Charles Jordan, first African-American city commissioner in Portland, dies

Charles Jordan, first African-American city commissioner in Portland, dies
(Photo courtesy: Portland Parks and Recreation)

Charles Jordan, Portland’s first African-American City Commissioner, died Friday morning at home after a long illness.

He was 77.

Jordan was also with the city’s parks bureau for more than a decade, a time during which the city’s parks developed a national reputation for excellence. During his tenure, the city saw the opening of 44 new parks and natural areas as well the start of several popular programs like Movies in the Park.

"Charles Jordan is established in history as one of the heroes of Portland," Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz said in a statement. "His many contributions to our community live on, and his memory will inspire others to reach beyond ordinary goals to achieve greatness.

"Charles Jordan epitomized the best in community-building leadership in Portland."

All City flags have been ordered lowered to half-staff and will remain that way through April 12.

"As Portland's first African-American City Commissioner and Portland Parks & Recreation Director, Charles was the champion for much of what we love about Portland's parks," says Mayor Hales. "Charles Jordan was most of all about access to parks and recreation programs for everyone. He was passionate about that principle, and the rest of us caught the inspiration from him."

Jordan grew up in Texas, served in the Army and graduated from Gonzaga with a degree in education, sociology and philosophy.

He settled in Portland and was elected to the City Council in 1974, serving 10 years. He became parks director after that and served 14 years, retiring in 2003.

His memorial service will be private, but the parks bureau will recognize Jordan on Saturday at the third annual New Columbia Community Health Fair on Saturday, April 5, from 12-3 p.m.

Copies of Jordan’s recently published book, "More than Just Fun and Games," will be sold with proceeds going to the city’s Charles Jordan Community Center.