E. Kimbark MacColl, an educator and school administrator who chronicled the history of Portland and its power establishment, died last night after a long illness, WW has learned. He was 86.
Kim, as he was known, taught at Occidental and Reed colleges, Portland State University and Catlin Gabel School. He was a member of City Club and other prominent civic groups, and served on a number of committees that helped shape the development of downtown Portland. MacColl was born in Bronxville, N.Y., in 1925. Educated at Princeton and the University of Colorado, he moved to Portland after completing a Ph.D. in American history from UCLA in 1953.
MacColl's definitive books on old Portland—The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1885-1915; The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915-1950; and Merchants, Money and Power: The Portland Establishment, 1843-1913—are available from Powell's.
In the 1979 preface to The Growth of a City, MacColl defended his focus on personalities against the prevailing academic trends that stripped humans from history:
"As one who has not only researched thoroughly Portland's business and political history, but has been closely involved with the city's business and political life over the past 25 years, I have concluded…that the personal element is often the essential factor in the decisions that are reached…
"The historical profession, along with the social sciences generally, has in recent years allowed itself to become overly neutralized by its data. It has taken shelter under an umbrella of self-defined objectivity. This phenomenon may be one reason why much recent historical writing has made so little apparent impact on the general public, apart from the fact that it tends to be dull reading."
MacColl's son, Kim Jr., is an attorney at the Lake Oswego firm of MacColl Busch Sato.