The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy this past week reminds me that there is a link between the Kennedy family and Union Avenue/Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. As the Oregon Advance Times reported in its April 25, 1968 issue:
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy visited Albina last Thursday and opened the Kennedy Community Center at 2843 N.E. Union Avenue.
He is the only presidential candidate to have a community headquarters in northeast Portland.
“We don’t want any riots, violence or disorders, he told the crowd on hand at the opening, “but at the same time we can’t have injustice.”
He used the same theme in many of his talks in Oregon that day… Each time he emphasized that violence is not acceptable to the American people but that neither are the conditions that caused it.
When he spoke to students at Oregon State University in Corvallis he was critical of the number who raised their hands when asked if they thought college students should be deferred from the military draft.
Kennedy told them they were in college because they could afford to be. Why, he asked them, should they be deferred when a young man working in a filling station was? He said that although Negroes make up only 10 per cent of the population of the United States, they account for 20 per cent of the casualties in Vietnam.
It is wrong, he said, to make the poor carry the burden of the war.
When Kennedy was on his way to his Albina center he saw a group of children at the Albina Child Care Center. He had his driver stop and he walked over and rubbed fingers with the children through the wire fence and said “Hi” to each. He then made a quick visit to the Neighborhood Service Center before going on to his own campaign center.
“It is a community center and not a campaign headquarters,” emphasized Mercy Ann Wright. Miss Wright explained that the purpose of the center is to get Albina citizens active in politics as well as rallying around their political program.
“We will be doing door to door registration in order to get residents out to vote.”
Others actively involved in working with the center are, Larry Weckbaugh, head of the University of Portland Kennedy headquarters, Tom Wilson of the Neighborhood Service Center, and Mrs. Bonnie Colton head of United Citizens against Poverty at Columbia Villa.
The same issue of the Advance Times reports that the Portland School Board unanimously voted to change the name of Highland Elementary School to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. The name change was proposed by the school’s students, who gathered 1,250 signatures of local residents in support of their proposal.
The building at 2843 NE Union, which housed the Kennedy Community Center, no longer stands.