Henlee Hulix Barnette

Alexander County, North Carolina, USA
Death 20 Oct 2004 (aged 93)
Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Burial Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Memorial ID 54569037 · View Source
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Henlee was born near Taylorsville, North Carolina. He was recognized in this October 22, 2004 Louisville Courier-Journal article by Peter Smith at the time of his death:
Henlee H. Barnette, 1911-2004 Professor, activist led influential and controversial life
Henlee H. Barnette, a civil-rights activist and ethicist who influenced generations of Baptist seminarians and medical students in Louisville, died Wednesday. He was 93. Barnette, a retired professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville, died at his home, apparently in his sleep, his family said.
Born to a poor family in a North Carolina log cabin, Barnette did not earn a high school diploma until age 25. But he went on to a long, colorful and controversial academic career.
Barnette worked in the slums of Louisville, marched for civil rights and visited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin, helping launch an American-Russian student exchange.
When he brought the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the seminary in 1961, costing the school donations from segregationist churches, Barnette called it money well spent.
He wrote in 1997: "For more than half a century my life has been filled with controversy stemming from a struggle for racial justice (and) protest against U.S. participation in the war in Vietnam, political corruption, economic injustice, ecclesiocratic ridiculosity, Southern Baptist Convention comicality and theological twaddle."
The Rev. Ron Sisk, who was Barnette's student at the seminary and later his pastor at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, called Barnette a hero.
"He had the courage of his convictions, which led him to swim upstream again and again," said Sisk, who wrote a dissertation on Barnette and is now a professor at North American Baptist Seminary in South Dakota. "He looked at the problems of life and tried to do what he thought Jesus would do about them," Sisk said.
Henlee Hulix Barnette was born near Sugarloaf Mountain, N.C., in 1911.
Beginning at age 13, he worked long hours under harsh conditions in a textile mill. Barnette said he was grateful for the labor reforms of the New Deal, which put a cap on working hours and enabled him to leave work when the sun was still shining on winter days.
"I thought the kingdom of God had come," he recalled.
He converted to Christianity at a revival meeting and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1935. He belatedly earned his high school diploma, then an undergraduate degree at Wake Forest College in 1940.
While studying at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1940s, Barnette heard a life-changing sermon by Clarence Jordan, a white Baptist preacher who was a pioneer civil-rights activist and later a co-founder of Habitat for Humanity.
Barnette accepted Jordan's appeal for workers at the Union Gospel Mission, in Louisville's notorious Haymarket district, where "there were 90 whiskey stores, honky-tonks, nightclubs, houses of ill repute (and) gambling dens within a radius of three blocks," Barnette recalled in an interview earlier this year.
Barnette and his first wife, Charlotte, converted many residents to Christianity while also working to meet the needs of the poor.
Barnette - a short, wiry redhead nicknamed the "Bishop of the Haymarket" - gained confidence from the experience for later challenges. "You live in the slum for three years, you don't get intimidated," he said.
After earning a doctorate at the seminary, Barnette left Louisville and taught at two other colleges, organizing an interracial ministers' group in Birmingham, Ala.
Barnette returned to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1951 as a professor of sociology and Christian ethics. His textbook, "Introducing Christian Ethics," has remained in print more than 40 years.
Henlee and Charlotte Barnette had two sons, John and Wayne. Charlotte died shortly before she was to give birth to a third child, who also died.
Barnette later married a student, Helen, who died of cancer in 1992. They had two children, Jim and Martha.
Henlee Barnette protested the Vietnam War, even as the nation's divisions over that conflict ran through his own family.
One son served in Vietnam with the Air Force, while another moved to Sweden to avoid the draft. Barnette said he was proud of each for deciding what was the right thing to do.
Barnette applied the study of ethics to a range of issues. He called communism a "heresy" but said it had spread because Christian churches had failed to fight economic injustice.
He also called on Christians to support environmental protection and, after retiring from the seminary, taught medical ethics part time at the University of Louisville.
Barnette, who lived next to the seminary, said he had a good relationship with current President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who worked for Barnette as a student assistant. But Barnette lamented the seminary's move to the theological right under Mohler.
"It saddens me," he said in an interview.
In a statement yesterday, Mohler praised Barnette's civil-rights work. "He was a personal friend to me for many years, and even as events and developments led to some distance between us, I always knew him to be a man of integrity and graciousness," Mohler said.
In his last years, Barnette still lived independently. He held monthly discussion groups at his home and accepted some lecture invitations, even as he was slowed by heart and eye surgery.

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"For I am sure that neither death nor life .... will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

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  • Created by: William P. Hartlage
  • Added: 6 Jul 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 54569037
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Henlee Hulix Barnette (14 Aug 1911–20 Oct 2004), Find A Grave Memorial no. 54569037, citing Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by William P. Hartlage (contributor 47213121) .