January 23, 2021, 87, Wayne County
Charlie Bedford was born in Wayne County, North Carolina in 1933. He fought hard but lost his courageous battle against COVID-19 on January 23, 2021.
Growing up on a farm and having to crop tobacco in the summer, he knew that there was something better “out there,” and he worked diligently to make it a reality. That “something better” was East Carolina University; he graduated in 1955. Son of the late Betty Smith Bedford and William Bedford, Charlie pursued a career in education as teacher, college counselor, Dean of Admissions of Hanover College (Indiana), and Program Service Officer with the College Board, which brought him to Atlanta in 1979. He worked with Advanced Placement teachers in the Southeast, increasing the number of secondary schools offering AP courses. In 1983, Charlie became Executive Director of The University Center in Georgia, a consortium of 19 private and public colleges and universities in the Atlanta-Athens area. He took early retirement in 1997 so that he and his wife of
57 years, Nancy could pursue their great interest in international travel and their many volunteer endeavors in Atlanta.
As President of the Atlanta Council on International Relations for over ten years, he enjoyed bringing to the podium ambassadors from France, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, and South Korea. Past President of the International Club of Atlanta, Vice President and Chair of the International Committee of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, and board member of the Georgia Center for International Visitors, Charlie derived great pleasure in being part of Atlanta, “evolving as an international city.” For his “activities opening Atlanta to the world through cross-cultural dialogues and exchanges,” the Republic of France bestowed upon Charlie the title of “Chevalier dans l’Order National du Merite” (National Merit Award) in 2006.
A long-time member of the Board of Visitors of the Salvation Army Training College in Southwest Atlanta, Charlie visited Salvation Army posts when traveling in England, France, and India. Likewise, he connected with Rotarians in South Africa, England, and India. The Bedfords have wonderful memories of their travels with the Friendship Force of Atlanta to China in 1984, to New Zealand and Australia in 1997, and to South Africa in 1993, the end of the apartheid era, where they were hosted by both a family who had been classified as “coloured ” in Cape Town and by a white Afrikaner family in Carnarvon, North Cape Town Province.
Raised by loving parents with strong church ties, Charlie cherished his Methodist, Baptist, and Quaker affiliations in growing up in eastern North Carolina. With his love of the Church and compassion for others, he was part of establishing several retirement communities. As a young bachelor in Arlington, Va., Charlie worked to establish a Methodist retirement home, The Washington House in Alexandria, Virginia. In Evanston, Illinois, he supported the Methodist Retirement Community, and when the Bedfords came to Atlanta, they began their long involvement with the establishment of the Presbyterian Village in Austell, Georgia. They were part of the Harland Foundation Challenge to increase the endowment of the Caring Hands Fund, which allows residents who have exhausted their financial resources to remain in the home they have made with Presbyterian Homes of Georgia.
Throughout his life, Charlie enjoyed being part of his community and contributing to it. In college, he was active in Circle K, Inter-Religious Council, Wesley Foundation, was President of the Senior Class and President of the Southern Area Student Council of YMCA, which brought him to a conference in Atlanta in 1955. The group was housed on the Morehouse College campus; the high point of his stay was meeting Dr. Benjamin Mays, President of Morehouse College and civil rights leader. Meeting and getting to know Morehouse and Spelman students had a profound impact on his life.
When asked if they had children, the Bedfords would reply that they were”child-free,” but then were quick to speak proudly of their “Portuguese children (Joao and Ana Pina Rebelo) and grandchildren (Marta, Francisco, and Carolina).” This close relationship resulted from their having hosted Joao Pina Rebelo, a Georgia Rotary Scholarship recipient, from Porto, Portugal, who came to do an MBA at Georgia Tech in 1995. No matter how many countries he visited or how many people he met on his travels and in his work, Charlie was known as a “Southern Gentleman,” chivalrous, a person of integrity and humility who treated everyone with dignity and respect. His dry wit and sense of humor were sometimes misunderstood, but his kind-heartedness repaired the harm. He was sweet, tender-hearted, patient, and kind. He had an uncanny ability to never meet a stranger; he would strike up a conversation with anyone, always interested to know, at least, where they were from, and then loved teasing them if they had not heard of Pikeville (no “s”), N. C., where he grew up.
It was one of Charlie’s greatest joys to be able to establish the Charlie and Nancy Bedford Study Abroad Scholars Program for the benefit of East Carolina University students pursuing degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Program allows hundreds of students to study and travel abroad for the enrichment of their educational experience and to contribute to global understanding abroad and at home.
In addition to his wife, Nancy Espey Bedford, Charlie is survived by his sister, Agnes Sullivan, and nephew, Brent Taylor, of Kenly, N.C., nephew Phil Bedford (Janice) of Goldsboro, N.C., and nephew, Allen Bedford (Eucalon) of Tampa, Florida. There will be a private burial in the Memorial Garden of Trinity Presbyterian Church at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Charlie’s memory to Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, PO Box 926 Quitman, GA 31643, or phgainc.org/donate. Donations may be made in Charlie’s memory to ECU Foundation Inc. Please add “Bedford Study Abroad” on the memo line and mail to the Office of Gift Records, East Carolina University, 2200 S. Charles Blvd., Suite 2213, Greenville, NC 27858.