Avel Gordly

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Avel Gordly
Avel Gordly in 2011.jpg
Avel Gordly in 2011
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
Preceded byRon Cease
Succeeded byJackie Dingfelder
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 19th district
In office
Preceded byRon Cease
Succeeded byJo Ann Bowman
Personal details
Born (1947-02-13) February 13, 1947 (age 72)
Portland, Oregon
Political partyDemocratic
ResidencePortland, Oregon
Alma materPortland State University
OccupationActivist, community organizer, educator

Avel Louise Gordly (born February 13, 1947) is an activist, community organizer, and former politician in the U.S. state of Oregon, who in 1996 became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Oregon State Senate. She served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009. Previously, she served for five years in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Early years[edit]

Gordly was one of three children born in Portland, Oregon, to a mother active in local leadership within the Order of the Eastern Star and a father who worked for the railroad.[1] Her father was a strict authoritarian whom she feared. This fear kept them from being close and was also the reason for her brother, nine years her senior, would leave home early to join the Air Force.[2] Her church community was a big influence on her, with many of the women, including her grandmothers, serving as role models.[2] Her grandma Randolph was a founder in both the Oregon's Association of Colored Women's Clubs and Portland's Harriet Tubman Club.[2]She graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School in 1965[1] (which later became James Monroe High School). She was the first woman in her family to graduate from high school.[2] Prior to her high school graduation, Avel and her boyfriend (at the time) Neshell, became pregnant.[2]The two married and then soon after he was drafted for the war in Vietnam. The marriage did not last after his return, but the two kept a good relationship for their son.[2]After Avel and Neshell's separation she started to become interested in attending college, partly from visits to see her younger sister in Eugene who was attending the University of Oregon.[2] After five years at Pacific Northwest Bell, she enrolled at Portland State University, earning a degree in the administration of justice.[1] Though an avid reader, it was not until her time at Portland State University that she was first exposed to African American literature and noted how she had not been exposed to this during her time in the public school system.[2]During her time at PSU she also applied to participate with Operations Crossroads Africa and was accepted, sending her to West Africa with most of her time spent in a small village in Nigeria, all of which would go on to be a life-changing experience.[2] In 1974, she became the first person in her family to graduate from college.[2] After graduating, Gordly began working with the State of Oregon Corrections Division as a counselor in a work release facility for women where she noticed racial bias that led to work release for black women and education release for white women. [3]

Political office[edit]

Gordly was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, to replace Ron Cease,[4] and later elected to the seat,[5] ultimately serving three terms, representing parts of north and northeast Portland. In 1996, she won election to the Oregon State Senate, the first African-American woman to do so; she served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009. She was a member of the Democratic Party until late 2006, when she dropped her party registration, becoming a nonaffiliated voter.[6] She chose not to run for re-election in 2008.[7]

In 2008, while serving as senator, OHSU opened the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, which provides mental health and psychiatric services.

Recent work[edit]

Gordly is an adjunct professor at her alma mater,[8] and with Patricia A. Schecter, is the author of Remembering the Power of Words (2001, ISBN 0-87071-604-2), her memoirs, published by Oregon State University Press.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Schechter, Patricia. "Avel Gordly (1947-)". Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-05-19.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 1947-, Gordly, Avel Louise, (2011). Remembering the power of words : the life of an Oregon activist, legislator, and community leader. Schechter, Patricia Ann, 1964-. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press. ISBN 9780870716041. OCLC 691203468.
  3. ^ a b "Remembering the Power of Words". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
  4. ^ "Oregon Legislators and Staff Guide, 1991 Regular Session (66th)" (PDF). Oregon State Archives. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  5. ^ "Portland State Black Studies | Avel Gordly Curriculum Vitae". Portland State University. Retrieved 2011-03-23.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Senator Avel Gordly renounces party politics". BlueOregon. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  7. ^ "Sen. Gordly Not Running For Reelection". Portland Mercury. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  8. ^ "Portland State Black Studies | Black Studies Department Faculty & Staff". Portland State University. Retrieved 2011-03-23.

External links[edit]