An advocate and gentleman: Farewell to the man in the cowboy hat

To the casual observer, he was a friendly guy with a cowboy hat who roamed the state Capitol to push legislation to help Georgia’s seniors.

But to those who knew him well, Charles “Chuck’’ Ware was the consummate advocate, a man whose work touched countless lives. He passed away recently at age 88.

“From accessible building codes to fighting predatory lending, from assisted living to help for family caregivers, the list of legislation he impacted is too long to list,’’ says Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging.

“He did so much for so many. He taught so many of us at the Capitol how to build relationships and make positive change.’’

And then there was the amazing number of people he registered to vote.

“People can vote for whoever they want. I don’t like people to criticize any political party and not be registered,” said Chuck, according to Equal Voice News. “Too many people have died for you not to register.”

He grew up in East Chicago, Ind., where he would watch his mother style the hair of elderly women at their church, free of charge.

Later, he would chauffeur older women around town for free.

“In those days, . . . a lot of women didn’t work,” Chuck was quoted as saying. “She said always respect your seniors, because they have been to where you are trying to go. That always stuck with me.”

“Be honest with yourself, and God will take care of you. He will give you longevity,” Chuck said. “Share your knowledge. Knowledge is power.”

From 1964 to 1987, Ware worked as a Chicago-area union official with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, where he advocated for the fair treatment of a variety of blue-collar workers, including asphalt drivers and sanitary workers. He said he “got rid of the sweat” in sweatshop operations and negotiated with employers for better conditions, fairer hours, and higher wages for workers, according to the Clayton News Daily.

Chuck retired to the Atlanta area, soon settling in Clayton County. While working for six years as a security guard for Georgia Power, Ware raised money for local nonprofit organizations by hosting fund-raisers featuring bowls of “Chuck’s Chili,” his own perfected recipe.

He became a member of the Clayton County Aging Board, which runs the Meals on Wheels program there.

Later, Chuck took advisory board positions with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Aging Task Force and the Council on Aging, while serving as a state coordinator for AARP.


Chuck began spending much of his time at the Capitol, where longtime advocate Martha Eaves was his mentor and partner in fighting for state funding for programs for seniors.

“He didn’t give up on an issue,’’ says Melanie McNeil, the state’s long-term care ombudsman. “He would often say with pride, ‘It took us 16 years to pass an assisted living bill, but we did it!’ ’’

Chuck was recognized by the Georgia Council on Aging as the Distinguished Older Georgian in 2015 and he received an award named for Eaves in 2010.

Mindy French, manager of the Frank Bailey Senior Center, and former manager of the Clayton County Aging Program, told the Clayton County newspaper that Chuck was “a godsend to the seniors of this county and the metro region.’’

“If not for people like Chuck, a lot of things wouldn’t get done that we need done,” said French. “Because Chuck is always so available and willing to step up and work whenever called on . . . he is often called on. They know he will get the job done, if asked.”

Maureen Kelly, a longtime advocate for seniors, says Chuck “was a gentleman and soft-spoken yet was a fierce and tireless advocate for older adults. Everybody loved ‘Uncle Chuck’ because he loved them and made each person he met feel special.”

Chuck’s voter registration work was legendary, Floyd says.

“The last time I saw him, four days before he passed away, I asked him how many people he thought he’d registered to vote over the years,’’ Floyd says. “He said at least 200,000. I think that’s a conservative estimate.

“At his memorial. one of the ministers said that there wouldn’t be buses in Clayton County without Chuck. I remember when Chuck worked on that.”

The cowboy hat made him stand out in a crowd.

“It’s my trademark,” he said, according to Equal Voice News. “God told me that you’ll be recognized by what you wear. People come up and say, ‘Where’s the guy in the cowboy hat?’ ”