He was the son of the sand hills of North Carolina, he was a Tar Heel born, bred, and despite living in Virginia for more than fifty years of his ninety one years, he was a Tar Heel in death. John G. Barrett, was a mentor, a professor, a friend, and a true Southern Gentleman
He, was one of the greatest coterie of academics known. John Barrett, Robert Hunter, George Brooke the Carolina Mafia; B. McClure Gilliam and Tyson Wilson Professor of History par excellence who were not only scholars, but teachers and mentors to many generations of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute.
Of them all, it was John Barrett who touched me the most. It was John Barrett, whom I got my first A at VMI, and who let me know I had what it took to be a Historian. I never got my Ph.D and while a historian of the South, I was not a Civil War Historian like John, once telling him I wanted to maintain my amateur status when it came to the Civil War and not be obstructed by facts, I nevertheless wanted to emulate him.
John Barrett was the real deal when it came to be a Professor of History. He taught courses, he kept regular office hours where any Cadet could drop by and get advice, counsel, or a welcomed ear as they repeated the woes of their Cadetship. But he was also involved in VMI. He served as the Chairman of the Athletic Council and the President of the Southern Conference. He may have been a Tar Heel but he loved his Keydets.
John Barrett died this week, and so did part of me. I know he is in heaven, which is the color of Carolina Blue, reunited with my Dad and his fraternity brother Jack Nowell telling stories and commenting as only a bunch of New Deal Democrats can about the sorry state of American politics.
God Bless John Barrett and VMI.