Charles Custis (1860 – 1950)

Charles Custis

Charles Custis was born in 1860 to slave parents in Virginia. He made his way to Hartford, Connecticut and in 1888 accepted a position at Aetna as a night elevator operator. Over the next few decades, he followed a typical African American corporate career path moving onto day elevator operator then janitor. In this last position, part of his responsibilities included taking care of President Morgan G. Bulkeley’s office. Impressed by Custis’ tact, judgment and cheerful manner, Bulkeley offered him a position as his personal assistant. Upon Bulkeley’s death in 1922, Custis assumed the same duties for the new president, Morgan B. Brainard, where he remained until his death in 1950 at the age of 90.

Charles Custis married Mary C. Goodwin, and they had one son Lemuel Rodney Custis. Lemuel carried on the good Custis name by becoming Hartford’s first black police officer and a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Gubert, Betty Kaplan, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline M. Fannin. Distinguished African American in Aviation and Space Science. The Oryx Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2002.

Photo Credit: Charles Custis, Public Domain