Charles E. Scharlau of Fayetteville, retired chairman, president and chief executive officer at Southwestern Energy Co., died June 18 at Fayetteville senior living provider Butterfield Trail Village. He was 94.
Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville will hold a funeral service Friday (June 25) at 11 a.m., with burial to follow in the Fayetteville National Cemetery under the direction of Moore’s Chapel.
Southwestern Energy provided this statement Wednesday (June 23) to Talk Business & Politics:
“For nearly half a century, Mr. Scharlau – a decorated WWII Marine veteran and seasoned lawyer – dedicated himself to Southwestern Energy’s people. He was instrumental in Southwestern Energy’s growth and the organization’s success, and his leadership will always be greatly valued. The entire Southwestern Energy team is praying for and thinking about the Scharlau family during this difficult time.”
A Mountain Home native, Scharlau joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17. According to his obituary, after serving during World War II, Scharlau utilized the GI Bill to earn a law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1951.
Recommended by legendary law professor and dean Robert Leflar, Scharlau accepted a position as the first lawyer employed at Arkansas Western Gas Co., now known as Southwestern Energy, where he eventually served as vice president. He then became president and CEO until retiring in 1998, having served the company for 47 years. During that time, he led the transformation of Southwestern Energy from a small distribution company to one of the nation’s leaders in exploration and natural gas providers.
After retirement, he continued to serve as a director until May 21, 2013. In addition, the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame inducted Scharlau in 2017.
“I think that Charles was one of the really smart people to come through the gas industry,” said Little Rock businessman Sheffield Nelson, an attorney, utility executive and political leader who served as president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla) from 1973 to 1984. “I think what he did with Arkansas Western Gas Co. will convince you of that. He did the right things to make it a very large gas-producing company and one that was worth a lot of money. I think a lot of that was because of [Scharlau].”
Scharlau was also a director of several business corporations throughout his career, including Arvest Bank in Fayetteville, First Arkansas Bankstock Corp. in Little Rock and C.H. Heist Corp, based in Florida.
Scharlau served on the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2007 and as chairman for the 2005-06 academic year.
UA System President Donald Bobbitt provided this statement Wednesday to Talk Business & Politics.
“My wife Susan and I were saddened to learn about the passing of the late Charles E. Scharlau. He and his late wife, Clydene, were generous benefactors and dedicated countless hours of volunteer service to many causes at institutions and organizations across the UA System. Charles was an outstanding and thoughtful chair and member of the Board of Trustees, and the UA System will continue to benefit from his legacy of service. We will truly miss his presence in our lives and the genuine kindness that he always displayed.
“Charles was known for many things — his business acumen, philanthropy and service to Arkansas. But his most important attribute to those close to him was his devotion to his family and many friends. I learned countless lessons from Charles over the years, the most important of which had nothing to do with my position as president. He was an individual I continue to try to emulate, though I frequently fall short.”
Scharlau was also a past president of the UA Alumni Association and a former member of the UA Foundation Board of Directors. In addition, he received various honors from the UA, including Outstanding Volunteer, Citation for Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Alumnus from the School of Law, and was the recipient of the honorary “Doctor of Humane Letters” at the Spring 2020 Commencement.
“He never forgot where he came from,” said Nelson, who is a UA System board member. “He remembered what the University of Arkansas did for him and he repaid it many times.”
Scharlau was a past chairman of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of various other civic organizations.