The Reverend Harvey Larabee Carnes, United Church of Christ pastor, civil rights pioneer and professor of sociology, died at UNC Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at the age of 89, after many years of debilitating lung disease. Rev. Carnes will be particularly remembered as part of that cohort of white clergy in Chapel Hill who lost their church jobs, or nearly lost them, for supporting civil rights during the tumultuous era of protests recently highlighted by the film “Selma,” and the book Blood Done Sign My Name by Professor (at Duke and UNC) Tim Tyson. In the period 1956 through the 1970s, Rev. Carnes joined Rev. Vernon Tyson, Rev. Charlie Jones and other clergy in Chapel Hill in supporting elimination of racial segregation, including in churches. In 1959, an African-American medical student at UNC-CH, Balaam Thalfonso Elliott, attended a Sunday worship service of the United Church of Chapel Hill at its former location on Cameron Avenue, at the invitation of its pastor, Rev. Carnes. Not long after, Rev. Carnes was released from the church by its membership. (After receiving his medical degree, Dr. Thal Elliott went on to become a pediatrician.) In the last decade of his life, Rev. Carnes, by then retired in Chapel Hill, returned to participate in the congregation of the United Church of Chapel Hill at its current location on MLK Jr Boulevard, where Rev. Carnes admired its current pastors, Reverends Rick and Jill Edens, and the church’s community involvement. In 1960, Rev. Carnes returned to graduate school at UNC-CH and then NC State University to obtain his Master of Arts degree and complete all of the coursework for the Ph. D. in Sociology. He taught at Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) and UNC-Pembroke, all the while continuing to serve in various UCC churches, most notably for 29 years as pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Dudley, NC, a church founded by American abolitionists after the U.S. Civil War, to benefit African-American freedmen. (Dudley, NC is mentioned by lawyer/author/Episcopal priest Pauli Murray in her family biography, Proud Shoes, as a village with a school where her grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, came to teach freedmen after the Civil War.) Rev. Carnes was born in 1925 in Wilmore, Kentucky to Evangelist Benis Gordon Carnes and Willie Graves Carnes, the fifth of their nine children. As did his father and all of his eight siblings, Rev. Carnes attended Asbury College (now Asbury University), located in Wilmore. In 1946, Rev. Carnes married a fellow student at Asbury, Rebecca Lois Bingham, with whom he eventually had five children, who survive him: Deborah (George Christie), Larry, Emily (Chuck Fields), Timothy (Elizabeth) and Nathan (Kelly). In 1948, Rev. Carnes graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary, and Rebecca graduated from Asbury College, with a major in music. Rebecca Carnes, still remembered in the Triangle area by her many elementary and high school music students, predeceased Rev. Carnes in 2001. In 2005, Rev. Carnes married Phyllis Webb, whom he had known since she had been one of his parishioners in Franklin, Virginia from 1953 to 1956.
In addition to his five children and his second wife, Rev. Carnes is survived by nine beloved grandchildren: Rebecca Sophia, Nicholas, Drew, Seth, Marie Christine, Eldon, Philip, Jason and Haley. A memorial service of Christian music and remembrance for Rev. Carnes will be held on Saturday, June 13 at 4 pm at Damascus Congregational Christian Church located at 522 Damascus Church Road in Chapel Hill, NC, 27516, followed by supper on the grounds offered by the family of Rev. Carnes, who remember with great fondness their attendance at Damascus Church during the period (1959-61) when they lived on Damascus Church Road, and where twin brothers Timothy and Nathan were baptized. Rev. Carnes dedicated many of his personal resources to the following charities, to which memorial gifts may be made: 1) the Benis Gordon Carnes and Rebecca Bingham Carnes Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Asbury University, One Macklem Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390-1198 and 2) Family Health Ministries, POB 16725, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, a medical ministry in Haiti, familyhm.org/. Condolences may be sent to the family c/o Deborah Carnes Christie, 5212 Twin Pines Lane, Durham, NC 27705-8599. The family of Rev. Carnes wishes to thank the physicians who provided expert and compassionate care to Rev. Carnes in recent years: Dr. LeVonne Powell-Tillman at Chapel Hill Internal Medicine; Dr. Jane Andersen at Chapel Hill Foot and Ankle Associates; P.A., Dr. Peadar Noone, UNC Pulmonary Specialty Clinic at Meadowmont; and the extraordinary staff at UNC Memorial Hospital in the Emergency room, Medical Intensive Care Unit, Medical Progressive Care Unit and the doctors and nurses on the 6th floor, including the palliative care staff.