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An odd footnote in Bend's political past

Drake Park in Bend, OR


The late Frank T. Johns

Welcome to your third edition of Mind Bend-ers, a special feature offering you the inside scoop on quirky Bend history and offbeat trivia.

On this election day, we’re taking a look at Bend’s role in one man’s ill-fated political career.

On May 20, 1928, 39-year-old Frank Tetes Johns was campaigning as the Socialist Labor Party’s nominee for President of the United States. Naturally, his first stop on the campaign trail was the political mecca of…er, Bend, Oregon?

On Sunday afternoon, Frank delivered a rousing speech on the bank of the Deschutes River in what is now Drake Park. At the end of his speech, Frank fielded questions from audience members.

The spot on the left bank of the Deschutes River in what is now Drake Park is where Frank gave his last political speech.

Suddenly, terrified screams rang out.

Frank’s speech hadn’t been that bad, so he looked toward the river. He spied a ten-year-old boy who’d fallen from a footbridge and been swept into the current. Frank dashed to the shore, threw off his coat, and dove into the icy river.

He swam about 75 yards to reach the child, and began pulling him back toward shore. Unfortunately, the swift current proved too much. Neither Frank nor the boy made it out alive.

Frank’s memorial plaque in Drake Park.

In the end, Frank was posthumously awarded a Carnegie Medal for Heroism. His widow and two daughters received an annual stipend of $1,000 a year, and Frank was honored with a large plaque in Drake Park.

Be sure to check it out the next time you’re strolling around Mirror Pond. Just stay out of the water, okay?

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