Portlander spotlight: Charles Ray Jordan

During his 14 years as parks director, Jordan helped implement dozens of free activities like Movies in the Park and oversaw the creation of 44 new recreational facilities.

Two black-and-white images side by side in a collage.

Charles Jordan during his time as a city commissioner in the mid-1970s.

Photos via City of Portland Archives

“He was just a giant in this city.”

Those were the words former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg used to describe Charles Ray Jordan after he died in 2014 at the age of 77.

Born in Texas, Jordan made his way to Portland in 1970 to work on a federal anti-poverty program. He was appointed four years later to Portland City Council, becoming the first African American to fill a seat in the City of Roses.

He later went on to lead the Parks Bureau for 14 years, during which time he oversaw the creation of 44 new parks, natural areas, and community centers, including Pioneer Courthouse Square.

A man of many aphorisms, Jordan once said, “If change is to be, it’s up to you and me.”

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