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Charles R. Jordan

Charles Ray Jordan was born on September 1, 1937 in Longview, Texas. His mother raised Jordan along with his sister and brother working as a domestic in rural Texas. He never knew his father. At the age of thirteen his mother moved the family to Palm Springs, California where they lived on an Indian Reservation.

Jordan earned his high school diploma from Palm Springs High School in 1956. As a high school basketball star he was offered numerous athletic scholarships. From 1956 until 1961 he attended Gonzaga University in Washington where he earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in Education, Sociology and Philosophy. He did graduate work in Education at Loma Linda University and in Public Administration at the University of Southern California.

Upon graduation from Gonzaga, Jordan was unable to obtain a job in his field of study. He was forced to work as a gardener for California actors Lawrence Harvey and Jack Lambert. From 1961 until 1970 Jordan worked for the City of Palm Springs. After being hired as the first African American Recreation Leader for the city, he went on to become Assistant Director of Recreation and Assistant to the City Manager. From 1962 until 1964 he took a leave of absence to fulfill a two-year tour of duty in the United States Army. In 1970 Jordan moved to Portland, Oregon to work on the federal Model Cities Program. Jordan then went on to become Portland’s first elected African American. He served on the city council from 1974 until 1984, where he served as City Fire, Police and Parks Commissioner. From 1984 until 1989 Jordan was appointed Parks Director of Austin, Texas. In 1989 he returned to Portland to oversee its Parks system, a post he held until 2003. Jordan stepped down to take the helm at the Conservation Fund, a non-profit environmental organization.

In 1985 Jordan was appointed to the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors by former President, Ronald Reagan. During the Clinton administration, Jordan was appointed to the American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee. He was known worldwide for his commitment and leadership in involving African Americans in the conservation movement.

Jordan passed away on April 4, 2014, at the age of 77.

Accession Number

A2004.167

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/20/2004

Last Name

Jordan

Maker Category
Middle Name

R.

Schools

Palm Springs High School

Gonzaga University

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Longview

HM ID

JOR03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Palm Springs, California

Favorite Quote

You're Kidding.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/1/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Southern Food

Death Date

4/4/2014

Short Description

City parks administrator and foundation chief executive Charles R. Jordan (1937 - 2014 ) was the first African American elected to an office in Portland, Oregon as a member of the city council. He also served as City Fire, Police and Parks Commissioner.

