Thomas Everett Barton
April 27, 1929 – March 18, 2020
Thomas Everett “Black Cat” Barton, 90, passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jean Yarborough Barton from Walhalla, SC; four children: Mike Barton (Donna), Ann Davenport (Ellis), Dawn Brown (Charlie), Melita Graham (Biff); four grandchildren: Ashley, Brantley, Ellise and Jeb; two great grandchildren, Ethan and Emmy; and his beloved dog, Sadie. He was born and raised in Lancaster, SC by his mother, Melita McCowan Barton. She raised him as a single parent and was a huge influence on every aspect of his life. He was of the Baptist faith and was a member of and served at times as a Sunday school teacher at Reedy Fork Baptist Church.
He graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science Degree, George Peabody College with a Master in Arts and received his Doctor of Education from Duke University. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Winthrop University in 2002, University of South Carolina in 2004 and Clemson University in 2005.
After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1946-48, he was recruited by Coach Frank Howard at Clemson University and received a full football scholarship. It was Coach Howard who penned the name “Black Cat” on him for his black hair and quick step. He was on Coach Howard’s 1951 Orange Bowl and 1952 Gator Bowl teams. In 1952, he was named Clemson’s Athlete of the Year. He was named to All-State, All-South and All-American football teams in 1953 and was drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers. While playing in the college All-Star game at Chicago’s Soldier Field he had a career ending injury to his knee.
He was elected to the South Carolina Hall of Fame and the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1987. Coach Howard selected him to his 30-year All-Star Clemson team. This was one of his proudest accomplishments.
After serving in the public school system as a teacher, coach and school superintendent, he became the President of Greenville Technical College serving from 1962-2008. Active in the community he served on numerous local and state boards and served on President Bush’s Advisory Committee Education Board. During his 46 years of service to the Greenville Community he received the Thomas J. Peters Award for Leadership Excellence. He was named as one of the top fifty Chief Executive Officers in Community Colleges. He was named one of the top 25 Leaders in the community by the Greenville News. He was named one of the 50 most influential residents of Greenville by Greenville Business Magazine from 1997-2000. In 1995, he was named Business Person of the Year. He received the Whitney M. Young Humanitarian Award from the Greenville Urban League. He received the state’s highest award for a civilian, the Order of the Palmetto in 1975 and 2002. He was also presented the Order of the Poinsettia and named No. 1 Citizen of Greenville in 2003.
In 2000, the main campus of Greenville Technical College was dedicated and renamed in his honor to Dr. Thomas E. Barton Campus.
He will be remembered by those who knew him best as a man of the highest integrity, honesty and love of serving others to make their lives better. He was an avid golf and tennis player and was able to play well into his 80’s.
The family would like to express its love and gratitude to his loving caregiver, Renee Jenkins, along with Ingrid, Tammy, Paula, Sarah and Sheba.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Thomas E. Barton Endowed Scholarship fund through the Greenville Tech Foundation, MS 6002, P. O. Box 5616, Greenville, SC 29606. 864-250-8835.
In light of the current restrictions placed on us due to the CDC we will not be able to hold services at this time. A Memorial service will be planned as soon as allowed. Online condolences may be made at www.mackeymortuary.com .
The family will be at their respective homes.
Our dad was a very blessed man and he blessed so many others. He will be greatly missed but we know we will see him again someday.
Rest In Peace, Dad.
- Jean Yarborough Barton, Wife
- Mike Barton (Donna), Son
- Ann Davenport (Ellis), Daughter
- Dawn Brown (Charlie), Daughter
- Melita Graham (Biff), Daughter
- Ashley, Grandchild
- Brantley, Grandchild
- Ellise, Grandchild
- Jeb, Grandchild
- Ethan, Great Grandchild
- Emmy, Great Grandchild
- Sadie, Beloved Dog
- Melita McCowan Barton, Mother (deceased)
Thomas E. Barton Endowed Scholarship fund through the Greenville Tech Foundation
MS 6002, P. O. Box 5616, Greenville, South Carolina
No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Thomas Everett Barton
April 1, 2020
A giant in education in general and a pacesetter in technical education. As a board member on the S.C. Technical College Board I worked with Dr Barton from 1996 until his retirement. His legacy lives on in professionals he mentored across the country.
