The event was sponsored by the ETSU Black Faculty and Staff Association, founded in the late 1980s to develop programming beneficial to the campus and the greater community, while promoting harmony among diverse cultural and ethnic groups on campus.
“I had no idea I was nominated for the award – it blew me away,” Charlton said. “My wife says I’m always shocked when something like this happens because I never think about working for awards. This is really a high honor, it means a lot to me, and it humbles me.”
Charlton has led a career in civic government, education, and pastoral ministry that spans more than four decades, including 37 years as pastor of Johnson City’s Friendship Baptist Church.
In addition, Charlton has taught at Northeast State for 23 years where he is an associate professor. He currently teaches reading, learning strategies, humanities and black studies.
Known affectionately as “Rev,” Charlton served on the City Council of Radford, Va., from 1974-77 and as mayor — the first African American mayor in Southwest Virginia — for two of those years. He was also the first African-American to service on Radford’s Board of Education.
In addition, Charlton has served a five-year term on the Johnson City Board of Education; six years on the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission, with one year as chair; and two years as vice-mayor of Johnson City as part of a four-year term on its City Commission. He was also a member of the inaugural admissions committee for the ETSU Pharmacy School.
“I was fortunate when I became an adult that doors started opening up for me because of the civil rights movement,” Charlton said. “I didn’t just walk through those doors, I jumped. A lot of people sacrificed and died to give me chances to contribute and I knew I had to take advantage of them. God has blessed me with many opportunities to help people. I am so grateful.”
Charlton was born in Radford, Va. He graduated from ETSU with a bachelor’s of science in Philosophy and a M.Ed. in Literacy Studies. He also holds a Th.D. from Emmaus Bible Institute and Seminary, a Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Counseling from Cornerstone University and a Doctor of Divinity from the Tennessee School of Religion, Memphis, Tenn.
He has been happily married to the former Janet Lewis, his childhood sweetheart, for 54 years, who he calls "Honey." They have one son Charles Melvin Charlton and two grandsons, Charles Edward Charlton, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, and Jarred Hayes Charlton of Johnson City.
Steve Perry, Ph.D., and founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., was the event’s keynote speaker. The school has been named one of top schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Since the inaugural class graduated in 2006, all of Capital Prep’s predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school students have continued their education at four-year colleges.
In addition to Charlton, lifetime achievement awards were presented to community leaders Van Dobbins of Kingsport, and Rev. W. A. Johnson, pastor of Lee Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Va..