Hill was raised by a single mother who worked as a nurse to send him to a Catholic elementary school and then to a military boarding school. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics at Michigan State University in 1969, Hill earned an MBA and a law degree at Indiana University. He worked as a lawyer in the attorney general's office in Salem and for Mentor Graphics, a high-tech firm in Wilsonville, as corporate accounts manager for Latin America.

When Hill took office as state treasurer in 1992, the office was under fire for ethics violations. The pension fund had lost millions of dollars on a questionable investment, and under Hill’s predecessor the treasurer's office had approved a $5 million loan to a campaign donor. Some legislators wanted to split off the treasury's investment operations to a separate agency, but Hill pushed back by reorganizing the agency and delegating important work to trusted subordinates. While in office, Hill won high marks for integrity and effectiveness. He had a friendly personality and a moderate approach that appealed to members of both parties.