02-19-2017  3:29 pm      •     

Margaret Carter

Oregon State Sen. Margaret Carter is joining The Skanner as vice president of corporate affairs and will lend her clout, intellect, connections and energy to The Skanner's mission of Challenging People to Shape A Better Future Now.

The senator will serve as an ambassador for the paper, interfacing with institutions and businesses in the city, state and nationally.

"After six months of negotiations, it is a privilege and an honor to get someone of Margaret's ability and stature to be a part of The Skanner family,"said The Skanner Publisher Bernie Foster.

Carter said she is happy to be on board at The Skanner and welcomes the challenge.

"I look at this opportunity at The Skanner as a chance to work with an institution that has served this community in Oregon and Southwest Washington in a way that is exciting to me personally," Carter said. "It creates a chance for me to work in my own community and continue to build a message of hope and opportunity."

Carter also will play a role in facilitating The Skanner and The Skanner Foundation's activities in the community — such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and the African American Homebuying Fair.

"I've never been one to go to a job because of titles," she said with a laugh. "I go to a job because of my passion."

Carter's career has seen her achieve some significant firsts: She was the first African American woman elected to the state Legisla-ture and the first African American woman to lead the Oregon Democratic Party — in fact, the first African American woman to lead a state Democratic Party west of the Mississippi River. She currently serves as speaker pro tempore of the legislature.

Recently she was named to the state's Ending Homeless-ness Advisory Council, created by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to coordinate Oregon's efforts to end homelessness.

But her decision to come to Oregon — a choice that forever changed her life — arose from the unlikeliest of circumstances.

It was May 1967, and Carter's life was in disarray in the wake of a painful divorce. A single mother with five children living in Shreveport, La., she didn't know what she would do or where she would go.

Then she had a dream — or, more accurately, as she puts it, a vision.

"I was in this faraway place where there were mountains all around and, most of all, there were beautiful green trees and red roses," she recalled. "This was all in my vision.

"In this dream, I was directed to go to the right-hand side of my bed, and I would find some pearls," she said. "Underneath those pearls, I would find a phone number of some friends I hadn't seen in 10 years."

When she awoke the next day, she looked on the right side of the bed — and there were the pearls, and beneath them, the phone number.

Carter called the number and spoke with her old friend — who lived, as it happened, in Portland. She related the details of her divorce and told of her heartache and struggle.

"I said, 'Tell me what Oregon is like,' " Carter recalled. "She said, 'Margaret, you won't believe Oregon. First of all, it rains a lot, but the rain brings about beautiful greenery whether it's Portland or whether you're at the beach.'

" 'And in June comes the Rose Festival. We have the most beautiful roses; they look like velvet.' "

And then, Carter said, her friend made an incredibly generous offer. She invited Carter and her five children to come to Oregon to live with them.

"Five kids, and Margaret Carter," she said. "Four days later, we boarded a train to Portland, Ore., based on my dream and that conversation with my friend."

The rest, as they say, is history. Carter worked hard to establish herself in Portland and earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Portland State University in 1972 — finishing studies that began at Grambling State University in Louisiana — and later a master's in educational psychology from Oregon State University. She became involved in the Urban League of Portland, and eventually was elected as its chief executive officer. She put down roots in the community, even leading an a cappella singing group called The Joyful Sound that would sing for inmates in correctional facilities.

In 1983, a group of local business and political leaders urged her to run for the state House of Representatives. She won the election, and in 2000, she was elected to the state Senate, where she serves as president pro tempore of that body.
Literally, she has never looked back from the night of her fateful vision.

"I still operate with that hope for opportunity and a new life, wherever I go," she said. "Whether it's in the Oregon Legislature or at The Skanner.

"That's Margaret Carter — I'm always looking for opportunity."

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