This weekend, Edwardsville will bury one of its long-time public servants.
Charles “Bill” King died on Wednesday at age 80, ending a long history of service to his adopted hometown of Edwardsville. Born in Mount Carmel, Ill., he grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. He worked a number of jobs ranging from "dynamite man" blasting rock for construction to selling souvenirs at the Grand Ole Opry and performing with the late Minnie Pearl onstage.
After graduation, King served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot flying non-combat missions to all the NATO countries. Upon his discharge, he entered Saint Louis University Law School, graduating in 1963. That’s when he came to Edwardsville.
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According to former mayor Gary Niebur, King was involved in more community programs than anyone could remember. He was an assistant Illinois Attorney General and served as Edwardsville’s city attorney under four successive mayors in the 1970s and 1980s.
“That was an extremely important role in city government, but back then, it was about as close to volunteer as it could be,” Niebur said. “It said a lot about the capacity of people who served in those days, who were providing public service. Bill was a great example of that.”
Even after stepping down as city attorney, King was an adviser and friend during Edwardsville’s boom years, Niebur said. “It was more than serving as city attorney, it was his way of contributing to the city he loved,” Niebur said.
King continued to serve as chairman of the Edwardsville zoning board, as president of the Edwardsville YMCA board, hosting the "Legal Line" local radio program for 10 years, and continuing his private practice along with pro-bono work.
“He played a large role in the building of this community,” said Niebur, who also worked with him in his capacity as director of the YMCA. He recalled that just two years ago, the YMCA held a celebration of all past presidents, and King was there, continuing his support of community organizations into his later years.
“Bill was a good guy,” Niebur said. “He was fun, he was jovial, he had a tremendous sense of humor and was the kind of person that you wanted to be around. When you couple that with the kind of individual who cares deeply about this community… He will be missed.”
King married Jean Marie Kendrick King in 1966, and while raising their three children, they traveled to all of the lower 48 states and most of Canada, often with a canoe King built from a kit strapped to the roof of their car.
King is survived by his wife, children and nine grandchildren. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Edwardsville. Visitation will take place prior to the service at the church: family may call from 9 to 9:30 a.m., friends from 9:30 to 10:55 a.m., and enemies from 10:55 to 11 a.m., according to Kalmer Memorial Services.
Gifts in King’s memory are suggested to the Camp Ondessonk Scholarship Fund. For more information, go to www.ondessonk.com.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.