Knoxville – At age 103, Mrs. Olga Lash Barnes departed this life Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The daughter of Rev. Wiley H. Lash and Mrs. Mary Lash who were the founders of two Lutheran churches, several grocery stores, and other businesses.
She grew up in Salisbury, N.C. where she attended public schools and graduating with honors from Livingstone College with a B.A. degree in English and Education.
After graduation, at age 19, she accepted a two-year teaching position at Morristown College, in Tennessee, before moving to New York City where she earned her M.S. degree in Library Science from Columbia University. She subsequently taught in Trenton, New Jersey, married and moved to Washington, D.C., where she held itinerant librarian positions in two area public middle schools, one in Georgetown and the other in Washington, D.C. In addition, Mrs. Barnes served as a Reference Librarian at the Library of Congress.
As a member of several civic and community organizations throughout her career, Mrs. Barnes was a life-long supporter of civil rights and education. She was one of several pioneers in efforts to desegregate railroad transportation from New Jersey to the nation’s capital and in initiatives to bring library services to disadvantaged public school students in the District of Columbia.
For more than seventy years, Mrs. Barnes was a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
She is preceded in death by her husband Dr. S.E. Barnes, a member of “The Golden Thirteen,” first African-American commissioned officers in the history of the United States Navy (1946); her sister Nadine W. Gwaltney of Los Angeles, CA; brothers: M. Traugott Lash, Wiley I. Lash (first African-American elected Mayor of Salisbury, NC) and Dr. John Lash (Professor and Special-Assistant-to the President of Texas Southern University, Houston, TX; and columnist, the Houston Chronicle newspaper).
She is survived by three children: Dr. Olga M. (beloved son-in-law George E.) Welch of Knoxville, Alexa B. Donaphin of and Michael D. Barnes; granddaughters: Dr. Taja M. Welch, Bethany C. Donaphin and Stephani A. Welch; and great-granddaughter, Amaya Donaphin.
A Remembrance Ceremony will take place Saturday, July 27, 2019 from 11-11:30 a.m. in the William V. Powell, Jr. Memorial Chapel of Unity Mortuary, 1425 McCalla Ave., Knoxville, TN. The family will receive friends from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the chapel.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Knoxville, TN, in Mrs. Barnes’ name.
At a later date, a family graveside service for Mrs. Barnes will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., where she will be interred next to her husband.