Salvagio grew up in western Birmingham and was expelled from high school. He worked at Bruno's supermarket as a bag boy, sold vacuum cleaners, and spent some time as a disc jockey at WSGN-AM before earning his general equivalence diploma. He was accepted into Harvard University, but was unable to afford tuition. Instead he enrolled at Birmingham-Southern College, completing a bachelor's degree in business and finance. He worked as a computer systems analyst of Jefferson County and married hiw wife, Gina in 1991.
He decided to pursue a career in law in the early 1990s and enrolled in evening classes at the Birmingham School of Law and became interested in criminal defense. While preparing for the bar exam he attended numerous criminal trials and paid close attention to O. J. Simpson trial. He completed his degree and passed the bar in 1996.
Salvagio was one of the first attorneys to advertise by billboard. His first ad, on I-20/59 near Arkadelphia Road, required special approval from the Alabama State Bar, resulting in the standard disclaimer that still appears on advertisements for legal services. His offices were located on the ground floor of the 22nd Street Parking Deck at 2242 9th Avenue North.
Because he grew up more or less on the streets himself, Salvagio identified with many of his clients, and was eager to pour himself into cases he believed in. He typically turned down requests to defend accused child or animal abusers. He did represent several defendants in murder cases, including Marcus Jemison, accused of killing Jeremy Williamson, Charleston Wells, accused of murdering Mike Gilotti, and Erron Brown, who was charged in the 2018 Riverchase Galleria shooting.
In 2017 Judge Tracie Todd held Salvagio in contempt for contacting witnesses contrary to her orders. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a rehearing on the charge, which was never conducted.
Salvagio fell ill in autumn 2020. He tested negative for COVID-19 and did not seek medical treatment. His wife found him unresponsive at home. An autopsy was ordered to determine his cause of death. He was survived by his wife, Gina, and two children: Sal and Gabriela.
- Beahm, Anna (October 12, 2018) "Birmingham lawyer Charles Salvagio granted new trial, new judge on contempt charge." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (November 21, 2020) "‘There will never be anyone like him’: Well-known lawyer Charles Salvagio dies unexpectedly at Vestavia Hills home" The Birmingham News