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Rev. Carl Tinsley dedicated more than 50 years to the betterment of Roanoke.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
On learning the news that Rev. Carl Tinsley died Saturday afternoon at the age of 80, many would remark on his kindness and wisdom. Tinsley was a just person, dedicated to serving God and community, never failing to abide by what he believed was right.
Even as cancer exacted its harsh toll, Tinsley continued as long as he could working for a better community. On the evening of Dec. 17, Roanoke City Council recognized him as the 2012 Citizen of the Year. The honor, though, would not serve as the final punctuation mark to Tinsely’s storied history of standing in the midst of controversy so as to bring a steady, reasoning hand. No sooner had council finished recognizing him for his 38-year railroad career, 41-year pastoral devotion and lifetime of helping to solve controversial neighborhood and community issues, than circumstances found Tinsley, as a member of the Roanoke Electoral Board, in the midst of yet another controversy.
Some on city council thought the electoral board’s plan to consolidate precincts would disenfranchise minority voters by making unbearable lines even longer. Tinsley reminded council that it held the purse strings and that they had been drawn too tightly to afford enough machines and workers. Truths that council is now addressing.
Tinsley did not set out to be a civil rights activist and community leader. But he rose to the role after moving in the 1950s to Roanoke.
“All I wanted to do was get married, have a good job and raise my family,” he said during a June interview with Joanne Poindexter on his retirement from First Baptist Church in Buena Vista. “But I couldn’t hold my peace with racism and unfairness around. I couldn’t stand on the sideline and let wrong be done.”
How fortunate for Roanoke that Tinsley kept stepping up.
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