Black United Front Oral History Project

Avel Louise Gordly

Avel Gordly was born in Portland on February 13, 1947. She graduated from Girls Polytechnic High School in 1965 and worked at Pacific Northwest Bell until 1970. That year, she enrolled at Portland State University, where she earned a degree in the administration of justice. After graduation, she worked for the Oregon Corrections Division as a women’s work-release counselor and later as an adult parole and probation officer.

A key activist affiliation for Gordly was the Black United Front (BUF). In addition to handling media work for the group, Gordly coordinated the Front’s Saturday School, whose African American history program was tied to curriculum reform in the public education system. 

In 1979, Gordly redirected her professional energy through the Urban League of Portland as director of youth services and head of its Youth Service Center. In 1983, AFSC hired her to lead their Southern Africa Program, which was focused on anti-apartheid and refugee relief, and she made national headlines when she was promoted to regional director. Gordly was resident coordinator of a safe-haven program for youth at the House of Umoja in northeast Portland when she was tapped to fill a vacancy created by a retirement in the legislature in 1991.

Gordly was subsequently elected state representative from north and northeast Portland in 1992. Her legislative record includes an array of initiatives that focus on cultural competency in education, mental health, and criminal justice.

She has received awards from groups such as the YWCA, the NAACP, the Oregon Youth Authority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Girl Scouts, and the Oregon Commission for Women. 


The above is an excerpt from the Oregon Encyclopedia entry on Avel Gordly by Patricia Schechter. Please click the link to read the complete entry on the Oregon Encyclopedia site.

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