By Adair Law
Jewel and Ron Lansing are the second couple to receive the LSA after the late Tom and Caroline Stoel in 2006. This article is based on archives, writings, and conversations with Jewel and Ron Lansing as well as research and contributions by their children Mark, Alyse, and Annette.
Through the conduct of their professional and personal lives, Jewel and Ron Lansing have been the source of education and inspiration for thousands with their contributions in teaching, political office, and their respective written works.
Jewel Anne Beck was born in May 1930 to Lars and Julia Beck on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana. She joined two brothers and two sisters, with another sister arriving in 1939. Lars Beck and Julia Syla both came from homesteading families. The Beck family emigrated from Norway, homesteading in Washington in 1884. The Syla family were Czech emigrants, homesteading in Nebraska; Alberta, Canada; and finally in western Montana.
Ron Lansing was born to Bert and Mabel (Richardson) Lansing in 1932 on Chicago’s South Side. Bert was a member of the painter’s and decorators union and served as treasurer for his local. At age one Ron was stricken with diphtheria or measles that went into his trachea. He almost died but survived with a wheezy voice for the rest of his life. He was joined by sisters in 1937 and 1942.
Lars and Julia Beck ran a family farm and a general country store with a post office that sold fishing and big game licenses. In her 2007 memoir My Montana, Jewel recalls that as a second grader she would watch the store when her parents needed a short nap. If customers came in, Jewel pressed a buzzer and one of her siblings or parents came to wait on them.
Ron’s family moved around between northern Indiana and Illinois as his father searched for work in the Great Depression. At the age of seven, he lived with his Richardson grandparents in Michigan for several months while his parents sought more stability. As a second grader he lived in three different houses and attended three different schools. The family finally settled in Lansing, Illinois (no relation to Ron). His school grades were average and his deportment grades read “day dreamer” and “mischief maker.” Games were a great motivator for Ron. The public library across the street had an adjoining sandlot field for baseball. The librarian said that anyone wanting to play baseball needed to read for an hour first, which helped a reluctant Ron develop a stronger interest in reading. A Chicago Cubs fans in a White Sox-loving family, Ron first heard the comment, “You should be a lawyer,” during family arguments over baseball et al.
Jewel was a sixth grader when the country entered World War II. She and her friends collected discarded tires and rolled bandages for the Red Cross. Her siblings served in the war effort, her brothers as a naval ensign and an army air corps corporal in the Pacific, her sisters as a dietician and a cadet nurse. As keepers of a general store, the Becks were very involved in collecting and tracking ration coupons. In the summer of 1945 she helped her father finish haying before she left home with two girlfriends to pick cherries along Flathead Lake. She was there when the atomic bomb was dropped.
For the Lansing family, the U.S. entry into the war helped to lift the family out of poverty. Bert Lansing found steadier work as older World War I factories were cleaned, renovated and pressed into service.
High School and College
Jewel went to high school in Ronan, nine miles from her home. She became an avid reader and described her high school library (which held a mere six students) as her Shangri La. She signed up for debate, and learned to argue both sides of an issue. She was the only girl in her advanced algebra class. After taking a standardized IQ test her junior year, she was told that she had the highest IQ in the school. She didn’t share this with her classmates, but carrying that knowledge helped bolster her confidence when it flagged. Jewel started her studies at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1948 and described the change from farm life to college life as “the biggest cultural shock of my life.”
In 1949, doctors at the Mayo Clinic told Jewel’s father that he had inoperable stomach and liver cancer. Jewel worked as a reporter and ad collector for the Ronan Pioneer newspaper the next two summers to help care for her father. He died in 1950, two weeks before she started her junior year in college. She graduated with honors in 1952 with a major in journalism, a minor in business, and a high-paying job in Washington, D.C with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Ron graduated from Thornton Fractional Township High School in Calumet City, Illinois. He participated in various sports and was the sports editor on his school’s paper. He was attracted to learning but preferred to follow his own path to the things that interested him rather than go down the road suggested by his teachers. Ron was the first member of his extended family to go to college. He went to Valparaiso University in Indiana and was “suddenly thrown into a whole potpourri of different people at different levels.” At college he worked at a die machinery company, made picnic furniture, flocked Christmas trees, and helped the military label Danish maps in English. During the summer he did hard labor, working in the steel mills, oil refineries, and war plants. He was president of his fraternity and drama club. He graduated with a degree in philosophy and English in 1954. After graduation he fulfilled his peacetime draft obligation. He enlisted in the army and was sent to West Germany.
