Charles Dunbar Sherman, President W.V.S. Tubman’s First Economic Advisor, Secretary of the Treasury from 1958-1968, First Black and Youngest President of the World Alliance of YMCAs, Rubber and Oil Palm Planter and Real Estate Entrepreneur
Charles Dunbar Sherman was one of Liberia’s most outstanding sons. He was born in September 1919 in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, and graduated with honors in 1937 from the College of West Africa (CWA).
CWA was for nearly two centuries Liberia’s leading secondary institution, the school that trained most Liberian leaders, intellectuals and civil servants in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Charles Sherman’s classmates at CWA were Abayomi Thomas, Alston Nah, Arthur B. S. Walker, Charles L. Cooper, Felix Lawrence, Gabriel E. Knuckles, Jr., Gertrude C. Ware, Henry Q. Taylor, James Cole, James Nebo, Jerome Pederson, Moses Harris, Nathaniel H. S. Baker, Olivia E. Karnga, Ora M. Dennis Mamalu, Richard J.B. Gordon Duncan, Roland H. Cooper, Stataria Gibson-DeShield and Stephen B. Dunbar.
Upon Charles Sherman’s graduation from CWA in 1937, the school immediately hired him to teach the upper class boys and girls — sophomore through 12th Grade classes.
A son of Senator Reginald Sherman and Madam Fasia Kromah, both of Grand Cape Mount County, Charles in the early 1940s was awarded a scholarship to study at Howard University in Washington, D.C. There he graduated magna cum laude in Economics, then later matriculated to the Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s top ten universities, where he took the Master’s degree with honors in Economics, before returning home in the early 1950s to serve his country.
Being Liberia’s first trained economist, Charles Sherman was appointed by President Tubman in the early 1950s to 1958, when he was named by President Tubman as Secretary of the Treasury, Republic of Liberia.
It was in his position as Economic Advisor that the eloquent Mr. Sherman became Liberia’s leading orator and the country’s most sought after commencement speaker.
As a young professional, he also took a keen interest in the Liberia YMCA, which was then under the leadership of David N. Howell, an experienced and highly committed YMCA executive seconded to Liberia in 1948 by the American YMCA, to help develop the Liberian Y. Charlie B began setting a good example for other young Liberian professionals and soon hundreds of young men, and some young women, too, joined the Y and became very active members of the organization.
By 1954, Dave Howell, Charles D. Sherman and others succeeded in erecting a landmark building, on Broad Street, Crown Hill, which became the national headquarters of the Liberian YMCA.
In 1955 David N. Howell took Charlie B and a few others to the fifth Assembly of the World YMCA Alliance in Paris, France, where Charles Dunbar Sherman of Liberia was elected the first black president of the World Alliance of YMCAs. At 37 years old, he also became the youngest president in World Alliance history.
As Treasury Secretary, Mr. Sherman was instrumental in organizing the finances for several landmark state buildings in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. These included the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, West Africa’s first five-star hotel; the Treasury Department, later Ministry of Finance; the Monrovia City Hotel; Executive Mansion, seat and home of the President of Liberia; the Temple of Justice, headquarters of the Liberian Judiciary; and the Monrovia City Hall. These were the first modern complexes that housed several government institutions.
Following his resignation as Treasury Secretary in 1968, Mr. Sherman retired to private life and devoted his time to his rubber plantation between Bong Mines Road, Lower Bong, County and Todee, in Montserrado County, and an oil palm plantation at Wongakor in Grand Cape Mount County. On these two plantations hundreds of people were employed. He also established an elementary school near his farm at Bong Mines Road, named after his mother, Madam Fasia Kromah.
In the 1970s Mr. Sherman was elected Senator of Grand Cape Mount County. Following the April 1980 military coup d’état, all senior officials, including Senator Sherman, were arrested and imprisoned. He remained in prison from April 14 until November 1980, when he was subsequently released but fell ill as a result of severe maltreatment in prison.
This was followed by a stroke, which he suffered in July 1981 and that led to his demise in 1986 at the age of 68.
His funeral was held at Trinity Cathedral, which he attended most of his adult life, and interment took place at the St. John’s Episcopal Churchyard in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County.