William Rowan Barron II ’64

Dr. William Rowan Barron II, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, minister, and friend, entered the Church Triumphant on June 16, 2024, completing a life of rich blessing and purpose. The second son of N. Gonzales and Ruby Hutton Barron, he was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on November 18, 1942, while his father served overseas as a Chaplain in World War II. Bill became Head of Staff at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church in 1981, after serving as Assistant Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Sanford, Florida, and Minister at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Titusville, Florida, and First Presbyterian Church in Marianna, Florida. He retired in 2008, and was named Pastor Emeritus at Sequoyah Hills in 2009.

A child of the manse, he called three states and five places home. His beloved father (“Da”) was his signature role model and a primary influence in Bill’s call to ministry. Bill was an Eagle Scout, President of the Student Council, and delegate to Alabama Boys State. He had a lifelong love of sports and games, fed in part by the challenge, camaraderie, and competition, whether playing, coaching, or watching.
In high school he wrote a weekly column for the local paper called “Sportingly Yours,” which always ended with a life lesson. As a young minister, he became involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; a connection that influenced his son’s becoming a coach. Through the years according to one who watched him on the softball field, at the billiards or ping-pong tables, and on the golf course, he was a “natural athlete with world class hand-eye coordination and brilliant strategy.” A lifelong borderline fanatic Georgia fan, he also relished watching the Vols and Braves. Probably his favorite spectator sports showcased his children and grandchildren.

He graduated from Davidson College (Class of 1964), and received his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Columbia Theological Seminary, where he later served on the Board of Trustees. The Presbyterian Church was in his DNA.

So was storytelling. He guided his children and congregations by example and story, believing as Henri Nouwen did that story “…creates space. We can dwell in a story, walk around, find our own place.” His sermons created space for people, including himself, to “find their own place.”

His practical, relatable message always linked Scripture and the real world, and his theology was consistent: we are saved by grace. Bill’s heart for ministry was equal parts preacher and pastor. He thrived on relationships—with individuals, congregations, the larger denomination, other denominations, and other religions.

After retiring in 2008, he served a congregation in crisis as interim, shepherding members whose families who had been in that church for generations. He also organized and led an interdenominational program called “Ministry of the Laity,” bringing people together for eight weeks of study in the fall and the spring. He later worked with Muslim leaders to bring Muslims and Christians together in a series of community events where speakers from both faiths told their stories and engaged in open dialogue, always around a shared meal.

Bill loved travel, especially when it included his children and later his grandchildren. In the summer of 1982, Bill exchanged pulpits and homes with a minister in Scotland. Before that immersion experience, the entire family spent several weeks traveling in Europe. That seed no doubt later inspired his children’s international study and work-related travel. His children have now instilled that spirit in their children.
Bill’s yen for exotic destinations backfired when he bought into Telly Savalis’s convincing late-night television endorsement of a “fun for the whole family” cruise to the Bahamas. The series of disasters did, however, become everyone’s favorite vacation story and gets better and better with each reenactment.

Bill met Eleanor Warr, the love of his life, on a blind date his senior year at Davidson College. They married three years later. Their love story spanned sixty years, four generations, and four pastorates. For their 50th anniversary, he pulled off the ultimate surprise; and when Eleanor turned around in the church of her childhood where they were married and saw a sanctuary filled with people she loved, she said, “This must be what heaven looks like.”

Bill was creative, funny, and smart. He loved to sing along with Elvis, lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and tell stories to children. He thrived on an audience and cherished one-on-one conversations. He was at home with the privileged and underprivileged, with prisoners, the devout, and the atheist. He lived with clarity, authenticity, and love.

Bill is survived by.his wife Eleanor Barron, his son Richard Barron (Maureen), his daughter Meg Christian (John), and his son Walt Barron (Katy); grandchildren Gill and Kate Christian, Lane, Rae, and Billy Barron, and Ruby and Dot Barron; sisters Lucie Eggleston (Bob) and Sally LaBadie; and sister-in-law Sibylle Barron; and many nieces and nephews. .

He was pre-deceased by his parents Ruby Hutton Barron and N. Gonzales Barron and brother Dr. F. Hutton Barron.

The Service of Witness to the Resurrection will be at 2:00 pm Saturday, June 22nd, in the sanctuary of Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church. A reception will follow in Barron Hall.

Memorials may be made to Tennessee Memory Disorders Foundation, 1400 Dowell Springs Blvd., Suite 340, Knoxville, TN 37909. (tmdf.org) or Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church.