Local Hero: Charles R. Richardson Sr.
Charles R. Richardson Sr. was a Bartow native and was among the first group of African American students to integrate Summerlin Institute, which is now Bartow Senior High School. He completed his college education outside the state. However, he soon returned to his beloved Polk County. Here he became an Administrator, Director of Educational Talent Search and Equity Officer at Polk Community College.
Mr. Richardson became the 3rd African American elected to the Winter Haven City Commission, serving from 1998 to 2002. He also served as the 3rd African American Mayor for the City of Winter Haven from 1999 to 2001. In 2002 he was elected as the first African American to serve on the Polk County Board of Commissioners. To this date, he remains the only African American to hold this distinction. He played an integral role in helping to shape government in the growing County, and even after retiring from the Commission he continued to assist his constituents wherever and whenever he could.
On Wednesday, October 1, 2003, at the age of 54, Charles R. Richardson Sr. lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and cancer of the liver. He died in the comfort of his home with his loving wife Karen by his side. He is survived by his four children, Ericka, Charles Jr., Elden, and Janine. Mr. Richardson gave all he had to his community and always tried to help others. The extraordinary life he led, and his dedication to serving others, is truly an example for all to follow.