Henry Rawlingson Carr was born in August 15, 1862 to Sierra- Leonean emigrant parents, Amuwo Carr and Rebecca Carr of Egba origin. As a child, he attended St. Paul’s Breadfruit School and Olowogbowo Wesleyan Elementary School Lagos from 1869- 1873. In I874, he enrolled at the newly opened Wesleyan Boys High School in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Mathematics and Physics at Fourah Bay College in 1882. He was the first graduate of the school to achieve this feat. After leaving Fourah Bay in 1882, he went to England and signed up for courses at Lincoln's Inn, St. Mark's College, Chelsea and the Science College at Kensington. He returned to Nigeria in June, 1885.
After 12 years of studying abroad, he was appointed Senior Assistant Master at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School, Lagos. He entered the Civil Service in 1889 as a Chief Clerk and Sub-Inspector for Lagos. He attained several ranks in the Civil Service but the most impressive was Chief Inspector of Schools in Southern Nigeria and Resident Commisioner of the Colony of Lagos. He was the first black man to attain this position. He retired at the age of 61 in August 1, 1924.
He continued to work with the department of Education in Lagos and was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1928 where he served as an adviser to the government until 1941. That was another first for him as a black man under the British colonial rule. Henry Carr was one of the few West Africans during the early twentieth century that broke barriers in colonial governance. Before the Second World War, few Africans rose beyond the position of chief clerk in colonial administration. Since the death rate of Europeans declined in west Africa, many expatriates came to the country and gained administrative positions, as the colonial officers readily accepted expatriates and helped advance their careers, this situation further reduced the chance of West Africans to get to such administrative positions. The Reasons given to curtail their career advancement was distrust, due to an earlier embezzlement case in Ghana. This was a single case, and critics asked whether there was a sinister motive behind the policy.
An erudite scholar, Carr was exceptional. He was a collector of books, with a personal library of 18,000 books. In his home called ‘The Haven’, he allowed school children living within his residence to access his well-stocked library. Rossiter noted that Carr, “represented simply the heights of achievement by an African of ability who through all his life had no material advantage that is not available to every young man in Nigeria...It was because Carr...used his wide education and tremendous culture as a background and not as a profession, that he is, in Africa, so outstanding. He is a perfect example of the cultured man - the quite well read, well-behaved and completely educated and cultivated man.” His library was acquired by the Nigerian Government after his death. His books formed the foundation library at the University College, Ibadan now, University of Ibadan .
Carr also played an instrumental role in establishment of King’s College, Lagos. As Acting Director of Education with the British colonial government in Nigeria, Carr advised Governor Walter Egerton on the educational scheme to be implemented at King's College, Lagos and convinced the London Board of Education that the institution was integral to Nigeria's development.
Dr. Henry Rawlingson Carr died on the 6th of March, 1945