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Gerald H. Robinson ’48

November 13, 2020, in Portland.

Born in Portland, Gerald graduated from Lincoln High School, served in the U.S. Army, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Reed in political science.

In a letter written in 1988 to Reed President James Powell [1988–91], Gerald commended Prof. Richard Jones [history 1941–86], saying, “Dick Jones had been at Reed only three years when I entered as a freshman, but already he was recognized as one of its finest faculty members, ranking in a company of giants . . . Although I went on to study with many famous teachers, I still consider Dick’s course in English Constitutional History as the finest—and the most challenging—I have ever experienced.”

Gerald went on to earn both an MA and a JD from Columbia University and opened a law practice in Portland in 1952, the days of the “Red Scare,” McCarthyism, and the nascent Subversive Activities Control Board. Gerald was asked if he would take a case defending a Portland resident against deportation on charges that he was a Communist.

“There I was in a new office with one or two files,” Gerald remembered. “So, I said yes. Once that case got into the press, there were a surprising number of cases that came to me.” 

For the rest of his career, Gerald made a specialty of fighting for immigration rights. He was the first Oregon attorney to specialize in the field, one of the first members of the American Bar Association’s Association of Immigration Lawyers, and the author of Immigration Law for the General Practitioner. He was the organizer and first chair of the Oregon Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and upon his retirement was elected an honorary life member for his accomplishments as a litigator of immigration cases in various federal courts. He was also active in various civil liberty causes; organized a group of attorneys to represent conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War; and, until his retirement in 1997, handled a variety of business, personal, and trial cases.

At Reed, Gerald discovered photography through Ed Martin ’47 and participated in the joint program offered at Reed and the Portland Art Museum School. He became a well-known photographer with more than 20 one-man shows of his work. He taught the history of photography at Mt. Hood Community College and helped organize the University of Oregon Art Museum’s photo gallery. In addition to books of his photographic works, he wrote Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar, featuring photographs taken at the Japanese-American relocation center by Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake, and a book of essays on the history of photography, Photography, History, and Science. Gerald is survived by his wife, Mutsumi I. Robinson, and a child.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2021

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