Charlie Fonville

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Charlie Fonville

Charles Edward Fonville (born April 27, 1927 in Birmingham; died July 13, 1994 in Ann Arbor, Michigan) was a champion shot-putter and an attorney.

Fonville's parents, Cephus and Rachel, moved the family from Birmingham to Decatur, Illinois in the late 1930s. They moved again to Detroit before he finished high school. During his sole season at Miller High School he was recognized as the Michigan State High School Track & Field Athlete of the Year, winning the Detroit City League with a shot put distance five feet better than the previous champion's.

After graduating in 1945 he and Jessie Nimmons, representing the St Antoine YMCA, dominated the Detroit YMCA Track Championship, but were disqualified for having run two legs each in the 4-man relay. Fonville enrolled at the University of Michigan without a scholarship. He worked during the summers and at a sorority dining room to pay his tuition.

In 1947 Fonville won the Big Ten indoor shot put championship. He broke William Watson's record with a shot put of 53 feet, 11 3/4 inches during qualifying rounds. He bested his own record in the finals with a 54-foot, 1-inch throw. In the NCAA meet the next month, he improved again, with a winning throw of 54 feet, 10 7/8 inches.

In 1948 Fonville continued to dominate the shot put event despite a back injury, breaking Jack Torrance's world record with a throw of 58 feet, 0 3/8 inches. In June he defended his NCAA championship with a 58-foot, 7-inch throw.

A shot put by Charlie Fonville

Expected to bring home a medal for the United States in the 1948 Olympic Games, Fonville's back continued to plague him. He pulled out of the National AAU Championship and went on to finish fourth in the Olympic Trials that July, failing to make the three-man team. Wilbur Thompson went on to win the gold medal in the games.

Fonville was named captain of the Michigan track and field team in 1949, but was unable to recover from his back injury, revealed to have been fused vertebrae, likely a condition from birth, which had been aggravated by his athletic activities. He underwent a bone graft operation in anticipation of a comeback in 1950.

Fonville recorded a 55-foot, 1-inch throw at the AAU meet in January of that year. He won a third Big Ten indoor title, but never matched his record-setting distances of 1947. Yale's Jim Fuchs broke his world record that year and defeated him at the Drake Relays.

After graduating, Fonville worked in labor relations at Kaiser-Frazer and attended evening law classes at Wayne State University. He went into private practice in Detroit in 1954 and enjoyed a 40-year career as an attorney. His first marriage, to the former Barbara Manley, in 1949, produced one son, Carl. He also had a daughter, Linda, with his second wife, Patricia.

He was elected into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1979. He died at the age of 67 at University of Michigan Hospital in 1994. He is buried at Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery.