Avel Louise Gordly Scholarship for Oregon Black Women Fund
“This Fund honors the accomplishments of an Oregon treasure, Avel Louise Gordly. Avel was the first African American woman elected to the Oregon state senate. She also devoted herself tirelessly to improving educational opportunity in the legislative realm, in the community, and in the classroom. There is no time like the present to invest in her legacy. The Avel Louise Gordly Scholarship for Oregon Black Women helps ensure that the next generation can pursue higher education unconstrained by racism and sexism." – Fund establishers Patricia Schechter and Carmen Thompson
Born in Portland in 1947, Senator Gordly graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School in 1965 and then worked at Pacific Northwest Bell until 1970.
She attended Portland State University where she earned a degree in the administration of justice. After graduation, she worked for the Oregon Corrections Division as a women’s work-release counselor and later as an adult parole and probation officer. In the 1970s and 1980, Senator Gordly was a part of Portland’s Black United Front, spearheading the group’s anti-apartheid campaigns.
In 1991, she was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Oregon House of Representatives, a seat which she successfully ran for in 1992 and in 1996, she was elected as an Oregon State Senator. She would hold the position for 13 years.
As a legislator, Senator Gordly served on the Joint Ways and Means Committee, pushed for reforms in the Senate caucus system, and expanded press access to legislative meetings. She co-chaired Governor Kitzhaber’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Health and created the Governor’s Task Force on Environmental Justice. After retiring from the legislature, Gordly taught at Portland State University as an associate professor in Black Studies. In 2017, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from PSU.
You can help continue her legacy by supporting the Avel Louise Gordly for Oregon Black Women Scholarship Fund, donate here: oregoncf.org/gordly-scholarship. The scholarship will support an African American female graduate of an Oregon high school to attend higher education in Oregon or at one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.