Employment

City of Palm Springs

United States Army

Federal Model Cities Program

Portland City Council

City of Austin, Texas

Portland Parks and Recreation

Conservation Fund

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192152">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles R. Jordan's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192153">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles R. Jordan lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192154">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles R. Jordan describes his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192155">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles R. Jordan describes his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192156">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles R. Jordan talks about father figures from his childhood in Longview, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192157">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles R. Jordan describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192158">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles R. Jordan describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192159">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles R. Jordan describes his childhood holidays and celebrations in Longview, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192160">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles R. Jordan describes his childhood home of Longview, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192161">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles R. Jordan describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192162">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his experiences in elementary school in Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192163">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Charles R. Jordan narrates his photographs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192164">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles R. Jordan talks about living on a Native American reservation in Palm Springs, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192165">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his family community in Palm Springs, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192166">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles R. Jordan describes his experiences growing up in the Baptist faith</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192167">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles R. Jordan describes his experiences at Palm Springs High School in Palm Springs, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192168">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles R. Jordan describes his experiences at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192169">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles R. Jordan describes his experiences at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192170">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles R. Jordan describes the events that led him into parks and recreation work in Palm Springs, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192171">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles R. Jordan narrates his photographs, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192172">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles R. Jordan describes his career in city government in Palm Springs, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192173">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles R. Jordan describes being hired to work for the City of Portland, Oregon</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192174">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his tenure on the Portland City Council</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192175">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his tenure as the parks director in Austin, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192176">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles R. Jordan describes working with Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson in Austin, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192177">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his tenure as parks director in Portland, Oregon</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192178">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles R. Jordan reflects on his decision to leave the public sector</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192179">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles R. Jordan narrates his photographs, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192180">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles R. Jordan describes the operations of The Conservation Fund</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192181">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles R. Jordan talks about his experiences on the President's Commission on American Outdoors in 1984</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192182">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles R. Jordan describes his experience serving as chairman of The Conservation Fund</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192183">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles R. Jordan describes his hopes for conservation efforts in the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192184">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles R. Jordan describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192185">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles R. Jordan reflects on the reasons for his success</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192186">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles R. Jordan offers advice to those interested in a career in the environmental field</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192187">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles R. Jordan describes his plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192188">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles R. Jordan describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192189">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Charles R. Jordan describes why he believes history is important</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192190">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Charles R. Jordan reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/192191">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Charles R. Jordan narrates his photographs, pt. 4</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Charles R. Jordan talks about living on a Native American reservation in Palm Springs, California
Charles R. Jordan talks about his experiences on the President's Commission on American Outdoors in 1984
Transcript
[HistoryMaker] Mr. [Charles R.] Jordan we had--we were just talking about when your family moved to [Palm Springs] California in 1950, so tell us a little bit about what life was like on the Indian reservation?$$Well, there was no grass, of course, and most of us had centralized facilities, in the middle of the reservation at certain places there were showers and bathrooms and washing areas that we would go to and I mean just all sand. Cars rolled on sand, I mean there was no roads there were pathways that cars had created over the years but there was no pavement at all. And we all lived on the reservation surrounded by desert, just as far as the eye could see mountains and desert. And it was--we used to make bow and arrows and we would go hunting in the desert with bow and arrow--(simultaneous)--$$So did the Native American children there teach you how to make the bows and arrows and--(simultaneous)--$$Oh yeah, and we would all go out in the desert, 110, 115 degrees and we would go hunt and walking in the desert, hunting, and they would have Indian burials that lasted three to five days. I mean the same way, I mean, three to five days. The chief, Chief Ward, he lived a couple of doors from us and it was a--but we could go to movies, and movies were integrated, the schools were integrated. But Louis Armstrong came to town, he had to stay on the reservation, and yet he performed downtown. It was sorta strange; it was half and half there. But it was rich, wouldn't have changed it for anything. And then I started school, middle school.$$What was the name of the school?$$[Nellie N.] Coffman Middle School [Cathedral City, California], the first year of that, two-year school and from there to high school. But I started playing basketball on the reservation, I started--there was a Boys Club [Boys & Girls Clubs of America] in the middle of the desert that I would go to and the gentleman's name was Frank [ph.], I'll never forget him as long as I live. I don't know whether he was properly trained to be a Boys Club director or not, that wasn't important. And that's--and so now, when I became a director I realized the importance of caring, the kids don't care how much you know they just wanna know how much you care. And that's why I'll always remember him. I knew he really cared about us; there was no doubt in my mind. And we had a basketball court paved, it was pavement and oh, and we used to go out there at night and play five and six hours and that's all we had. But I remember Frank was so kind and never forget him. And we'd play basketball at night and during the daytime we would sit under mesquite trees, play dominoes, my parents [M.C. Shepard and Willie Mae Glaspie] would and I would be shooting baskets every day of my life, every day. I didn't miss a day during that four or five years--$I was appointed by President [Ronald Wilson] Reagan in 1984 to serve on a presidential commission. It was the President's Commission on American Outdoors [sic. President's Commission on Americans Outdoors]. He appointed seventeen Americans to travel around this country for a year and a half and talk to Americans about the great outdoors and what they wanted to do in the great outdoors for the next thirty-five years and on that commission he had one black and one woman. And I was that black. And we traveled around the country. On that committee was Pat Noonan, I didn't know who Pat Noonan was, but he--but of course Reagan had his real shakers and movers, you know the big ones, [Sheldon] Coleman [Jr.], the Coleman Company who has all of the camping gear, Gil Grosvenor [Gilbert Melville Grosvenor] of 'National Geographic,' he had the heavyweights on there, I was the lightest one on there (laughter). And--but during that--(simultaneous)--$$Say you.$$--time as we traveled around every region of the country--talking to Americans, thousands of them about the great outdoors and what they like to do in the great outdoors and what they wanted to do. We were gathering information; we had studies, hundreds of studies from people at hearings, people were coming out, sharing their dreams and hopes with us about the great outdoors. And there weren't very many people of color, so that was stressful for me because I knew that we cared about the outdoors but we were not coming out expressing it and so I was trying to be objective and listen but I was also trying to speak on behalf and that's--that was hard to do and so I struggled with that. And we finally came up with the report and when the report was finished, Pat Noonan, whom I hadn't--I just knew him I didn't know him very well, came up to me and said, "You know," he said, "I saw your struggle and I heard your story and I want to help you tell that story." And said, "I want you to come and serve on my board." That was, what, that was eighteen years ago and I didn't know anything about conservation. But, "Come and serve on my board." So I looked into it and I did and that guy, he got it then, I mean he really, you know, I didn't tell him, he just noticed, and he has opened doors. You talking about someone who can open doors, that I never would have been able to even darken, and he just started opening doors for me and putting me out there and making sure people heard my story because I tell it from a black perspective and not, you can see not angrily, I'm not angry--so, you know, that's why it resonates because I'm not angry with anyone. I just tell it from someone who has seen and has grown up in America in a black skin. And so there are times when I saw a different America, it's not the one you're explaining to me, that's not what I saw, but let me tell you what America I saw. And therefore what's important to me, and so I can do that without offending people because I'm not angry. And so I've had a chance to do that all around the country and he just opened doors, I mean just incredibly so and ever since I've been on his board he has done that.