Charles Mitchell has a calling to sing for the Lord
by Paula Bean
Charles Mitchell’s parents, C. H. and Jewell had three children including Charles, his younger brother (who recently passed away) and a younger sister. They lived in Chattanooga since 1960 living in the Highland Park area. He started 11th grade at Kirkman Technical High School. At the time, Kirkman was a “trade” school, but since Charles did not start at Kirkman until the 11th grade, he did not take “shop,” but took regular high school classes.
Charles married in 1962 and has one daughter, Lisa. He divorced when Lisa was two years old.
In 1970 Charles had a friend who was dating Marilyn Bowman (who now attends Middle Cross Baptist Church). Marilyn had a friend she wanted to go out with Charles.
“I wanted to have a look at him first, before agreeing to go out with him,” says Faye. “I had five little boys, ages four years through 12 years old, and I was a little leery of dating.”
Lisa was about seven years old when Charles and Faye starting dating.
“When Charles first asked me to marry him, I said ‘no’ because I was worried about marrying again when I had five boys,” says Faye. “I wanted him to be sure. We were both a little skittish back then. I had been by myself for about seven years. Charles likes kids and was not scared of me having so many kids. The boys think of Charles as their Daddy.”
Charles and Faye were in their late twenties when they met. They have now been married for 40 years. Charles adopted Faye’s boys in 1975. They now have 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Charles and Faye have lived in their home for 40 years. They raised their children there and now it is just the two of them and Honey, their dog.
“Charles is a great daddy and a great husband,” says Faye. “He has always been good to me and puts up with me.”
When Charles was younger he use to box and when the boys were young he took them to the Golden Gloves at the Memorial Auditorium. “They liked it and wanted to box themselves, so I spent 25 years coaching boxing,” says Charles.
Charles has always done woodworking and has a shop in the back of the house. Charles and his father-in-law built a bookcase that covers one whole way in their living room. “Back when we built the bookcase, the material cost us only $52,” says Charles. “You can’t buy one board for that now.”
After the death of three of her sons, Faye was struggling with life. Her son, Lloyd, decided to get her a dog. “That’s when Honey came into my life,” says Faye. “We treat her just like a child. Honey is eight years old now and slowing down a little … just like us,” Faye laughs. “Getting Honey was about the same time I started going to Manor House Nursing Home. My dad was a patient there and I met a wonderful friend, Betty, there in 2001.”
Charles had been singing monthly at Manor House, but the scheduling was usually difficult. Charles would arrive to sing and he would not even be on the schedule. This meant most of the patients did not even know he was performing and were not in attendance. “Our church was singing there regularly, and when the pastor left the church, we quit going there,” says Charles. “We kept going for a while.”
Faye says it was a blessing to her to go to the nursing home and it was also a blessing for the patients. “They kept me going,” says Faye. “I learned to live again after having a child die.”
After Faye’s dad passed away and her dear friend Betty moved to Martin-Boyd, Faye talked Charles into moving his singing ministry there. Approximately 30-60 residents show up to hear Charles sing each month.
“I am amazed at the Alzheimer’s patients,” says Charles. “They know the words to my songs and sing along with me. That is amazing since they can’t remember what they had for their last meal or where there room is located.”
Faye and Honey visit at Martin-Boyd about twice a week. “I think they look forward to seeing Honey more than me,” says Faye. “I want to thank the Sewing Needles group for sending adult bibs, walker saddles, and lap robes to the residents at Martin-Boyd. The residents love them. And, I always make sure to take snacks to them, too.”
“Charles singing is good for him and he is good at it,” says Faye. “He sings from the heart. Our members are always asking Charles to sing something that has special meanings to them.”
Charles professional career consisted of being a sales representative for Wilkinson Sales, Inc. They wrote orders two days a week and delivered the orders the other three days. Charles worked for Wilkinson’s Sales for 24 years. Wilkinson’s sold non-food items to grocery stores. The plant closed suddenly and Charles found himself without a job.
Charles retired from the Hamilton County Board of Education as a maintenance man/painter. He held thaat position for 26 years. Charles also works as a painter on the side, after his full-time job. When Charles retired, the first chore he wanted to complete was painting their own house.
Before coming to Middle Cross Baptist Church, Charles and Faye were attending Victory Baptist Church. “I felt like I was called to sing there,” says Charles. “But, I did not answer the call. I wouldn’t’t give in to it.”
“I gave my life to the Lord years ago, but then I drifted away from it … but then I came back,” says Charles. “Faye was raised in the church from when she was a child.” They got away from church for a while and a few years later were visiting churches, looking for a small church to attend. That’s when they started attending Middle Cross Baptist Church and they joined the church about a year later. They have been members at Middle Cross for approximately nine years.
Charles sang solo for the first time at Middle Cross Baptist Church. He and Faye had been attending Middle Cross for a few months, when the pastor’s wife (at that time), Wanda Shirley, was sitting in the pew in front of Charles one day and heard him singing along with the choir.
“She turned around during the singing and said, ‘I heard something I like,” said Charles. “Next thing I know, the choir director had me by the arm taking me to the choir.”
Sis. Wanda then asked me, ‘When are you going to sing solo?’ My answer was a quick, “I’m not!” And, that’s how Charles became one of our most dependable and frequent singers.
“The first song I sung solo was ‘In the Garden,” says Charles. “And, from then, it just took off.”
Charles has a lot of money invested in his singing ministry, including two PA systems and about 400 music CDs. “I keep all my music in my ‘man room,’ “says Charles. “I order tapes off the internet and buy them at Christian book stores. They range from $8-10 each. I probably have about 80 CD’s in my book that I carry with me to Martin Boyd, and I arrange them in order so that I do not sing the same songs every month.”
Like so many people who give so graciously of their time and talents — not only are the ones blessed who hear Charles sing — but Charles is blessed as well.
“Those who sing pray twice.” -St. Augustine