Skip to Main Content


Clatsop County District Court Judges


1958 to 1964
Charles Marion Johnson was born in Cathlamet, Washington on October 8, 1892. He moved to Astoria at an early age. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War I as a Chief Yeoman. He studied law as a young man and was admitted to the bar. In 1923, he Joined the staff of the Title and Trust Company, later known as the Pioneer Title and Trust Company. He retired from the company in 1957 and the next year was named as Clatsop County District Court Judge, a post which had been created by the 1957 Legislature to replace the Astoria Justice of the Peace. He served until 1964 when he retired; He was replaced by Harold T. Johnson. He moved to Milwaukie, Oregon where he died on July 3, 1974.

Judge Johnson was married to Ani Lagus on May 1, 1926. They had two daughters, Charlotte Snider and Nancy Gustafson.

1964 to 1974
Harold T. Johnson was born on March 4, 1905, in Hammond, Oregon to Martin and Anna Sofia Johnson. He attended grade school in Hammond and graduated from Astoria High School in 1923. He traveled to high school by boat and returned to Hammond by train in the evenings. He graduated from Oregon State College in 1929 with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked as an operator of a power generating facility, then for the Army Corps of Engineers at Bonneville Dam and at Portland, Oregon. He received his law degree from the Northwest School of Law in 1945 and opened an office in Gearhart in 1946. He was elected District Court Judge on June 24, 1964, and served until his death in June 1974.

Judge Johnson belonged to numerous civic organizations including Astoria Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Elks Lodge, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Khorasson, Sons of Norway, and the Scandinavian Benevolent Society. Judge Johnson was married in Lewiston, Idaho, to Fern Lee Jeffries. They had two children, Karen Johnson Schultz and Robert Johnson.

1974 to 1993
George Francis Cole was born November 30, 1926, in Portland, Oregon, the son of George and Esther Cole. He grew up in Portland and graduated from Jefferson High in 1944. He graduated from Oregon State University and received his law degree from the Northwest School of Law in Portland. He began his practice as an attorney in Seaside, Oregon, in 1960. He served as deputy district attorney for Clatsop County and as city attorney for Seaside and Cannon Beach. In August 1968, he was appointed to fill Bill Holstrom's seat in the Oregon House of Representatives and served for three terms. On September 3, 1974, he took the bench as Clatsop County District Court Judge, having been appointed to the position by Governor Tom McCall. He served three six-year terms until his retirement on January 3, 1993. He presided over the case of the Greenpeace bridge-danglers, a group of people who protested the passing of the U.S.S. New Jersey by dangling from the Astoria-Megler bridge.

Judge Cole married Mary Alice Lundburg in 1949. They have five children, Christy, Gregory, George Jr, Brian and Paula.

Clatsop County Historical Society Quarterly
Vol. 17, No. 4 - Fall 199


Clatsop County Circuit Court Trial Judges


Orville C. Pratt was born April 24, 1819, in Ontario County, New York. He attended West Point Academy in the late 1830's, studied law at Rochester, New York and was admitted to the New York bar in 1841. He settled at Galena, Illinois in 1843 where he practiced law. In 1849 he came to Oregon and traveled to Astoria to hold court as the first judicial appointee to Oregon's new Territorial Supreme Court. Judge Pratt was the sole judge for the entire Oregon Territory for about a year and a half, after which Judge William Strong arrived.

During his term, Judge Pratt was embroiled in controversy. He frequently traveled out of the territory to further his political and business interests, and he took advantage of opportunities to increase his personal fortune. When Franklin Pierce was elected president, Judge Pratt was removed as a federal judge. His name was submitted to the U. S. Senate as successor to Chief Justice Thomas Nelson but Stephen A. Douglas personally opposed the appointment, and Pratt was passed over. He moved to San Francisco in 1856 and died in October of 1891.

August 1850 to 1853
William Strong was born July 15, 1817, in New York. He graduated from Yale College in 1838, then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1840. He practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio from 1840 to 1849 when he was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Oregon Territory. He arrived in Oregon in August 1850 and became presiding judge of the Third Judicial District, which included Clatsop County. Judge Strong was of high moral character and judicial integrity. During his term, the Supreme Court had to decide where to locate the seat of state government. Judge Strong and Chief Justice Thomas Nelson ruled that an Omnibus Bill, which designated Salem as the state capitol, was void, and they continued to meet in Oregon City. It was a political issue, and the Democrats denounced Judges Strong and Nelson, Whig appointees. When President Pierce took office in 1853, all three of the Oregon Supreme Court judges were replaced.

