Charles Irving Jr., who helped preserve years of Raleigh stories, dies at 87

ablythe@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2014 

— Charles Irving Jr. was a Wake County native who helped preserve stories of the civil rights movement and other momentous occasions while living through that history himself.

Remembered by friends and family as quiet, unassuming, bright and fun-loving, Irving died Thursday at 87.

For almost four decades, he had a special vantage point for many of the stories unfolding in the state capital at the Irving-Swain Press, the Southeast Raleigh publishing house founded in 1947 by his father and sister.

The publisher printed church bulletins, concert posters, programs for civil rights gatherings featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and at least one publication about the historic 1960 Woolworth’s sit-in in Greensboro.

After two stints in the military, one in the mid-1940s while he matriculated at Howard University and another during the Korean War, Irving returned to Raleigh to decide what was next for him.

He started working at the family business in 1953 and never left.

“He told me once, ‘Well I guess I decided,’ ” recalled Lonnette Williams, a retired educator who worked with Irving on community projects. “We’ve lost a historian.”

Irving was born on Nov. 7, 1926.

As a student at Washington High, the first public high school for African-Americans in Raleigh, he was president of his class and editor of the yearbook.

After returning to Raleigh, he helped document the history of several eras at the press, and he became an avid photographer and a frequent world traveler.

He was active with the Charles T. Norwood American Legion Post 157, the Davie Street Presbyterian Church and the local chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

He loved to read – mostly history books, his family said. And he was enthusiastic about all the advances in technology that occurred during his lifetime.

In 1955, Irving married Ophelia, his spouse of 58 years. They had a daughter, Cyretha, who lives inSwitzerland now.

A wake is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Davie Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Davie St. in Raleigh. A funeral at the church is set for noon.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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