Dennis Edward Barnum, house painter and carpenter from Stewart County, Georgia, founded Barnum Funeral Home in Americus, Georgia in April of 1905, along with his wife, Lorena and mother, Molly (a former slave). The young couple had two children, Willie Bell and John Lee. Dennis received his training from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and became a licensed funeral director and embalmer.
John Lee also followed his father's footsteps. After graduating from Lincoln University, lettering in four sports and joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and serving in the army during WWI, John Lee attended the Atlanta College of Mortuary Science. He became a licensed embalmer and funeral director. He married the former Mabel Elliott of Albany, Georgia. She was a graduate of Fisk University and the daughter of funeral director George Elliott. Elliott Funeral Home was founded in 1900.
John Lee and Mabel's children, Lois Elliott Barnum and John Lee, Jr. became licensed funeral directors and embalmers after attending Hampton University. John, Jr.'s wife, Thelma Gray Barnum, (Hampton graduate ) a public school teacher for many years, was also a licensed funeral director. All three of their children: John, III, Lorena and Dennis became licensed funeral directors. John, III and Lorena became licensed embalmers as well.
Lorena Barnum Sabbs, a 1973 graduate of Fisk University, is now the President and Owner of the family business. She graduated with honors in the first Funeral Service Degree Program at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, Georgia. She and her husband, Darrell, have raised 5 children: Darrell, Jr. (graduate of Albany State University and Ogeechee Technical College; instructor at South Georgia Technical College), Martin Malik (deceased), Alia (graduate of Spelman College and a facilitator for the Learning Partners Program with the New York Department of Education), Marcus (graduate of Morehouse College and an education consultant for the Atlanta Public Schools), and Dr. Raven Payne (graduate of Spelman College and instructor at South Georgia Technical College). They have three granddaughters: Leila, Nylah, and Malia.