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Municipal Judge Gary Barnes Retired

On December 31, 2015 Judge Gary Barnes retired after almost 30 years of presiding at Clemson’s Municipal Court Bench.

During his tenure, Judge Barnes has distinguished himself as being fair and just, especially to the student population that becomes a major part of Clemson citizenry for 9 months each year. Being a graduate of Clemson University, Judge Barnes has an affinity for students and has tried to help them choose a positive path in life, even when they may have taken a short detour down the wrong trail. Over the years, it has not been uncommon for parents to come back and thank Judge Barnes for helping their children learn to take responsibility for their actions and how to respect the Court and Law Officers.

Judge Barnes was initially asked by City Council Member Gaston Gage to consider applying for a new job opening for Municipal Judge. Barnes replied, “I don’t know anything about the law or the courts – how do you think I could do this job?” Council Member Gage convinced Barnes that his aptitude for learning new skills, his good business ethics and his love for Clemson and the Clemson community were great qualifiers to help him be fair to all those brought before his court. Shortly after that, Barnes did agree to apply and was appointed as the City’s first full-time judge.

Judge Barnes love affair with Clemson first began back in 1958 when he left his home state of Alabama to become a freshman at Clemson College. During his college career, he was a three-year starter and receiver for the Clemson Tigers, and played in the 1961 East-West All Star Hula Bowl in Hawaii. In 1962, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, and went on to a successful professional career that lasted for seven years. During his time as a professional player, Judge Barnes played for the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons.

In 1968 when his sports career ended, Barnes moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a short time. Then he moved back to Clemson to begin a new textile business named “Mascot Rug Company.” The business had over 50 designs for schools all over the states making rugs for presentation to letterman athletes. After 7 years, the business expanded to include Fabritex Mills, a knitting plant that manufactured western wear and high pile products for use in hospitals. His textile business was sold in 1979. That same year, Barnes became a financial advisor. He continued as an investment counselor until he was named Municipal Judge in 1986.

From the NFL ball field to the textile mill to the stock market and then to the court, Judge Barnes’ unique career path can be summarized by the framed display that hangs over his desk. On one side of the frame, a photograph shows a young football player named Gary Barnes standing beside Vincent Lombardi, former Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers. The other side of the frame shows one of Coach Lombardi’s quotes. Lombardi’s quote reads, “Winning is not a sometime thing… it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.” According to Judge Barnes, Vince Lombardi’s philosophy for excellence in life, no matter what you are doing, has always been a guiding force in his life. Judge Barnes stated, “I have always tried to do my best at whatever I do.”

Excellence has been the creed in the Municipal Court. Over the past 30 years, there has been a drastic change in the types of cases heard in Municipal Court. In 1986, the court tried 2,000 cases and this past year over 10,000 have been heard. The court docket now covers bond hearings, bench warrants, pre-trials, pre-trial intervention, preliminary hearings, motion hearings while continuing to hear parking and traffic cases. Technological advancements have helped ease the demands of record keeping and other clerical responsibilities associated with the increased volume of cases. The next advancement planned will be on-line payments. Judge Barnes and his staff’s willingness to change by learning new and better ways of management became the secret to keeping a controlled and structured court room.

Judge Barnes is recognized for his integrity and desire to see that legal procedures are properly presented to the Court and considered by the jury. City Attorney Kay Barrett said, “It has been a real pleasure to work with Judge Barnes over the past twenty years, since I became the Clemson City Attorney. I have found him to be fair, honest, even-tempered and hard-working; stern with defendants, and gentle with his staff. He has always been interested in learning more about the laws of evidence and is open to suggestions on ways to handle pre-trial conferences and jury trials more efficiently. I know Judge Barnes is looking forward to a well- deserved retirement. I wish him well as a colleague and a friend. I will miss him.”

According to Judge Barnes the best part of his retirement will be having more time to spend with his daughter Kelly and her husband Rob McDavid who live in Clemson with their 2 daughters, Elizabeth and Katie. He will also be traveling to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina to visit with his son Greg and daughter-in-law Krista, along with their son Dixon and 2 daughters Einsley and Dorothy. (Judge Barnes is especially proud that his only grandson is following in his grandad’s footsteps by being an avid football player.) He also looks forward to having a more relaxed lifestyle. He hopes to go to the gym more often, play golf at least once a week, and just be able to sit out on his balcony and enjoy the sunsets over Lake Hartwell.

The City of Clemson appreciates the outstanding public service that Judge Barnes has given throughout the past thirty years. The City gives him best wishes for a fun-filled, but relaxing retirement!