Two Points Converge
After receiving a top secret security clearance, Jewel did secretarial work for the CIA. But typing correspondence with six carbon copies and fetching coffee for Army officers was not her style. She resigned after nine months, and took a job with Stanford University’s women’s residence hall staff while she pursued a masters’ degree in education, counseling, and guidance in 1954. While at Stanford, she was recruited by the U.S. Army Special Services as a civilian recreation director to direct off-duty activities for GIs stationed overseas. She took the job and her posting was in Ulm, West Germany.
Jewel conducted a range of activities including teaching classes, leading tours, conducting bingo games, and supervising the German civilian staff. Her talent brought her five promotions in two years, which required many moves all over Bavaria. The dollar was strong compared to the German mark. Jewel saved her money and bought a VW Bug for $900, which gave her freedom to travel. Jewel Beck met Ron Lansing in 1955 while teaching a class in contract bridge at the Terrace Service Club in Ulm, the largest such club in Europe. Jewel liked that Ron enjoyed card games, telling jokes, and the way he argued either side of an issue to get a dialogue going. He also seemed attracted to rather than intimidated by her intelligence. For Ron, meeting the greatest companion of his life was the luckiest benefit of his army experience. He proposed marriage in the fall of 1955 on a hillside as they looked at the sparkling lights of Munich’s Oktoberfest. They married twice in June 1956, once in a German language civil ceremony (for the West German Republic) and another at a U.S. military post (for the bride and groom).
Army Special Services did not allow married women in its ranks. Jewel resigned her service club director position two months before her contract was up. The couple took a two-week honeymoon to Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome using the VW. They rented a fifth floor walk-up apartment with no hot water in Ulm for four months, while Ron served as a court martial-reporter. Ron’s army unit was rotated back to Fort Carson in Colorado, where he finished his term of service as the regimental colonel’s secretary.
After their return to the United States, the Lansings made their way cross country to Colorado Springs in the VW Bug. Jewel found part-time work teaching differently abled children. Their first child Mark was born in July 1957, with the U.S. Army picking up the tab for Jewel’s pregnancy and Mark’s birth. Ron mustered out of the army early so he could start at Willamette Law School in September 1957, his tuition and books paid for by the GI Bill. The family made a home in Salem. Jewel taught at the Chemawa Indian School and sixth grade at Keizer School on an emergency teaching credential, because of teacher shortage. Ron served as a founding editor of the Willamette Law Review. After his graduation with honors in May 1960, he was admitted to the bar
and clerked for Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice William McCallister. The Lansings’ daughter Alyse was born in August of that year. When it became clear that Jewel would not be able to find part-time work in journalism, she studied financial theory and accounting by correspondence while pregnant with Annette (who joined the family in September 1961). Ron found work as a young associate in the law offices of Shuler Sayre Winfree Rankin and the family moved to Portland. Jewel’s part-time work at two Portland CPA firms allowed her to complete the experience portion of her CPA requirement.
Ron switched to the law firm of Bailey Swink Lezak Haas in 1963, filling the vacancy left by Sid Lezak when he became Oregon’s U.S. Attorney. Ron soon became a partner and business manager at the firm. His practice was thriving and he had a range of civic obligations. Jewel juggled raising three young children with her work commitments. Both Lansings were active Unitarians and served as presidents (Jewel the first female president) of West Hills Fellowship.
Fresh Fields of Endeavor
In January 1963, Ron contacted Judge James Crawford and John Gantenbein—dean and registrar of the 80 year-old downtown Portland night school Northwestern College of Law—to express his interest in becoming a part-time instructor. Three years later, he was hired to teach Code Pleading part time.
In September 1965, Lewis and Clark College and Northwestern College of Law merged to become officially titled: Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College (now known as Lewis and Clark Law School). In March 1967, Ron received and accepted an offer to become one of the first five full-time members of the faculty. He started as a full-time assistant professor in September 1967 at an annual salary of $12,500. The law school’s eight-decade-old nomadic jobsite in various downtown rented buildings was moved to wooded campus quarters on the outskirts of Portland. The Lansings too, bought a home closer to the college campus.
