Charles William Blackwell was born in El Reno, OK, in 1942, was raised in Tishomingo, near the Blue River and lived in several other small towns throughout the area. When he was growing up, he spent his summers with his grandparents, who were Bureau of Indian Affairs educators on the north plains and in New Mexico.
Charles received his B.A. from East Central State College, now East Central University, in 1964. He then went on to earn a degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1972. Following graduation, he held a position as a staff attorney for the American Indian Law Center for two years. From 1974 to 1978, he simultaneously served as the Associate Director of the Special Scholarship Program in-law for American Indians and as an assistant dean and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law.
From 1990 to 1995, Charles served as a Chickasaw delegate to Washington, D.C. Gov. Bill Anoatubby then appointed him as the first Ambassador of the Chickasaw Nation to the United States, an office he held until his passing in 2013. Charles was the first citizen of any Native American nation to serve as an ambassador to the United States. During this same time, until 1997, he served within the Western Drought Coordination Council.
In 1997, he was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by President Bill Clinton, where he served until 2001 as the council’s only Native American member.
Charles was additionally a frequent columnist for the Chickasaw Times and was conversationally fluent in Chickasaw, Choctaw and Lakota.