A plaque honoring Weed native Charles “Charlie” Byrd was installed in downtown Weed’s Centennial Plaza Thursday.
Byrd served the city’s police department as an officer and as its chief before being elected Siskiyou County Sheriff and becoming California’s first elected black sheriff.
The Weed City Council unanimously approved the memorial plaque almost 12 years ago, in October 2003.
Then-mayor Mel Borcalli said at the time, “Charlie deserves his own plaque... He served our city well as police chief and our county well as sheriff.”
City staff was directed to look into obtaining and installing a plaque.
Borcalli, who left the city council in 2008, said in a phone interview Monday that she cannot imagine how the request to staff was lost, and she’s grateful someone picked the project up and finally got the plaque on the wall.
“I’m so happy Charlie is finally being recognized in this way for all he did for our city and for the county,” Borcalli said.
Charlie Byrd was born July 6, 1947 and attended Weed schools, graduating from Weed High School in 1965.
He began his law enforcement career in 1967 as a reserve police officer while attending College of the Siskiyous. Within a year, he moved into a full time position, the first black officer in the Weed PD. Byrd was promoted to Chief of Police in April 1975.
In 1986, he became the state’s first elected black sheriff. Subsequent re-elections allowed Byrd to serve Siskiyou County in that capacity for the next 16 years. During that time, in 1997, he was the first Siskiyou County Sheriff to be named president of the California State Sheriff’s Association since 1958.
Charlie Byrd Community Park
Byrd died September 23, 2003, but his legacy lives on through the public facilities that bear his name, such as the 13 acre Weed city park dedicated as Charles ‘Charlie’ Byrd Community Park the year after he died.
Formerly known as Lincoln Park, the facility was renamed in a 2004 ceremony to honor Byrd. Speakers at the dedication included Reverends Jerry Broomfield and Henry Gaines; Byrd’s brother Al Bearden, representing the family; Weed city councilor Mel Borcalli; College of the Siskiyous president Dr. David Pelham; and Bill Hoy, Siskiyou County Supervisor for District 3.
Several spoke of Byrd as a community member and as an elected county official.
“This county misses him,” Broomfield said. “Now we have one of our own that shows what we represent as black people. He proudly represents the community and is here to stay.”
Hoy said he remembered Byrd as a youngster playing on the basketball courts of Lincoln Park.
He said Byrd had two personalities – his Siskiyou County personality and a Sacramento personality.
“The Sacramento personality was serious,” said Hoy.
Pelham spoke of his experiences in addressing legislators with Byrd.
“He got Sacramento to understand the county’s needs, and that northern California didn’t stop at San Francisco,” Pelham said. “He literally changed the direction of the community.”
Youth Corrections Center
In January 2006, Byrd was remembered in the dedication of the newly constructed Charlie Byrd Youth Corrections Center in Yreka.
In her opening remarks at the beginning of the dedication, then Siskiyou County Chief Probation Officer Adelle Arnold said, “We hope that the Charlie Byrd Youth Corrections Center will house our troubled kids in a hospitable environment, but most of all, that it will honor the legacy of Charlie Byrd.”
Supervisor Hoy told the audience that Byrd had dedicated his life to law enforcement, and his accomplishments were part of the congressional record.
Frank DeMarco, who was serving as Siskiyou County Counsel, looked back at 50 years of friendship with Byrd.
“He was one of the most caring human beings I have ever met,” DeMarco said.