General Thomas C Pinckney, Jr, died in his sleep Monday morning, December 20. He was 91.
Born in Charleston SC June 3, 1930, T.C. graduated from The Citadel in 1949 and entered the Air Force a year later. During his thirty year career, he served as a fighter pilot - including flying 189 combat missions in Vietnam - earned a Masters in International Relations from Syracuse, taught at the Air Force Academy, attended the National War College, and had staff assignments in Air Force Plans, the State Departments’ Office of Political-Military Affairs, the National Security Council Staff, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Office of the Air Force Chief of Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. With a love of operations in general and flying in particular, the highlight of his Air Force career was serving as Wing Commander of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Bergstrom Air Force Base. Promoted to Brigadier General and transferred back to the Pentagon, he joked, “As a Colonel, I had thousands working under me; as a general, I had one half of one secretary.”
T.C. read about the Appalachian Trail as a boy in the 1930s; after retiring from the Air Force in 1980, his first objective was to complete a through hike, which he accomplished in 1981. He then hiked the Pacific Crest Trail during the summers of 1984 and 1985.
T.C. came to faith in Jesus as a boy and lived out that faith his entire life. He read the Bible (and sometimes Shakespeare) to his family almost every night after dinner. He asked thousands, “Has anyone told you today that Jesus loves you?” Always active as a teacher, leader, and singer in his local church, beginning in 1985, T.C. devoted considerable time and energy to the Southern Baptist Convention, playing a strategic role in returning the denomination to its biblical foundations. He started and edited a newsletter for Virginia Baptists, The Baptist Banner, that had a circulation of over 20 thousand; he served on the SBC Executive Committee, the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee, and as 2nd Vice President of the Convention.
T.C. became “Bapa” - short for “backpacker” - to his twelve grandchildren born between 1983 and 1994. They were his great delight - and he longed for them to learn of his own great joys: Jesus, family, and backpacking. Between 1993 and 2009, he took groups of grandchildren (and a few “honorary grandchildren”) on over 35 backpack trips, during which he would not only challenge them physically, but also speak of Christ, of life, of marriage - and tell hundreds of puns. Indeed, no one could be around T.C. for long without hearing a pun.
The grandchildren also heard dozens of songs on those trips. He once said, “Singing is so much a part of me that I cannot really understand somebody who doesn’t sing.” While backpacking, while showering, in a church service, at the piano - he expressed joy and created joy through song.
T.C. married Clarita (Shady) Canaday three weeks after his 20th birthday. By God’s grace they had an extraordinary marriage over the next 71 years, with their tenderness toward each other only growing over time. In recent years, most afternoons they would nap on the couch next to each other, holding hands.
T.C. is survived by Shady, his children Lindele Elliott, Coty Pinckney, and Laura Kasko, those twelve grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place Wednesday, December 29, 11am, at Pillar Church of Woodlawn, 9001 Richmond Highway, Alexandria VA 22309.
Donations In lieu of flowers can be given to Good News Baptist Church 5940 Telegraph Rd, Alexandria VA 22310