Former NRCC President Ed Barnes dies at 86

barnes edward

Former New River Community College president Dr. Ed Barnes has died.

The college’s Facebook page posted the following today:

The NRCC community is saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Ed Barnes, NRCC’s fourth president. Dr. Barnes served as the college’s fourth president from 1991-2000.

Edwin L. “Ed” Barnes, 86, of Winston-Salem, died Wednesday morning, February 7, 2024.  Ed was born July 24, 1937, in Roseboro, and was the son of Rufus Edwin Barnes and Annie Mae Lewis Barnes.  In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Shirley Norris Barnes; two sisters, Doris Fincannon and Jo Ann Horne; and two brothers, Joe Barnes and Ray Barnes.  Following ten years of service with Cone Mills and Burlington Hosiery, Ed spent the remainder of his career in the North Carolina and Virginia Community College Systems, where he served as president of two Virginia community colleges and as interim president of another Virginia community college.  He was a passionate advocate for education and believed in its power to transform lives.  Born into poverty as the son of sharecroppers in eastern North Carolina, he attended college for 20 years as a part-time student while working full time and earning three degrees, including a PhD from Virginia Tech.  He often referred to himself as a slow learner.  He was known best for his mechanical ineptness.   Following graduation from high school, he scored in the eighth percentile on a mechanical aptitude test and spent the remainder of his life validating the test.  Among other frustrations, he once blew up a hot water heater, was almost injured by a flying spark plug which he had forgotten to tighten in a garden tiller, poured four quarts of oil directly through an auto engine onto a new driveway because he failed to install the oil plug properly, and failed in every plumbing job he attempted.  He finally acknowledged that mechanical knowledge was unachievable for him and began to hire technicians who knew what they were doing.  He was also a prolific storyteller and was often the brunt of his own stories.  However, he was not the least bit timid about making others the brunt of his stories.   Most of his stories carried a thread of truth in them but some required intense study to find any evidence of truth.   He is survived by his children and their spouses, Stephen and Babbe Barnes of Galax, VA, Michael and Marie Barnes of Ronceverte, WV, and Cynthia and Jon Palmer of Greenville; his grandchildren, Zachary Barnes and his spouse, Martin Herrera, Blake Barnes and his spouse, Macy Barnes, Bridgett Barnes, Katie Barnes, Brandon Barnes, and Julia Palmer; his great-grandchildren, Remington Cox and Brinleigh Barnes; his sisters-in-law, Phyllis Barnes of Charleston, WV, and Sallie Edwards of Oklahoma City, OK; his brother-in-law, Richard Norris of Sacramento, CA; and many, dear friends.  A service of remembrance honoring Ed and Shirley will be held Saturday, April 6, 2024, at 2:00 PM at Moody Funeral Home Chapel in Mount Airy.  Dr. David Johnson, former president of Wytheville Community College in Wytheville, VA, and Johnston Community College in Smithfield, will preside.   The family will receive friends Saturday from 12:30 until 2:00 PM at the funeral home.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Shirley N. Barnes Scholarship Fund, Camp Community College Foundation, 100 North College Drive, Franklin, VA  23851; The Barnes Family Scholarship Fund, New River Community College Educational Foundation, 5251 College Drive, Dublin, VA  24084; The Barnes Family Scholarship Fund, Wytheville Community College Educational Foundation, 1000 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA  24382; or the Alamance Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 8000, Graham, NC  27253-8000.