Charles C. Matthews Foundation

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Sharing wealth with Panola County

The Charles C. Matthews Foundation recently honored Panola College with its largest donation in the school’s history. The one million dollar gift is to be used to furnish the new student center currently in the construction phase. Since its inception in 2010, the Matthews Foundation has played an integral part in the advancement of education in the local school districts. Thousands of dollars have been awarded annually to the Carthage and Beckville Education Foundations, and Gary ISD has received yearly scholarships for seniors planning to attend college.

Samuel and Bennie Lucille Carpenter Matthews owned and operated one of the most prestigious dress shops in Carthage for over 50 years. Their son, Charles, kept the books for the store and helped run the cattle operation on the old home place on FM 124 in Beckville. Their daughter, Sammy, married to Sam Brown, generously gave both her time and money to make the local library a success. Before her death in 1996, the members of the Carthage Service League renamed the library to honor Mrs. Brown’s contributions. The Matthews were also faithful members of the First United Methodist Church.

When Sammy died in 1996, she had no children and left the bulk of her estate to brother, Charles. At the time, taxes were such that Charles had to pay a large sum in estate taxes on his inheritance. As a result, he became interested in finding a way to have his estate pass tax free upon his death. He wanted the benefit of his wealth to stay in Panola County. Charles met with tax consultant, Ray Schieffer, and together they came up with a plan to set up a charitable foundation. As long as the foundation met the requirements of the IRS and passed their approval, the estate would pass tax free to the foundation and the income arising from his assets would also be tax free. “He set that up in 1996 and passed away in 2010,” said Attorney Robert Underwood. “He had the foresight to do that and selected each trustee in writing prior to his death. He was an ordinary fellow that liked to study investments and use his money wisely. His hobbies were like anybody else—hunting, fishing and he liked to collect guns.”

The handpicked directors include Richard Ballenger, David Bush, John Conway, Jim Payne, Vern Reeder and Robert Underwood. Each held a special relationship with Charles Matthews. Jim Payne, his long-time banker; Robert Underwood, his attorney as well as hunting partner along with father-in-law K. Baker; John Conway, longtime neighbor and friend—wife Sherrie shared many a meal across the street; Richard Ballenger, coffee drinking buddy; Vern Reeder, picked him up every morning for breakfast, took him wherever he needed to go; David Bush, helped work his cattle and took him to McDonalds every Sunday morning for breakfast. Bush recalls, “I’ve been working his cattle since I was in high school. My daddy was good friends with him and after he died, Charles and I continued the friendship. I picked him up about three times a week and took him different places. When he got ready to sell out about 20 years ago, he called and said he wanted to sell me his cows and lease me his place. He loved to go out to the farm. Hunting and cattle were the two things he enjoyed the most. He’d do anything for you, but he was also very conservative. I went by to get him one Sunday morning and he didn’t come out. I called him, but didn’t get an answer. I knew where the key was so I unlocked the door and went in. I found him on the floor in the bedroom. He had fallen and hit his head. He never recovered from that.” Matthews was 74 when he died.

The Foundation members meet every month to discuss business. They are bound by Foundation guidelines to distribute monies for only educational, religious or charitable causes. One of the first donations by the Foundation was creating an endowed scholarship to Panola College. Other benefactors include the Shriner’s, Mission Carthage, local churches and Operation Graduation at Carthage High School, along with the area school’s Education Foundations. “We just determine what is the best way his money could be used and what could benefit the most people.”