There was a deep sadness Friday among all who knew Newton after hearing of his passing overnight Thursday at the University of Tennessee Medical Center at the age of 52.
Friends told the Times News he checked in for treatment of an ongoing leg problem, and at some point he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Newton leaves behind his wife, Betsy, and young son, Benjamin.
Greg Fletcher, who served with Newton on the county commission and worked with him at the Hawkins County Highway Department, said Newton always knew how to put his sharp sense of humor to good use.
When it got tense in a commission meeting, Newton would make a comment, crack everybody up, and lighten the mood.
“That’s why Charlie done it, to break the tension,” Fletcher said. “That’s what he’d do. Come off the wall with something. But Charlie was also the type who did what he thought was right for the county. He always voted his conscience and what he thought was best for Hawkins County.”
Fletcher added, “I’ve been sad and upset all day. So many people come into your life for a reason, and so many for a season and so many people for a lifetime. When Charlie Newton liked you and got to know you, he was one of those people who was there with you for a lifetime.”
Newton had served on the commission since 2002, representing the 7th District including Bulls Gap, St. Clair and Persia. He retired from the Highway Department a few years ago due to health problems.
“I’ve seen Charlie in the hospital when I didn’t think he would make it through, and he was always like he was at a county commission meeting,” Fletcher said. “He was always happy. He never did seem down and out. With all the troubles he had with his health, he was always in a good mood.”
Fletcher added, “I talked to him at 8 p.m. last (Thursday) night. I called to see how he was and see if he needed anything. He was at UT at the hospital, and he was just Charlie, as cheerful as ever. That’s what shocked me so much when I heard this morning (of his passing).”
Commissioner Bob Palmer, who served with Newton representing District 7, said it will be strange to look up and not see Newton on the commission or hear is voice.
“We both grew up in the Persia community, and I’ve known Charlie most of his life,” Palmer said. “He always wanted to joke or pull something on somebody and make somebody laugh. He was a good commissioner to work with, and we didn’t agree on some things, but we were always friends later and we’d talk about why we decided to do what we were going to do, or what was going on in general. He was an easy guy to talk to, and he took his position on the county commission very serious.”
Palmer added, “He was just so proud of his son, and he’d let you know it. He was a unique guy, a great guy, and he will definitely be missed.”
County Mayor Melville Bailey said that when he was elected in 2010, one of the first people to welcome him onto the county commission was Newton.
“Charlie was a very interesting and at times a very comical person,” Bailey said. “His knack for witty comments was outstanding. We would be knee deep in some controversial or serious issue, and out of nowhere Charlie would come up with some off-the-wall comment that at times would allow us to refocus. Charlie and I did not always agree, but for the most part when it was all said and done, we were able to work together.”
Bailey noted that it’s been tough watching Newton’s health decline over the years, although Newton “never complained or let on” and had almost perfect attendance at county commission and committee meetings.
“Charlie was really involved in church work,” Bailey said. “He was quick to let you know when his church had an event or function going on. Charlie was blessed with the gift of gab and a big heart. His family was very precious to him. When I would ask about Betsy, Charlie would usually have some funny comment to make; however, his whole expression would change when I would mention Benjamin. Betsy and Benjamin were the love of his life.”
Bailey added, “Charlie overcame so many physical challenges and hardships. He had to be admired for his grit and determination. I will miss Charlie. The Persia community will miss Charlie, and Hawkins County will miss Charlie. Betsy and Benjamin, you will be in my thoughts and prayers.”