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Joe Rex Enoch

September 24, 1937 — February 8, 2024

Joe Rex Enoch

Joe Rex Enoch died peacefully in the home he loved on February 8, 2024. Born in Detroit, Michigan on September 24, 1937, Rex was the second of three sons (Ron and Dale) of Rubye Gates and Taz Enoch. The family moved to Henderson, TN in 1947, and it was there that he experienced events which would shape and mold him for life. In his telling, the Henderson community was rich with support and affirmation, attributes tested when a tornado struck in 1957 which devastated the town, destroyed his childhood home and killed 25 of his neighbors and friends. He was profoundly and irrevocably changed by what he experienced in the aftermath. The outpouring of compassion and aid became a reminder of how much people rely on healthy communities, of how we truly are our brother’s keeper, of how each and every human connection should be honored as worthy, significant and full of potential. 


Not surprisingly, he was drawn to the field of sociology thereafter, and after receiving his PhD, he began his career in education, first teaching at Louisiana State and then Memphis State, for the next thirty years. Most of that time was spent in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was involved in social, civic, professional, religious, and familial roles and positions. What he learned from Henderson became a guiding way of life and ethos for him that naturally expanded throughout his career into the areas of civil rights, international relations, economic justice, sustainable development, and global environmental ethics. It was all a part of the same song for him, a symphony of interconnectedness, belonging, and sense of responsibility for the well-being of all. He loved his work because it gave him the opportunity to gather seed ideas, concepts, and aspirations and present them to others for their consideration. His unshakeable hope was that the planting of these seeds would yield a beautiful, impactful harvest. 


In 1961, he married Mary Nancy Taylor, who shared his vision and values, and together they were able to magnify and enhance the work and dreams that they nurtured and loved. Rex said that Nan, aside from her many talents, brought beauty to his life, combining good works with a sense of loveliness, awe, and goodness. After retiring from academia, Rex followed his bliss to Heifer International (HI) where he took on the position of head of Global Education in 1996. The years at HI (until his retirement in 2009) were some of the most special of his life as he was living towards virtue, spending his energy doing exactly what he loved every day – teaching about the needs of human communities, educating people about the plight of the poor and less fortunate, giving people hope for the future, all while traveling extensively to meet people and groups from all over the world. 


With surprising ease, he cultivated a sense of love and family with innumerable strangers who quickly became lifelong friends. People have said of Rex that his was a life well-lived. At his own father’s memorial, Rex said, “In a world where we seem to hear most about what is wrong, it is refreshing and encouraging to know that genuinely good people do exist and find happiness being what they are.” In this he, too, succeeded. Humble in acknowledging the enduring ripple effects of his life, he touched countless people in unique and significant ways, furthered the goals of a just society, and lived by the simple example of his father to be a good man. 


Rex will be missed by his family -- his sons, Joel and Jerol, and their families, including the four grandchildren he loved dearly, Savanna, Shephard, Justin, and Bryce; sisters-in-law LaNell Barnes and Joan Enoch and their families; a god-daughter, Chogozidayl Conley; many loving nieces and nephews; and a host of friends in Memphis, Little Rock, and around the world. 


We’re planning a Celebration of his Life on April 27, 2024 at the First United Methodist Church in Little Rock. More details to follow. 


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