Edition 112, February 2021

IN MEMORIAM of the life of CJ Charlton 1942-2021

CJ was a legend and major contributor to the reverse logistics industry. RLA was honored to present to him the RLA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 for all he selflessly gave to the industry and for his friendship and support of the RLA.


Pam Rapp, friend, and colleague:
I met CJ some 20 + years ago. He instantly became a mentor as well as a dear friend. With each passing year, I saw what a phenomenal force he was. His deep love of family – and baseball as well as his devotion to his work and those who worked with and for him. I truly believe CJ found his success in the success of others – he was always looking for ways to make things better – it didn’t matter if the answer meant that his business might decline – he only cared about what was right and what would drive business forward – he always had the bigger picture in focus. He looked for innovative ways to change but understood the important of not changing just for the sake of change – looking for the benefit, willing to take risk. He understood business in ways many do not – his philosophy and what I believe drove him to such a successful professional (as well as family and friends) life was his deep-rooted belief – helping all he came in contact with, taking care of others – he knew he would be taken care of. CJ’s door was always open – if you had a problem, he had an ear and he would make time to listen. Such a wonderful professional man, mentor, friend, father, grandfather – dear, dear CJ you are missed – we love you and I believe all that came in contact with you – are better because of you. The life he lived... was maavelous darling...simply maaveleous. (this was how he greeted me on calls)

My daughter’s wedding – We were so honored that CJ came to celebrate this wonderful day with us

This picture was taken at CJ’s house – as his condition declined – we would go and have lunch with him out on his patio – surrounded by his family and all that he loved. Always got a kick out of the water glasses he drank from – they typically had some cartoon character on them – this week it was Mickey Mouse.

Peter Carfrae, friend and colleague:
A few weeks ago, we lost a pioneer of the logistics space and a mentor for the reverse logistics industry, CJ Charlton. “Good people” was an expression CJ often used. While it may have been in reference to others around him, it was CJ who was “good people.” Sam Walton was influential in CJ’s career. He took those learnings and married them with his own unique style and ambition to propel this industry forward. Like Sam, CJ always put the customer first and made it a priority to understand his customers and provide them with products or solutions they wanted. He also cared about his people and had an unassuming approach to get things done. He was an innovator, connector, and competitor. His persistent pursuit of a better solution and desire to always do ‘the right thing’ made him a highly effective leader. Of equal importance to him was family. Work and the farm were his happy places. If you asked about his family his eyes would light up – it was evident how much he cared for those in his personal life. I have been lucky to have worked closely with CJ, but more importantly, I was lucky to call him a friend. He was a mentor to me and to so many people. When I think of CJ, I think of all good things. Cheers to you, buddy! May we all live up to the “good people” example you set for us.

Kathy Murphy, friend and colleague:
CJ Charlton, you cannot say his name without thinking of kindness, compassion, and looking out for others. When I first met CJ at an RLA conference, he may have sensed it was my first RLA event, which it was. Instantly, we were engaged in conversation about our jobs and why we were attending. Of course, CJ did not tell me who he really was and all he had accomplished; he was too humble. I had no idea how lucky I truly was that day to meet such a caring person. At one point, I remember thinking, “Is this guy for real, offering to introduce me to people that had similar challenges or potential solutions?” He was just doing what he always did, connecting people -- just being CJ. My guess is that most people felt the same way. He was “Good People.”

  CJ loved biscuits and gravy and always enjoyed a good meal

Over the years, I always looked forward to spending time with CJ at different events or making trips to Bentonville. You could not make your way through lunch or dinner without someone coming over to say hello and being glad to see him. CJ always shared the best stories of his Walmart days, race car driving, or special time with his family. On many occasions, I would say “CJ you have to write a book.” Anyone who has heard about his adventures knows what I mean. It would have included so many lessons on how to connect with people, enjoy life to the fullest, and treat people with kindness. His love for his family and friends was infectious. CJ was such a great mentor, friend, and gentleman.

In 2019, CJ was given the RLA Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication in reverse logistics. He was so surprised and had no idea Chuck was going to be calling his name. CJ always knew what was happening in the reverse industry, but not that day. The pictures of that day reflect how happy he was to be honored by so many friends and colleagues. So, I hope we all try to live as CJ did and “pay it forward”. You are missed, my friend.

Chuck Johnston, friend and colleague:
I was blessed to have known CJ for over 30 years. He was a selfless leader and friend. There have been so many people in many industries that have been impacted by CJ. CJ truly loved people, he loved to create solutions and his goal was always to ensure that everyone he dealt with succeeded. CJ was always looking to broker relationships first and business second. I love the quote by Albert Pine “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world is and remains immortal.” This was how CJ lived. His impact on all of us is his legacy. CJ loved family, friends, and his work. His ability to balance all things was an inspiration to me and others. Even in the face of adversity in the later years, CJ always put on a positive stance. He was an example of how all of us should live. CJ was a true friend and will be missed.

CJ was the recipient of the 2019 RLA Lifetime Achievement Award