JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A retired Johnson City reverend beloved by many for his devotion to servanthood has died.
Former Johnson City Vice Mayor Charles Charlton, who retired in 2019 after leading Friendship Baptist Church for 42 years, died on Wednesday at the age of 79.
Charlton had received his doctorate in education from ETSU before teaching at Northeast State Community College.
In addition to being vice mayor, Charlton also served on the Johnson City Board of Commissioners from 2003-2005. Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe, R-First, served with Charlton on the commission and reflected on him this morning.
“We became very close when we served on the City Commission together, and many nights we would call and not talk about anything to do with the city at all, we would just talk about things,” Roe said.
“We discussed his mother and his family and my family, and our faith, and I know that the world is not a better place now that we’ve lost Reverend Charlton. I feel very very sorry for Mrs. Charlton. They were a couple for decades. I mourn his loss as my family does and wish him and his family my prayers.”
Roe said Charlton, or “Rev” as he was commonly known, was very open-minded as a commissioner. “The thing I liked about Rev. is that he was able to listen to both sides and then make a decision based on what he thought was best.”
State Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) released a statement on Charlton’s passing.
“I will truly miss Reverend Charlton. He was our rock, a true renaissance man who was loved by all who knew him,” Crowe said. “He was my early inspiration, my mentor, and my early teacher. He pulled me aside when I first decided to run for office and taught me to articulate and speak.”
Senator Crowe also commented on Charlton’s skill as a diplomat and his dedication to the community.
“I am very sad and will miss him so much. I know you will miss him too,” Crowe said.
The Johnson City Turkey Trot 5K posted expressing their condolences and gratitude to Reverend Charlton for his years of contributing to the race.
“The Rev” was known to be a class act from beginning to end.
“He was a man of God who loved people. His love for people lead him to mentor young people. His love for people lead him to preach the gospel. His love for people lead him to show what it means to be a child of God, who was here for a temporary time on his way to be with the God he loved,” Rev. Lester Lattany said.
Reverent Lattany and Dr. Charlton were longtime friends. He described the late reverend as someone who exemplified what it meant to practice what you preach.
“We’ve been together ever since he has actually been in this area. When he stepped down and retired as pastor of this church, and I started pastoring here and preaching here on Sundays, I would get a call from him every Sunday. I would watch him because he was not able to sit in the pulpit because he was not able to, but he was sitting on the front row. He was always the one that I was looking at,” Rev. Lattany continued. “I would see him smiling, responding, I would see him noticeably praying.”
Reverent Lattany said Dr. Charlton’s involvement in the community was “stellar”. Other city leaders agreed.
“He had a mission, I think, of trying to help everyone, especially the people in his community: the church and so forth, and Carver[Recreation Center]. He’s made a big difference,” Pete Paduch said. “I thought the world of the guy.”
Pete Paduch and Dr. C.H. Charlton used to be on the city commission together.
“He just seemed to understand people and how to get things done,” Paduch said. “He was always thoughtful. He was composed, unlike some of us. He’d think it through. He was open-minded about things but I really attribute a lot of that back to him growing up in segregation. How could you not be angry? But he wasn’t.”
Rev. Charlton was an iconic figure who strived to elevate the community and made history in the process. While many will mourn “The Rev’s passing, they may find solace in knowing they are remembering a man who genuinely loved his community.
Family friend Lester Lattany said tentative funeral arrangements include receiving of friends from 5-7 p.m. Monday at Friendship Baptist Church in Johnson City with a memorial service to follow.