Along with his teaching load Ron was called into the process of gaining the school’s accreditation from the American Association of Law Schools and the American Bar Association. He kept a record and wrote the book on those tumultuous times Crystalling the Legacy: Stories and Reflections on the Accreditation Era of a Law School. In spite of the tedium and time involved, Ron never lost humor. He sketched caricatures of his colleagues, which he continued for an ensuing four decades of meetings. A gallery of 75 of his caricatures line the halls of the school.
Jewel received her CPA License in 1969. Her personal and professional development coincided with the beginnings of the woman’s movement and she was active in several women’s organizations as an eager participant. She co-founded a League of Women Voters unit in Southwest Portland and served on the state board of the American Association of University Women. She joined the National Organization of Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League and most importantly, the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus. She started her own accounting firm in 1972 with two employees. In 1973 she volunteered as treasurer for future Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts during her campaign for governor. That August Jewel was the first woman appointed to the Multnomah County Civil Service Commission.
The commission was Jewel’s springboard into public office. She was encouraged to run when incumbent did not file for reelection Two days before the March 1974 filing deadline, she decided to run for Multnomah County Auditor. After a whirlwind campaign, she won the Democratic primary against five white men with 23 percent of the vote. That summer, she climbed Mount Hood with family members and won the election in November. 1974 was a big year.
Jewel served eight years in the county auditor position and went on to four years as Portland City Auditor. She won the Democratic primary for state treasurer in a 1976 race that received national attention. In 1977 she served as an elected Oregon delegate for the National Women’s Conference in Houston. She ran as the Democratic candidate for state treasurer in 1980, again losing by a hair to the incumbent Clay Myers. When she left the City Auditor’s office in 1986, the Oregonian lauded her for introducing performance auditing to local and state governments and for making audit findings available to the public.
The Written Record
Along with teaching Torts and Evidence to thousands of Oregon’s current 12,000 lawyers by the time of his retirement in 2008, Ron has always made time for writing. His 1983 book Skylarks & Lecterns: A Law School Charter, was excerpted in the Rutgers Law Review as well as the 2003 collection of legal humor, Amicus Humoriae. He co-edited Evidence for the Oregon State Bar in 1986. His books include Juggernaut: The Whitman Massacre Trial 1850, 1993; Nimrod: Courts, Claims, and Killing on the Oregon Frontier, 2005; and the earlier mentioned Crystalling the Legacy, 2011. In 2002, he contributed articles on the Whitman Massacre Trial and the Charity Lamb Murder Trial to Great American Trials. He has also written numerous articles for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin.
After leaving elected office, Jewel returned to the love of her school days: writing. She attended numerous writing courses and started producing her own work. Her books include: The Beck Family Book: 1700-1989- Norway-U.S.A. with co-author Ole J. Lokberg, 1989; Campaigning for Office: A Woman Runs and 101 Campaign Tips for Women Candidates and Their Staffs, both in 1991; A Czech Family Heritage: Bohemia-U.S.A. 1765-1996; the mystery Deadly Games in City Hall, 1997; Portland: People, Politics, and Power – 1851-2001, 2003, which has gained recognition as one of the most important sources of local Portland history; My Montana: A History and Memoir, 1930-1950, 2007; and with co-author Fred Leeson, Multnomah: The Tumultuous Story of Oregon’s Most Populous County, 2012.
Ron and Jewel celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2016. We are thankful for the many contributions our state has received from their choice to conduct their professional and wedded lifetime service in Oregon.
They have asked to express here their gratitude to the society for this Lifetime Service Award. They are particularly thrilled by it because in 2003, the original recipient of the award was the late Randall Kester, the first president of our society. He was their friend. They joined Randall and his wife Rachel on numerous outdoor adventures backpacking the Cascades, canoeing northwest rivers and lakes and climbing Mount Hood’s peak. And they were there at the annual dinner when Randall received the inaugural award. Not only are they humbled by sharing this honor with so many other notables over the years, they have received the chance, as they put it, “to summit with our departed friend.”