Charles Robert Sligh

    Charles Robert Sligh was born in Grand Rapids, January 5, 1850. His father, a native of Scotland was born in 1821, and his mother, Eliza (Wilson) Sligh, was born in Ireland in 1822. They were married in 1843 in Rochester, New York, and in 1845 moved to Grand Rapids, where Mr. Sligh was engaged in business until the outbreak of the Civil war, when he enlisted. He was a captain in the Michigan Engineers and Mechanics Regiment. He died November 15, 1863, from wounds received while he was in command of a battalion, when Charles was thirteen years of age. Charles was at that time attending the public schools of Grand Rapids and continued his studies until he was fifteen, when he became an apprentice to the tinsmith’s trade under Wilder D. Foster. As journeyman tinsmith, he traveled through Michigan and Illinois. This work lasted about a year when he returned to Mr. Foster’s employ as a clerk where he remained until he was engaged as traveling salesman by the Berkey & Gay Furniture Company. He remained with this company from 1874 to 1880, and did much toward introducing Grand Rapids furniture in the southern states. In 1880 Mr. Sligh organized the Sligh Furniture Company, which today is one of the foremost manufacturing establishments in the city. In 1886 he assisted in organizing the Grand Rapids Freight Bureau for the purpose of securing uniform freight rates and assisting in protecting against unjust discrimination. The work of this bureau, of which Mr. Sligh was secretary, was finally absorbed by the board of trade, which Mr. Sligh helped to organize. He was its first vice-president and has been a director for many years. Mr. Sligh was one of the earliest advocates of the improvement of Grand river and to his persistence and patience is to be attributed, in great part, the gradual change in public sentiment which has taken place during the past twenty years. Mr. Sligh was one of the incorporators of the Citizens’ Telephone Company, serving that corporation as a director for several years. He was for many years president of the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers’ Association and also president of the National Furniture Manufacturers’ Association from 1888 to 1892. He has been deeply interested in promoting the St. Lawrence waterway system, having recently been a delegate to the conventions held in Detroit and Washington on this matter. During the war Mr. Sligh attended the Plattsburgh camp in 1915 and organized the Business Men’s Battalion in 1916, and drilled with them under the direction of U. S. Army officers. His age prevented him from actual service. He was commissioned major in 1917, and served at Washington, D. C., in the aircraft department in that capacity until 1918, when he resigned. Mr. Sligh was appointed by Governor Chase L. Osborn a member of the commission which drafted the workmen’s compensation law, which was adopted without amendment and with only two votes cast against it. In the fall of 1922, November 7, Mr. Sligh was elected state senator from Grand Rapids. In this capacity he was an outstanding figure. Some of his more important pieces of legislation were the sterilization bill which provided for the sterilization of the mentally defective, a new inheritance tax bill which decreased the taxes on small estates, but increased the taxes from large estates, an amendment to the corporation tax fill which made the tax more equitable than formerly, taking the burden off of the smaller corporations and making the larger industries pay a more just portion of the corporation tax, and also a bill prohibiting the issuance of tax exempt securities by the state. Mr. Sligh has been a member of the board of directors of the Grand Rapids National Bank since 1904, and the Grand Rapids Trust Company since 1915; vice-president of the New Pantlind Hotel Company and of the Empress Theatre Company. He is president of two timber companies and one irrigation company in the west; was first president of the Furniture Manufacturers’ Insurance Company, and secretary and treasurer of the Clark Iron Company. He is a great believer in the development of youth and in this connection was president of the Grand Rapids Council, Boy Scouts of America. In 1924, inspired by the city’s need for a municipal golf course, Mr. Sligh offered to the city for a period of ten years at a nominal rental of $1.00 a year, a tract of eighty acres about one mile north of the city. Mr. Sligh offered to put the land in condition for play if the city accepted his offer. The play and the fees were to be regulated by the city. The city wisely accepted Mr. Sligh’s offer. Mr. Sligh ran for governor of the state of Michigan in the year 1924. In 1875 Mr. Sligh married a Miss Mary S. Conger, of Wisconsin. Mrs. Sligh died in 1903. The three children of this marriage are: Edith, Adeline and Loraine. In 1905 Mr. Sligh married Miss Edith E. Clark. They have two children: Charles R., Jr., and Gertrude. Mr. Sligh was elected a member of the board of education in 1885 and served one term of tow years, but declined a re-election. Mr. Sligh was elected, in 1915, a member of the city commission which drafted the present (1925) city charter.

Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 22 June 2002