© 2022 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Red Special Brings Socialist Eugene Debs to Grants Pass

The Red Special train rolled into Grants Pass one Sunday evening. The engine wasn’t painted red, but everyone knew during the presidential campaign of 1908 that the red bunting draped along its sides meant Socialist candidate Eugene Debs was in town.

The Rogue River Courier reported a big crowd greeted the train when it arrived around 7 p.m. A 15-piece volunteer band got off the train first and revved up the crowd at the station with campaign songs, then led the way to the Opera House where Debs was scheduled to speak. 

After introductions, Debs apologized for his raspy voice, saying it had been a strenuous campaign and he was tired.  He didn't disappoint the crowd, however, as he croaked through his message of uniting workers to profit more from what they produced.  Debs’ stature and appearance surprised people who saw him for the first time.  He was a huge man who wore an old serge suit and blue shirt, reflecting his roots as a laborer. 

The rally lasted until nearly 2 a.m. when Debs and his party returned to the train and rolled on, aiming to cover 30,000 miles with more than 500 stops.

Source: "Given Ovation Sunday Evening, Crowds Visit Depot To See Candidate." Rogue River Courier 18 Sept. 1908 [Grants Pass OR] : 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Web. 15 Sept. 2016. .

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.