If Carey Latimore had followed his secret dream, San Antonians might not have experienced the diligent, thoughtful and driven teacher and spiritual leader who left an indelible mark on communities throughout the city since his arrival in 2004.
In a 2016 interview for Trinity University, where he served as chair of the history department, Latimore revealed that he had long harbored a secret desire to be a truck driver.
“I know this may sound crazy to some,” he said, but his father repaired the gleaming fiberglass shells of the big rigs, and “when they were in our yard, I would sit in the tractor trailers at the wheel and imagine driving across the country. I imagine that was a dream of many of the youth where I grew up,” he said, referring to his hometown of Saluda, Virginia.
Instead, Latimore worked in San Antonio as a treasured professor and mentor, a valued minister at Mount Zion First Baptist Church, and a vocal proponent of researching deeply into African American history.
Latimore died unexpectedly early Tuesday morning at age 46, according to Trinity University.
Deborah Omowale Jarmon, executive director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), had been communicating with Latimore as recently as a week ago regarding research on an African American gravesite in his home state of Virginia.
She described his death as “a huge loss personally, for the institution of SAAACAM, for the community, and actually, for the world.”
Omowale Jarmon said Latimore did the heavy lifting for SAAACAM in “making sure the story of people of African descent here in the San Antonio area is told, preserved and shared. … To think of one of those integral partners is now missing leaves a gaping hole.”
In his role at Trinity University and as advisor to SAAACAM and various City of San Antonio committees, Latimore exerted a strong influence on the inclusion of Black history in the story of San Antonio, advocating for awareness of African Americans’ roles in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and in desegregating the lunch counters at the Kress Department Store and the Woolworth Building on Alamo Plaza.
But the deeply spiritual professor also influenced religious life in San Antonio, serving on the search committee that brought Pastor Otis Mitchell to Mount Zion in 2005. As associate pastor, Latimore remained active in the church, bridging his teaching and ministry roles by serving as liaison for college and student connections.
Mostly, Latimore could be counted on, whether the community was in crisis or for routine spiritual ministrations, Mitchell said.
“He was a very dependable member of our fellowship, and a good friend, a very good friend,” Mitchell said.
Though highly educated, first at Rappahannock Community College, then at the University of Richmond and later earning a doctorate from Emory University in Atlanta, Latimore could speak to people in a way they could understand.
“People always looked forward to his messages because you knew you were going to get something that was always intellectually invigorating, and deep,” Mitchell said.
Renee Watson, chair of the San Antonio Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, also praised Latimore’s ability to communicate with diverse audiences, whether educating young students or learning from community elders.
“He could be understood by the entire community,” Watson said. She mentioned Latimore’s appearance in the 2022 documentary celebrating the newest U.S. federal holiday, Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom, as emblematic of his communication style.
“You could just feel the energy and the passion in his voice,” she said.
San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea Vocab Sanderson also appears in the documentary, and appeared on a panel at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts marking the release of the film in June.
Sanderson said Latimore consistently offered wisdom, leadership, and ‘a-ha!’ moments of revelation when he spoke publicly. “The dude was just extremely cool,” she said. “His demeanor was always very even-toned, but you could feel this passion and zest that he had for community.”
Latimore also wrote about Black history and his family story for the San Antonio Report and recently published a book titled Unshakable Faith: African American Stories of Redemption, Hope, and Community, recommended by an international faith organization as a top read for Juneteenth history and context.
Just over a decade ago Latimore was heavily recruited by Emory for a faculty position, but he told Mitchell he prayed about it and felt that God told him to stay in San Antonio. Not long after, Mitchell officiated Latimore’s marriage to Almie Pachoco-Latimore, who survives him.
“This community really was in his heart,” Mitchell said.
When Donna Guerra worked with Latimore as the project archivist processing the Claude and Zernona Black Papers at Trinity’s Coates Library from 2012-2014, she said he was as spiritually grounded as he was intellectually rigorous.
“His being a Baptist minister was really central to everything, almost as if his professorship satellited out from that, because it informed how he did everything,” Guerra said. “He was very beloved. He had the gift of making you feel totally respected. That was part of his makeup.”
Latimore was a vocal advocate for social justice, and Guerra said he possessed the rare ability to carry on respectful conversations on difficult and sometimes polarizing issues.
Even when Guerra disagreed with him, she said, “there was never an issue with that, somehow. It was always two human beings having a really open, interested-in-the-other’s-views kind of conversation. That was his gift, really, and I think he shared it with a whole lot of people.”
Guerra said she agrees with many people who, since learning of Latimore’s death, have described him as “a light.” Wednesday morning on the way to work, at a stoplight she received a smile and a greeting of “good morning” from a stranger in the car next to her.
Normally, she said, out of caution she would have ignored the interaction, but instead, thinking of Latimore’s positive influence, she turned and offered a smile and a hello in return.
“Carey’s with me, is exactly what I thought,” she said. “I think that’s the way he’s going to affect people for a long, long time.”
In an announcement of Latimore’s death, a spokesperson for Trinity University said, “The loss of Dr. Latimore will be felt at the heart of Trinity’s campus community, and throughout our city and our nation.” Trinity will hold a celebration of his life on campus in the fall, with details forthcoming.