It was with heavy hearts that we learned of the passing of Senator Jackie Winters at the age of 82. Earlier this month, Corban University was privileged to honor Senator Winters as the recipient of the Doctor of Humane Letters at the 2019 Commencement ceremony.
During the conferring of the Doctor of Humane Letters, Senator Jackie Winters was honored for overcoming personal adversity to transform Oregon as the first African American Republican elected to the Oregon State Legislature, as well as the longest-serving woman in the Oregon State Legislature.
Unable to deliver her own commencement address due to health concerns, Jackie sent her three granddaughters in her place, who delivered her speech for her. They shared how the work she had done both in political office and as an entrepreneur had laid a strong foundation not only for her granddaughters but for Oregon as a whole. Senator Winters’ granddaughters challenged the audience to remember the people who had come before them and laid foundations of courage, justice, and perseverance.
Senator Jackie Winters began her life-long interest in citizen involvement and public policy as she listened to her parents’ discussions around the table, first in Topeka, Kansas, where she was born, and later in Portland, Oregon, where her family moved in 1943.
- Senator Winters began her governmental service in 1959 at the University of Oregon Medical School in the medical records unit and later joined the staff of the Portland Model Cities Program.
- In 1969, she was recruited to be supervisor of the Office of Economic Opportunity’s New Resources Program at the request of Governor Tom McCall.
- In 1979, she was appointed Ombudsman by Governor Victor Atiyeh. During this service, she helped create the Oregon Food Share Program, the first statewide non-profit food sharing network, which continues to serve most of Oregon’s neediest families.
- In 1985, Jackie opened her first Jackie’s Ribs restaurant in Salem.
- In 1998, voters of District 31 elected Jackie as State Representative, the first African American Republican to achieve this honor in Oregon.
- In 2002, she was elected as State Senator for District 10.
- In 2014, she was elected to a fourth term in the Senate.
- In November 2017, she was selected by the Senate Republican Caucus to serve as Senate Republican Leader, the first African American in Oregon to serve as a caucus leader.
Jackie lived in Salem for over 47 years. She married Marc “Ted” Winters in 1971. She is survived by four sons, a stepson, stepdaughter, 11 grandchildren, and three great-granddaughters. Her beloved husband Ted passed on August 26, 2008.
Oregon has lost a truly remarkable woman. At the same time, our hope is in eternity, and we rejoice that Senator Winters has joined her Savior.
Join us in praying for Senator Winters’ family, that they would experience the grace and comfort of Jesus Christ during this difficult season. We encourage you, too, to read more about the legacy Senator Winters leaves behind in the Oregon Legislature and beyond. We pray that her courage and integrity inspire us all to look for ways to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).