Of course, the property needed a name other than “the former Howard Johnson hotel.”
Andy Silver said the Vancouver Housing Authority reached out to the NAACP for a suggestion of people based on a commitment to social justice.
One name stood out: Bertha Cain Baugh, an elementary school teacher and a founding member of the NAACP Vancouver branch.
“They gave us a few nominations, and we chose her due to her lifelong commitment to service in our community, and that she was forced to teach in other communities due to her race,” Silver said.
Going forward the shelter will be called Bertha Cain Baugh Place.
Bertha Baugh and her husband, David, moved to Vancouver in 1945 and lived in the Evergreen Highlands.
Baugh was active in several local organizations including the NAACP, YWCA and League of Women Voters.
She taught in Portland because she couldn’t get a teaching job in Vancouver. According to information given to the VHA, Baugh was told her credentials were lost and that “Vancouver was not ready for colored teachers.”
Baugh taught at Vanport at the suggestion of Mark Smith, who worked at VHA and was president of the NAACP. After the Vanport flood of 1948, Baugh taught at George Elementary and Bridger Elementary schools in Portland.
Shortly before retiring, she earned national recognition as an Outstanding Elementary Teacher of America.
Baugh died April 29, 2017, just shy of her 99th birthday.
Bertha Cain Baugh Place is among VHA’s efforts to redress wrongs of the past.
“I listened to Bertha talk about housing as a main issue in the NAACP,” said Lynn Baugh, Bertha Baugh’s niece. “She was a strong, determined woman. She might’ve had a sweet mind and gracious demeanor, but Bertha had the will of steel, a backbone of steel.”
Nephew Dale Baugh said he is pleased his aunt will become the shelter’s namesake because she “always tried to improve the lives of others.”
A dedication will be held at a later date.