James Kent Barnes

Born 1847 in Kentucky to a prominent lawyer, Sidney Barnes. He studied law in Lancaster, Ky., until moving to Little Rock in 1871 to practice with his father there in the firm of Benjamin & Barnes. He later was elected city solicitor. Immediately after his marriage to Mary M. Yonley, the couple traveled to Fort Smith by river steamer to make their new home.

In Fort Smith, he was a prominent member of the bar, trying cases in federal court, and an active citizen, serving several terms as city alderman and two terms as postmaster, appointed by Presidents Arthur and Harrison. His brother, Fort Smith lawyer Thomas Barnes, was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by President McKinley. Thomas served only for one year until his death at which time James was appointed in 1898 to take his place, serving until his death in February 1909.

Barnes was leader of the Republican Party in this state and for several years a member of the Republican State Centeral Committee. Despite his solid Republican credentials, a future Democratic congressmen from western Arkansas, at the age of 5 and nearly naked and costumed as a cherub, sat atop the newell post in the front hallway for a party at the Barnes House.

The mood was almost assuredly more somber for another event that occurred in the house, the funeral of James Barnes. Among the honorary pallbearers were Judge William Clayton and James Brizzolara. Clayton served as U.S. attorney in Fort Smith before becoming a judge and Brizzolara was a magistrate in the court. Their homes still stand across Sixth Street from the Barnes House.