Charlton died on Wednesday at age 79.
His first calling was to God, and that seemingly meant serving in any capacity humanly possible. He devoted his life to the spiritual and civic needs of each community he called home.
In his native Radford, Virginia, Charlton became the first black Board of Education member and the first black mayor in Southwest Virginia.
Johnson City and all of Northeast Tennessee, too, benefitted from his gentle and assuring disposition as a minister, educator and public servant. Having already led three churches in Virginia, he came to Johnson City in 1976 as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, a position he would hold until his retirement in November 2018.
He also was an associate professor at Northeast State Community College, where he taught courses in language arts, black studies and comparative religion.
For most people, teaching and ministering would be more than enough to occupy their time, but Charlton was not one to sit back and watch others lead. He was appointed to complete an unfinished term on the Johnson City Board of Education for one year before being elected for a full term in his own right. He followed that with four years of service on the City Commission with two of those years as vice mayor.
In November, when Johnson City dedicated the newly remodeled Langston Centre, formerly the city’s segregated high school for black students now serving as a multicultural arts and education facility, state Sen. Rusty Crowe presented him with a state resolution honoring his life of service.
All who encountered him would remember his seemingly permanent smile. Johnson City never had a more affable leader.
He will be missed.