Biography of Hon. R. O. Dunbar

HON. R.O. DUNBAR. – It is not always an enviable distinction to be made eminent for political preferments. The exceptions are in the cities where office is held as the currency of political services, and as the opportunity for public plunder. In the smaller communities, however, where personal acquaintance extends to all citizens, and an honest public spirit precludes fraud, one may well feel pride in that confidence of his friends in his ability and probity which selects him as a public servant. Preferment at the suffrage of the citizens of a place like Goldendale, noted for its correct sentiment and love of cleanliness, would therefore be gratifying. Mr. Dunbar has been an office holder of this kind for many years. His political sphere is, however, by no means confined to the town of Goldendale, as he has represented the county of Klikitat in the territorial council, and during one session served that body as speaker. He has served upon important committees, and has introduced important legislative measures. He has been attorney for that district, embracing Klikitat, Yakima, Skamania and Clarke counties, and as a prominent Republican has long been before the party as a probable candidate for delegate to Congress.

Mr. Dunbar was born in Schuyler county, Illinois, in 1845. He crossed the plains when but one year old, enduring the trip bravely. His parents christened him Ralph Oregon, in commemoration of his early introduction into that state, and at their fine home and productive farm in the Waldo hills brought him up to a vigorous manhood. At the age of nineteen he began his studies, entering the Institute at Salem. Here he remained four years, applying himself continually to his books, with the exception of a few months spent in teaching to secure funds for the further prosecution of his course. In 1867 he went to Olympia and studied law. In two years he was admitted to practice, and in a short time was appointed clerk of the district court. In two years more he came to Salem, and was admitted to practice before the supreme court. In 1871 he removed to Yakima City, and entered upon the practice of his profession, interesting himself also in stock-raising.

In 1875 he came to The Dalles, and in 1877, located at Goldendale, which he has made his permanent home. Here he soon built up a lucrative law practice, and an enviable reputation as a conscientious, hard-working attorney. There his advancement in public life has been continuous. In the autumn of 1878 he was chosen probate judge, and at the same election as member of the territorial council. In 1870 he was chairman of the judiciary committee of that body, and introduced the local option bill which was carried in the council, but failed in the house. It was in 1882 that he was elected district attorney. About the same time he began to publish the Klikitat Sentinel, and immediately took high rank among the editorial writers of the territory. In 1884 he was elected to the territorial legislature, which, upon assembling, chose him speaker. The duties of this important and difficult position he discharged with great energy, intelligence, and credit. At this session he was also the author of many beneficent measures which are now among the laws of the territory. He has ever been a fearless opponent of the aggression of corporate power and of monopolies. He has been a warm advocate of legislation restraining or prohibiting the liquor traffic. He is himself strictly abstemious in his habits.

As a public speaker he is forcible, logical and earnest. A man of unflinching integrity and of positive convictions, he can neither be persuaded nor driven into a deviation from the line of conduct which he believes to be correct.

In 1873 he was united in marriage with Miss Clarissa White; and they now have two fine children, Fred and Roth. Mr. Dunbar is at present practicing his profession. He is a man of rare ability as a writer.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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