Urban Champion

Ed Washington honored for improving lives of others

6/5/2018, 5:18 p.m.
Portland civic leader and champion to the causes of urban issues and civil rights is receiving Pioneer Award for Public ...
A longtime Portland civic leader and champion to the causes of urban issues and civil rights, Ed Washington is receiving Portland’s State University’s 2018 Nohad A. Toulan Urban Pioneer Award for Public Service.

Ed Washington, a longtime Portland civic leader from Portland’s African American community, and a steadfast champion to the causes of urban issues and civil rights, will receive this year’s Nohad A. Toulan Urban Pioneer Award for Public Service bestowed by the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University.

The award is given annually to a community leader who exhibits the values taught to students and held dear by the college’s faculty and community partners, PSU officials said, in announcing Washington’s selection for the award last week.

The desired values include public service, civic leadership, insight into the nature of local and regional urban problems, visionary responses to urban issues and contributing to Portland's reputation as one of the most vital and thriving urban centers in the nation.

Washington was born in Birmingham, Ala. in 1937, and his family moved to Vanport—a Portland metro area city comprised of wartime public housing—in 1944. Tragically, Ed and his family lost their home in 1948 in the Vanport Flood.

His family moved around Portland for the next two years before settling near northeast Portland’s Irving Park in 1950. He attended Irvington Elementary and Grant High School, then worked for the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU) from 1956 to 1960.

Washington joined the Portland chapter of the NAACP in 1956, and he served on a committee that ended discriminatory hiring practices among local grocery stores through a successful boycott campaign.

He was the first African-American Councilor on the Metro Council from 1991 to 2001, working diligently to advance the quality of life and equity in his community. In 2013, he gave a presentation to the Metro Council about his personal experiences with racism in Oregon. He was also featured in the CBS News documentary Race Against the Past where he discussed both the history of racism in Oregon and the history of Vanport.

“Within the African American community, we have a long tradition of preserving our story through oral history,” said Michael Alexander, PSU's interim vice president for Global Diversity and Inclusion. “Ed embodies this tradition in a very personal and noble manner. He will never let us lose sight of the injustices and bigotry we faced as a community.”

Washington has spoken recently at community forums to boost the voices of those who have historically been underrepresented in government, including people of color and immigrants.

He is part of Metro’s 2030 Regional Waste Plan, which aims to advance the region as a leader in the protection of natural resources and ensure equitable access to Metro’s services. He has been a tireless advocate for inclusion and equity and currently works as the director of Outreach & Community Engagement in Global Diversity and Inclusion for Portland State.

Ed Washington epitomizes personal and persistent commitment to improving the lives of others by fighting discrimination,” said Stephen Percy, dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs. “It is our honor to celebrate the impact of his work through the Urban Pioneer Award.”

The award will be bestowed during the college’s hooding ceremony on Friday, June 15 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront.