Barnhill was born in Halifax County, North Carolina on December 5, 1887 and attended the University of North Carolina Law School. He was a prosecutor in Nash County, North Carolina and was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives, serving in 1921. He was a Nash County judge and a state superior court judge before Governor Clyde R. Hoey appointed him to the state Supreme Court on July 1, 1937.
He was subsequently elected to the Supreme Court in 1938 and re-elected in 1946. Barnhill was appointed Chief Justice by Governor William B. Umstead on February 1, 1954, and he was elected to the post on November 2, 1954.
William A. Devin
|Chief Justice of North Carolina Supreme Court
1954 - 1956
J. Wallace Winborne
- Index to the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography
- State of North Carolina vs. Fred Erwin Beal, et al. Transcript: (September 30, 1929 – October 16, 1929) Finding Aid
- Time magazine: "Guilt at Gastonia" (in which he is mistakenly referred to as Victor M. Barnhill)
- Time magazine: "Textile Trial" (in which he is mistakenly referred to as Morris Victor Barnhill)