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LEGACY: Charles ‘Mr. Chuck’ Scruggs

Mr Chuck-400Charles Scruggs took the idea of devotion seriously whether it was his family, his career or his city and its children.

Many knew him as "Mr. Chuck," the WKNO television personality committed to the well-being and enlightenment of young people. He died last Friday (Jan. 18) at his home in Midtown. He was 80.

Arrangements have been made for his home-going service, and here are the details:

There will be two viewings on Friday (Jan. 25), the first from noon to 4 p.m. at R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, 374 Vance Ave., and another from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Therese-Little Flower Catholic Church, 1644 Jackson Ave. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Therese-Little Flower, with visitation from 9 a.m. to 9:45 am.

"I remember him as a very sort-after individual. We served together on the board of the Memphis-Branch NAACP," said Mark Stansbury.

"Because of his involvement in so many different things, time would not permit him to attend a lot of the meetings during the early planning stages of our first NAACP Freedom Fund Gala. Some board members expressed displeasure that he was not there. I told them, just by having the name Chuck Scruggs supporting us would mean more than many of us coming to every meeting."

Mr. Scruggs, said Stansbury, used his position as manager of WDIA to offer the first real support and promotion of the NAACP, which has grown into one of the city's top come-together events.

The first African-American vice-president and general manager of AM1070-WDIA, the first black-programmed radio station in the nation, Mr. Scruggs first spoke on the radio when he was 14 years old. As a Boy Scout he represented his Chattanooga (Cherokee) Scout Council by delivering two speeches over two different radio stations. He became the first black Boy Scout to do so, with the experience sparking an interest in broadcasting and how it can be used as an instrument for change.

Many milestones ensued as Mr. Scruggs became a top rated on-air radio personality in Nashville, Cincinnati and San Francisco. He worked through the ranks of management to become a seasoned, knowledgeable radio station executive, and a leader in the field. He came to Memphis in 1972 as VP-General Manager of WDIA, managing the AM and FM stations for 12 years.

One of the founders of and the first president of the National Civil Rights Museum Foundation, Mr. Scruggs joined WKNO in 1993 with an eye toward children. He eventually garnered a weekly 30-minute show called "Sundays at Mr. Chuck's," which later became the weekday show, "Hello Mr. Chuck!"

WKNO's Education Manager until 2010, Mr. Scruggs led hundreds of parenting workshops.

In some circles, he was known by his "freedom name" – Mlengalenga (M-LENG-gah-LENG-gah). These words are associated with its meaning: Heaven; sky; firmament, atmosphere; "island in the sky."

Stansbury, who has been associated with WDIA since the 1950s, recalled serving with Mr. Scruggs on the WDIA Goodwill Fund and said Mr. Scruggs was once again serving as chairman when he died.

"We usually met at the National Civil Rights Museum. However, due to the current remodeling we had to move to another location," said Stansbury.

"And, with the legacy that Mr. Chuck has left to children, I thought how ironic our last meeting was held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library...in the children's area."

Mr. Scruggs leaves his wife, Imogene Scruggs, two sons, Charlie Scruggs and Gary (Sharon) Scruggs, a very special aunt, Mabel Scruggs, and a host of grandchildren, cousins, nephews, nieces and special friends.

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