By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Frank Nelson succumbs at 89

News-Register file photo##Frank Nelson talks with students during his 2000 bid for state representative.
News-Register file photo##Frank Nelson talks with students during his 2000 bid for state representative.

Frank Nelson, a longtime philosophy professor, civil rights advocate, arts patron and Democrat, died Monday at Hillside Retirement Community. He was 89.

Services for Nelson will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at McMinnville First Baptist Church. Private interment will be conducted at Willamette National Cemetery, under the direction of Macy & Son Funeral Directors.

Nelson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Michigan. He went on to earn a doctor of divinity degree at the University of Chicago.

He pastored a Baptist church in Illinois for a few years, then returned to Chicago to direct the University of Chicago’s Baptist Graduate Student Center. During his 11 years there, he began what would become a lifelong pursuit of religious art, serving to combine his passions for religion and fine art. 

“Religious art is a good introduction to religion,” he was fond of noting.

In Chicago, he hosted an annual show of religious art that featured more than 100 pieces by more than 50 artists, some of whom went on to become nationally and internationally known. He purchased some pieces himself, and picked up others during travels to England, Japan, China, Greece, Russia, India and other distant locales.

Some of the paintings, sculptures and tapestries from his collection were shown this summer in the Presbyterian Church’s Narthex Gallery.

Nelson came to Linfield in 1970. He taught and chaired the Department of Philosophy until his retirement in 2008.

He created many courses during his tenure, including the philosophy of Southeast Asia and Latin America. He also taught adult education classes at First Baptist, where one of the paintings from his collection remains on permanent display.

An active member of the local Democratic party, he ran for state representative from District 24 in 2000, losing to Republican Donna Nelson.

He was also the founding director of the Oregon Advocates for the Arts and past director of the Oregon Committee for the Humanities.

Nelson and his first wife, Helene, who died in 1999, were among the founders of McMinnville’s Gallery Theater. The three-story section of the building, which hosts an arena theater, dance studio and set of dressing rooms, was named in his honor.

He often said he dreamed Gallery would help make McMinnville “the Ashland of the North.”

Nelson also helped found the McMinnville Education Foundation, a nonprofit that provides mini-grants for teachers, science experiences for elementary students and in other ways supports McMinnville schools.

He served as president of the McMinnville Telecommunications Committee, a city committee charged with helping to ensure McMinnville’s cable providers made provision for a community access channel. And he hosted “Speaking Frankly,” a local cable interview show, for 17 years.

In addition, he wrote reviews of Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions for the News-Register for many years.

In addition to other relatives, Nelson is survived by his second wife, Barbara Brewer Nelson, whom he married in 2001. 

Please see obituary, Page A4.


Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS