Born: Sept. 25, 1899, in Lafayette, Indiana
Died: Dec. 13, 1967, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Known for: His unwavering commitment to improve life in the Winston-Salem area through preservation and philanthropic efforts.
The relocation of Wake Forest College to Winston-Salem, the creation of Old Salem Museums & Gardens, the preservation of Historic Bethabara, and the establishment of the Meals on Wheels program all have a common thread: Charles H. Babcock, called Charlie most of his life, played a role in all of them — and more.
Described as “a man of exceptional grace and compassion” by local historian and Winston-Salem Journal reporter and editor Frank Tursi, Babcock’s diligent work to improve life in the region left an undeniable mark on the city.
The third son born to traveling salesman Charles Henry and Ella Park Babcock in Lafayette, Indiana, he grew up in public schools there and in southwestern New York where the family moved in the 1910s. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 after enlisting in the U.S. Army as World War I drew to a close. He worked in banking and investments, and quickly rose to be vice president of two firms before beginning his own brokerage firm on the New York Stock Exchange in 1931; remained a senior partner until his death. During World War II, Babcock returned to the Army as a major overseeing the finances of the American headquarters of the European Theater of Operations.
In 1929, he married Mary Reynolds, eldest daughter of R.J. and Katharine Smith Reynolds. He worked with her and, after her death, became president of her multi-million-dollar foundation and directed the family’s resources in support of education, health, history, and culture in the area. They purchased the family home, Reynolda, from Mary’s siblings, and used a portion of the huge estate to lure Wake Forest to the city. He maintained a close relationship with the school throughout his life. In 1958, he oversaw the transfer of Reynolda’s formal gardens, sprawling wetlands, and landscaped woodlands with trails and gazebos to the school. And, just weeks before his unexpected death in 1967, he coordinated gifts in excess of $1 million to establish the Wake Forest Charles H. Babcock School of Business Administration.