Judge Strong became the sole judge of the newly created Washington Territory, served one term, then retired to his home in Cathlamet. He practiced law in the Oregon and Washington Territories and worked as a surveyor. In 1856, he became legal advisor to the Washington governor and shortly afterward was elected to the House of Representatives. He was an associate justice of the Supreme Court for the Washington Territory from 1858 to 1861. In 1862 he moved to Portland where he practiced law. He married Lucretia Robinson, and they had six children. He died April 10, 1887.

1853 to 1858
Cyrus Olney was born October 11, 1815, at Geneva, New York. He attended law school in Cincinnati and was admitted to the bar and practiced in Ohio. He moved to Iowa where he served as circuit court judge for four years. He came to Oregon in 1851. In 1853, President Pierce appointed him to the Supreme Court of the Oregon Territory. He served in the Third District, comprised of Clatsop, Clackamas, Washington and Yamhill Counties, until 1858. Judge Olney sentenced Oregon's first convicted murderess, Charity Lamb, to life in prison at hard labor for killing her husband. In the fall of 1855 he served as a private in the Indian wars. He was a state senator in 1866 and served in the House of Representatives in 1870.

Judge Olney moved to Astoria where he died in December, 1870. He is buried in the cemetery at the top of 15th Street in Astoria. Judge Olney had a donation land claim on Clatsop Plains and purchased John McClure's donation land claim which extended from 1st Street to 13th Street in Astoria. Olney, Oregon is named for him.

Judge Olney married twice. His wives and children predeceased him.

1859 to 1862
Aaron E. Wait was born in Whately, Massachusetts on December 26, 1813. His father was a soldier and died during the War of 1812. When he was fourteen years old, he learned the broom-making trade, then became a teacher. He did not care for teaching and in 1837, he moved to Michigan and studied law with Judge Columbia Lancaster. He was admitted to the bar in 1842 and was appointed secretary to Governor J. S. Barry of Michigan. In the spring of 1847, Judge Wait traveled to Oregon by wagon train with his friend Judge Lancaster and his family and Adam and Caroline Van Dusen. Soon after arriving in Oregon, Judge Wait found work editing the Oregon Statesman. He served in the Cayuse war, then went to California in 1849. When he returned to Oregon, he was elected commissioner to audit the claims of the Cayuse war.

In 1859, Judge Wait became the first chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and served as circuit court judge for the fourth judicial district, which included Washington, Clackamas, Multnomah, Columbia and Clatsop Counties. He also served in both houses of the legislature and held other offices and positions, although he said he never held an office for which he sought a nomination.

Judge Wait married twice; both wives and four of his six children predeceased him. He died in December, 1898.

1862 to 1867

1867 to 1874
William W. Upton was born in Victor, New York on July 11, 1817, to James and Olive Boughton Upton. He attended Lima Seminary, which later became Syracuse University. He taught school for several years, worked briefly in Indiana, then walked to Michigan, cleared a tract of land and built a log home. He returned to New York for health reasons, married Maria Amanda Hollister, and studied the law. He brought his bride to Michigan and began a law practice. He was brilliant and a natural born leader and was elected to the state legislature and other public offices. In 1852, he started west and settled his family in Sacramento, California. He was elected to the California legislature and served as district attorney of Sacramento County. Several members of his family, including his wife, died in California, and he decided to seek a milder climate.

Judge Upton moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1865. His reputation preceded him, and he immediately was elected to the state legislature. In 1867, he was appointed justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and was elected to a six-year term in 1868. As a Supreme Court justice, he served as circuit court judge and rode the circuit from Oregon City to Astoria during his term. In 1873 he declined re nomination for financial reasons and returned to private practice in Portland.

In 1877, President Hayes offered Judge Upton the position of second comptroller of the U. S. Treasury. Judge Upton accepted and moved his family to Washington D. C. He served through three administrations, retiring in 1885. He practiced law in Washington until his death on January 23, 1896. Judge Upton and his first wife had eight children. He had three children with his second wife, Marietta Bryan.

1874 to 1878
Erasmus Darwin Shattuck was born December 31, 1824 in Bakersfield, Vermont, the son of Oliver and Sally Start Shattuck. He graduated from Vermont University in 1848 and taught school in Georgia and Maryland. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1852. He arrived in Oregon the next year and found work as a teacher. He was elected superintendent of schools for Washington County in 1855. He practiced law in Portland and was elected probate judge in 1856. He was district attorney in Portland in 1861 and Circuit Court judge from 1862 to 1867. He was one of the founders of the Portland Library.

