Clemson, SC–Former Clemson All-American Thomas Everett “Black Cat” Barton, one of Frank Howard’s most respected players of the 1950s, passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The Clemson football lettermen from 1950-52 was 90-years-old.
Barton graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree, George Peabody College with a Master in Arts and received his Doctor of Education from Duke University. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Winthrop University in 2002, University of South Carolina in 2004 and Clemson University in 2005.
After serving in the public school system as a teacher, coach and school superintendent, Barton became the President of Greenville Technical College, serving from 1962-2008. Active in the community he served on numerous local and state boards and served on President Bush’s Advisory Committee Education Board.
Over the last 20 years of Coach Howard’s life, when asked about the success of his former players, he always listed Barton near the top of his list. He took great pride in having a former player who became president of a college. Barton is the second Howard player who became a university president to pass away within the last month as Phil Prince, a senior on the 1948 team, died last month.
In fact, it was Howard who gave him the nickname “Black Cat” because of his dark hair and quick first step on the gridiron.
After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1946-48, Barton came to Clemson as a freshman in 1949. He lettered on the 1950 team that finished with an undefeated season and Clemson’s first top 10 final ranking. He was a starter on the 1951 team that played in the Gator Bowl, and the 1952 team.
During his senior year Barton was named a second-team All-American by UPI, the first Clemson defensive lineman in history to earn All-America honors. He was also named All-State and All-South. At the conclusion of the academic year, he was the recipient of the Clemson Blue Key Award as the school’s top athlete in any sport.
Barton was selected in the sixth round, the 66th over pick of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he suffered a knee injury in the College All-Star Game in July of 1953 and the injury ended his career.
In 1987, Barton was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and the State of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
At the conclusion of his 30-year coaching career, Howard named Barton to his All-Howard team.
During his 46 years of service to the Greenville Community Barton received the Thomas J. Peters Award for Leadership Excellence. He was named as one of the top 50 Chief Executive Officers in Community Colleges. He was named one of the top 25 Leaders in the community by the Greenville News.
Additionally, Barton was named one of the 50 most influential residents of Greenville by Greenville Business Magazine from 1997-2000. In 1995, he was named Business Person of the Year. He received the Whitney M. Young Humanitarian Award from the Greenville Urban League.
In 2000, the main campus of Greenville Technical College was dedicated and renamed in his honor to Dr. Thomas E. Barton Campus.
Barton is also a two-time recipient of the Order of the Palmetto (1975 and 2002), the state’s highest award for a civilian. He was also presented the Order of the Poinsettia and named No. 1 Citizen of Greenville in 2003.
Barton is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jean Yarborough Barton from Walhalla, SC; four children: Mike Barton (Donna), Ann Davenport (Ellis), Dawn Brown (Charlie), Melita Graham (Biff); four grandchildren: Ashley, Brantley, Ellise and Jeb; two great grandchildren, Ethan and Emmy; and his beloved dog, Sadie.
The family would like to express its love and gratitude to his loving caregiver, Renee Jenkins, along with Ingrid, Tammy, Paula, Sarah and Sheba.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Thomas E. Barton Endowed Scholarship fund through the Greenville Tech Foundation, MS 6002, P. O. Box 5616, Greenville, SC 29606. 864-250-8835.
In light of the current restrictions placed on us due to the CDC, services will not be at this time. A Memorial service will be planned as soon as allowed. Online condolences may be made at www.mackeymortuary.com .