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John Williams publishes book on William Simon U'Ren, who shaped Oregon governance, influenced national politics.

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - William Simon U'Ren (1859-1949) is honored with a memorial in front of the Clackamas County Courthouse in downtown Oregon City.A former mayor of Oregon City published a book this year that introduces the person behind Oregon's unique system of governance that allows citizens to propose legislation or remove someone from office.

John Williams, who served as OC's mayor from 1998-2002, knows about Oregon's unique system from personal experience. Williams, since retirement, helped collect signatures of registered voters to successfully recall a mayor and placed language in the official city code calling for the abolishment of urban-renewal financing.

Williams, who turned 93 in May, teamed up with his son to produce the 250-page book on William Simon U'Ren (1859-1949), who not only shaped Oregon governance, but also was influential on national politics. "U'Ren: A Look Back" is a compilation of material printed about the father of the Oregon system of petitions for citizen initiatives, referendums and recall election.COURTESY PHOTO: JOHN WILLIAMS - The book about William Simon U'Ren (1859-1949) is titled 'URen: A Look Back.'

"This book explains how U'Ren brought direct democracy and good government to the people of Oregon at the start of the 20th century," Williams said. "The book also reveals facts, some for the first time, about U'Ren's time in Colorado, his legal career, and the important role of his family in the course of his life."

A graduate of Jefferson High School in Portland and Northwestern University in Illinois, Williams began developing his interest in U'Ren soon after moving to Oregon City in 1992. Williams strolled past U'Ren's memorial plaque in front of the Clackamas County Courthouse, 807 Main St., Oregon City, and found there was little information broadly available about "the father of Oregon's enlightened system of government."John Williams

Williams hopes his book will become "mandatory reading" for Oregon's high schoolers studying civics. Gov. Kate Brown last month signed a bill into law that will require students to complete at least one-half credit of civics in order to receive high school diploma starting in 2022.

Williams dedicated his book to two other Oregon City mayors, Ed Allick (1934-2019) and Don Andersen (1932-2017), who "gave countless hours of their time to their fellow citizens through their selfless volunteer government service."

Find out more about the book and order a $20 copy at or

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