Judge Shattuck also served as an Oregon Supreme Court justice from 1874 to 1878, and he presided over trials in Astoria during Clatsop County terms of court. He returned to the Multnomah County Circuit Court bench in 1886. He married Sarah A. Armstrong in 1852, and they had six children. He died July 26, 1900.

1879 to 1880
C. B. Bellinger was an interim judge for a short period of time between the second term of Erasmus Shattuck and the election of Raleigh Stott.

1881 to 1884
Raleigh Stott was born in Indiana in 1845. He was six years old when his family traveled to Oregon. They settled in Washington County, and Judge Stott was educated in public school. He graduated from Pacific University in 1869. He was admitted to the bar in 1870 and opened a law office in Portland in 1873. A year later he was elected to represent Multnomah County in the state legislature. He was elected district attorney in a statewide election in 1876. In 1880, he was elected circuit court judge for the fourth judicial district and presided over cases in Clatsop County until he resigned from the bench in December, 1883. Judge Stott was an active member of the Republican party and worked for the party for 25 years. He was a brilliant orator and had a genial disposition.

Judge Stott married Susan Plowden Stout, widow of Lansing Stout, and they had two children, Susie and Plowden. He died in Portland in 1901.

On January 12, 1882, at 8:00 p.m., Judge Stott sentenced J. G. Robeson to life in prison for the murder of prominent Astoria attorney J. W. Robb. Mr. Robb was sitting at his office desk the afternoon of April 25, 1881, when Robeson entered the office and shot him in the chest. Frank Taylor and Judge Bowlby were in the adjoining office, heard Robeson knock and speak to Robb, heard a gunshot and saw Robeson leaving. They entered Robb's office and found Mr. Robb dying. Robeson was held in jail in Portland until his trial for his own safety.

1884 to 1892
Frank J. Taylor was born in Oregon on May 11, 1851, the son of James and Esther DeArmond Taylor who had a donation land claim on Clatsop Plains. He studied law at the Albany (New York) Law School, graduating in 1873 with a law degree. He returned to Astoria where he entered into the practice of law. He was appointed deputy district attorney for Clatsop County soon after his return, then became Astoria recorder and served as auditor and police judge for three years. In 1880, he was elected to the state legislature and served one term. He returned to the district attorney's office and also worked as city attorney.

In 1884, Judge Taylor was elected Clatsop County Circuit Court judge to fill an un expired term. In 1886, he was reelected to a six-year term and continued on the bench until 1892 when he returned to his law practice. He was well accepted by people of the judicial district. He had a reputation for fairness and integrity, he had good reasoning powers, and he was a persuasive speaker. He served 12 years on the Astoria school board and was active in civic affairs. On December 23, 1886, Judge Taylor married Mary E. Anderson, a native of Illinois. They had two daughters. On the morning of September 14, 1913, Oswald Hansel, the husband of one of Judge Taylor's former divorce clients, shot Judge Taylor to death as he walked down Commercial Street enroute to the train depot.

1893 to 1909
Thomas Allen McBride was born November 15, 1847 in Yamhill County to Doctor James and Mahala Miller McBride. He attended school and read law in Vancouver, Washington, then attended McMinnville College (now Linfield) in McMinnville, Oregon. He was admitted to the bar in 1870 and practiced law until 1878. He moved to Salt Lake City where he practiced law for two years, then resumed his law practice in Oregon City. From 1882 to 1892, he served as district attorney of Clatsop County.

Judge McBride was the Clatsop County Circuit Court judge from 1892 to 1909 when Governor Benson appointed him to the Oregon Supreme Court. Judge McBride was highly respected by the Clatsop County Bar and lawyers throughout the state. He was intelligent, logical, and patient. He had a quick wit and a talent for writing succinct opinions. Judge McBride sat on the Supreme Court until his death in 1930, serving five terms as chief justice.

While performing his duty as Circuit Court judge in Clatsop County, Judge McBride sentenced two men to death by hanging. The first legal hanging in Clatsop County occurred behind the courthouse in Astoria on December 1, 1893.

Judge McBride was married twice, to Mary Merrill of Columbia County in 1875, and to Lottie May Chappell in 1927. He and Mary Merrill had two children.

1909 to 1927
James A. Eakin was born in Kane County, Illinois in 1859, the son of Stewart Bates and Catherine McEldowney Eakin. In 1866, he journeyed across the plains in a wagon train with his parents, elderly grandparents, and his brothers and sisters; they made the trip in four months. The family settled near Eugene, Oregon, where he was educated. He attended the University of Oregon for several years, then obtained his legal education at the Boston School of Law. He was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1887 and began the practice of law in Union County. He married Clara Belle Adams of Astoria the same year, and several years later they moved to her home town. They had four children.

