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College fulfilled longshoreman’s dream

Henry Hansen, ILWU Local 12 longshoreman in undated photo

Henry Hansen, ILWU Local 12 longshoreman in undated photo. Local 12 was instrumental in creating the local community college, providing funding and countless volunteer hours to collect more than 10,000 signatures.

When Southwestern Oregon Community College christened Henry Hansen Union Square this spring, it honored not only a longshoreman who championed the creation of SWOCC, but his union as well.

Creating a college required a petition signed by a percentage of voters in the prospective college’s service area — 5,000 signatures in the case of Southwestern Oregon.

With financial backing from Local 12, Hansen and other union members traveled the territory, gathering their 5,000 signatures. When opponents of the college challenged the petition’s wording in court, the union had to gather the signatures all over again.

The Legislature created the college district in 1959, and a special election was held in July 1961, for voters to decide whether to tax themselves to build the college. The ILWU paid the election’s $1,000 cost. Hansen put up $2,800 of his own – comparable to $20,000 today – to pay for the campaign.

Hansen’s son Peter was 10 years old during that campaign. In his speech to ILWU Local 12 last week, Peter Hansen described how the election pamphlets were prepared.

“The International Woodworkers of America donated use of their hall in Coos Bay, where the pamphlet was collated by taking page after page of each of the 18 stacks of mimeographed pages and put together by going around the tables 12,000 times,” he said.

“One of my memories from the Fourth of July 1961, was late at night, after the fireworks, when we were putting these things together, going around and around the tables.

“The guys came in from their shifts in the mills, the waterfront, and the woods to help. Dirty, grimy, tired, carrying their lunch buckets, they were there because they wanted this college for their children.”

The voters agreed to tax themselves, and the college opened in September 1961, with Henry Hansen as the first board chairman.

Read the full article and see historical photos in the World


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