Former Portland City Commissioner Charles Jordan dead at 77

Credit: portlandonline

Commissioner Charles Jordan in a 1976 photo.

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by Michael Rollins, KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 4 at 4:38 PM

PORTLAND -- Charles Jordan, former Portland city commissioner and director of the city's Park and Recreation Bureau, has died at age 77.

He passed away at his home after a long illness, said parks spokesman Mark Ross. A cause of death was not provided.

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Jordan was elected in 1974 and served 10 years on the council. He also was parks director for 14 years before retiring in 2003.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has ordered all City flags to fly at half-mast from today through Saturday, April 12.

“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.”

In June 2012, the city council named the University Park Community Center after Jordan.

“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," said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish at the time.

Hales noted that Jordan was Portland's first African-American city commissioner.

This was an era in Portland that also saw African-Americans in key positions of Portland leadership. Lee Brown was Multnomah County Sheriff; Matthew Prophet, the superintendent of Portland Public Schools; Bill Hilliard, the editor of the Oregonian; James DePreist, conductor of the Oregon Symphony and Dick Bogle served on the city council.

Ross noted Jordan was a key figure in the development of Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Delta Park, Southwest Community Center and renovations to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Matt Dishman Community Center.

During his tenure heading the bureau, the city opened 44 parks and natural areas.

“His great saying was, ‘Parks are more than just fun and games,’” said Michelle Harper, who worked with Jordan. “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.”

No public memorial is planned, Ross said.

The Parks Bureau will honor Jordan Saturday afternoon at the New Columbia  Community Health Fair. His new book "More Than Just Fun and Games" will be available along with health screenings. Proceeds from the book sales will go toward the Jordan Center, 909 N. Foss Ave.

The event runs from noon to 3 p.m.

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