A beloved pastor and Sumner County Schools administrator, Clint Barnes’s death last week at the age of 46 has shaken more than one close-knit community.
Barnes, who served as the school district’s transportation director for more than a decade, died Sept. 24 at Sumner Regional Medical Center as a result of COVID-19.
From those who worked with him on a daily basis at the school district to those he ministered to at two churches in Portland and Russellville, Ky., his legacy of self-less service won’t soon be forgotten.
“Our school system has lost a great leader and a great friend,” said Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips. “Clint cared a great deal about this school system, our students, our bus drivers and getting students to and from school safely each day. He was happy to do whatever was necessary - from dispatching buses to driving bus routes himself when there weren’t enough drivers.
“He treated his bus drivers and the entire transportation department like family, and it made all the difference.”
Barnes moved to Portland in February of 1998 and started Christ Apostolic Church, according to his son-in-law Dillan Farmer. Barnes also began pastoring a church in Russellville, Ky., in January of 2019.
“Church was his life,” said Farmer. “He would give a morning sermon in Portland, a sermon in Russellville at 2 p.m. and come back to the Portland church that night. If we didn’t go to church three or four days a week, we didn’t know what to do with our time.”
Farmer said his father-in-law was also dedicated to mission work, traveling to and starting several churches in Ecuador.
The two went to Kenya and Uganda earlier this year to help churches there get on their feet, Farmer added.
Farmer says that for the most part Barnes, who often rode horses and tended to his 50-acre farm, was healthy and didn’t appear to have any underlying health conditions. He was hospitalized Sept. 15 after running a fever for several days. Church and family members are still in shock, he added.
“It doesn’t seem real to us,” he said. “A lot have said it feels like a dream. They’re just waiting for him to come back and say it was all a prank. He was always a jokester - messing around with everybody.”
Barnes started working for the school district as a substitute bus driver and substitute teacher in February of 2001. He was named transportation director for the district in July of 2009.
“He always loved the children, loved the kids,” said Farmer. “Even today when they were short-handed, he would drive the bus because he loved the interaction with the kids.”
Barnes’ family heard from one of those “kids” recently after word of his death spread.
Farmer said a woman sent a message through the church’s Facebook page with a donation for medical and funeral expenses.
“She said she sat behind him and rode his bus for years until she started to drive,” he recalled. “She said he would just talk to her and was so interested in what she was doing. She said he was one of the greatest men she’s ever known.
“He’s just impacted so many lives,” Farmer added.
Barnes is survived by his wife Kelly and four daughters and two son-in-laws.
Farmer said his family has received a lot of support – financial and emotional - from those touched by Barnes’ life.
“Clint was the nicest and kindest person,” said Sumner County Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson. “He was great at his job but more importantly he was a great friend to everyone he worked with. “It has hit all of us really hard. He will be greatly missed.”
A fund has been set up to help the family with medical and funeral expenses. Donations may be sent to P.O Box 890, Portland, Tenn., 37148.