March 26, 2020
I met Dr. Barton when he was a guest lecturer to our doctoral class at UT Austin in 2011. I had the good fortune of being his driver during his visit, picking him up at the airport and shuttling him back and forth to his hotel. During those short trips we talked about his career. I remember his words about his love for the students and the people who worked at his college. The words I remember most was him saying "I wish I had another lifetime to keep doing what I was doing at Greenville Tech." What a kind and wonderful man he was, and a true source of inspiration for me. I will always remember Black Cat Barton.
March 24, 2020
We became friend while serving on a local board together. Nothing was better than sitting in his office and sharing a lunch sandwich.
He was all heart and all smarts. No fluff, just ideas and action. We will all miss his kind wisdom!
Ann Barton Bell
March 23, 2020
We are truly sorry of hearing of your lost. He was a spacial cousin to us. Our prayers are going out to his whole family. Ann Barton Bell, Walter B. Bell and Benjamin G. Bell
March 23, 2020
To the family of Tom Barton,
Please accept my deepest sympathy for the recent passing of Dr Barton. He was for me, and many others, a legendary leader in state and national community college education. I came to Greenville Tech in January 1986, and he was one of the first people I met. That in itself was impressive that a college President wanted to meet a new employee. He immediately made me comfortable and supported my role as Dean of Allied Health. While I did not work directly for him, I did participate in many meetings, college events, etc. with him. He became a mentor to me, and it was soon clear, as many others already knew, he was a visionary and an exceptional leader. I learned a tremendous amount from him, and he was one of the reasons I stayed at GTC for 29 years. I will never forget his intensity which made all of us believe we could do better. Likewise, I will never forget his great sense of humor making whatever we were doing fun. It is simple.......he made all of us at the college better and made us believe we could do anything we wanted and needed to do for the students, the college and the community. He made education a calling for all of us.
So I thank Tom Barton for being our leader. I thank him for being my friend. He will be missed but never forgotten. He left an indelible mark on Greenville, South Carolina and many national leaders in community college education. To the family, I again say I am so sorry for your loss. Please know I was saddened to hear of his passing.
March 23, 2020
I had the great privilege of working for Dr. Barton at Greenville Technical College. He was a charismatic leader who was always looking to grow the college and provide opportunities for students to improve their lives. I think about phrases that he used on a regular basis. "If you don't catch the rabbit, you don't get to eat." "Whose jersey are you wearing today?" I could go on. He brought a fire to work everyday and always let us know how important the work we were doing was to our community. He will be greatly missed.
March 22, 2020
I am so sorry to learn of your dad's passing. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. While I only met Mr. Barton a couple of times, I could tell that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. I pray you, Charlie and Jeb are all staying safe and healthy in these unprecedented times right now.
Take care and God bless,
March 21, 2020
Dr. Barton was a man of his word. He taught me to work with the college and make it the best! He loved innovation and always made employees feel like family. A special Man I will never forget! I am on my 27th year at GTC and I plan to continue his heart felt dream. Serve the community and share your knowledge, and things can always be better.
Memories forever Dr. B! Thank you for all you have done in your life. God has a Angel!
March 20, 2020
My first job in the SC Community College System was at Greenville Technical College working for Dr. Tom Barton. He was a dynamic leader that I wanted to emulate. My association with Tom inspired me to invest my career with the System. Tom became my friend and mentor and I enjoyed over 30 years of service with him. I will always be grateful for the inspiration and encouragement of this good Christian man. We have lost a great South Carolinian.
Jim Hudgins, President Emeritus of SCTCS
March 20, 2020
You are all in my prayers. I had so much respect for Dr. Barton and still miss seeing him on campus.
March 19, 2020
I am fortunate to have know Dr. Barton as the parent of a dear friend as well as a visionary educator. I received an Associate in Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy from Greenville Technological College under the leadership of this wonderful man. His life and dedication has affected thousands of lives. Thank you Dr. Barton.