Royce W. Barnum, 82, of Sioux City, passed away Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019

Services will be 10 a.m. Thursday at St. James United Methodist Church. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Meyer Brothers Morningside Chapel. Online condolences may be made to

Royce was born on Oct. 25, 1936, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He moved with his father and mother, Roy and Laura Barnum, to Sioux City in 1938, where he had resided ever since. He married Charlene Wilmarth on Aug. 9, 1964. They had two daughters, Rebecca Coleman, a music teacher and secondary school band director in Edmond, Okla., and Rachelle Barnum, a history teacher at Sioux City West High School. Charlene Barnum retired as an English teacher at Sioux City North High School in June 2002. Rebecca Coleman and her husband, Ronnie, are the parents of the Barnums’ only grandchildren, Raquel Elizabeth and Royce Michael. Mr. Barnum is also survived by a nephew, Steve Wilmarth of Mason City, Iowa; nieces, Dr. Linda Wilmarth of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Susan (Chris) Baker of Oxford, Iowa; and sister-in-law, Karen of Mason City. He was preceded in death by his parents; and brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Wilmarth of Mason City.

Royce Barnum taught from September 1959 to June 1994 (35 years) at Sioux City East High School. He taught English, speech, journalism, drama, debate, sociology, and minority cultures during his career. He was the East High debate coach from 1959 to 1975 and was adviser to the school newspaper, the East High Tomahawk, from 1962 to 1976. Minority Cultures was introduced as a new course in the Sioux City school system in 1973. Mr. Barnum wrote the curriculum for the course and taught the first class that year. Minority Cultures was later offered at all three public high schools in Sioux City. Mr. Barnum also wrote the curriculum for his speech, debate, journalism and sociology classes.

From 1973 until 1994, Mr. Barnum was the public information director for East High School. He wrote a weekly column, East Word, which first appeared in The Morningside Shopper and later in The Sioux City Journal. Mr. Barnum served on several committees dedicated to improved communication between the school system and the general public. Mr. Barnum was a charter member of the Sioux City School System Multi-Cultural, Non-Sexist Committee, established in 1973. The committee was a precursor to what today is a fully funded Educational Equity Department. Mr. Barnum’s interest in human rights issues grew out of his work as a teacher. His classroom and committee work motivated him to become more involved in the community. Mr. Barnum was first appointed by the Sioux City Council to be a Sioux City Human Rights Commissioner in 1974. He was vice chairperson of the commission from 1989 until 1992. He served as chairperson from 1992 to 1996 and again from 1998 to 2002.

Through the years, Mr. Barnum has been an advocate for human rights and for the commission. Mr. Barnum was the chairperson of the commission’s Universal Human Rights Day Committee and had participated in the commission-sponsored culture fair. He appeared in commission public service announcements and on local talk shows, championing human rights and attacking hate crimes. Mr. Barnum was a member and president of the Siouxland Diversity Coalition, a local group that met monthly to discuss human rights concerns, plans, and programs.

Mr. Barnum was an advocate for making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a city holiday and for including sexual orientation as a protected class in the Sioux City Human Rights Ordinance. Under his leadership, the commission introduced Eracism stickers to the Siouxland communities, schools and social agencies. The Eracism stickers are the visible result of the human rights campaign of discrimination elimination through communication. In 1968, Mr. Barnum authored a history of the Sioux City chapter of the NAACP, of which he is a member. He had written several letters to editors, press releases, and speeches furthering the cause of human rights in Sioux City and the surrounding area. He was the published author of January Tribute, a poem honoring Martin Luther King Jr. It is, perhaps, through the use of the written and spoken word that Mr. Barnum has made his most consistent gains. From 1951, when he was a freshman in high school, until 1971, Mr. Barnum was a part-time staff writer and copy editor for the Sioux City Journal. As a student and later as a teacher, Mr. Barnum worked nights at the newspaper. During the summers, he was a full-time staffer. Mr. Barnum was a member of by-laws revision committees for both the Sioux City Human Rights Commission and the Siouxland Diversity Coalition.

Mr. Barnum graduated from Sioux City Leeds High School in January 1955. He received his B.A. degree from Morningside College in January 1959. He began work on his M.A. degree at Florida State University from January 1959 to June 1959, where he served as debate coach and graduate assistant. He received his M.A. degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1962. He had done post-graduate work at Morningside College, University of South Dakota, University of Iowa, and the University of Oregon. Mr. Barnum was a member of the 174th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the Iowa National Guard from 1954 to 1959. He was a member of the 9690th U.S.A.F. Reserve Squadron from 1959 to 1962. Mr. Barnum’s memberships, past and present, include Sioux City Education Association; Iowa State Education Association; National Education Association (life member); at various times from 1964 to 1996, deacon, elder, president of the congregation, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); from 1996 to present, member of the St. James United Methodist Church; past board member and current member of local chapter NAACP; Siouxland Diversity Collation; Study Circles on Racism; graduate of Sioux City Police Citizen Academy, 1996.

Local recognition from commission and city council for human rights work include Sioux City Jaycees Outstanding Young Educator Award, 1971; Morningside College Distinguished Teacher Award Finalist, 1988 and 1992; Morningside Lodge 615 Teacher of the Tear Award, 1992; Parade Marshall (with wife, Charlene), Morningside Days, 1995; Friends of Iowa Civil Rights State Award for Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Civil Rights in Iowa, 1999; East High School Homecoming Parade Marshall (with wife, Charlene), 2002; HRC Conference Room named in his honor, 2002; appointed to originate and develop Task Force Friend, an advisory agent to the HRC, 2002.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. James United Methodist Church or human rights.