Celebrating the life of Charles Walter Birdsong
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Charles Walter Birdsong, 88 years of age, transitioned on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, VA. Born to the late Deacon Richard Spencer Birdsong and Deaconess Nannie Ruby Ward Birdsong on October 21, 1934.
Charles was baptized at an early age under Reverend Doctor L. W. Bass, Pastor of Eleven Oaks Baptist Church, Crewe, VA. He attended Sunday School, sang in the B.Y.P.U. choir as a youth, Chancel Choir, Sanctuary, and later years the Mass Choir. He attended Luther H. Foster (Nottoway Training School), graduating in 1952. He had such a high tenor voice; he was chosen to sing “Ave Maria” for the school concert.
While in high school, he worked at the B&M Drugstore in Crewe, VA. At age 21, in addition to the drugstore, he began working at Piedmont Sanitorium Hospital in Burkeville, VA. There he worked in the laundry room, as a truck driver, a cook and finally as the Power Plant Engineer. During the late 1960’s, he attended IBM Technical Institute in Richmond, VA. Charles stayed in the Engineer position for years before leaving to work at Allied Chemical Corp. in Hopewell, VA. He was there approximately 6 months before being contacted by Piedmont Psychiatric Hospital which had changed its name and offered him the position as Power Plant Superintendent. He accepted and became the first Black Power Plant Superintendent in the State of Virginia. In 1985, he retired from the hospital which had undergone another name change to Piedmont Geriatric Hospital.
Charles was a faithful member of Eleven Oaks Baptist Church where he was ordained as a Deacon in March of 1964. While fulfilling his assignment at Eleven Oaks, in the mid 1970’s, he served as an honorary Deacon for Macedonia Baptist Church in Burkeville, VA when they were in need. He and his wife joined Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministry in Richmond, VA under the leadership of Bishop Daniel Robertson, Jr. on May 30, 2006. They joined the Golden Years Ministry which later changed its name to the Wisdom Warriors where they enjoyed fellowship and travel until his health began to fail. As a couple, they were participants in the book called “Dating Mr. Right” by Helena Nyman.
In Charles’ lifetime, he was highly active in church and community events in local and surrounding areas. He served as Cub Master for the Boy Scouts in the late 1960’s and as an advocate playing a significant role in getting new schoolbooks for the education of segregated schools in Nottoway County. He enjoyed baseball, basketball, football, and all other sports. From various people whom he played against or knew about him in Southside VA, he was a pitcher that was known for his curve ball and his fast ball. He coached little league baseball, taught swimming at Twin Lakes, especially the cub scouts. His hobbies included singing the gospel, reading, attended churches, hunting, fishing, and general handy man.
As mentioned earlier, Charles was known throughout Southside VA and had many nicknames. To name a few: Songbird, Bird, Charlie, Zeke, Rockchester, Temp short for Temporary, Song, Unk, Dropout, Grandpa and lastly Poppy.
In his singing career, he sung with the Five Wonders, The Gospel Thunderbirds, The Birdsong Family Singers (he & his girls), First Nottoway Male Chorus, The Traveling Kingsmen, The Gospel Wonders, The Royal Supremes, Eleven Oaks Chancel, Sanctuary and Mass Choirs, and lastly Spring Creek Men’s Chorus. His vocal range was from falsetto to bass; however, he was natural Baritone.
Some of his favorite groups were Slim and the Supreme Angels, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Sam Cooke, Robert Blair and the Violinaires, Lee Williams and Spiritual QCs, Highway QCs, Williams Brothers, Jackson Southernaires, Canton Spirituals, Brooklyn All-stars, Pilgrim Jubilees, Swanee Quintet, Joe Ligon & The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Willie Banks & Gospel Keynotes, Dixie Hummingbirds, Willie Neal Johnson & Gospel Keynotes, The Sensational Nightingales, and finally The Mississippi Mass Choir.
Some of his favorite songs that you would catch him singing: At the Meeting, Lord, you surely been good to me, How Great thou Art, Precious Lord, I’ll go if I have to go by myself, Tis the old ship of Zion, Lord I’ve tried, I’m going to work, Lord Remember Me, I Stood on the Banks of Jordan, Come by Here Lord, Come on Let’s have a Family Prayer, Don’t Forget the Family Prayer, Fix it Jesus, I recommend Jesus, Jesus Be a Fence All Around Me, Christian Automobile, Glad I Got Jesus, I’m coming Lord, Your Grace & Mercy, Somewhere Around the Throne, Walk Around Heaven and What a Friend.
Overall, he was a God-fearing, family and community-oriented man, who loved being a Deacon and took that position very seriously. He loved his church, and he knew the Bible as well. He worked the night shift at the Power Plant, and he would read his Bible and detective stories during the quiet times. However, he determined and always advised us that the best love stories were in the Bible.
Charles was predeceased in death by Annabelle Birdsong Coleman, Edward Birdsong, Richard J. Birdsong, Nellie M. Bass, McCarroll Birdsong, Johnny W. Birdsong, Robert L Birdsong.
Charles married Annette Harper in 1956. To this union, 2 children were born, Reverend Doctor Sandra Renee’ Birdsong-Goodman and Valerie Annette Birdsong; two sons-in-law, Frank M. Goodman and Joseph Welton; three grandchildren, Shauntepia Goodman Young (Kendrick), Ketri L. Goodman (Ki’Arra), Jordan L. Welton, foster grandson, Joshua Malone (Kayla); two great-grandchildren, Kali Marie August Goodman and Daniel Alexander Welton, Sister, Ruth B. King, Sisters-in-law, Vivian B. Watson, Roberta H. Brown and Lillian J. Harper. A host of nieces and nephews and community children and grandchildren.
Public Viewing: Monday, December 19, 2022 at Michael W. Hawkes Funeral Home, Amelia, VA from 5pm-7pm.
Funeral: Tuesday, December 20, 2022 at 11am at Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries (2501 Mt Gilead Blvd, Richmond, VA 23235).
Interment: Friday, December 23, 2022 at 11am at Forest Lawn Cemetery (4000 Pilots Lane, Richmond, VA 23222)
Professional services entrusted to Michael W. Hawkes Funeral Home, Amelia, VA.
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