by Erica Naito-Campbell
Oregon State University Press, 2024
Paper: 978-1-962645-09-6 | eISBN: 978-1-962645-10-2
Library of Congress Classification F884.P853N46 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 979.549043092


William “Bill” Sumio Naito (1925–1996) was a remarkable and visionary individual—the Portland-born son of Japanese immigrants who became one of the city’s most significant business and civic leaders. Every day thousands of people drive on Naito Parkway alongside Portland’s Waterfront Park, yet little has been written about the man for whom it was named.

In this first biography, Erica Naito-Campbell, Bill’s granddaughter, shows how his story is also the story of Portland, the city he loved. Naito’s life, from the Great Depression and World War II through Portland’s rebirth in the 1970s and its profound growth, tracked most of the major events in the city and was the catalyst for many of them. Through hard-earned success in importing and real estate with his brother Sam, Naito came to wield considerable power in the city, and his leadership led to much of what we consider iconic Portland today: the “Portland Oregon” sign near the Burnside Bridge, the annual Christmas tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Harbor Drive’s conversion to Waterfront Park.

Naito’s name became synonymous with civic leadership, whether it was growing Portland’s urban tree canopy, revitalizing its downtown, or preserving historic buildings. But less is known about his difficult childhood—with a father who worked twelve-hour days and a mother whose treatment of him was harsh at best—and the racism he endured during World War II. After the expulsion of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor and his military service in Occupied Japan, Naito overcame great emotional turmoil to return to Portland and become one of its greatest change-makers.

Erica Naito-Campbell uses anecdotes, rich details, and previously unknown stories about Bill Naito to bring Portland’s history to life—while acknowledging that the cost of his success was a family rife with resentments and envy. Her book reveals the emotional wounds that drove Naito to become one of Portland’s most inspiring civic leaders, a pivotal player in the city’s journey from a moribund downtown to a national model for livability, urban renewal, and historic preservation.