The Houston Heights is mourning the loss of a distinguished life long resident and businessman. Mr. Timothy Benjamin Barnes, former co-owner of Carl Barnes Funeral Home, passed away at the age of 99 years on Monday, August 19, 2013 at St. Joseph Medical Center. Mr. Barnes, born on Buck Street in the Fifth Ward area of Houston, Texas on December 16, 1913. He was the eldest of four sons and one daughter born to pioneer funeral directors Carl and Maxie Barnes. His parents moved to the Houston Heights in 1914, where he attended Twenty-Third Avenue Elementary School and Harper Junior High School. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1931. In 1932, Mr. Barnes joined his parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Carl Barnes, and his brother, the late Mr. Titus Barnes, in the funeral business known as the Carl Barnes Funeral Home, which was established in a small frame house on West Twenty- Second Street.
In 1935, the legislature of the state of Texas Established the Texas Board of Embalming (now known as the Texas Funeral Service Commission), which mandated the licensing of all funeral directors and embalmers in the state of Texas. The license was to be issued after completing a course established by the Board. In order to be in full compliance with the new law, the Carl Barnes Funeral Home staff, Carl Barnes, Titus Barnes, and Timothy Barnes, traveled to Dallas, Texas where thy participated in the first course offered by the new Board. All three passed the Board exam and became licensed. Mr. Timothy Barnes received his license, Funeral Director’s License Number 72, in December of 1935.
As the Barnes Funeral Home business prospered, and while assisting his dad and brother in the funeral business, Mr. Timothy Barnes also ventured into the field of insurance with the Watchtower Life Insurance Company. At Watchtower, he became an agent, an assistant manager, and a manager for the Houston District. He remained with the Watchtower Life Insurance Company from 1933 to 1942.
“Mr. Tim”, as he is affectionately called by many friends and business associates, met and married his late wife of 70 years, Mrs. Helen Ruth Smith Barnes, in December of 1936. They also placed their membership at Eighth Street Church of God in Christ in that same year. A few years later, in 1942, he was called to serve in the United States Army during World War II. While in the U. S. Army, he obtained the rank of Sergeant. He maintained his funeral director’s license throughout his tour of duty, and returned to work in the funeral business following his honorable discharge from the U. S. Army in February of 1945.
Having gained experience in both the funeral business and the insurance business, Mr. Barnes decided to establish the Carl Barnes Burial Association, in conjunction with the Carl Barnes Funeral Home, in June of 1945. This burial association served to provide an economical means for many African American in Houston and surrounding communities to be able to plan ahead for funeral expenses. Today, this concept is known as “pre-need” and “burial insurance”. Many agents worked under the direction of Mr. Tim, playing a vital role in helping to establish and maintain the reputation of the Carl Barnes Burial Association, which was, at that time, the largest black-owned burial insurance business in the state of Texas. The Carl Barnes Burial Association remained financially sound and in effect until 1964, when Mr. Tim and his brother, Titus, decided to merge the burial association with Mack Hannah Life Insurance Company.
The family side of Mr. Barnes was just as well known and celebrated as his business accomplishments. He and his late wife, Helen, were the proud parents of six girls: Doris Ann, Geraldine, Joyce, Loretta, Marilyn, and Sandra. The “Barnes Sisters”, or “the girls”, as he affectionately called them, garnered their parents’ love, attention, and educational support. Mr. Barnes was never too busy to go to a school program, to take the girls to music lessons, or, even, years later, to pick up his grandkids after school. Family was truly first and foremost in his sphere of daily life. This sense of family would continue throughout his life as he later helped to mentor and nurture 23 grandchildren, and enjoyed the visits and hugs of more than 25 great-grandchildren. Like his commitment to family, Mr. Tim was also committed to the Faith. Having accepted Christ as a youth through his membership at Buck Street Church of God in Christ, he endeavored to work “In His Service”, alongside with his late wife, as a faithful member of Eight Street COGIC for 77 years. He served in many capacities there, including being a member of the choir, planning committees, trustee board, and, in later years, as deacon.
Through the years, Mr. Tim continued to work in the funeral business alongside his brother, helping to steadily build it to be distinguished as the highest volume black-owned funeral home business in the state of Texas for many years. Their unwritten, but well known trademark was honesty, integrity, compassion, and outstanding service. Timothy and Titus both retired from the funeral business in 1989, however, they both never fully retired from serving as directors on funerals “by request”. Titus continued until his death in August of 2001, and Timothy until 2006. He was honored at a ceremony in 2007 for being the oldest and longest licensed funeral director in the state of Texas. He maintained that distinctive honor until his death.
Mr. Barnes is survived by his six daughters: Doris Ann Barnes-Green, Geraldine Barnes Gibson, Joyce Barnes, Loretta Barnes McShan (Roy), Marilyn Barnes-Clay (William), and Sandra Barnes-Josey. He will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by his many “grands” and “great-grands”. Mr. Barnes is also survived by his only sister, Mrs. Ora Barnes Robinson, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, cousins, and other extended family and friends.