Jacob Tanzer (1935-2018)

Jacob Tanzer was born in Longview, Washington in 1935 and lived there until his family moved to Northeast Portland in 1945. In 1953, he graduated from Grant High School. He earned a BA in 1956 from the University of Oregon. In 1959, Jake received his Juris Doctorate from University of Oregon School of Law, and in the same year passed the Oregon bar. He also attended Stanford University and Reed College.

In 1959, following graduation, Jake and fellow colleague Frank Granata established a small law practice in Portland, Oregon, Granata & Tanzer, and practiced law there from 1959 to 1962. In 1963, he joined the US Department of Justice, where he served as a Trial Attorney in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Division of Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department. In 1964, he was sent to Mississippi as a member of the Civil Rights Division that was investigating the deaths of three civil rights activists: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. This case, which would later become known as the Mississippi Burning case, became instrumental in the shaping of the Civil Rights movement, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial segregation and extended full voting rights to all US citizens of voting age. The following year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was also passed, which further outlawed discriminatory voting practices. Also of note, the case became a symbol of Jewish American involvement and support of the Civil Rights movement, as both Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were Jewish.

From 1965 until 1969, Jake was the Deputy District Attorney for Multnomah County, Oregon. In 1969, he became the first Solicitor General for the Oregon Department of Justice. One of his first responsibilities was to edit the briefs in Thornton v. Hays, the bill that preserves Oregon beaches for public use, for which he is unaccredited. In 1971, he became the first director of the Oregon Department of Human Services. From 1973 to 1979, he served as an appeals court judge for the Oregon Court of Appeals. From 1980 until 1982, he served as the 81st judge for the Oregon Supreme Court. He resigned on New Year's Eve, 1982. After his resignation from the court, Jake returned to private practice in Portland.