Dr. Charles B. Fancher Sr., an influential leader in Tennessee higher education and an active participant in area civic and social organizations, died October 5, two weeks before his 100th birthday, the family announced.
He had been admitted to Nashville’s St. Thomas Hospital-Midtown for an abdominal condition when he experienced a series of attacks that led to cardiac arrest from which he could not be revived. Prior to the attacks, a family spokesperson said, “His mind was clear, he was in good humor and he was looking forward to coming home.”
Following a career in higher education that spanned nearly 30 years, Dr. Fancher retired in 1985 as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the Tennessee Board of Regents, which governs 40 colleges and other post-secondary institutions across the state.
His service at the Board of Regents included a leadership role in one of the most consequential events in Tennessee’s higher education history. Between 1977 and 1979, he oversaw the complex, and often contentious, a federal court-ordered merger of Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Nashville. The merger, which was closely observed in national higher education circles and reported in national news media, was unusual because it was one of the rare situations in which a historically Black university emerged as the surviving institution.
Prior to joining the Board of Regents, Dr. Fancher served as Interim President of Tennessee State University after holding a series of other leadership positions of increasing responsibility at TSU, beginning in 1962 as Coordinator of Student Teaching. He was subsequently named Assistant Dean of Faculty, Dean of Faculty, and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Dr. Fancher began his career in higher education in 1956 at Alabama A&M University as a Professor of Education and later served as Chairman of the Division of Education and Chairman of the Division of Graduate Studies.
A 1941 graduate of Talladega College, he had just begun his first job as a teacher at Trinity High School in Athens, Alabama when he was called to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. After the war, he earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and was named Assistant Principal of Lincoln High School in Marion, Alabama, and was later promoted to Principal. He continued to pursue additional education, taking summer classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earning a Ph.D. degree in Educational Administration.
At Lincoln, he also met and married the former Evelyn Pitts, then a biology teacher at the high school. They celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in December 2019.
Dr. Fancher, a native of Brighton, Alabama, was deeply involved in his adopted city. He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, and was ordained as a Deacon in 1987 and served on numerous church committees.
His other civic and social memberships have included Chi Boule of Sigma Pi Phi, the Agora Assembly, Nashville Frontiers Club, Optimist Club of Central Nashville, and the NAACP. He also served on the Boards of Directors of Grace M. Eaton Day Home and Faith Organizations in Covenant for Understanding and Service (FOCUS). He served on the Advisory Board of Capitol Hill Child Development Center.
Dr. Fancher is survived by his wife; two sons, Charles B. Fancher, Jr., of Sciota, Pennsylvania, and Mark P. Fancher, of Ypsilanti, Michigan; a daughter, Adrienne L. Fancher, of Nashville; and a grandson, Toussaint B. Fancher, of Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is also survived by two sisters, Mildred (Fancher) Cross, of Bessemer, Alabama, and Jacqueline (Fancher) Edwards, of Birmingham, Alabama.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Lewis and Wright Funeral Directors of Nashville.