Written by Jaja Anderson (Tommy)
The Eugene, Oregon chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP)
started in 1968 and ended around 1970. It had a profound
impact on the city of Eugene, the students of the University
of Oregon and the small number of African Americans that
were born or had lived in Eugene most of their lives. Most
importantly was how the BPP influenced the Black students at
the U of O.
The Black Panther Party grew out of the Black Student Union
of the U of O. Black students had issues that primarily
dealt with the University community, racism and academics.
This left a void in the overall struggle of the small Eugene
ineffective Black community. The BPP occupied this hold
with community-based programs.
At this time, two brothers named Elmer and Aaron Dixon
headed the Seattle Chapter of the BPP. They came down to
Eugene to help organize the Eugene Chapter. They left three
Seattle members in Eugene to support the development of the
Eugene Chapter of the BPP.
Eugene, Oregon is a small White community with a population
that had very little or no interaction with Black people.
Issues regarding racism, renting apartments, shopping
downtown, dealing with Eurocentric curricula in the public
schools and other Black community-related problems were
looked at and dealt with no prior experience.
The BPP established a few community survival projects.
These projects were located off the U of O campus and
focused on the poor people of Eugene. Because the BPP had
an overall philosophy of looking at issues from a class
analysis and not only a race analysis, these projects served
the total poor community, Black and non-Black people. These
A Free Breakfast Program that served 20-30 young children
A Liberation School that focused on African and African
American history and some of the untrue accounts of
A Public Speaker Program that participated in
demonstrations/rallies on Vietnam, racism, or all the other
“isms.” These speaker programs also tried to educate the
greater Eugene community on the goals and philosophy of the
The membership of the BPP at its height was 18-20 members
with 10-15 underground members. The BPP had a lot of
support from many Whites at the U of O and in the community.
The core members of the Eugene Chapter were from Compton/Los
Angeles (southern California). Most had a pre-Panther
relationship with each other that went back to elementary
school. Most core members knew each other’s families (i.e.,
mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers). All BPP members
had experienced racism in Eugene that primed them to join
such a revolutionary organization. Most core members were
brought to or influenced to move to Eugene from the
leadership members of the BPP. (Howard and Tommy Anderson)
However, most moved to Eugene before the start of the BPP.
Howard Anderson was Captain of the Eugene Chapter. He was
the first person from Compton to move to Eugene in 1965
after working in the southern United States; in Mississippi
and Alabama with CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and SNCC
(Students for Non-Violence Coordinating Committee). In
1966, Howard convinced his younger brother Tommy Anderson to
move to Eugene and attend the U of O.
The Eugene Chapter of the BPP developed very good supportive
relationships with other revolutionary organizations. Some
of these organizations or individuals were as follows:
1. Patriot Party – Euro-Americans that focused on the
poor Whites. The head of this organization was a man called
“Preacher Man.” The Eugene Chapter was organized by Chuck
Armsbury and his wife.
2. Brown Berets – headed by a small group of Chicanos
from Los Angeles with Ray Verdugo as their Eugene Chapter
head. They organized resistance to the exploitation of the
Chicano community in Eugene and other migrant farming
communities in surrounding areas.
3. Asian student organizers that focused on racism,
stereotyping and other issues related to students of Asian
descent. Ellen Bepp and Sandra Muraoka were the contact
BPP Confrontation with Eugene Police Department
In 1969, there were two major confrontations. The first was
centered around three BPP members and two Eugene Police
officers. It started when two EP tried to enter a Panther
member’s house (Oliver Patterson) without a warrant. They
were yelling insults and threatening to force their way in.
BPP members Howard and Tommy Anderson met them. The BPP
members were armed and ready to defend their rights as
Americans. The BPP Captain asked the EP to produce a
warrant and he would instruct the Panther inside to come out
and surrender. The EP could not produce such a warrant.
They had never experienced armed Black men defending their
rights under the United States constitution. The EP ran to
their car in shock and embarrassment.
The same day a warrant for Howard and Tommy Anderson was
issued for assault on police with deadly weapons and
interfering with the Eugene Police. All members of the BPP
Eugene Chapter were called and showed up at BPP
Headquarters. The BPP Eugene Chapter decided to not give up
the Anderson brothers without a fight to the death. All
members were ready to die. The EP was ready to kill all
members that were willing to fight and die. Things had come
to the major task of armed struggle. The Headquarters was
very fortified and the Panthers had enough weapons to engage
the EP in a relatively short firefight. The BPP had armed
White support outside the Headquarters ready to die by
sniping EP from strategic positions. There were other
students from the U of O outside protesting this major
conflict. The man that stopped this conflict was Ken Morrow
who was a highly respected attorney in Eugene. He walked up
to the door of the BPP Headquarters and said he was an
attorney and could help. He called a judge and asked if he
could bring the BPP members down to City Hall to be
arraigned and bail set. The judge agreed to set bail at
$10,000 per Panther. The money was raised within ten
Thereafter, Ken Morrow and Howard and Tommy Anderson went to
City Hall, were arraigned, posted bail and were back at
Headquarters within one hour. Ken Morrow had a good
relationship with the Eugene Chapter of the BPP, despite
pressure from anti-Panther members of the Eugene community.
The Eugene Police continued to harass and arrest Panthers
for various reasons. Some police thought the Panthers
should be stopped. Most of these incidents were not
political but criminal.
By 1970, the show was over for the Eugene Chapter. The
Captain moved to Oakland and became close to Huey Newton
(Minister of Defense). Other members moved to other cities
to work with other chapters. Some stayed as students of the
U of O.
The purpose of this article is to record the legacy of the
Eugene, Oregon Chapter of the Black Panther Party and to
document its impact on this small college community. The
writer trusts that this legacy is still being talked about
in both academic and non-academic circles and that all
former Eugene Chapter members continue to look back at this
history with pride.
Power to the People
Photo Information From left to right:
- Oliver Patterson – from outside California, perhaps one of the southern states
- Speaker – Tommy Anderson – Compton, CA
- Howard Anderson, Captain – Compton, CA
- Bill Green – Washington, D.C.
- Jerome Foster – Compton, CA
- Julius Hurst – Portland, OR
- Dennis White – Compton, CA
- Darrell Fields – Compton, CA
- Teo DeRuso – Compton, CA
- Artie Cox – Mississippi
Eight other members are not in this photo. Five of the
eight are from Compton and six of the eight were women and
of the six women, three were from Compton or Los Angeles.
Also not in the photo was Underground General Ray Eaglin,
ex-marine and U of O student.