An emotional and humbled Larry Barnes accepted one of the state’s highest civilian honors Tuesday night, surrounded by the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees, a board on which he’s served for the past 20 years, 15 of them as chairman.
It was that service and an impressive list of other community leadership roles that earned Barnes the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Contributions to their communities, extra effort in their careers, and many years of service to their organizations are some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award. The honor is most often presented when a person retires.
The accolade was bestowed on him by long-time friend and state Rep. Larry Bell who said he was asked to present the honor on behalf of Gov. Pat McCrory.
“I am truly honored,” Barnes said, tears clearly welling in his eyes, after Bell shook his hand and presented him with the certificate. “Thank you; I’m very grateful.”
Moments before his brief remarks, Barnes stood to hug wife Judith and daughter Brook, who made their way into the Trustee’s meeting room unnoticed by the SCC board member as the regular meeting of the group was called to order.
But instead of turning to business, chairwoman Betty Jo Faircloth relinquished the floor to SCC president Dr. Paul Hutchins who, in turn, introduced Bell.
“It’s been a long-time since I’ve been in this board room,” Bell said, recalling the eight years he sat in a trustee chair. “I represented and supported the college as a trustee, and I feel like I represent you and the college’s interests in Raleigh now.”
However Tuesday night, Bell said, he was there on behalf of McCrory, who asked that he make a presentation to a trustee for his wealth of service to Sampson County.
“He is a caring and supportive friend who has done much to help Sampson County and its citizens,” Bell said, tipping his hat to Barnes. “He has dedicated many personal hours to support the best interests of the college, its staff and students throughout these years of much growth at SCC.
“He is very deserving of this high honor.”
Barnes began his tenure on the SCC board in July 1994; five years later, in 1999, he was elected by his fellow trustees as board chairman, a position he held until last summer when Faircloth took the gavel. He has announced he will retire from the board this summer.
During his time as chairman, the college expanded its programs and hired two new presidents, all the while working to keep technical programs a large part of the changes and innovations at the school. That was something Barnes was always adamant about, and a vision other trustees shared.
Barnes said later Tuesday night that he was extremely humbled by the award. “It is a great and tremendous honor. I’ve seen other people get it, but I’ve honestly never thought about receiving it or even thinking ‘hey, I want that.”’
But when Bell surprised him Tuesday night, Barnes said he was touched. “It truly is a great honor, a great recognition system. The idea behind it is very good, too, encouraging people to do more.”
Barnes believes in doing more. Service and volunteerism, he said, was vital in any community, and something he tried to do and encourage others to do as well.
“Judith’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bass, were great examples of committed service and I’ve tried to follow their example. I really believe serving others is invaluable in your community and your church. Life is more than just working and coming home,” Barnes said.
SCC president Dr. Paul Hutchins praised Barnes for that service, particularly to the community college.
“To me, Mr. Barnes is so deserving of this honor. Larry has served with such dedication and such commitment as a trustee. I think it speaks volumes about his leadership. He has always demonstrated great love and committment to the college and to the community. He loves both. He’s been a great ambassador for the college and beyond, and it has been a joy to work with him.”
Hutchins said Barnes was the epitome of someone who loved giving back, something reflected in a long list of service he has provided to the community over the years.
Barnes has served as past president of the Sampson County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the Clinton Rotary Club, and is a current member of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, where he was a 2014 nominee for Business Person of the Year, one of the Chamber’s highest honors.
“As a result of his hard work and dedication, Larry was recognized as the Sampson Independent’s Citizen of the Year in 2000 and by the Sampson County Board of Commissioners as Volunteer of the Month,” Bell said.
Barnes is currently a New York Life insurance agent, having earned a Certified Life Underwriting and Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow designations. Prior to his career as an agent, Barnes was the director of the county’s Department of Social Services.
He is a member of Hopewell United Methodist Church, where has taught Sunday school for 40 years. He has previously served as lay speaker and as Administrative Council chairman, and currently serves as the church’s finance chairman.
Barnes is also a member of the Westbrook Grange and has served as chaplain of the North Carolina State Grange.
He is a graduate of Methodist College and has received the Methodist College Outstanding Alumni Award and was named to the Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.
In addition to Brook, he and wife Judith have a son, Birch, and three grandchildren, Savannah, Jordan and Landon.