(Portland, OR) –
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales issued a mayoral proclamation this morning honoring the late, beloved Charles Jordan. Hales proclaimed today, April 9, 2014, as a day of remembrance for the former Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) director and City Commissioner, who died last Friday at the age of 77.
Friends and former colleagues - and the two were far from mutually exclusive - offered thoughts prior to this morning’s formal City Council session on Jordan’s impressive and lasting legacy, and how he will be remembered.
“He loved every color in the rainbow of humanity,” said retired PP&R Director Zari Santner, who succeeded Jordan as head of the bureau. “Because he knew that diversity would increase vitality for all. His most enduring gift was to inspire”.
Jordan’s son Dion, a Portland Parks board member, was on hand to accept the Mayor’s proclamation.
“Thanks for all the love, condolences and support you all have shared with me and my family,” said an emotional Dion Jordan as he addressed the Mayor and City Commissioners. “My father…was something special.”
Recalling a conversation with his father from a few years ago, Dion remembered Charles Jordan reflecting on his life’s work.
“He said, ‘I never set out to do all this. I never set out to accomplish the things I've done’,” recalled Dion. “He said he only wanted to do one thing, and that was the right thing. That he wanted to treat everybody right, love everyone unconditionally, and then he felt like his life would be meaningful. And it has been.”
Jordan helped bring more than 40 new properties into the now nationally-recognized and widely admired PP&R system, including Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, Delta Park, East Portland Community Center (the most utilized in our system) and Southwest Community Center. He was instrumental in obtaining the funding for several large, key renovation projects through the major and much-needed 1994 Parks bond. And he secured the funding to revitalize the center that now bears his name, Charles Jordan Community Center - which serves an area of town that benefits greatly from the center’s huge variety of low-cost, high quality health and recreation offerings.
“Charles transformed us from a bureau into a family,” current PP&R Director Mike Abbaté said at the proclamation ceremony. “I’ve seen and heard the word ‘inspiring’ associated with Charles perhaps more than any other. It is more than appropriate. One of the amazing things about Charles was his ability to bring people along with him. He had deep compassion for others, especially those who had been marginalized.”
“Charles Jordan is established in history as one of the heroes of Portland,” said Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “At last Sunday’s 30th birthday celebration for Pioneer Courthouse Square, I asked for both a moment of silence and a round of applause for Charles. Both were deafening.”
“We won't soon forget what we've learned from your father, Dion,” said City Commissioner Nick Fish, a former Parks commissioner. “The best way to remember your father is to remember what he taught us. And we will.”
“We all have our ways to remember Charles,” said Mayor Hales. “For me personally, I think on a nice spring day like this, I'm going to go walk around a park or two.”
Jordan’s memorial service will be private, for family only. The Mayor ordered all City flags to fly at half-mast from April 4 (the day of Jordan’s death) through Saturday, April 12.
About Charles Jordan
Charles Jordan’s leadership, commitment to Portland, and innovative policies are anchors of Portland Parks & Recreation’s mission and philosophy now and going forward.
Jordan was a former Portland City Commissioner, and former Director of Portland Parks & Recreation whose leadership over more than three decades will be felt indefinitely. In June, 2012, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to rename Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s University Park Community Center in honor of Charles Jordan.
“There never has, and there never will be, someone more deserving of this honor,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish at the time. “He was the person who took Portland Parks & Recreation to the next level. Charles Jordan is a champion for the environment and conservation nationwide. His commitment to children, families, and to building community is extraordinary.”
The renamed Charles Jordan Community Center – a building made possible by his efforts – was dedicated on Sunday, July 22, 2012 with a free public celebration.
After spending his early life in rural Texas, Jordan served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He received his B.S. fromGonzagaUniversityin Education, Sociology, and Philosophy. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law degree by theUniversityofVermont.
Jordanspent 10 years as Portland’s first African-American City Commissioner beginning in 1974. He served 14 years as Director of Portland Parks & Recreation and retired in 2003. Jordan literally changed Portland’s landscape by overseeing 44 new parks and natural areas during his tenure.
Jordan was the force behind Portland landmarks such as Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center,Delta Park,Southwest Community Center, renovations to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Matt Dishman Community Center, and many more public projects and successes.
As City Commissioner, Charles Jordan was noted for his innovative and unconventional approaches to problem solving. He developed the Community Juvenile Officer Program that put Portland Police officers in local schools to engage youth through positive interaction and activities. As Fire Commissioner, he developed an outreach training program to recruit people of color to the Fire Bureau.
On the national stage, Charles Jordan broadened the agenda of the environmental movement and land conservation to make it more inclusive. He is known for his groundbreaking approach to putting people – particularly people of color – at the heart of the American Conservation Movement.
“His great saying was ‘Parks are more than just fun and games,’” says Michelle Harper, who worked with Jordan for years in several capacities. “He is a spiritual person with a strong connection to his church, and he saw us all as being connected.Portland’s parks were where we could come together to build community and family.”
Notable Charles Jordan quotes
“What people don’t understand, they won’t value; what they don’t value, they won’t protect; and what they don’t protect, they will lose.”
“Today you follow, but tomorrow you will be expected to lead.”
“If change is to be, it’s up to you and me.”
“Dreams are simply goals with wings.”
“Don’t let anyone steal your joy.”
“Take good care of yourself and you can care for others.”
“We’re more than just fun and games.”
“Develop a passion for something and do it well.”
“Model the way – you never know who is watching and wanting to be just like you.”