The Reverend Charles Lewis Fairchild was born September 4, 1936, to William and Nora Fairchild in Cotton Plant, Arkansas—the same town that produced another gospel artist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 21 years earlier.
Young C.L. and his family migrated to Chicago and attended Mt. Hermon Baptist Church. It was at Mt. Hermon, then under the leadership of Pastor Joseph A. Allen, that Fairchild was ordained in June 1964. A year later, the new minister founded his own church, Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church, on Chicago’s South Side.
Fairchild’s involvement in gospel music was prodigious. He was a member, with the Reverend Issac Whittmon, of the Clefs of Faith, a male gospel group with an extroverted approach not unlike James Cleveland’s Gospel Chimes. He also sang with the Thompson Community Singers, the James Cleveland Singers and the Jessy Dixon Singers, and directed several church choirs, including at Mt. Hermon, True Light and Omega Baptist Churches. Fairchild’s warm baritone blended the crooning of Walter Hawkins with the penetrating declamations of a no-nonsense preacher.
In 1979, Fairchild moved from Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, to lead Greater Faith Baptist Church from a storefront to a thriving ministry with a new building and more than 1,000 members. In 1986, he and the church’s Voices of Greater Faith choir recorded their debut album, Just Like That. Testimony, recorded for Gospel Capitol, followed in 1989. In 1992, Fairchild and the Voices released Well Worth It on Atlanta International Records.
Fairchild produced and directed a recording session at the 1996 National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., held that year in Orlando, Florida. The album, titled Let’s Go to Church, was released on CGI Records and featured a galaxy of gospel artists, including Fairchild as lead vocalist on I’ll Go. The disc was nominated for a Stellar Award. That same year, Fairchild and the Voices of Greater Faith waxed Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed. A live album, Is Your All on the Altar, was released on Atlanta International Records in 1997.
In addition to pastoring and recording, Fairchild appeared on a local cable television program and hosted the Sundown Gospel Show, which aired over Waukegan’s WKRS-AM for two hours every Saturday evening. In 1998, he coordinated an effort to stop a Ku Klux Klan march from happening in Waukegan. Fairchild’s rising political influence in city affairs stoked his interest in running, albeit unsuccessfully, for mayor of Waukegan in 2003.
The Reverend C.L. Fairchild passed away from liver problems at age 71 on October 10, 2007. During his lifetime, he was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the James Cleveland Award and induction into the Hall of Legends, organized by Gospel Music According to Chicago. He received the key to the State of Arkansas from President Bill Clinton, and a Waukegan street is named after him. The Arkansas Baptist College and American Baptist College awarded honorary degrees to Fairchild.