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Charles Clement Tucker

PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : HQ & Service Co


Born 1908 in SC, Died 1996


County of residence at enlistment: York County, SC
Other residence(s): Greenville, SC; Rock Hill, SC; New York, NY; Charlotte, NC
United States Army, did not accompany the unit to Europe
Occupation before the war: artist, sculptors, and teachers of art
College education before the war: Art Students League 4 years
Notes: Transferred to Fort Meade Post Special Service Office in 1943 after he developed arthritis; assigned to paint murals at Fort Meade during the rest of his service; final rank PFC
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; photo from The Charlotte Observer, June 10, 1949

Charlie Tucker was born on September 13, 1908 in Greenville, SC; the middle of three sons. His father was a jeweler, and there were goldsmiths and jewelers on both sides of the family going back several generations. The family was living in Catawba, SC by 1910 and in Rock Hill, SC by 1930.

Charlie attended the public elementary schools in Rock Hill and then graduated from Bailey Military Institute in Greenwood, SC. By 1930, both he and his younger brother were working as salesmen at their father's jewelry store. But in about 1933, Charlie moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League in New York. He spent four years in study there including private lessons with Howard Chandler Christy. For three consecutive years his work was chosen as among the best examples of student work for publication in the Art Student League catalog. After finishing his studies, he opened a studio in Gramercy Park and offered art lessons as well.

Over the next few years, he took up portrait painting and showed his work at the Brooklyn Museum, at New York galleries, and back home in South Carolina. He also studied landscape painting in Nova Scotia.

By the time he registered for the draft, on October 16, 1940, Charlie was back in Rock Hill. He enlisted on September 5, 1942; his profession was noted as "artists, sculptors, and teachers of art."

Like many of his fellow New York art students, Charlie found his way into the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion at Fort Meade. But at some point in 1943 he developed arthritis, was placed on limited service, and was assigned to the Post Special Service office and to run "the Meade art project." This involved mural painting at various locations around Fort Meade, including a group of Tucker's paintings entitled "The Four Freedoms," which were mounted on the walls of Service Club #3 at the Fort. The paintings showed the freedoms as they applied to soldiers. For example, "Freedom from Fear" showed an American family against the background of the American flag and a protective line of armed forces.

After the war was over, Charlie returned to Rock Hill and opened a studio there. Portraits in oil became his primary work; by 1949, when he moved his studio just over the border to Charlotte, NC, he had completed about 80 of them.

Charlie married Virginia Smith Washburn on February 24, 1954 in Shelby, NC. Virginia became his business manager; her obituary says that she "had been the motivating force behind her husband's success in the art world."

Charlie became the portrait painter of choice in many southern states—painting college presidents, corporate board members, judges, lawyers, politicians, bishops, doctors, businessmen, and many private citizens (including a number of children). He estimated that on average he produced about 50 paintings a year—most of them painted with live models. He was normally booked out more than a year in advance.

Some examples of his projects included 24 portraits of judges and lawyers for the Catawba County Courthouse (now the Catawba County Museum of History), a portrait of a boy fishing entitled "Stevie" that won the portrait award from the Council of American Artists Societies in 1966, and a portrait of Rosalynn Carter's mother, Allie Murray Smith in 1978, during Jimmy Carter's presidency. Mrs. Smith sat for the painting in Plains, GA and at Charlie's Charlotte studio. "The portrait of my mother is beautiful and we are all so pleased with it," said Mrs. Carter in a note to Charlie; the portrait was to hang in the living quarters of the White House.

Other awards he won included first place in the North Carolina National Exhibition in 1958-1959; and Artist of the Year for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial in 1968.

Charlie was a life member of the NY Art Students League, and a member of the Atelier Club of NY City, the Hudson Valley Art Association, the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas, the American Artist Professional League, the National Arts Club, and the Charlotte Guild of Artists.

In a 1970 interview, he talked about the hundreds of portraits he had painted. "Yes, that is a lot of faces," he said. But he loved his work. "Always, since I was a boy. I couldn't do my studies properly for sketching in my books all the time." He talked about how he had never had to compromise with his art by working at another job. "It's all I've ever done since art school in . . . New York. I even remained a bachelor for a long time, because I was afraid I might have to do some other kind of work if I married. And painting is all I've ever known to do, I have loved it."

He died on June 25, 1996.


1910 census

1920 census

1930 census

1933 article in The Evening Herald (Rock Hill, SC) about his studies and an exhibit he's in

1940 draft card

1942 enlistment record

1948 article in the Charlotte News (NC) about an exhibit of his work

1949 article in The Charlotte Observer (NC) about his art (includes photo)

1951 article in The Charlotte Observer (NC) about his art (includes photo in his studio)

1954 article The Charlotte Observer (NC) about his marriage

1968 article in The Charlotte News (NC) about his winning an award (includes photo)

1970 article in The Charlotte Observer (NC) about his courthouse paintings and his art in general

1978 article in The Charlotte Observer (NC) about his portrait of Rosalynn Carter's mother

1996 obituary in The Charlotte Observer (NC)

1996 North Carolina death index

2003 wife's obituary

biographical information on

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