A lifelong resident of West Virginia, Charlie Erickson was born in Northfork, McDowell County, in 1913, and became a highly respected business and community leader during his life. Although he never finished high school, having dropped out in sixth grade to work at his father's bakery, Erickson's propensity for hard work and his entrepreneurial initiative more than compensated for his lack of formal education.
Erickson operated his own laundry and bathhouse before he was elected mayor of Man, West Virginia in 1942. During his tenure as mayor, Erickson was drawn to the television industry and devised the idea for a cable television system in Logan County, West Virginia. At the time, cable television was a fledgling business and no bank was willing to risk capital on such a new concept, so Erickson was forced to found his new company with his own funds. Using surplus U.S. Army cable, he quickly built a profitable business that supplied television to homes in the rural hills and hollows of the county.
The success of his enterprise in Logan County led Charlie to move to Parkersburg in the late 1950's, where he continued his involvement with the cable business by establishing the Durfee TV Cable Company. His interests were also extended by investments in cable companies in Virginia, Kentucky, and Michigan. Actively involved with the West Virginia Cable Television Association, Erickson served on the organization's board of directors for several years, and, in 1977, the Association recognized his contributions by naming him a "Pioneer" of the cable business. After more than thirty years in the industry, Erickson sold his cable system in 1982 and retired.
In the Parkersburg area, Erickson was widely regarded as a respected businessman and civic leader. In addition to his cable interests, he was president of COE, Inc., a Parkersburg-based company with interest in real estate, land development, and investment activities in West Virginia and other areas of the United States. Erickson also served as a member of the advisory board of the Parkersburg Boys Club and the board of directors of the Wood County Cancer Society, the West Virginia University Foundation, and the Parkersburg National Bank. He also was a member of the prestigious John Marshall Society, composed of major supporters of the Marshall University Foundation.
After Erickson's retirement in 1982, his dedication to charitable endeavors expanded greatly with the creation of the Erickson Foundation, dedicated to furthering higher education in West Virginia. Although the Foundation's primary focus was higher education, both the Mayo Clinic and Camden Clark Hospital benefited from Erickson's generosity. Both organizations received gifts that allowed them to establish facilities for cancer victims. In addition, Erickson helped decide the future of sports at Parkersburg High School by contributing $300,000 for renovation of their sports facilities and the donating 18 acres of land for a new stadium.
In terms of higher education, Erickson's unique focus was establishing Alumni centers for the universities and colleges of West Virginia. According to Erickson, "Do you know of anything that is better than an alumni center, which will go on for years and years to come and help the universities?" All told, the Erickson Foundation has sponsored eleven alumni centers across West Virginia, including the one at Wheeling Jesuit University. All of these centers bear Charlie Erickson's name.
Information compiled from:
The Charleston Gazette, May 18, 2001
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