BEAUFORT - A former Beaufort police chief and long-term commissioner passed away Nov. 21, leaving behind a legacy of equality and dignified civil service.
Charles McDonald Sr., 74, was born Feb. 14, 1948 and raised in Beaufort. He graduated from Beaufort's Queen Street High School and Harris Barber College in Raleigh.
Beaufort officials published a statement Monday, saying McDonald was considered a voice for the people and always ran for office out of love for the town.
“He was a friend and a mentor to me and to many others," said Beaufort Mayor Sharon Harker. "His words of wisdom still ring true to this day. How will any decisions you make benefit ‘the Citizens of Beaufort?’ He will be missed but never forgotten.”
McDonald was a family-oriented man, marrying Glenda Godette on Jan. 11, 1970. The couple have two children, son Charles Jr. and daughter Pheon Roychella McDonald.
He was employed as a barber before joining the Beaufort Police Department as an officer in February 1979.
Over the years, McDonald advanced through the ranks to become Beaufort's first African American police chief. He served in this position from 1992 through 1998 before retiring after 19 years with the department.
Outside of his law enforcement career, McDonald owned and operated two small businesses in Beaufort.
In Dec. 2001, he was elected commissioner for the town and served consecutive terms through 2021. McDonald was also selected three times as mayor pro-tempore during his career as commissioner.
During his time on the board, he often encouraged his peers to keep taxes low, provide citizens with a high level of service and to control spending in town government.
“Commissioner McDonald was a friend. I will miss him,” said Commissioner John Hagle. “He always considered what he felt was the best for the ‘Citizens of Beaufort’ when making a decision. He saw a great deal of change in his hometown and wanted the best for all citizens as changes were made.”
Fellow Commissioner Mariana Hollinshed also commented on McDonald's wealth of knowledge gained from a lifetime of experience growing up in the area.
“Charles was a resource of Beaufort ‘the way it used to be,’ giving him a unique perspective which he shared,” Hollinshed said
McDonald's civic activities included being a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Hero Masonic Lodge and the NAACP. He was also affiliated with Queen Street Baptist Church.
In a video released by the town of Beaufort on June 1, 2020, six days after the controversial death of George Floyd, McDonald touched on the topic of racial injustice and urged everyone to communicate with each other to get through the tough times ahead.
"Things have to be changed from the heart," McDonald said. "Once we change people's hearts, then we can transfer it to paper... Once we learn to respect each other's property and professions and things of that nature, then Beaufort can be what we dreamed of."