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Arts & Culture

OREGON EXPERIENCE: Charles Erskine Scott Wood

OPB | Jan. 22, 2008 9:32 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 11:13 a.m.

The next OREGON EXPERIENCE presents the story of the remarkable life of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and his long friendship with the famous Nez Perce chief, Joseph. An artist, poet, essayist, civic leader and prominent attorney in “Gilded-Age” Portland, Wood was a powerful advocate for the poor and dispossessed. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Monday, February 11 at 9pm for a fascinating portrait of a man who was forever changed by a tragic event in American history.

C.E.S. Wood was a true “Renaissance man” whose life and career bridged the 19th and 20th centuries. As a young West Point graduate, Lieutenant Wood traveled west, first to record impressions of an Alaskan Indian tribe, then to fight in the tragic Nez Perce War of 1877. The heart of this program tells the story of Wood’s experiences in that campaign and how they shaped his life philosophy, his role in recording Chief Joseph’s famous speech at war’s end, and his subsequent friendship with Joseph, a friendship that continues to this day between the Wood family and the Nez Perce Tribe.

After leaving the U.S. Army and obtaining a law degree, Wood settled in Portland and became a larger than life figure in the life of the young city. A prominent civic leader, he was an advocate of free speech and defender of radical activists. Wood quit the Oregon Bar for its refusal to admit blacks. He also played a key role in creating some of Portland’s major institutions, such as the first library and the Portland Art Museum.

Subsequently, Wood and Sara Bard Field, a poet and suffragist who would become his second wife, moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where they influenced many notable Americans. During the height of his career, Wood was a national figure, yet he left his most significant legacy in Portland.

About OREGON EXPERIENCE

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting new history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust.

About OPB

OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet delivered services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.

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