Henlee Barnette, professor of Christian Ethics 1951-1977, was born on August 14, 1911 in Taylorsville, North Carolina. After dropping out of school in the sixth grade, Barnette reentered public school after making a commitment to Christ at age 19. Barnette then studied at Wake Forest College, graduating with honors, and later earned a Th.M. and a Ph.D. from Southern. With additional study at Harvard and Columbia, Barnette completed his full circle in the academic world by taking a teaching position at Stetson University in 1947.
During his four years at Stetson and his nearly three decades at Southern, Barnette gained a reputation as an independent spirit apt to voice his convictions. The author of fifteen books, Barnettes text Introducing Christian Ethics attracted the most attention from the ethics community. In the book, Barnette displayed his particular ethical approach, drawing from scientific data, popular literature, and biblical teaching to ground his stances. Barnette applied this method in his own life on numerous matters. On race, Barnette advocated the integration of Southern Baptist organizations and helped bring Dr. Martin Luther King to Southern for a 1961 visit. On war, Barnette both supported and opposed U.S. military efforts depending on their ideological foundations. Influenced by Southern graduate Clarence Jordan in the 1940s, Barnette worked in a mission in Louisvilles Haymarket District for several years, acting out his understanding of social justice.
When his career ended at Southern, Barnette found employment at the University of Louisville Medical School, teaching as a clinical professor of psychiatry. For many years a member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church of Louisville, Barnette raised two sons with first wife Charlotte Ford before her death. With his second wife, Helen Poarch, he added a daughter and a son to his family. In October 2004, the former professor died at his home in Louisville.
Sources: Henlee Barnette, A Pilgrimage of Faith: My Journey, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2004.
EthicsDaily.com. Obituary of Henlee Barnette. Accessed from the Crescent Hill Baptist Church website at http://www.crescenthillbaptistchurch.org/barnette.htm.
Peter Smith, Henlee Barnette, 1911-2004: Professor, Activist Led Influential and Controversial Life. From the Courier-Journal. Accessed from the Crescent Hill Baptist Church website at http://www.crescenthillbaptistchurch.org/barnette.htm.