Charity: A father figure and mentor

Published 6:52 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of six articles, each highlighting one of the 2022 inductees to the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence.

The Franklin Community Wall of Excellence gained six new names via its 2022 class.

Those being inducted onto the wall due to their outstanding service included Robert E. Carter, Herman A. Charity and the late George Horace “Top” Hedgepeth. Constance Lankford Chase was inducted due to her impact in the world of cultural and performing arts, Ronald Reese was inducted as a result of his athletic accomplishment and J. Mitchell Sandlin joined the wall due to his outstanding career.

The sixth annual Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Induction Dinner and Ceremony took place Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Cypress Cove Country Club.

As noted in the event’s program, through the vision of some local Franklin City Public Schools alumni and school personnel, the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Inc. was established in 2016 as a program to honor former Franklin and Hayden high school students, administrators, teachers and staff who have excelled or distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional success, as well as to recognize those community members who have made significant contributions to the public schools in Franklin.

“The Wall” is located at Franklin High School, adjacent to the gymnasium, a recent Wall of Excellence news release stated. Names and photos of each inductee are displayed for generations of Franklin High School students and community members to see as they walk by on their way to class or an event at FHS.

HERMAN A. CHARITY

The sixth induction ceremony program stated that during his years of service to Franklin City Public Schools, “Charity impacted the lives of thousands of the youth in a very positive way.”

He was introduced by his son, Alfred S. Charity, and by Dr. Alvin E. Harris.

Alfred said that when his father came to the Southampton County/Franklin area, “I believe it was a culture shock for him coming from Norfolk, Virginia — the city boy coming to the country.”

Herman Charity graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1961, as noted in the event program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s in guidance from Hampton Institute, an endorsement in administration from Old Dominion University and his Instructional Computer Technology endorsement from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

He held a variety of different roles within Franklin City Public Schools, being first hired to teach history and coach junior varsity basketball at Hayden High School in 1965.

The event program continued by noting that in 1972, he became the history teacher and JV basketball coach at Franklin High School when the city high schools merged.

In 1975, he went to the Suffolk school system for a brief stint there as a guidance counselor and track coach, but he returned to Franklin in 1977 to serve as the assistant principal at Franklin Upper Elementary School and was transferred to the high school the following year to be the assistant principal and athletic director there, the program stated. The next year, he became the guidance counselor at the high school while still serving as the athletic director.

He became the ICT coordinator for FCPS in 1981 before returning to then-S.P. Morton Middle School, where he taught history until 2002.

Alfred described his father as a trailblazer.

He also highlighted his father’s sense of style.

“His dress and his style from the time he got here was immaculate,” Alfred said to the crowd at the induction ceremony. “You look at him now, and that’s what I got to see every morning that I got up and went to school was a shirt and a tie, some slacks and some dress shoes.”

Harris recalled Herman Charity being his teacher at Hayden, and he agreed that he was well-dressed, noting that his overall style reminded him of Maxwell Smart from the TV program “Get Smart.”

Alfred said, “As I got older, I appreciated the style because the positions that I had to hold I had to dress a certain way, so I could always go to him for inspiration and for advice.”

Alfred said one of his father’s former students, who was present at the ceremony, has a clothes business.

“He designs suits, sport coats, slacks, and that was a direct result of my father, so you can make money dressing well,” Alfred said.

Alfred noted that Herman was “a father figure and mentor to a lot of kids that needed it, even when they didn’t think they needed it.”

Alfred said there would be times growing up that he would hear conversations around the house about children throughout the community that Herman helped in some way.

When Alfred was older and joined certain organizations that included some of those children who were now grown, “you would hear them talk about how my father assisted them in their time of need without any accolades.”

Alfred said the help could manifest itself in a variety of ways — getting someone transportation, finding a way for them to get to an interview or to get back to college.

“It didn’t matter; he just did it or found someone that could do it for him,” Alfred said. “And those kids that are now adults come back into town and thank him, and they ask about him all the time.”

In addition to teaching and coaching, Herman was a basketball referee for the Virginia High School League, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Colonial Athletic Association.

He also served on the Franklin City Drug Focus Committee.

Harris mentioned that marijuana and other drugs came to Franklin back when he was a student, and there were peers of his that were buying, selling and using drugs. But he noted that Herman used his access to these kids to impress upon them that decisions have consequences.

Herman conveyed important life lessons in his history classes, which Harris clearly recalled.

“He talked about the fact that the world has always been in disarray and that somehow we would inherit a part of that world and that socially we had a commitment to try to make the world better,” he said.

Through his connection to Herman, Harris came to know Herman’s mother, and he said that meeting her showed him how Herman developed to become the person that he is.

“He is respectful,” Harris said. “He is a lover of history. He is a lover of sociology. He is a lover of people, and he loves to see everybody do well.”

He further described Herman Charity as follows: “Short man, well dressed, but a power that was amongst us. We respected him a great deal. Everybody listened to what he had to say.”

Alfred said that family is everything to his father.

In reference to Herman’s mother, Alfred said, “There’s not a day that goes by that he’s able to pick up the phone that he does not call her.”

Herman has enjoyed the role of grandfather, pouring his time, energy and money into the interests of Alfred’s son, Sherod, to help him be successful.

Alfred concluded his introduction by telling his father, “It’s been a total honor to be called your son. I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

Herman Charity opened his acceptance speech by noting that his induction was an honor and pleasure.

He thanked the individual who nominated him and also the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Committee for considering and choosing him.

“I want to thank everyone who came tonight to support me,” he said.

He took a special moment to highlight his mother.

“A few days ago, my mother, who is 99 years old, fell and broke her elbow, but she’s right here tonight,” he said, after which those attending the event broke out in applause in her honor. “And I’d just like to say, ‘Mama, I love you. Thank you. What you and Daddy did is why I stand here today, and I thank you once again. I love you so much.’”

Herman also offered praise for his two children who were present at the event.

He then reflected on his time with FCPS.

“I really loved working at Hayden and at Franklin High School,” he said.

Acknowledging the 2022 Franklin Community Wall of Excellence class of which he was a part, he said, “I want to congratulate each of my fellow inductees. I am honored to be in your class, and hopefully are glad to have me with you, because I’m certainly proud to be with you.”