From the Football Field to the Bench...

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From the Football Field to the Bench...

On August 16th, 1986, Gary Barnes was sworn into office as the first full-time Municipal Court Judge for the City of Clemson. On September 14, 2002, Judge Barnes was recognized for his contributions to Clemson football history when he was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame. Incidentally, he is also the first City of Clemson employee to become a member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame.

Judge Barnes was a three-year starter and receiver for the Tigers, and played in the East-West All Star game in 1961. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1962, and went on to a successful professional career that lasted for seven years. During his tenure as a professional player, Barnes also played for the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons. Sports trivia buffs know that Barnes was the player who scored the first regular-season points for the Atlanta football franchise.


With his history of professional sports, Judge Barnes lived in many parts of the country and in glamorous cities. When asked what influenced him to make Clemson his home, he was very quick to respond, “It was my great love for Clemson and the Clemson community that I developed when I originally came here from Fairfax, Alabama.” When the opportunity to start his own business was presented, he said “I didn’t have to think twice about the chance to return to Clemson.”

Judge Barnes was initially asked, in a private conversation, by Council member Gaston Gage to consider an appointment to the Court. Barnes replied, “I don’t know anything about the law or the courts – how do you think I could do this job?” Shortly after this meeting, Barnes did agree to apply and was appointed as the City’s first full-time judge. He said, “Judge LaGrone took me under his wing and taught me the technical aspects of the Court.” LaGrone had also been a professor of Barnes during his college days and told him that he had an aptitude for the law. LaGrone joked with him, “It must be the law – it certainly wasn’t statistics!” Since that time, Barnes has enjoyed his time on the bench. “It is the most exciting thing that I have done since football, and it still is exciting to do every day.” Judge Barnes’ enthusiasm for the law is evident and he is highly respected by the lawyers who appear at City Court sessions. He is recognized for his integrity and desire to see that legal procedures are properly presented to the Court and considered by the jury. In 1999, Judge Barnes prepared a “Manual on Court Procedure for Jury Trials,” which became a model document for municipal courts across the State.

When asked about his most memorable football pass reception, he stated, “It has to be the sixty-yard catch and run that resulted in the first points scored in a regular season game for the Falcons. It was the last play of the first half of the game versus the Los Angles Rams. It is one statistic that will always stay on the record books!”

Regardless of his football accomplishments, the City of Clemson is fortunate to have Gary Barnes filling his present position as our Municipal Court Judge. We join the University in congratulating Gary on his athletic recognition, and we know that he will receive similar accolades for the record that he has established and continues to build in his present profession.