Funeral services are being held Saturday at 11 a.m. for Carol Jenkins Barnett, former Chair and President of Publix Super Markets Charities, and daughter of Publix founder, George W. Jenkins, and Anne MacGregor Jenkins. In 2016, Carol was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and she passed away from related complications in her home surrounded by her loving family late on Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
Carol Jenkins Barnett, 65, was born and raised in Lakeland, Florida. The sixth of seven siblings, she spent the entirety of her childhood and adolescence in Lakeland, graduating from Santa Fe Catholic high school in 1975. She attended Emory University for a year before transferring to the University of Florida. Ultimately, she returned to Lakeland to attend Florida Southern College, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Marketing in 1979. While attending FSC, she joined the Junior League of Lakeland and remained actively involved in her community throughout her life, serving on numerous boards and committees throughout her life.
From an early age, Carol was involved with Publix and her father’s work. She began with Publix in 1972 as a cashier at Grove Park Shopping Center in Lakeland, Florida and later worked for Publix’s corporate marketing research and development department. In 1983, she was elected to the Publix Board of Directors where she served for 33 years. She also served on the Board of Publix Supermarkets Charities, instilling in her a passion for the needs of the communities Publix serves. This experience gave her a deeper understanding of her father’s interests, philosophies, and goals for philanthropic giving. After her father’s stroke in 1989, the Charities Board appointed her Chair, and subsequently named her Chair and President in 1991.
“The Publix family is deeply saddened by the loss of a great humanitarian and community advocate,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “In addition to her service at Publix, Carol made significant contributions to many nonprofit organizations and for the betterment of all children with investments in early childhood education programs. She will be sorely missed by her family, our associates, and the community. Carol had a generous heart and compassionate soul. Her efforts will continue to improve the lives of others for generations.”
Carol and her husband, Barney, are admired philanthropists known for generously giving back to nonprofit organizations such as United Way, YMCA, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, Family Fundamentals, Children’s Movement, and countless others. Over the years, Carol and Barney have funded numerous community projects, such as Barnett Park and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children. Some of the many awards Carol has received for her selfless giving include the Barbara Bush Foundation’s Champion of Literacy Award, United Way of America’s National Alexis de Tocqueville Award, the Association of Junior Leagues International’s Notable Member Award, and an induction into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. Her final philanthropic gift was the founding of Bonnet Springs Park.
“Carol Barnett has been an extraordinary philanthropist. She continued the generous grace of giving, patterned by her father, with zeal and excellence,” remarked Bill Mutz, Mayor of Lakeland. “Her goal was to seek life change and provide safety nets for the needs of others. This led to many formative and supportive gifts to educational and health care entities. She also preserved history by supportive funding of entities like the Polk Theatre. There are opportunities in Lakeland that would not exist today had she been unwilling to stand in the gap financially. Creating Bonnet Springs Park was a high priority for her, and it is the most recent example of a family investment which will continue to dramatically change the public spaces in Lakeland while providing an iconic park element regionally.”
Carol also gave generously to her alma mater, FSC, throughout her lifetime. These gifts include The Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise and the Carol Jenkins Barnett Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health. For her contributions to the school and her community, FSC awarded her the Doctor of Public Service honoris causa in 1998.
The president of FSC, Dr. Anne Kerr, remarked, “Carol left an indelible impact upon Florida Southern College. Her leadership and vision for education fostered a drive for learning and social betterment that has compelled countless FSC students and alumni to shape a better world for us all. Carol led the way as an exemplar of positive and transformative communal leadership. Carol’s legacy of intellectual understanding of the importance of education throughout life, advocacy for learning, helping others, and philanthropy lives on in the Florida Southern community and in each of us whom she touched.”
Carol married her husband, Barney, in 1983, and together they had two sons: Wesley (1985) and Nicholas (1991). An avid athlete, Carol enjoyed tennis, golf, skiing, horseback riding, and scuba diving. Carol often remarked on her admiration for famed conservationist and diver Jacques Cousteau; her own experiences diving imbued her with a great love for animals and the natural world, inspiring her support of conservation organizations such as the Florida Aquarium, the Mote Marine Laboratory, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Lowry Park Zoo.
Carol Jenkins Barnett is survived by her husband, Barney Barnett; two sons, Wesley Barnett (Ashley Bell Barnett) and Nicholas Barnett (Ashley Gibson Barnett); three grandchildren: Raleigh (2015), Birdie (2019), and Zoey (2021); four siblings: Julie Fancelli, Howard Jenkins, Nancy Jenkins, and David Jenkins; and many other loving family members. Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.