COVINGTON -- Charles Chester King Jr., 96, the beloved Covington native and honorary Newton County historian since 2000, died June 9 in hospice surrounded by his family. He would have celebrated his 97th birthday on Oct. 7. His memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
Former law partner Don Ballard of King, Ballard and King called Charlie, as he was fondly known, "one of the finest Southern gentlemen you'll ever know. He and his father taught me everything I know about the law. Law school was nothing compared to what I learned from them."
Former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey described him as "a real gentleman and a scholar. He was a walking encyclopedia of local history."
Another former Covington mayor, Dr. W. L. Dobbs said, "He was a first-class citizen, as were his parents. He knew more about the history of Newton County than anyone, and he was glad to share it."
Long-time Covington City Manager Frank B. Turner said, "There was nobody who didn't love Charlie King."
Charlie King's life spanned significant decades in the history of the United States. He had successful careers in many fields including the law, military, federal and state service, among others. His lifelong passions lay in historic preservation, green space protection and land conservation.
Newton County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell worked with King on many projects.
"Charlie loved Newton County and was always at the forefront of historic preservation efforts. He was instrumental in the initial work on the historic Brick Store back in the 1970s and supported the county's acquisition of Gaither Plantation and the restoration of the Historic Jail," she said in an email. "He was a past president of the Newton County Historical Society and served several terms as a trustee. He also assisted in the production of 'The History of Newton County.'"
Newton County Special Projects Director Cheryl Delk remarked on King's active involvement in the community even in recent years, his never-ending curiosity and his willingness to master the complexities of "newfangled cameras" and the computer.
"He was always interested in what other people were doing and exhibited such a kindness and respect for everyone," she added.
King was born to Louelle Mobley King and Charles C. King Sr. in Monroe at his grandmother's home. He was educated in Covington schools and graduated with a B.A. degree in philosophy from Emory University in 1936. His first job was Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Pine Mountain, GA, supervising public works projects in the depths of the Great Depression. Thereafter, he joined the Georgia State Park System as assistant to Covington native and Director Charlie Elliott who would later become the first Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, the precursor to today's Department of Natural Resources. Charlie's work on the small staff was instrumental in establishing the Wildlife Resources and the Parks Divisions.
When Congress enacted the draft in 1941, King was among the first to be called nearly 10 months before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted at Fort McPherson in Atlanta and was trained as a Signal Corps combat cameraman until selected for Officer Candidate School at Fort Dix, N.J. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1942 and remained an OCS instructor until chosen for the Army Inspector General Corps. He deployed in 1944 on the Eighth Army Staff and campaigned through New Guinea, the invasion of Leyte and the liberation of the Philippines. He was honorably discharged in 1946, but remained in the Army Reserve from which he retired in 1969 as Lieutenant Colonel.
After the war, King received his law degree at the Atlanta Law School, after which he was employed by the Veterans Administration in Atlanta. In 1947, he moved his family, wife Sally Lambe King and their two children, Sally and Barrett, to Washington, D.C., where he worked in the headquarters of Southern Railway. He and his wife had been married in her family's home in Washington by the former pastor of Covington's First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall, then Chaplain to the U.S. Senate. In 1951, the family moved to Barnwell, S.C., where King was city administrator, but in 1952, he moved his family back to Covington and joined his father's law practice with Don Ballard that became King, Ballard and King.
Ten years later, then Gov. Carl Sanders named King to the State Board of Workers' Compensation where he served as deputy director and administrative law judge. He retired from the state in 1978 and established an Atlanta practice in workers' compensation and immigration and naturalization matters.
In retirement, King was not one to remain idle. He was a regular presence at city and county government meetings particularly when there were issues that might affect the quality of life or development of his beloved community. In addition to commitments previously mentioned, he was an active member of the Covington Kiwanis Club for 59 years, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, the Georgia Conservancy, the American Legion and the Newton County Mental Health Association. He was a founding board member of Friends of Newton Parks.
King is survived by daughter Sally King Pitts of Conyers; son and daughter-in-law Barrett and Elizabeth King of St. Mary's, GA; grandchildren Jennifer Pitts Westerman and husband Larry; Jeffrey Pitts and wife Donna; Sherry Pitts; Ben Pitts; Lisa King Hawkes and husband Drew; Barrett King Jr. and wife Nancy, Sarah King, Michael King, and Denise Nadeau; great-grandchildren Brennan Charles Pitts, Collin James Pitts, Allison King, Ryan King, Katie Hawkes, Christopher Hawkes and Eliot Hawkes; sister-in-law Martha King; niece Celia King Larson; and nephews Coleman T. King and Samuel Charles King. His parents, wife, sister Sarah Frances King and brother Coleman T. King Sr. predeceased him.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Church of the Good Shepherd -- Building Fund, 4140 Clark St., Covington, GA 30014.