The Tonkon Timeline


Founder Moe Tonkon Passes Away

Founder Moe Tonkon Passes Away Resized

When founding partner Moe Tonkon passed away in June 1974, he was mourned as a business, civic, and community leader. In the obituary published in the Oregonian, he was described by Multnomah County Presiding Circuit Judge Charles S. Crookham as “one of the great lawyers of the state.” Read the full Oregonian obituary below.

Moe M. Tonkon, the son of Russian immigrants who rose to prominence as a Portland lawyer and leader in civic activities, died Wednesday in St. Vincent Hospital after suffering a massive stroke. He was 78.

Tonkon, described by Multnomah County Presiding Circuit Judge Charles S. Crookbam as “one of the great lawyers of the state,” was admitted to the hospital late Tuesday afternoon and remained in intensive care until his death.

The son of a cap- and hat-maker, Tonkon opened a one-man law office in Portland in 1927 and built it into the firm of Tonkon, Torp, Galen, Marmaduke & Booth with a staff of more than 30 lawyers at his death.

Throughout his career, Tonkon was involved in numerous civic activities including the Oregon Historical Society and the Multnomah County Library Association. He also broke the barriers against the admission of Jews to three major private organizations in Portland, the Arlington Club, University Club and Waverley Country Club.

“I guess it just boils down to this: I haven’t stood aloof, I suppose, as a lot of our people have done,” he said in a 1979 newspaper interview.

Tonkon was born in Bender, Russia, in 1905. He moved to Portland with his parents when he was 1 year old. His father shortened the family name from Tonkonogy to Tonkon in 1912. Another branch of the family adopted the spelling of Tonkin and became prominent in the automobile business in the Portland area.

Tonkon attended Portland public schools and then Reed College from 1922 to 1924 when he entered Northwestern College of Law, now a part of Lewis and Clark College. He later taught at the law school in 1941 and from 1946 to 1950.

Tonkon was a past president of the Oregon Historical Society, Multnomah County Library Association and the Portland Junior Symphony.

He also served on the Reed College board of trustees and on boards of the St. Vincent Medical Foundation and St. Vincent Hospital and Medical Center. Tonkon’s additional community activities involved service with the Columbia Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Red Cross, Portland Symphony Society, Portland Art Museum and United Good Neighbors, the predecessor of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.

Tonkon also served as vice president of the Oregon State Bar in 1955-56.

In 1984, he was honored as Boss of the Year by the Portland Legal Secretaries Association, was recipient of the distinguished graduate award at Northwestern School of Law and Lewis and Clark College, and received the David E. Abram Distinguished Citizen Award from the Emanuel Medical Center Foundation.

Tonkon’s firm attracted numerous industrial, financial and food processing clients as well as Pro Basketball Inc., the corporate owner of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team.

Tonkon also served as an adviser to Terry Baker, an athletic star at Oregon State University, who played professional football after his graduation. Tonkon convinced Baker to attend law school, and Baker joined Tonkon’s firm in 1968 at the end of his athletic career.

Tonkon was a member of the board of directors of several corporations at the time of his death, including Pro Basketball Inc., Marv Tonkin Ford Sales Inc., Ron Tonkin Chevrolet Co. and Mount Hood Chemical Corp.

He was a former director of The Oregon Bank, Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co., Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Portland and Precision Castparts Corp., among others.

Tonkon is survived by his wife, Izetta Tonkon; two sisters, Ethel Tonkon of Portland and Fannye Weidman of Sacramento, Calif.; and by two brothers, Harry Tonkin and Sanford Tonkon, both of Sacramento.

This article is the property of Oregonian Publishing Co.