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C. Westbrook Barritt, Longtime W&L Professor, Dies at 91

Carlyle Westbrook Barritt, Professor of Romance Languages Emeritus at Washington and Lee University, where he taught from 1952 to 1991, died on Sept. 2 in Spartanburg, S.C. He was 91.

A Celebration of the Resurrection will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, conducted by Dr. William Klein. The family will receive friends after the service in Dunlap Auditorium. Burial in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery will be private.

A native of West Pittston, Pa., Barritt was born on March 31, 1921, to parents who were artists. Belonging to the Boy Scouts and growing up on the Susquehanna River kindled his lifelong love of the outdoors. He was a 1943 alumnus of W&L, where he majored in French and English literature and belonged to Phi Beta Kappa. He volunteered for the Army and received his W&L degree in absentia after being called up in February 1943. He received five Bronze Stars for his military service in Europe.

Barritt taught at his alma mater for a year following the war; he also taught briefly at Emory University and Muhlenberg College. He pursued graduate studies first at Harvard University and then at the University of Virginia, where he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in linguistics and belonged to the Raven Society.

Barritt joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 1952 and taught for 39 years. He served as head of the Romance Languages Department during the 1980s and taught Spanish language and literature with a concentration in medieval and Renaissance poetry, fiction and drama. He also served as the University marshal for many years.

“Many of us will remember Westbrook carrying the mace at the head of our academic processions. We also recall his trademark black beret,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “As a faculty member for nearly four decades, he was highly regarded not only by his students but also by his colleagues and by his many friends in the Lexington community. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

Upon his retirement in 1991, Barritt’s colleagues in Romance Languages recalled his “infectious sense of humor” and his accessibility to students and, indeed, everyone at W&L.  “His door is always open to students, colleagues and to any person within or without the Washington and Lee community who seeks his counsel or help,” the colleagues wrote. “Indeed, his office is not limited to the campus, as those of us who occasionally find him in residence at the Lexington Hardware can testify.”

In addition to numerous book reviews and scholarly papers on language teaching and linguistics, Barritt published a book of poetry, “Scrimshaw and Other Poems,” in 1973. He dedicated the book to his daughter Julie, who died in 1968 at the age of 12 from cystic fibrosis.

Barritt was honored recently when an anonymous donor established at W&L the Carlyle Westbrook Barritt and Sidney J. Williams Jr. Spanish Prize Endowment, a permanently endowed fund to recognize an outstanding rising senior in Spanish.

Barritt and his late wife, Mabel, were devoted to community activities. He was a deacon and elder at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, and active in the Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity and Total Action Against Poverty, among other organizations.

Barritt is survived by his daughter Winifred Barritt Walsh, of Spartanburg, S.C., and her husband, William E. Walsh, a 1974 graduate of the W&L School of Law; two grandsons, Westbrook Walsh, and his wife, Elizabeth, of Alexandria, Va., and C. Barritt Walsh, and his wife, Kannika, of Greenville, S.C.;  a great-grandson, William Russell Walsh; a sister, Joan Barritt McDougall, of Tallahassee, Fla.; two nieces; and many, many friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials may be made to the Mabel Barritt Fund, Lexington Presbyterian Church, 120 S. Main St., Lexington, VA 24450.