Local News

March 7, 2014

‘Held in the highest regard’

Educator and humanitarian Charlie Bowen passes away

In his 80s, Charlie Bowen was chopping firewood for his neighbors during snowstorms and was active enough his family hid a ladder to prevent him from climbing up on the roof to clean gutters.

Even at 100 years old, the Dalton resident was active in his church, Dalton First Baptist, and he participated in weekly Dalton Rotary Club meetings until a couple of months ago.

Bowen was not only a hard worker but also a long-time educator, humanitarian and community leader. He died Thursday, about two months shy of his 101st birthday.

Rotary Club member Paul Henson, a retired doctor, said Bowen was the most senior member of the club, having been part of it since the early 1940s. Bowen was so dedicated to the club, Henson said, that Rotary members were placed on rotation for the weekly duty of picking him up at his home and taking him to and from the meetings at the Dalton Golf and Country Club after Bowen could no longer drive himself.

“Mentally he was just as sharp two or three weeks ago as he’s ever been,” Henson added. “He could discuss current events, religion, whatever.”

Family members said Bowen loved sports and would often listen to Dalton High School football games and follow the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs. Occasionally, he would have more than one game going at once.

He talked often about a variety of issues, said Rotary President Chuck Dobbins, who was among the club members who drove Bowen to and from the meetings. Among them were golf — he loved the game — current events, education and church activities. Over the years, Bowen participated in search committees for new pastors, taught classes and was active in other ways at First Baptist.

“He’s one of those people I’ve never heard a cross word about him,” Dobbins said. “He was held in the highest regard.”

Students throughout the community talk about Bowen’s impact on their futures. Some say he turned troubled lives around. Bowen’s son, Charles Bowen Jr., said that while his father was known for respecting his students, he also wasn’t a pushover. He was passionate about his work though.

That included a stint as principal of what was then Fort Hill Junior High School in the early 1940s as well as serving as Dalton High School’s principal for 22 years after Bowen returned from serving in the Navy. He was assistant superintendent of Dalton Public Schools from 1968-1969 and superintendent from 1969-1975.

Jim Cook, who graduated from Dalton High School in 1966, said Bowen was an “example of what we should be.” Cook said Bowen encouraged students, believed in them and because of that, they didn’t want to let him down.

Charles Bowen Jr. said his father had opportunities to make more money had he accepted offers in business. As a child, Charles Bowen Jr. thought the money part sounded great. Looking back, he appreciates that his father said, “I just really think I can do more good helping these young people” by staying in education.

Bowen and his late wife, Irene, both had careers in the field. Bowen graduated from Americus Normal College (now Georgia Southwestern University) in 1932 and continued his education at the University of Georgia. He did graduate work at Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., and at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

He worked in several schools over the years, including Fitzgerald High School and Sandersville High School before coming to Dalton.

Daughter-in-law Claire Bowen said he had “a great gentleness and sweetness” about him. He taught their children to garden, she said, and cared about them in special ways.

Growing up, Tracy Lovelady would sometimes go to a kind of “granddaddy camp” in which she stayed with Bowen for a time. He would leave occasionally to run an errand or go work out, but he always left a written note saying where he was and adding an “I love you.” It was those little things, the extra attention he gave to people, that set him apart, those who knew him said.

“He was always busy, but I felt like he was very intentional about his time,” Lovelady added.

His work in the community extended beyond his family and career. Among numerous other activities, he was a board member of mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters, a board member of a unit of Boy Scouts of America and served as president of Dalton’s Habitat for Humanity.

He was an active volunteer in the United Way of Northwest Georgia, and was involved with Dalton’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the Dalton Mental Health Association and several education organizations. Numerous organizations and groups presented him with awards.

The funeral will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at Dalton First Baptist Church with visitation from 1 to 3 p.m. in the church atrium.

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