Charles Monroe King was born in Cleveland, OH to loving parents Gladys F. King and Charlie J. King. “Chuck” and his sister Gail were raised in Cleveland’s Lee-Seville community. First Sergeant Charles M. King, a decorated soldier, enlisted in the United States Army in 1987. During his 18-year military career, King completed several tours in the U.S. and abroad. Known for his leadership skills, he received over 56 medals and awards for distinguished service.
During his tour in Germany, Charles discovered the forgotten all black army battalion known as the “761st Tank Battalion”. He was determined to reach back in time and bring to light all that this battalion accomplished. The battalion’s 27 officers and 313 enlistees were activated in Louisiana in 1942 and fought in numerous battles in Europe. They were Instrumental in turning back German troops during the Battle of the Bulge. They fought 183 consecutive days during their tour, but received little recognition until decades later. Charles became friends with some of the surviving members and memorialized these soldiers in his art.
Before joining the military, King developed his outstanding talent as a visual artist. He was drawn to art at the very early age of six. On quiet afternoons, his mother would often find him painting on anything that resembled a blank canvas. His mother, Gladys, paid attention and began to feed young Charles’s thirst to create by enrolling him in art classes. Gladys said “As a child he would just go in his room and spend hours and hours drawing pictures.”
Charles continued to develop his artistry. After graduating from Lutheran East High School, he attended Chamberlanye Junior College in Boston, receiving an associate degree in commercial advertising. He went on to study art at Western Illinois University and the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked as an illustrator at several advertising agencies in Chicago and Alabama, before deciding to enlist in the Army. During his long military tenure, Charles continued to hone his drawing and painting skills.
Art was Charles’ way of leaving war behind. First Sergeant Charles King was killed in action on October 14, 2006 in Bagdad, Iraq while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Posthumously, King was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. In 2007, he was posthumously awarded the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious The Art Institute of Chicago. King’s artwork has been displayed at the Pentagon and is on permanent display at the Chicago Military Academy, Ft. Hood, TX, Ft. Knox, KY and Ft. Campbell, KY.
“I love being a soldier. I want to be successful as a soldier, as well as successful as an artist.”