From his earliest days to his twilight years, Charles H. Taylor III was a person of excellence and compassion for those who knew, worked with and loved him.
A freelance writer, journalist and community leader with decades of accomplishments and many accolades, Mr. Taylor suddenly passed away early Saturday morning, Jan. 7, from a pulmonary embolism as a result of COVID-19 infection. The impact of Mr. Taylor’s life has been made clear in the days since his passing was announced, as friends, colleagues and family have celebrated his compassion, intelligence, humor and warmth.
“Gosh, what can I say about nearly 22 years of constant, witty banter and deep conversations about every aspect of life and humanity,” said Jim Bogden, Mr. Taylor’s husband. “We shared the same values and saw the world through the same set of lenses.”
Mr. Taylor was born Jan. 16, 1952 in Portsmouth. As a student in the then-segregated Portsmouth Public School system, he graduated from I.C. Norcom High School in 1970 as class salutatorian.
Accepted into several universities, Mr. Taylor spent the next three and a half years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he took coursework in Urban Planning. He later completed his bachelor’s degree in organizational management at the former Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville.
To his family, Mr. Taylor was known as the family photographer, using his talents to take pictures before cell phones became common, earning him the nickname “Uncle Cheese.” From gifts of decorative Easter Eggs to frequent visits, he was always a welcome presence in their lives.
“He loved to visit family and shower the grandnieces with gifts from his travels,” said Barbara Taylor Spruill, one of Mr. Taylor’s sisters. “There was always excitement when he came to town.”
For more than 30 years, Mr. Taylor applied his many skills to a series of media-related jobs and services. Starting out as a radio news reporter, he went on to host a classical music program and then became a reporter for Richmond Newspapers Inc. He later worked as a corporate communications representative and media and community relations manager for Dominion Power in both Norfolk and Richmond. During this time, he was a member of and served as president of Hampton Road Black Media Professionals, an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Mr. Taylor moved to the Washington, DC area in 2001 to work as a senior communications representative for Pepco, periodically appearing on local TV stations to report on blackouts and exploding manhole covers. He later worked as a media relations manager for the Arlington County government and as a senior staff writer for the National Association of Counties. For his work, he was honored by the National Association of Government Communicators and the International Association of Business Communicators in 2004. He also participated in the CLAIR Fellowship Exchange program for the Tottori Prefecture and Tokyo in 2009.
His career saw him serve as a public representative, leader, collaborator and teacher for many, and the relationships formed and lessons learned continue to this day.
“He was someone that I could just throw any kind of topic at him and trust that he would be able to report on it.” said Beverly Schlotterbeck, who worked with Mr. Taylor for 11 years as the editor of the County News publication for NACo.
“He was an anchor for me, and for the paper.”
Outside his professional career, Charles met Jim through the gay social group Black and White Men Together. As a couple they enjoyed square dancing with DC Lambda Squares; regularly attended drama, comedy, opera, and classical music performances; and traveled to Paris, Nottingham in England, Malta and Cuba.
Upon retiring in 2017, Messrs. Taylor and Bogden sold their historic 1862 townhouse in the U Street area of Washington, DC and moved to Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There Mr. Taylor took on a number of community roles and activities that aided the public welfare and fit with his personal interests. He was a member of Chestertown’s Social Action for Racial Justice Committee and served on the boards of the Kent Cultural Alliance, the Sultana Education Foundation and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.
An avid fan of opera and the symphony, Mr. Taylor was serving on the National Music Festival board of directors as its chair at the time of his death, having previously served as its vice chair.
“Charles, you were a great friend and leader—one of the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful persons it has been my privilege to know,” NMF Artistic Director Richard Rosenberg Artistic Director wrote in a social media post. “Thank you for being a part of our lives and for lending your generous support to NMF. You will be forever remembered.”
Restless, Mr. Taylor had come out of retirement last year to work with the Richmond Free Press as a freelance reporter and editor. Bonnie Newman Davis, Free Press managing editor, said she’d known Mr. Taylor for more than 30 years, having previously worked with him at another Richmond newspaper.
“I was thrilled when Charles called to ask ‘How may I help?’” she said. “His first story for us chronicled a Richmonder who last year climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain at 19,341 feet. When the Free Press was approached about writing the article, I instinctively knew that the story had Charles’ name all over it. He wrote an excellent story!
“I am devastated that Charles is no longer with us, but I am at peace knowing that his body of work and legacy will be with us forever.”
According to Mr. Bogden, more than 200 people plan to celebrate Mr. Taylor’s memory in Portsmouth and Chestertown in coming weeks, as funeral plans continue to solidify. The outpouring of love and support in the wake of his death is proof that, whether he was Uncle Cheese for his family, Mr. Safire for some of his coworkers, Charlie-Bear for his spouse or simply Charles Taylor, his life and work affected many for the better.
“Of course, I knew how special a person he was,” Mr. Bogden said, “but I am surprised and gratified how widely he was loved by so many people.”
Mr. Taylor is predeceased by his father Charles H. Taylor, Jr., mother Viola Holland Taylor and step-mother Almina Taylor. He is survived by Mr. Bogden, his sisters Barbara and Angela Taylor Bunch, nephew Jeremy Bunch, nieces Nicole Spruill, Jessica Bunch, Dionne Spruill and Dana Spruill, grandnieces Charleigh Bunch and Naomi Spruill, and two Labradoodles, Mina and Kashi.
A memorial service is slated for Saturday, Jan. 21 in the Fellowship United Church of Christ in Chesapeake. A Celebration of Life also will take place Saturday, Jan. 28 at Shrewsbury Church in Kennedyville, Md.
George Copeland Jr.