Sometimes you get tagged with a persona you wish to avoid.
Ron Abell no doubt thought revitalizing the fictional James G. Blaine Society — a whimsical group protecting Oregon from Californians — was a good idea at the time. He didn’t invent the movement opposing the degradation of Oregon through the process of Californication, but he did become one of its faces in the 1960s, or so it seemed.
Among other platforms, the group advocated expelling non-native Oregon-born residents, or instituting a $5,000 immigration fee. The movement was named after one of the most famous 19th Century American politicians NEVER to have visited Oregon.
Blaine was a U.S. Representative, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, U.S. Senator from Maine, and two-time Secretary of State. He also was nominated for president in 1884, but was narrowly defeated by Democrat Grover Cleveland.
In his own obituary, Ron Abell called resurrecting the Blaine Society a mistake, such were the passions, torments and laments of one of the truly entertaining and talented writers in Oregon during the past 50 years.
Ron held many journalistic jobs and accomplished much as a writer. He would probably argue about that. He took exception to many issues. I remember him expressing deep disappointment with President Obama’s performance when I last saw him at a lunch more than a year ago.
I can’t say I exactly worked with Ron, although I was employed at Willamette Week and KOIN at the same time he did. Ron worked at a much higher and remoter plane. A political junky, he brought great insight to the topic of the day. And often, through the twisted prism of Ron’s mind, his sometimes-outrageous prose gave us clarity.
Most memorable was Capitol Punishment, the weekly political column he wrote for Willamette Week covering the Oregon Legislative Assembly in the mid 1970s. Ron seemingly lost a bit more of his mind each week as the session inched toward adjournment. I was never sure if it was a clever send-up or the temporary ravings of a very creative and frustrated talent.
Afflicted with leukemia and emphysema, Ron made his final exit under the Death with Dignity Act on February 11, 2012.