P. Henderson Barnette | Legacy of Leadership Profile

P. Henderson Barnette (1924–2006)

For many years, P. Henderson Barnette has been one of South Carolina's most respected leaders in business, education, community development, and politics. His accomplishments are only enhanced by the quiet way in which he wields his considerable influence.    

Barnette is known for his polite but forthright manner. He is quick to express his opinions, but he is careful to avoid embarrassing anyone whose opinions differ from his own.

He serves as chairman and chief executive officer of 79-year-old Greenwood Packing Plant, a 450,000-square-foot facility that provides more than 600 jobs and an annual payroll exceeding $11 million.

He was chairman of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education from 1983 to 1997 and has been a board member since 1972. He has played a key role in the economic development of the Greenwood Community and South Carolina.    

Payne Henderson Barnette was born January 24, 1924, in Greenwood, the son of Dr. W. A. and Mary Payne Henderson Barnette, the latter a native of Greenwood. His father, who was born in York, was a veterinarian, having received a bachelor of science degree from Clemson in 1910 and a degree in veterinary medicine from Ohio State University in 1913.

After teaching at Clemson College from 1913 to 1917 and later at Ohio State and the University of Georgia, Dr. Barnette moved his family to Greenwood in 1920 and began practicing veterinary medicine. That same year, he founded Greenwood Packing Plant, which began manufacturing meat products in 1927. He retired from his veterinary practice in 1942 and devoted full time to the packing plant.

Henderson Barnette attended Clemson from 1941 to 1943, when his education was interrupted by World War II. He served as a member of the Air Force in the South Pacific. After the war ended in 1945, he resumed his education at the University of South Carolina and graduated in 1948 with a degree in business administration.

During his junior and senior years at USC, he served as legislative liaison for then-Governor Strom Thurmond. After graduation, he continued on the governor's staff for about four months, at which time his father's illness required that he help with the family business at home.

Barnette assumed responsibility for administration and sales at the plant. His older brother, W. A. "Bill" Barnette, Jr., graduated from Clemson in textile chemistry but returned home to oversee production. His younger brother, Jacob E. "Ed" Barnette, who graduated from The Citadel in pre-medicine, returned to take over the livestock, building, equipment, and maintenance operations.  

With their father as the boss and "Carolina Pride" as their brand name, father and sons worked as a team and developed the company into one of the largest privately owned meat-packing plants in the Southeast.

Today, the company ships its products to buyers in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Carolina Pride products are exported to Puerto Rico, South America, England, Poland, France, and Mexico.

When his younger brother, Ed, died in 1982, Henderson Barnette's son and Bill Barnette's son became involved in the business. Henderson "Hank" Barnette, Jr., assists his father in administration and sales, and Barnette's nephew, also named Bill, assists his father in operations.

Barnette is a former member of the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, an advisory director of the Wachovia National Bank of Greenwood, a former member of the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation board, director of the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, a member of the board of the Governor's Council on Work Force Excellence, and a trustee of the Business Partnership Foundation at USC's College of Business Administration.    

He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the University of South Carolina in 1988. And the USC College of Business Administration honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1991. He received the Order of the Palmetto from Governor Dick Riley in 1985.    

In the past, Barnette has been a member of the board of visitors of Lander University, regional chairman of the United Negro College Fund, trustee and chairman of Self Memorial Hospital Foundation, vice president and director of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, and director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce honored him as its 1990 Businessman of the Year.    

Barnette was inducted into the Greenwood County Hall of Fame in 1991, nine years after his father was posthumously accorded the same honor.

Barnette was married for 41 years to the former Martha Hodges Wharton of Greenwood, who died October 12, 1992. Besides his son, "Hank," there are two daughters, Mrs. Brian (Martha) Blatt and Edie Elizabeth Barnette.

The Barnettes attend First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood. Henderson Barnette was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1995.    

© 1999 South Carolina Business Hall of Fame