Gwendolyn Roseann Barbee Jennings was born in Dallas, TX on October 19, 1948. She often claimed a hospital error on her birth certificate, so she celebrated all 3 days – the 17th, 18th, and 19th to commemorate her special day. At a youthful 73 years, on June 23, 2022, our beautiful shining star continued peacefully on her journey to Heaven after years of valiant perseverance to overcome not only debilitating physical illnesses, but the loss of her husband of 41 years, Devoyd “Dee” Jennings.
The couple chose Forest Hill as their residence and were both active in political, civic and community service as outstanding professional and community leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for decades. Dedicating their lives to community service and economic advancement, both Dee and Gwen leave lasting legacies of service.
Gwendolyn Roseann (Gwen) was raised by her loving adoptive parents, Harry Barbee and Sallie Mae Barbee, friends of her birth mother, Ludene Crayton Coleman (Carney). The Barbee’s provided Gwen a wonderful and loving upbringing and she was the “apple of their eye”. Gwen had two sisters that were part of her life; her eldest sister Dolores Maria Coleman LaCour (Flowers), and her next older sister, Brenda Lister, who now lives in Lancaster, PA.
Gwen graduated high school from St. Peter’s Catholic School in Dallas and attended college at El Centro and UT Arlington, where she was presented as a debutante by the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and was a member of Pi Kappa Nu. She also attended modeling schools and her earliest ambitions included modeling and acting. Gwen accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior at an early age and faithfully attended St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Arlington where she was a member until illness prevented her regular attendance.
Known as “BeBe” to those close to her, Gwen, a fashion icon wore many “hats”, literally and figuratively. Everything she did had the goals of empowering and helping others to become more successful. As a young beauty queen with a “passion for fashion”, she was a District Fashion Coordinator for Montgomery Wards, a lead instructor for Wendy Ward Charm School, a Merchandiser for Neiman Marcus, and was the first African American Model for Sanger Harris. She penned a newspaper column for fashion, makeup, and etiquette in the 70’s called “Fashion World with Gwen Barbee”. She also starred in the movies, “Bad, Black and Beautiful”, “Book of Numbers”, “Fox Style”, and the stage play “Othello” at Fair Park in Dallas. Her interests in movies and acting prompted her to bring notable movie premieres to Tarrant County; she also founded the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce’s (FWMBCC) Film Institute, an annual event for which Gwen used her knowledge of and contacts in the film industry to give time to bringing high school students together to provide “hands-on” knowledge about careers in the industry, both in front of as well as behind the camera.
An entrepreneur, her vision of motivating others to be their best prompted her to start her own image consulting company, Color Me Beautiful, through which she provided styling, color analysis, accessories, and executive training to many. Gwen often visited area high schools to speak to students on the importance of self-image and the importance of professional “presence” in their academic and professional pursuits. She was a strong advocate for women and education, voting rights, women’s rights, community service, economic empowerment, and self-sufficiency.
Gwen was a founding board member of the Devoyd Jennings Business Assistance Center, formerly the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, renamed to honor him posthumously. She previously held roles as Chair of the Women’s Division of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, President of the South Tarrant Chamber of Commerce, City of Forest Hill Community Development Board Member, Texas Film Commission Board Member, and Tarrant County Election Judge. Regardless of her role or title, she led annual events for decades that raised thousands of dollars to provide numerous scholarships for high school graduates to attend Tarrant County College, including the annual Women’s Business Conference and Eagle Awards Luncheon, golf tournaments, fundraisers, Black Tie galas, and movie premieres such as Hollywood Comes to Forest Hill. Unstoppable and selfless, she was a champion of volunteerism and felt strongly about people giving back to their community.
As testament to what others saw in her life and accomplishments, Gwen was honored to be a 2011 recipient of the Fort Worth Business Press “Great Women of Texas” award; in 2017, she was a Dr. Marion J. Brooks “Living Legends” award recipient; also in 2017, she was honored with Fort Worth Black Chamber News “Glass Ceiling Award”, in addition to a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Business and Professional Women’s Association. These are but a few of the many well-deserved honors she received during her lifetime.
A woman of great poise and eloquence, she was admired for not only her style and beauty, but her business sense, her heart-felt generosity and ability to handle any situation; “Stay ready. You are always on the platform. You never know who is looking at you, whether you are in the grocery store or the board room.” She could command an audience with her stories, her charm, and her wit. She willingly shared the spotlight and was quick to help others rise. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Gwen was preceded in death by her husband, Devoyd “Dee” Jennings in 2021; her sister Delores (Dee Dee) in 2006, and parents, Harry and Sallie Mae Barbee.
Gwen leaves to cherish her legacy and fond memories her son, Robert Mark Eugene Ezell III (Kim Alexander), sister, Brenda Lister, mother Ludene Carney, mother-in-law Margaret Jennings; step-son Colonel Charles DelShawn Jennings (Michelle) and step-daughter, Demeka Jennings Johnson (Michael); grand-children Anthony Ezell, Dominick Ezell (Krista), and Leila Ezell. Great-grand-daughters Princesses Claire and Carolynn Ezell; niece, Tracie LaCour Raines (Michael) and nephew, Marc Vincent Jones (Tiffany) and great-nephew, LaCour LaCour (Nashon); a host of great nieces and nephews; her spiritual mentor and long-time friend and confidante, Rev. Irma S. Bozeman; her long-time neighbors Floydia Freeman (Flo) and her brother Eddie; Rev. George Gasker; the members of the FWMBCC Women’s Division and numerous long-time friends, neighbors, community and professional associates who offered time and assistance to her especially during her illness.
The family extends special gratitude to the many friends, neighbors, and caregivers that provided patience, gentleness and kindness in her care and support throughout this especially difficult last year of her life, as well as to Sundance Senior Living Residential Care owners and staff where she convalesced until her homegoing.
In lieu of memorials, please volunteer your time and efforts to support a cause that makes the world a better place. As Gwen would say, “Once you get your slice of pie, make sure to help the next person obtain theirs.” Gwen gave her sister Brenda a gift that is a comfort as she mourns her loss: a small pillow on which is written: “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” So true; she was a beautiful flower and brightened so many lives with her presence and her love. Now may she rest peacefully alongside of her beloved “Dee” in God’s eternal garden.