Charles C. Bales was born and raised in the mountain community of Pennington Gap, Virginia. When he was 12, he began working for the local general store after school. Later on, he drove a horse and wagon to deliver supplies to backwoods families.
Bales' first venture into insurance came when he was only 16. In those days there was no minimum age requirement for securing a license, and Bales saved his commissions to pay for tuition to the University of Virginia. During the Great Depression, he sold light bulbs door to door for the Jewel Incandescent Lamp Company.
In 1948, he started the C. C. Bales Agency in Atlanta. Within the first eight months, he sold more than $2 million worth of life insurance. Bales was president of the American Life Underwriters Association and later advised President Dwight Eisenhower's National Planning Association.