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The Rev. Carl Tinsley, a minister and Navy veteran, was the 2012 Roanoke Citizen of the Year for his work in the community with neighborhood groups, his interests in higher education for minorities and efforts with the local NAACP branch, of which he was a past president.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
The Rev. Carl Tinsley sings with the Loudon Avenue Christian Church Male Chorus last year.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
The Rev. Carl Tinsley, a longtime civil rights and political activist and current chairman of the city electoral board, was selected as Roanoke’s 2012 Citizen of the Year. He died Saturday.]
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Just two months after delivering his last sermon, the Rev. Carl Tinsley of Roanoke died in his home Saturday afternoon with his wife by his side. He was 80 .
Tinsley, a minister and Navy veteran, was the 2012 Roanoke Citizen of the Year for his work in the community with neighborhood groups, his interests in higher education for minorities and efforts with the local NAACP branch, of which he was a past president.
“He was always busy from the time we got married,” said Yuvonne Tinsley, his wife of 57 years. “I think when he got to the place where he couldn’t be a servant to people — I think that kind of took the joy out of his life.”
Tinsley was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer a little more than a year ago. In June, he preached his last sermon at First Baptist Church of Buena Vista, a job he had for 22 years. Tinsley served the ministry for 42 years at churches in the Roanoke area. He moved to Roanoke in the 1950s and over time became one of the best -known civil rights activists in the region.
A Roanoke pastor and civil rights leader, the Rev. Edward Burton, knew Tinsley through church and considered him a friend.
“I think everybody would agree that he made a real contribution to the community,” Burton said.
Burton said Tinsley often inspired him during their conversations. He worked with the local branch of the NAACP in the 1970s and 1980s, and Burton said he was an “aggressive president” who was not afraid to try to right wrongs even when it went against the grain. Brenda Hale, the current president of the NAACP’s Roanoke branch, said Tinsley was a fierce advocate of social justice and often visited prisons to mentor inmates . He was serving as the branch’s first vice president when he died.
“He served with great passion,” Hale said. “If someone needed help, nothing would stand in his way to help that person.”
Hale said Tinsley was a tireless worker for voting rights for minorities during a tumultuous time as well.
Tinsley was born in Franklin County but lived in Roanoke for more than 50 years. He was in the Navy for four years before going to work at Norfolk and Western Railway, now Norfolk Southern Corp. Tinsley was the first black clerk in the traffic department . Burton said Tinsley worked to improve working conditions while he was there.
He was also active in politics, working with the Roanoke Democratic Committee and serving on the Roanoke Electoral Board since 1999. Tinsley was the winner of the NAACP Martin Luther King Religious Affairs and the Southern Christian Leadership’s Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice awards.
As someone who grew up in rural Virginia with little money, Tinsley had a non stop work ethic and he worked to put himself through business school and Bible college, friends say. In 1977 he had to deal with the death of his son in the military. However, even during stormy times, he remained friendly and cordial. Hale said Tinsley’s smile was “infectious” and he never met a stranger.
Yuvonne Tinsley said her husband died about 1:45 p.m. in his bed, and after just a few hours, she had more than 50 phone calls from people in the community expressing their condolences, six of whom were other pastors.
“The phone has been a zoo,” she said. “I appreciate the people calling. I know having lived with him that he was dedicated to people.”
Tinsley also leaves behind a son, Carl Jr., two grandsons and four great-grandsons.
Yuvonne Tinsley said she has come to a place where she is ready to talk about his death, after he was sick for so long.
“I looked at him a million times when he was sick, and I thought this is such a nice person and I just don’t understand why this is happening to him, but I understand there is something that takes us all away.”
She said funeral arrangements have not been made yet.
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