Judge Eakin practiced law in Astoria until he was appointed to the Clatsop County Circuit Court by Governor Benson in 1909. He was elected to several terms, his last term expiring in 1928. In addition to serving as circuit court judge, Judge Eakin served a term as Astoria city attorney and was active in civic affairs. He was highly respected by the people of Clatsop County. He died in May, 1930, after an extended illness.

1928 to 1959
Howard K. Zimmerman was born to Albert and Mabel Zimmerman in a sod house in Norton County, Kansas, in 1889. His mother died when he was four years old, and the family moved to Nebraska in 1897, then on to Oregon in 1906. They settled just north of Salem, Oregon, where Judge Zimmerman graduated from high school in 1909. He worked his way through college and graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor of arts degree in 1913. He was a member of the debate team at Oregon and was undefeated in four years of competition. He obtained his law degree from Stanford University and was elected to the Order of the Coif, the highest honor in law school. After graduation, he opened a law office in Astoria and practiced law until July 25, 1917 when he joined the Oregon National Guard, serving during World War I. When the war ended, he resumed his law practice and was Astoria City Attorney during the reconstruction period after the fire of 1922. He won election to the Clatsop County Circuit Court in 1928.

Judge Zimmerman was logical and thorough, with an excellent memory for case citations. He was active in many community organizations, including Kiwanis Club, the American Legion and the Odd Fellows. He married Anna Laura Benton in 1917, and they had three children. After her death, he was married to Sarah Keene until her death in 1956. He then married Ellen Benton, Anna's younger sister, who was a loving grandmother to his grandchildren. Judge Zimmerman died in 1959.

1960 to 1966
Avery A. Combs was born in LaGrande, Oregon, on January 6, 1915, the son of A. and Millie Cramer Combs. He moved 16 times during his youth due to his father's various business enterprises. After graduation from LaGrande High School, he worked in his father's logging operations and managed his father's movie theatres in Newberg, Camas and Washougal. He entered the University of Oregon Law School in 1946 and graduated in 1949. His wife managed the Camas theatre while Judge Combs was in law school, and he commuted from Camas to Eugene to attend classes. During the summers, he worked on his father's cattle ranch in Enterprise. When he graduated from law school, Dean Orlando Hollis suggested that Seaside needed another attorney, and Judge Combs opened a general practice law office in Seaside in 1949.

Governor Mark Hatfield appointed Judge Combs to the Clatsop County Circuit Court in 1960 to fill Judge Zimmerman's unexpired term. It was a difficult choice for Judge Combs because he was a skilled litigator and liked to try cases. Judge Combs was elected to the bench in 1962. He ran unopposed in 1966, but he was killed in a car accident early one morning in October, 1966 while enroute to St. Helens to preside over a trial.

Judge Combs was married to Yvonne Herrmann in Barnes, Kansas in 1940. They had two sons, Douglas and Bruce. Judge Combs was a founder of the Seaside Kids youth sports program.

1967 to 1994
Thomas Edward Edison was born in Astoria on December 13, 1930 to Evald and Saima (Betty) Onkka Edison. After graduation from Astoria High School in 1948, he attended Oregon State College, graduating in 1952. He served two years in the United States Air Force, obtained his law degree from University of Oregon Law School and returned to Astoria to practice law in 1957. He was appointed Clatsop County District Attorney in February, 1960. In November of 1966, he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Avery Combs and was elected to several subsequent terms. He retired from the bench in 1994.

Judge Edison was a fair judge with a good memory for people and cases. He presided over pretrial hearings in the first DNA case in the United States. In 1983 he served as president of the Oregon Juvenile Judges and Directors Association. He was active in many civic organizations, including the Clatsop County Historical Society, Clatsop County Red Cross, Astoria Arts Commission, Rotary, American Legion, Hospice and the American Cancer Society. He also served as chairman of the Clatsop County Republican Central Committee. He married Millie Ann Griffin in 1955, and they had two children, Peter and Susan. After her death, he married Molly Hering Schausten in March of 1999. Judge Edison died in October of 1999.

1993 to 2016
Philip L. Nelson - more information coming soon!

1994 to Present
Paula Brownhill

2007 to Present 
Cindee Matyas 

2017 to Present 
Dawn McIntosh 

 Special Thanks
A special thank you to Lisa Penner of the Clatsop County Historical Society and to attorney Scott McArthur for providing historical information.