Cover photo for Dr. Charles L. Mcnair's Obituary
Dr. Charles L. Mcnair Profile Photo

Dr. Charles L. Mcnair

September 3, 1934 — December 4, 2019

On September 3, 1934 in Gadsden, Alabama, a great man was born. Charles L. McNair, the son of Johnny McNair and Louise Kirby, beloved principal, mentor, community pillar and friend, left his mark on this world. He went from labor to reward on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 after 85 blessed years.

Mr. McNair attended school in Gadsden, graduating from Carver High School. After graduation he attended Bethune Cookman College in Florida before moving on to Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi where he received his Bachelor’s degree. He later went on to attend Ohio State University. In 1973, he made Saginaw, Michigan his home, leaving a lasting imprint in the schools and community.

Mr. McNair was a special man who loved people. He loved education, children, music, chess and sports. He believed in being a well-dressed man and was always stylish. It gave him great joy to see young people succeed in all things related to education and the betterment of themselves and the community. Mr. McNair believed in his students even when they didn’t believe in themselves. His character was magnanimous. While he could be stern when necessary, he had such a way with words that he could scold and give you constructive criticism with such love that you would receive it as if it were complimentary.

Mr. McNair worked in education for 53 years where he served as a teacher, counselor, principal and father figure to many. He served anywhere he saw a need. He started as an elementary teacher in LaGrange, Georgia. After completing his studies at Ohio State University, he received his first assignment in Saginaw as Principal at Potter Elementary School. He went on to work at several schools in the Saginaw School District, serving as Assistant Principal at Saginaw High School, Principal at Morley Elementary, Houghton Elementary and Assistant Principal at Webber Middle School. He founded the Booker T. Washington Charles McNair Scholarship Foundation in 2011, holding the first reception at Saginaw High School where he awarded the scholarship to several deserving students.

Mr. McNair was affectionately known as Doctor McNair, perhaps because he had an uncanny ability to broaden your perspective on any situation. He also believed that “me and you” together can solve any problem that we face today. “You and me” can make this world a better place. Along with his students and teachers, Mr. McNair received numerous awards and letters of recognition, including science fair awards and the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

He served his community in so many ways. He was a member of SANKOFA, Inc. for twenty years; the Morley Enrichment Center Inc. for seven years; active volunteer for the Boy Scouts for thirty-five years; twenty year member and volunteer for the Growth in Afrocentric Program (a program similar to the Boy Scouts of America focusing on African culture and heritage). He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. for more than 50 years.

Mr. McNair was a longtime organizer of the Saginaw African Cultural Festival, which is one of the longest running Black Art Festivals in the country, where he served as Treasurer. He labored tirelessly for more than thirty years to make sure the festival continued because he felt strongly that the community needed this cultural and educational event to serve as a gathering place for those in and around the community. He was so dedicated, often sleeping in his car overnight, spending three or four days at the park.

A Giant in the Saginaw community and the world has taken his rest. Booker T. Washington said “Success leaves footprints” and Mr. McNair has left a trail many miles long. Well done good and faithful servant.

Mr. McNair was preceded in death by his parents, Johnny McNair and Louise Kirby; grandmother, Maggie Walker; and sister, Jackie Patillo.

He leaves to cherish his memory his significant other of more than thirty years, Bonnie Woods; her children and grandchildren whom adopted him into their family, Jackie (Ricky) Hill, San Diego, California, James (Renee) Miller, Atlanta, Georgia, Beverly (Kerry) Drake, Debora (Todd) Dixon and Monterrey (Crystal) Woods, Saginaw, Michigan; brother, Nathaniel (Debra) Patillo, Fayette, North Carolina; cousin who was raised as a brother, Harvey Haley, Gadsden, Alabama; many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and former students who loved him dearly; special friends, Dr. Wilson Smith, Marshall Thomas, Dr. John Norwood and Omawale “Art” Smith.

The family would like to express special thanks to the Care Team, the Medical Team Hospice, Ivan E. Phillips and the Staff of Paradise Funeral Chapel.

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