By Chris McCarthy
No one can argue that “Charlie B” did not fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith during his 81 years on earth.
Lifelong Gadsden resident and businessman Charlie Boman, who passed away on Jan. 26 die to respiratory failure following a battle with cancer, certainly gave back more than he received to those persons who were fortunate to come in contact with him.
Known as the man who coined the “City of Champions” nickname for Gadsden in the late 1950s, Boman is recognized throughout the community as much for his extended charity work as a pioneer of local radio broadcasting.
Longtime friend and business partner H.M. Freeman considers Boman a one-of-a-kind individual.
“We’ve been friends for around 35 or 40 years, and every year we grew closer and closer together,” said Freeman. “Our partnership began several years ago when we bought some local real estate together, but we always had the same beliefs in our spiritual lives. I loved him like a brother and he loved me like a brother.”
Freeman pointed out that out of the many local charities and civic organizations Boman was a part of, it was his ministry work in the local jail and his work with the local branch of the Salvation Army that was most gratifying.
“Charlie was involved in everything you could think of and served on the boards of many different organizations, but he told me personally that two things were his heartbeat – his work with the Salvation Army and his work with the Gideons (International) and his witnessing at the local jails on Saturday mornings.”
Freeman pointed out that as the chairman of the local Salvation Army Advisory Board’s Capital Funds Committee, Boman helped raise $1,500,000 towards the construction of new facilities. Freeman also noted that Boman, through the Etowah County Jail Drug and Alcohol Program, would witness to local prisoners on Saturday mornings.
“Charlie Boman was not only one of the best-recognized names in Etowah County, but the best-loved man in Etowah County,” said Freeman. “That’s the kind of relationship Charlie had with the people in this area. As the scripture says, ‘When do we see the sick and imprisoned and visit thee,’ the Lord answered, ‘If you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto Me.’ That’s where Charlie’s heart was. Charlie Boman was a man who loved people, and the people loved him back.”
Local broadcaster and radio personality J. Holland said that Boman had a significant impact on his life, both professionally and personally.
“Charlie helped me in a number of different ways. Mostly it was just good, sage advice. More so than anything, Charlie helped me look at things in a straightforward and professional manner. He taught me a lot about life in general, but he also got me involved in civic groups like Kiwanis and the Salvation Army. He was a real stalwart of the community, and the sheer volume of things he was involved in is just incredible. There’s a lot of people out there who do [volunteer work] but there’s not many folks out there that do as much as Charlie did.”
“Charlie came along at a time when AM stations dominated the airwaves and FM radio were kind of an anomaly. But Charlie didn’t worry about that fact that no one around here had FM radios. He gave away some small radios that went right to 103.7 and created his own market. The guy was a real innovator. There’s nobody in this state involved with radio that doesn’t know about Charlie. He’s a real icon.”
A graduate of Gadsden High, Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama-Gadsden, Boman, Bowman began his broadcasting career on Armed Forces Radio while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Upon returning home in 1946, Boman worked as a part-time announcer at WJBY-AM in Gadsden. He eventually became program director, assistant manager and a stockholder of WGAD. Boman also was a stockholder and secretary/treasurer of WEYY Radio in Talladega.
In 1963, Boman WETO in Gadsden and changed the call letters to WJBY. Three years later, he delved into the FM radio market with WLJM stereo (now WQEN Q-104). After selling that station in 1975, Boman entered the print media market in 1980 when he brought the Gadsden-based TV Facts television listings, serving as publisher until he sold his interest in the paper in 1996.
Boman’s time-management skills are legendary, as his professional, church and civic awards are almost too numerous to mention. Boman was a life member of the Kiwanis Club; a life member of the Gadsden-Metro Chamber of Commerce; a life member of VFW Post #2760; a member of the Holy Name of Jesus Hospital Advisory Board; vice-president of the Etowah County Food Bank; vice-president of the Gadsden Concert Association; a life member of the Sheriff’s Boy’s Ranch; a founder and two-year president of the Northeast Alabama Cerebral Palsy; a board member of for the Etowah Crippled Children’s Association; Public Relations Committee Chairman for the Etowah Baptist Association; vice-president of communications and divisional chairman for the local United Way; member of the Gadsden State Technical Institute advisory board; an Etowah County Mental Health Association board member; Gadsden Boys Club president; a member of the State of Alabama Sesquicentennial Commission Committee.
Boman also served as chairman of the Etowah County Republican Executive Committee and was elected to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee.
Boman’s awards from fellow members of the broadcast community include Alabama Broadcaster of the Year in 1978 and life membership in the Alabama Broadcasters Association. He also was a member of the Alabama Public Television Commission and Foundation and President of the Alabama Broadcasters Association.
Freeman noted that he, Holland, Robert Sosebee and Peter Gregerson shared a few quiet hours with Boman two weeks ago before the latter entered the hospital for the final time.
“We all spent some time praying with him, and I think that Charlie wanted to borrow our ears for a little while. He spoke from his heart and shared with us just how much he loved the people of Gadsden and Etowah County. Charlie really did give his life serving others, and I have the highest regard and the highest respect for that man. The scripture says, ‘Let your light so shine that they may see your good works and glorify the Father which is in Heaven,’ and I truly believe that Charlie’s light shined and people did see his works.”
“If Charlie took a personal interest in you, he just about adopted you,” Holland added. “He was a real fatherly figure to a lot of people. Charlie was just one of those rare guys that everybody seemed to like, and I just can’t say enough about him. I just can’t imagine this town without Charlie Boman.”