In honor of Black History Month, Cleveland Metroparks will be celebrating Black leaders - past and present - who helped shape parks and recreation in our nation and our own community.
Charles "Charlie" Sifford
, known by many as the Jackie Robinson of golf, Sifford was the first golfer to break the PGA’s color barrier and the first Black player to be elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Charlie was a golf pro at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course from 1975 to 1988. In 2014, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
Dr. Patrick Oliver
was Cleveland Metroparks sixth Chief Ranger of Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department. Dr. Oliver played an instrumental role in the strategic planning process for the department’s new headquarters in Rocky River Reservation. Dr. Oliver was appointed by Governor Mike DeWine in 2020 to serve as the Lead Consultant for the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment for the State of Ohio - a new office working to improve representation of minorities and women in law enforcement agencies. Dr. Oliver served for 27 years in law enforcement, 11 years as a trooper on the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and as Police Chief in Fairborn, Grandview Heights and Cleveland.
James Whitley Jr.
was Cleveland Metroparks seventh Chief Ranger of Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department. Prior to Cleveland Metroparks Whitley spent 12 years with the Cleveland Heights Police Department, where he climbed the ranks from officer to sergeant, and eventually to commander. He received the Meritorious Police Service Medal and became the first African-American ranking officer in the city’s history. “The day I was sworn in as Chief, I promised the Board of Park Commissioners that my department would be effective, efficient and responsive to the needs of the surrounding communities. My previous experience in a culturally diverse community taught me how important it was to care, and set a positive agency-wide tone.”
was a Cleveland Metroparks former Board of Park Commissioner. Whitehead served on Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners from 1994 to 2011. His six terms make him the third-longest-serving commissioner in Cleveland Metroparks history! During his tenure on the board, the park grew to 22,000 acres, including Ohio & Erie Canal and West Creek Reservations, and construction of African Elephant Crossing at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Paul Dunbar White
served on Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners from 1974 to 1976. White was elected Judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court in 1963, and was the first Black judge to be elected in Cleveland. He joined the firm of Baker & Hostetler in 1968 and became the first Black associate lawyer in a major Cleveland firm.