The Rev. Thomas C. Garnett, 85, a blind man who operated concession stands in government buildings for 25 years, earned four degrees at Howard University, and was senior minister of the Zion Baptist Church, died Dec. 31 at his home in Washington after a heart attack.
Mr. Garnett was returning from work on a streetcar on March 8, 1930, when he was struck blind by what was diagnosed as paralysis of the optic nerve.
The federal Vocational Rehabilitation Bureau helped him pursue his training for the ministry. In 1934, he graduated cum laude from Howard's School of Religion, the first blind person to do so. He earned two other bachelor degrees and a master's degree.
Mr. Garnett was admitted to the ministry in 1932 and ordained four years later. He began his association with the Zion Baptist Church in Washington in 1936. He served first as an assistant pastor, officiating at christenings, marriages and funerals. In recent years, he had been the senior minister of the church.
Mr. Garnett also operated concession stands set up by the Washington Society for the Blind and the D.C. Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Government buildings in which he worked included the State Department and the old Municipal Center.
He was a native of Washington and graduate of Armstrong Technical High School. Before becoming blind, he was a waiter, a porter, a chauffeur and an insurance salesman.
Mr. Garnett was chairman of the Southwest Civic Association's education committee in the mid-1940s.
His marriage to the former Hattie Robinson ended in divorce.
Survivors include two daughters, Willistine L. Garnett of Cleveland, and Elvin G. Miles of Washington; seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.