The passing of Dr. Jerome Barnes brought back a plethora of memories for me. A lot of them dealt with music, others were about our beloved Chicago Cubs, while others were about the state of our country. Perhaps we did, but I really can't remember disagreeing with him about anything.

But the one thing that always comes to my mind first and foremost regarding Dr. Barnes is this may well have been the kindest most gentle soul I have ever known.

His resume bespeaks of his life that covered a remarkable 86 years. He spent 48 years at Harding University, where he was vice president of Student Services and a full professor in the School of Education. And it was in his role as sponsor of Student Government Student Association and Student Activities where our relationship began and flourished.

The Student Association is where I worked the closest with Dr. Barnes. Maybe you remember (probably if you've been in the Searcy area for a while), but Harding University and its hometown quickly developed a reputation as the Entertainment Center of Arkansas (and rightfully so) because here are only a few of the star-studded names that Dr. Barnes and his talented students brought to the campus to perform: The Oak Ridge Boys, The Cowsills, The Guess Who, Diamond Rio, Bill Cosby, The Carpenters, The Judds, Ray Stevens, Ann Murray, Air Supply, Blackhawk, The Lettermen, England Dan and John Ford Coley, Juice Newton, Billy Dean, The Association, Sawyer Brown, Restless Heart, Lobo, Sinbad, Paul Overstreet, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Up With People, Martina McBride, Ronnie Milsap, Lee Greenwood and Michael Martin Murphy.

There were many, many other performers, not the least of which was one of Dr. Barnes' personal favorite acts, The Wright Brothers and the Overland Stage Company, who made numerous appearances at Harding over the years. When told of Dr. Barnes' passing, founding member and group leader Tom Wright said, "That is sad news to us. He was so good to the band and such a gentle and fine man."

I extend heartfelt prayers and condolences to the families of both.

Tommy Jackson is a former daily newspaper editor who now writes a weekly entertainment column. Contact him at

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