Charles W. Gilchrist was a native Washingtonian, living in the District and Montgomery County throughout his childhood. He attended John Quincy Adams Elementary School and graduated from St. Alban's High School. He attended Williams College and Harvard Law School. A few years later, Mr. Gilchrist returned to Montgomery County, where he lived with his wife and three children. In 1975, he was elected to the Maryland State Senate. In 1978, Mr. Gilchrist began the first of two consecutive terms as Montgomery County Executive. During that time, Mr. Gilchrist appointed the County's first African American and Latino staff advisors, created the County's Minority Business Procurement Program, and established the Commission on Ethnic Affairs.
After serving as County Executive, he entered Virginia Theological Seminary and was ordained an Episcopal Priest in 1990. From 1991 to 1996 Reverend Gilchrist was Executive Director of the Cathedral Shelter of Chicago, an Episcopal agency that provides residential rehabilitation and treatment for addicts, plus outpatient and community services. By 1996 Mr. Gilchrist was ready to move east and moved to the Sandtown-Winchester area of Baltimore, where he joined the New Song Urban Ministries, which contribute church, housing, educational, health, and job services in that low-income area.
Throughout his life, both as an elected official and as a clergyman, Mr. Gilchrist sought to open doors of participation in community life to everyone. He envisioned the changing demographics of the County and encouraged everyone to welcome the new faces and cultures that were beginning to redefine our community.
The Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity reflects Mr. Gilchrist's immense capacity to see and act beyond the boundaries of race, color and ethnic difference.