At the first Umatilla County Caledonian Society Picnic and Games in 1899, George J. Cameron, attorney, judge and Portland city council member, gave the principal address. The Caledonian Society often contacted George Cameron to seek Portland talent to perform at Athena’s annual picnic and Games. He frequently was featured here as a guest speaker. The East Oregonian in 1899 reported that Cameron spoke “in a manner fitting to the occasion and his speech was full of loyalty, not only to “auld Scotland”, but to the country of their adoption…..and the Scotchmen present were much charmed by Mr. Cameron’s eloquence.” About his speech, the East Oregonian also wrote “It is spoken of as one of the finest public addresses heard in the county.” (East Oregonian, Friday, June 16, 1899).
A wee bit more about Judge George Cameron: he was born in Scotland in 1864 and came to Oregon in 1890. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1893. He was a Portland City Council member from 1898 to 1900 and became Municipal Judge in Portland from 1900-02 and 1905-1908, then District Attorney of Multnomah County from 1908-1912.
In helping to make arrangements for Athena’s annual Caledonian picnic and games he did us a big favor. (In the final accounting of 1910, it was reported that $91.40 was paid for meals and travel from Portland to Athena for Portland talent.) Doubtlessly, he had to have had good influence and active Scottish connections in Portland to make those arrangements. Many business owners and bankers were Scottish and I should imagine they stood together. Many popular Scottish societies flourished in Portland and all over the United States from 1889-99.
Portland’s Mayor Harry Lane (1905-09) tried to fight vice and clean up corruption in Portland, and that’s when Judge Cameron made the history books. When Thomas Richards was charged with using his restaurant as a front for a house of ill-repute, his trial came to Judge Cameron’s court in January, 1906. The Oregon Journal called the trial a farce. Municipal Judge Cameron sympathized with liquor interests in their battle against Mayor Lane’s efforts to clean up vice. Subpoenas were stolen and false ones issued in order to embarrass the prosecution. (Leave it to a Scotsman to go to battle for liquor interests… or another Scotsman.) Those actions became referred to as shenanigans and Cameron became branded a scoundrel a hundred years later. Cameron’s name appears in a 1999 article about the history of soccer in Portland. He played a major part in sponsoring and supporting soccer. He donated the prestigious Cameron Cup soccer award.
In the colorful past of Portland and Oregon’s history, Judge George J. Cameron laid it on the line. It would appear that he fought for what he believed, supported his friends, loved his heritage and apparently gave his all to Portland and Oregon. Born in Scotland, he came to Oregon and visited Athena, where he captured the hearts of Scots who gathered here. He praised Scotland, the Motherland and America, the land that embraced him. The Honorable Judge George J. Cameron was well-loved in Athena.