Eugene "Debbs" Potts

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Debbs Potts
Debbs Potts.jpg
Member of the Oregon Senate
In office
Preceded by C.D. Cameron
Succeeded by Bill Olson
Constituency Josephine County 1961-72; Josephine and Jackson counties 1973-84
President of the Oregon State Senate
In office
Preceded by Harry D. Boivin
Succeeded by John D. Burns
Personal details
Born 10 December 1908
Buzzard Roost, California
Died 19 December 2003(2003-12-19) (aged 95)
Merlin, Oregon
Political party Democratic
Profession Saw mill owner

Eugene "Debbs" Potts (10 December 1908 – 19 December 2003) was an Oregon state legislator, public administrator, and founder of Historic Pottsville. Potts operated a farm machinery business and owned several small saw mills. He served twenty-four years in the Oregon State Senate which included 196 days as acting governor. He was also the first chairman of the Oregon Lottery Commission.

Early life[edit]

Potts was born on 10 December 1908 in Buzzard Roost, California (a temporary logging camp in Shasta County) while his parent were traveling to Oregon. His father named him after socialist political leader Eugene V. Debs.[1][2] He attended grade school in a one-room school in Summer Lake, Oregon. He went to high school for two years in Paisley, Oregon and then moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon where he graduated from high school in 1928.[citation needed]

During World War II, Potts served on active duty in the United States Navy, and then remained in the Navy Reserve for 20 years. After the war, he moved to Grants Pass, Oregon where he ran a machinery business and later a small saw mill.[2] Over the next several decades, Potts owned or operating small saw mills in Klamath Falls, Lake of the Woods, Bonanza, Keno, Upper Klamath Lake, Jump-off-Creek, and O’Dell Lake.[citation needed]

Public service[edit]

Potts entered local politics as a Democrat, and was elected mayor of Grants Pass in 1958. He served one two-year term as mayor prior to being elected to the Oregon State Senate in 1960. He was elected to a total of six four-year terms serving until 1984. During that time, his peers elected him Senate president twice.[2][3]

While Potts was a Democrat, his conservative political views made Republican senators his natural allies on many issues. During the 1967-68 and 1969-70 legislative session, Democrats held a majority of seats in the Senate. However, Potts and several other conservative Democrats joined the Republican caucus to organize the senate. With the help of Republicans, Potts became Senate president. In return, Republicans gained control of key senate committees, and along with Potts, directed the legislative agenda.[4]

Until the Oregon constitution was changed in 1972, the Senate president served as acting governor whenever the governor left the state. As a result, Potts served as governor when Governor Tom McCall traveled outside Oregon. During his tenure as Senate president, Potts served as Oregon’s governor a total of 196 days.[1][2][3]

After Oregon voters approved a state-run lottery in 1984, Governor Victor Atiyeh appointed Potts as the first chairman of the Oregon Lottery Commission. Potts served as the commission’s chairman for 19 years from 1985 until 2003, helping the lottery become the state’s second largest source of general fund revenue. Potts died on 19 December 2003, shortly after retiring from the lottery commission.[1][2][3]


On 2 February 2004, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski,[5] former Governor Atyieh, and former Congressman Robert Smith eulogized Potts at a special memorial service held in the senate chamber at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon.[3] In 2005, the Oregon legislature directed that the Oregon Lottery Commission building in Salem be official named the Debbs Potts Oregon State Lottery Commission Building. This is in addition to a bridge previously named in his honor by the Oregon Transportation Commission. Today, the E.D. "Debbs" Potts Memorial Bridge carries traffic over the Rogue River in Grants Pass.[2]

Potts is the founder of Historic Pottsville, a replica of a small Oregon town of the early 1900s. Pottsville is a 30-acre (120,000 m2) site north of Merlin, Oregon. Potts began developing Pottsville in 1959 to celebrate Oregon’s Centennial. Pottsville includes a pioneer store, post office, church, blacksmith shop, cabins, and other building. It has a large collection of Oregon political memorabilia. In addition, early twentieth century logging equipment and farm machines are on outdoor display at Pottsville.[6][7] Potts continued to work on Pottsville until his death.


  1. ^ a b c Beggs, Charles E., "Lottery chief going strong at 90", Associated Press, Salem, Oregon, 29 November 1999.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Enrolled Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR 8-A), 73rd Oregon Legislative Assembly, 2005 Regular Session, 13 June 2005.
  3. ^ a b c d Beggs, Charles E., "E.D.’Debbs’ Potts...", Oregon State Capital Foundation, Vol 4, Number 1, Salem, Oregon, August 2004.
  4. ^ "Senate deadlock solvable", The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, 12 Dec 2002.
  5. ^ Kulongoski, Ted, "Eulogy for Debbs Potts", Speech by Governor Kulongoski, Salem, Oregon, 2 February 2004.
  6. ^ "Debbs Potts Dies", Rogue Pundit,, 20 December 2003.
  7. ^ "Historic Pottsville", Rogue Web,, Rogue Valley, Oregon, 2 February 2008.