HISTORY

Charles L. Whigham, was born in Sparta, Georgia, in 1921. A Graduate of Newark's Malcolm X. Shabazz High School (formerly South Side High School) and the Renouard School of Embalming in New York City. He founded Whigham Funeral in 1946. The funeral home initally began its early years in his home (across the street from its present location), before moving to its new and present location in 1967. When Whigham Funeral Home's new location was opened to the Public in 1967, it was greeted with great admiration. It was hailed as the most spacious, innovative and modern Funeral Home ever seen in the state of New Jersey. Its opening weeks included guided tours for the community, and coverage by numerous newspapers, and magazines. It was simply amazing.

The business flourished, doing as many as 1,000 funerals a year. Yet Charles was not content to just be a business owner. He involved himself in the community and politics. He was a key supporter and campaigner for Newark's first black Mayor Kenneth Gibson as well as mayor Sharpe James. Charles served as a faithful member of the Metropolitan Baptist Church for nearly 50 years, and held the position of trustee for 30 years. As member and entrepreneur he played a very important role in leading the fund raising for the new 7.3 million-dollar church that stands today.

Charles also served as President of the Essex County and Union County Funeral Directors Association, Past Master of Trinity Lodge #33 Prince Hall Affiliate F&AM, Trustee of the Newark Boys and Girls Club, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Council of Churches. He was a member of numerous organizations including Greater Newark Chamber of Commerce, Renaissance of Newark Inc., City of Newark Fiscal Advisory Board, Newark Economic Development Corporation, the 100 Blackmen, the Frontiers and the NAACP. Despite all of this enrollment in the community, Charles still felt the lacking economic ability for Newark, so despite nay sayers, and being the perspicacious man he was, he organized and founded City National Bank, the states minority owned and operated national bank. At City National he served in the capacity of Chairman of the Board, Bank President and CEO for 17 years.

Charles L. Whigham not only served his family but his community as a whole. After 72 years of life and 47 years of community service, Charles made his transition on Nov. 7, 1993. While all of his accolades are special, a few notables were, 100 top Black businesses Black Enterprise magazine, Charles L. Whigham Day declared three different times (one by Mayor Gibson, one by Mayor Sharpe James, and one by the County Executive Thomas J. D'Alessio) and the dedication and name of Charles L. Whigham Square by Newark Municipal Council (at the corner of Green Street and Broad, where the first and main branch of City National is located). Names From the Past Whigham Funeral was not built alone but on the backs of numerous others. While Charles L. Whigham was the man with the vision and plan, he needed soldiers in his army.

While Marie F. Whigham, Charles' wife, was one of the funeral homes original employees, many others were the adhesives that held the ship together. Names like Walter Freeman, Jimmy Freeman, Gloria McClendon, Alyce Waters, and Charles' brother Albert Whigham. But no other employee stood taller than Thurman English did. Thurman English was a devoted and dedicated employee of the funeral home for over thirty years, from start to finish. Thurman not only watched the building grow from a two family house to an entire new state of the art building (constructed in 1967), but he also witnessed as the Whigham Family grew not only in stature but in generations as well, having seen three generations of funeral directors. He stands as a wealth of knowledge and wisdom having worked side by side with both Charles and Carolyn.