Earl R. Biggs papers , 1930-1966

Overview of the Collection

Biggs, Earl R.
Earl R. Biggs papers
1930-1966 (inclusive)
0.5 linear feet, (1 container)  :  1 manuscript box
Collection Number
Ax 470
Earl R. Biggs (1897-1968) investigated sex crimes for the Portland police department. He wrote two books, How to Protect Your Child from the Sex Criminal, and Sex, Science and Sin, and was instrumental in reforming Oregon's sex crimes laws in the 1950s. The collection contains correspondence, including one folder devoted to letters from Alfred C. Kinsey; notes on sex crimes cases investigated by Biggs; and copies of his two books.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Earl Rodney Biggs was born October 30, 1897 in La Grande, Oregon. His childhood was marked by poverty and family disruptions, and at age 12 he ran away from home and became a sailor. While at sea he read voraciously, and developed a lifelong interest in writing and philosophy.

In 1914, at age 16, Biggs returned to La Grande and married Eva Long, a 15-year-old girl. They had two daughters, Evelyn and Earla, but the couple split up in 1916. Biggs enlisted in the Army, lying about his age so he would not have to seek his parents' permission. In 1918, in an explosion on a mine layer in which many soldiers were killed, he received a severe head injury that troubled him throughout his life.

For the next 10 years he worked at various jobs in Portland, including a stint as an undercover agent for the bus company, investigating drivers who pocketed fares. In 1928 he joined the Portland police department. He again worked undercover, this time investigating prostitution and what were called, at that time, "sex perverts," but as he began to follow cases that implicated prominent Portland residents in sex crimes, he was taken off undercover work and assigned to regular police duties.

From 1934 to 1941 Biggs was deeply involved with the Sunshine Division, a police-run group that gave alms to the poor (and is still extant under the same name). In 1941 he entered the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College, and was elected president of his freshman class, but his education was interrupted by U.S. entry into World War Two. In 1942 Biggs joined the Navy, serving on shore patrol.

After his discharge in 1945 Biggs re-entered the Portland police force as a sergeant; two years later he was promoted to precinct chief. His police career left him no time to continue his law education, and he left school.

In the course of his undercover work, Biggs became interested in the psychology of sexual "abnormals" (his preferred terminology) such as exhibitionists, pedophiles, and rapists. A series of local, highly publicized child molestations prompted Biggs to write and publish two books in 1950: a manual for parents entitled How to Protect Your Child from the Sex Criminal, and another for police officers and students entitled Sex, Science and Sin. Alfred C. Kinsey, founder of the Kinsey Institute, invited Biggs to speak to the faculty at the University of Indiana about his work. Over the next several years Kinsey became a friend and advisor, working with Biggs on numerous sex crimes-related projects.

Although Biggs included homosexuality and transsexuality in his discussions of "abnormality," he opposed the broadness of contemporary sodomy laws that implicated consenting adults in common activities. "If those who commit adultery and those who violate other sex laws were also imprisoned," he wrote in Sex, Science and Sin (page 122), "a prison wall around the United States would probably be necessary." During the next five years, Biggs gave over 300 talks to Parent-Teacher Associations, police departments, community groups, schools and universities.

Although he did not write any more books on sexuality, Biggs became involved in the creation of legislation to address the lack of legal protection for women and children who had been sexually victimized. In 1952, together with his former law school classmate Harry Spencer and freshman Oregon legislator Philip Roth, Biggs proposed a comprehensive sex crimes law (H-B 208, or the "Biggs-Roth measure") which was rejected by the statute revision committee in March 1953 in favor of H-B 712, a punitive bill that pandered to public fears. In Biggs' words, "The law that was passed has little or nothing to recommend it," and it was quickly struck down by the Oregon state supreme court. Nevertheless, Biggs' efforts prompted the creation and passing of new sex crimes legislation several years later.

A wrestler throughout his life, Biggs campaigned to keep wrestling as a sports activity in schools. Troubled by health problems, Biggs retired from the police force in 1957 and opened "The Adventure Book and Antique Store" in Portland. During the last years of his life he became interested in psychic phenomena, and began compiling a dictionary on extra-sensory perception and related subjects. He sent the manuscript to three publishers, but all three refused it; the manuscript is included in the Biggs Papers.

Earl R. Biggs died on February 20, 1968. He was survived by his wife Esther, with whom he had two sons, Rodney Earl and James Duncan. After his death his wife wrote of him, "He was a Mason, and tried to live up to Masonic principles."

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains correspondence, including one folder devoted to letters from Alfred C. Kinsey; notes and notebooks (circa 1930) on sex crimes cases investigated by Biggs; materials related to his research and lectures; biographical information, including newspaper and magazine articles; and copies of his two books, How to Protect Your Child from the Sex Criminal, and Sex, Science and Sin. The collection is contained in one box of nine folders.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Sex and law--Oregon
  • Sex crimes--Investigation--Oregon--Portland
  • Sex crimes--United States
  • Sodomy--United States

Personal Names

  • Biggs, Earl R.
  • Kinsey, Alfred C. (Alfred Charles), 1894-1956

Corporate Names

  • Portland (Or.). Bureau of Police

Form or Genre Terms

  • Correspondence