Garnett Ersiel Phibbs, born on October 12, 1922 of Charlotte, died on October 29, 2009. Garnett was born in the coalfields of Clinchfield in southwest Virginia to Willie McDonald and Alma Horton Phibbs. Garnett was the third of six children; five sons and a daughter. After Garnett’s mother died, his father remarried and there were 4 additional sisters. Garnett was raised in Pulaski, Virginia. He earned degrees from Bridgewater College in Virginia, Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago and Yale University Divinity School. Garnett was ordained in the Church of the Brethren. His graduate study was in the field of Christian social ethics, and his professional life was given to controversial ecumenical / interfaith passions of social justice, civil rights, church/state relations, women’s choice, homelessness, gay rights, community relations, poverty, sexual ethics, AIDS, public policy, refugees, migrants, public schools, and prison rehabilitation in Trenton, NJ, Toledo, OH, Los Angeles, CA and Charlotte, NC.
Garnett was a volunteer fireman, the founder of Charlotte Interfaith Network for Gay & Lesbian Equality, a former member of the Lazarus Project Board in West Hollywood, CA. He was an active member of Parents Without Partners and of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He helped build homeS with Habitat for Humanity in Mexico and New England.During the past decade, he was an active leader at Holy Covenant United Church of Christ in Charlotte.
He traced the Phibbs family roots back to Ireland. In his research he discovered two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the US Civil War and that one of his ancestors was a whiskey maker to both Gen. Robert Lee and after the war, a government licensed whiskey vendor to General Grant. He wrote the history of Camp Bethel in Fincastle, VA including how they were pioneers in race relations.
He was an engineer and inventor by nature creating a two-way radio, a device that could test the heat of irons and other appliances, created a giant amplifier to send the sound of organ chimes over the Shenandoah valley, and created a notification system for volunteer fire departments.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Garnett’s name to Time Out Youth, a non-profit organization empowering LGBTQ Youth, at 1900 The Plaza, Charlotte, NC 28205.