Charles Jeffers had a vision, and it changed the cultural attitude and future of Hickory. He did more than his share to brand Hickory before anyone thought of the term.

Jeffers died Saturday at 5:50 p.m., surrounded by his family.

The Hickory Little Theatre was not a public entity in the beginning. But on Sept. 5, 1958, the HLT members, under Jeffers’ leadership, built on the Little Theatre’s first 10 years and transformed it into Hickory Community Theatre.

Said Jeffers when the decision was made, “Members recognized the fact that if the organization was to serve a true civic purpose, participation in theatrical activities must be made open and available to all without reservation.

“Our aims must expand to provide for future cultural needs of Hickory.”

Not only did the theatre undergo a metamorphosis, so did Hickory’s vision of the arts in general. Hickory became a leading example of what a small city can do with all the arts — any endeavor of human creativity and ingenuity. The vision, as Jeffers proposed, was all-inclusive.

Credit many people in Hickory for sharing Jeffers’ vision, but for years he was the heart and soul of HCT. He worked tirelessly for its success and the result was widespread acclaim. That’s the reason he was president of the Hickory Arts Council and executive director of HCT.

Lest we forget, Jeffers took his vision and energy to many other facets of Hickory. He was on the Hickory Board of Education and served as its chairman. He was a champion of United Way.

Jeffers was president of the Catawba County Mental Health Association. He was president of Hickory Rotary. He worked with housing for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. The WPCOG made him Man of the Year for his service.

Jeffers was articulate, to say the least. But the theatre group left him speechless in 1986 when the late Mayor Bill McDonald formally announced that HCT’s stage had become The Charles E. Jeffers Theatre. For once, Jeffers was stunned.

The announcement was made at the traditional get-together after opening night of “Mass Appeal” in which Jeffers was co-star.

There were no dissenters in the decision to name the theatre after the man who turned a vision into a reality beyond what anyone imagined when the Little Theatre was born.

Jeffers was an actor, a director, a compelling voice for the theatre and all the arts. It’s an old observation in performing arts that “He left everything he had on the stage.”

That was Charles Jeffers.

Giving less than his best never occurred to him, no matter what the endeavor.

He made Hickory better.

Not just the theatre, but Hickory.


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