History Jun 21, 2017 at 4:00 am

The Striking Similarities Between Portland's 1967 Race Riot and Our City's Current Relationship with People of Color


Vernon Wolvert, who you referenced in the story as being “allegedly” attacked at Irving Park in 1967, lived next door to (directly adjacent) Irving Park on NE 8th street, not across the street. I was 14 years old at the time and grew up next door to the Wolvert family, including “Vern”.

Sunday July 30, 1967 is seared in my memory. My best friend, Rodney Smith, and I ran from the Park as fast as we could as the rioting crowd descended down upon us from the upper hill of Irving Park. No earthly being could have caught us that day as fear pumped through our veins and legs as we ran faster than we ever had or would.

Vern Wolvert was 41 years old in the summer of 1967 and was still living with his loving Mom and Dad. During his entire life, he was never able to run as fast as Rodney and me.

Vern was severely beaten that day including a blackened eye and swollen face. Although Vern had mental challenges that were not understood or accepted as well then as they are now, he was a peaceful, sweet man. He was incapable of violence or even intemperance.

I had known Vern since his Mom and Dad had bought the house next door to us when I was about 8 years old. Although he was more than 25 years older than me, I always felt protective of him…he was unerringly kind but vulnerable to the less than kind.

I remember my 14 year old heart breaking as Vern described how he was attacked that summer afternoon in Irving Park. I remember thinking any one of my friends, me or various other adults would have made more sense to be beat until limp than Vern.

To this day, I remember the pain in Vern’s voice as he described what happened to him. I’ve always felt that I let him and his family down by not doing something to protect him that Sunday afternoon.

It was a horrible time for everyone –black or white- who lived in inner NE Portland during the summer of 1967. And it only got worse as the following year witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.

I appreciated your riveting recount of that unforgettable period of my early life…and the rekindling of emotions for my dear, late friend, Vern Wolvert.
My husband Don DuPay worked the riot of 1967, and would have been an excellent living source for this article. It is unfortunate The Mercury was so careless in their attempts to find living participants of the riot who wcoukd provide firsthand account and testimony. Had The Mercury thought to include more living witnesses this article would be more factual and less editorial in nature.

Most of what is in this article is true and factual but there are several glaring over simplifications and inaccuracies. The photo above of the two Portland Police officers cannot be attributed to the riot of 1967. To suggest it is is incorrect and misleading. What you see is also only approximately 70 % of the actual photo. To include the ((entire panoramic)) photo, with the left and right ends of the photo included will show you something very different.

My husband Don DuPay was 31 and a Portland police officer during the riot of 1967. His recollections are crystal clear. As to that photo of the kids? It's been used before in a misleading fashion, and is included in my husband's book, the Second Edition of "Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir." Don explains the photo in detail in his book, where it is included. He even names the two officers as well, which The Mercury should have done but failed to. If you want the real story behind that provocative photo, you know where to find it. But the real story certainly is not going to be found here. 🤓

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