The Portland City Council voted unanimously last week to rename the University Park Community Center in north Portland in honor of Charles Jordan, a longtime African-American civic leader who formerly served as a Portland City Commissioner and Director of Portland Parks and Recreation.
“No one in the Parks family is more deserving of this honor,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “Charles Jordan took Portland Parks and Recreation to the next level. He was a champion for the environment and conservation nationwide. His commitment to children, families, and to building community is extraordinary.”
The community center at 9009 N. Foss Ave. will be re-dedicated on Sunday, July 22 with a free public Charles Jordan Community Celebration from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and including a joyful ice-cream social featuring music and activities for the whole family. The event will be followed by a free concert in neighboring McCoy Park.
Originally built to house World War II shipyard workers, the building was saved from the wrecking ball decades ago when Jordan won voter approval to turn it into a center for community life. Today, the center s one of the best and most-visited community centers in Portland.
After spending his early life in rural Texas, Jordan served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He received his B.S. from Gonzaga University in education, sociology, and philosophy. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law degree by the University of Vermont.
Jordan spent 10 years as Portland’s first African-American City Commissioner beginning in 1974. He served 14 years as Director of Portland Parks & Recreation, retiring in 2003.
Jordan was the force behind such Portland landmarks as Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, and Delta Park, as well as renovations to many of Portland’s community centers.
He earned a reputation 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.”
Charles Jordan’s leadership, commitment to Portland and innovative policies has helped ensure the city’s high quality of life for generations to come.
For more information, call 503-823-5300 or visit portlandparks.org.