John T. Barber, born January 30, 1921

One hundred years ago, January 30. 1921, a baby boy was born to Omar and Nannie Barber: John Thomas Barber. He would continue his education until he completed the third or fourth grade — he wasn’t sure which one he finished.

However, he would be a life-long learner. At twelve years old, after completing his education (formal school), he started snaking logs for his uncle, Johnny Weatherspoon. When he was fourteen, he bought a broadax and got a promotion to hewing cross ties.

When he was still a teenager, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Youth Administration brought him and other young men to Centerville. They learned to lay blocks, brick, and stone. He loved that and carpentry. He hung up his broadax. He said he liked to look at that ax every morning. Every day he didn’t have to take that broadax off the wall and work with it, he said it was going to be a good day. He had many good days.

October 2, 1943, he married Annette Duncan. After working as a sharecropper with B. F. Rogers in Council Bend (when I was born), building houses with Hollis Chessor, a brief visit to Detroit to work, he worked five years with Stanley Springer in his cabinet shop, five years with Will McClanahan building houses, and five years with Ralph and Jerry McClanahan in commercial construction, he started building and selling houses.

He built a concrete block house for us in Shipps Bend. We moved on January 1, 1947 — 74 days before my second birthday. It had a roof, subfloor, and block walls. When he saved the money, we emptied a room. He laid the wood floor, plastered the ceiling and walls, trimmed out the room, and painted. When he had the money for another room, he repeated the process. We had exposed beams before they were fashionable. In 1950, we got electricity. Five years later, we dug a well and had indoor plumbing when I came back from 4-H camp.

I went with him to buy his pickup. He bought it at Kitrell’s Chevrolet on the square in Centerville. When he finished the paperwork, he asked if someone would drive him home. They told them it was his pickup. He could drive it home. He informed them he couldn’t drive. His parents never owned an automobile. Someone brought us home. He read the instructions, practiced on the lane going to our house, learned to drive, and taught Mother and me how to drive.

His retirement project was 28 apartments. In 1987, he started building mini-warehouses. He had 497 units when he stopped.

When he was 78 years old, he decided he wanted to build more houses. He and Jerrie Wayne built four houses “for old people who didn’t want to go to the nursing home.” He and Mother lived in the first of those until they died.

Although his formal education was brief, he was a life-long learner. He had several Bibles like the picture below — worn out from use. He was a Bible class teacher and an excellent personal worker, baptizing many people. He and Mother used the 1950 Chevrolet pickup for an early version of the bus ministry. Many of the summer nights found us at gospel meetings throughout Hickman, Lewis, and Perry counties — often with people riding in the bed of the pickup. He and Mother graduated from the Great Commission School at the Wingate Church of Christ in Nashville. They drove to Nashville and completed the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course.

They enjoyed two trips to Israel and other places mentioned in the Bible. For years, they were regular attenders at the Freed-Hardeman Lectureship and Christian Training Series. They went on campaigns and visits to mission points at home and abroad. He looked forward to trips to the Smokies with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He did well for a man with a 3rd or 4th grade education and a gracious God who blessed him abundantly.

He died August 4, 2009.

Daddy often talked about his 100th birthday. I am reporting that he is being remembered on this special day.

Drop a Pebble in the Water by James W. Foley
from The Best Loved Poems of the American People

Drop a pebble in the water:  just a splash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water:  in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing, and there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:  just a flash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:  in a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling, and there’s joy a-circling yet,
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just by dropping one kind word.

Click here for Jerrie Wayne’s web page from a few years ago: John T. Barber

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

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