June 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm EST | by Staff reports

Charles Tarver IV died of HIV complications May 30 at Georgetown University Hospital, according to his partner, Albert Dauphin. Tarver was 53.

Tarver was a graduate of William McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio, and attended The Ohio State University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Sigma, a black fraternity. He graduated from the school in 1984 with a degree in communications.

Before coming to Washington, D.C., in 1992, Tarver taught communications at Emerson College in Boston and was a debate team coach and judge. He also started Brother to Brother, which Dauphin described as one of the first workshops for black men “who were HIV positive.” Dauphin said Tarver founded a similar workshop in Washington.

In Washington, Tarver briefly performed government work before joining the Human Rights Campaign as its first black gay lobbyist. Dauphin said Tarver went on to serve as executive director of D.C. Black Pride in 1995 and become a founding member of what was then known as the D.C. Inner Light Unity Fellowship Church. Tarver became one of the church’s first deacons in 1996.

Dauphin said Tarver was first hospitalized in 1998, but recovered and “continued his activism and church obligation.” Despite several ensuing hospitalizations, Dauphin said Tarver kept his “optimism and love of God.” The couple had planned to wed this summer.

Survivors include Tarver’s brother, Frank Smith of Warren, Mich., and sister, Pensacola Miller of Detroit, Mich.; along with several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Unity Fellowship Church’s celebration of life service for Tarver is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Luther Place Memorial Church, 1256 Vermont Ave., N.W., in Washington.

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