June 12th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Marvin Ricks, the Last Great Portlander, Dies at 97

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Marvin Ricks, the last survivor of the great West Coast Waterfront Strike and probably the only Portlander left who was worth a damn, died peacefully Wednesday surrounded by family. He was 97.

Seventy-five years ago Ricks fought scab workers, defended picket lines and did time in jail for his role in the seminal 1934 strike. According to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, AFL-CIO, Ricks was the last surviving veteran of the strike that rocked the West Coast for three months.

Starting in May that year, thousands of workers shut down every U.S. port on the Pacific Coast, demanding an independent union. They won, but only after battling police and hired goons in every major West Coast city, including Portland, where one strike-breaking worker is the only known casualty.

Ricks was a 22--year-old dockworker at the time and acted as muscle for the union, a member of the so-called "riot squad." Ricks and 31 others were charged in connection with the death of a strike-breaking worker named James Connor during a riot. Ricks had an alibi but insisted on staying in jail 42 days until charges were dropped for the others. Evidence suggests Connor died from a stray shot fired by another scab.

Some of Ricks' exploits were chronicled in a 2007 WW interview.

Michael Munk, a local historian, forwarded this email message today:
His son and daughter just wrote that Marvin Ricks, the last surviving veteran of the 1934 longshore strike in Portland, died June 10 at the age of 97.

As a young longshoreman in 1934, he served in one of the "riot squads" that discouraged scabs from crossing picket lines and was one of the "29 innocent men" wrongly jailed in the death of one of the scabs. He always took Broadway cabs because they delivered food to the picket lines during the strike and kept the card of business women who made sandwiches and provided their services on credit to strikers. Brother Ricks was a regular speaker at ILWU Local 8's annual Bloody Thursday commemoration at Oaks Park where he urged today's members not to forget the sacrifices of their union brothers that made the ILWU one of the most progressive unions in the country.

His children wrote that "He passed away yesterday at Beaverton Hills with Patty holding one hand and Bob the other. He had completed all he wanted to do and went softly with the flow."

Marvin Ricks, 1911-2009 R.I.P.

Photo by Amy Ouellette.
 
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