Ben Barnes (politician)

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Ben Barnes
Ben Barnes.jpg
Barnes at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2015
36th Lieutenant Governor of Texas
In office
January 21, 1969 – January 16, 1973
GovernorPreston Smith
Preceded byPreston Smith
Succeeded byWilliam P. Hobby, Jr.
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
January 12, 1965 – January 14, 1969
Preceded byByron M. Tunnell
Succeeded byGus F. Mutscher
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 64
In office
January 8, 1963 – January 14, 1969
Preceded byO.H. Schram
Succeeded byLynn Nabers
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 73
In office
January 10, 1961 – January 8, 1963
Preceded byBen Sudderth
Succeeded byRichard C. Slack
Personal details
Benny Frank Barnes

(1938-04-17) April 17, 1938 (age 81)
Gorman, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)(1) Divorced from the former Martha Morgan
(2) Nancy DeGraffenried
(3) Melanie Barnes
(4) Liz McDermott
ChildrenFrom first marriage:
Greg Barnes
Amy Barnes
Adopted in third marriage:
Elena Barnes
Blaire Barnes
ResidenceAustin, Texas, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin
ProfessionReal estate investor, Politician, Lobbyist

Benny Frank Barnes (born April 17, 1938) is an American real estate magnate, politician, and lobbyist, who formerly served as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1965 to 1969 and the 36th Lieutenant Governor of Texas from January 21, 1969 to January 16, 1973, for two two-year terms. He was a vice-chair[1] and top fund-raiser of John Kerry's presidential campaign. Barnes was one of only eight persons who raised over $500,000 for Kerry.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Barnes was born on April 17, 1938, in Gorman in Eastland County, Texas, to peanut farmer B.F. Barnes and Ina B. Carrigan. He was raised with a younger brother, Rick.[3]

Barnes' family owned a peanut farm in Comanche County, in central Texas. They cultivated about 40 acres, growing peanuts and corn and raising hogs and chickens. The family was poor, having no working electricity until 1946, when government agents brought electricity to Texas farms as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Administration.[4]

Barnes graduated from De Leon High School in 1956. After high school, Barnes enrolled for one semester at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, followed by a semester at Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas. During that spring, he married his high school sweetheart, Martha Morgan. He then spent the following summer in Climax, Colorado, working at the molybdenum mine there.[5]

In 1957, at the age of 20, Barnes began studying at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was on the Dean's List for the Business School. Barnes took several jobs to pay his way through college, including a door-to-door job selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners.[6]

Political career[edit]

Ben Barnes (on right) with House Speaker Gus F. Mutscher, Governor Preston Smith and former president Lyndon B. Johnson in Brenham, August 17, 1970.

While a student at The University of Texas, Barnes worked at the Texas State Health Department. After discovering some financial irregularities that led to the indictment of the state health commissioner, Barnes became interested in politics. At the age of 21, Barnes went back to his home area of the state and ran for state representative, pulling off an upset victory. Advancing quickly through the Texas legislature, by 1963, Barnes was chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. In 1965, the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce named Barnes as one of "Five Outstanding Young Texans" and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognized Barnes as one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Men in America" in 1970.

Barnes served as state Speaker of the House in Texas from 1965-1969. The position opened when Governor John B. Connally, Jr., named Speaker Byron M. Tunnell to succeed the retiring Ernest O. Thompson on the Texas Railroad Commission. Barnes was chosen by House members to succeed Tunnell and hence became the youngest Speaker in Texas history. As Speaker, Barnes sought to make improvements in education, passing legislation that increased teacher salaries, bumped up the state's fiscal support of public universities, and created the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to oversee and coordinate all the state's institutions of higher learning. Barnes won passage of a minimum wage standard for farm workers, and was also active on environmental issues, winning approval for clean air and water legislation.

In 1966, Barnes was the President of the National Legislative Conference and in 1967, was voted President of the Southern Legislative Conference – the youngest person and first Texan to receive the honor. He was also U.S. representative to the NATO Conference in 1967, and the United Nations Representative to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968.

Barnes served as Lieutenant Governor of Texas from 1969-1973, a post often called the most powerful position in the Texas state government because the lieutenant governor can block a governor's agenda from being considered by the Texas State Senate.

Sharpstown scandal[edit]

In 1971, Barnes was caught up along with the Democratic Party in Texas in the political fallout of the Sharpstown scandal, though he stated he had no knowledge of the involvement of several state senators in the scheme. While he was not brought to trial, the scandal contributed contributed to an unsuccessful run for governor and Barnes' exit from public office.

Real estate career[edit]

During the 1970s and 1980s, Barnes developed a multimillion-dollar real estate empire which included the development of such projects as Southwest Parkway and Barton Creek Country Club in Austin.[7] Like his former mentor John Connally, he entered bankruptcy The collapse of oil prices in the mid- to late- 1980s and its effect on the Texas real estate market forced Barnes to file for bankruptcy, following the financial collapse of the Barnes/Connally Partnership, a real estate firm.

Lobbying and business career[edit]

In the late 1990s, Barnes began working with GTECH Corporation, a company that operated lotteries in 37 states including Texas.

Barnes is the founder of the Ben Barnes Group (formerly known as Entrecorp), a business consulting and lobbying firm offering expertise in crisis management, legislative processes and strategy, legal issues, and public-private partnerships. Clients range from major Fortune 500 companies to small family-owned businesses, as from a variety of both international and domestic industries. The Ben Barnes Group maintains offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Austin, Texas.

Barnes has also served as a consultant, director, or chairman of more than two dozen companies, including SBC Communications, American Airlines, Dallas Bank and Trust, Grumman Systems Support Corporation, and Laredo National Bank.

Personal life[edit]

Barnes was married to Martha Morgan in 1957, and they had two children together: Greg and Amy. In 1989, Barnes married Melanie Harper. Barnes and Harper adopted two daughters: Elena Barnes and Blaire Barnes. On September 14, 2019, Ben Barnes and Elizabeth Moore McDermott married at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Nantucket.

Awards and volunteering[edit]

In 1995, The University of Texas named him a Distinguished Alumnus and an endowed fellowship was created in his name at UT's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Barnes serves on the board of several non-profit organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of the Austin Area, the Roosevelt Institute and the Development Board of the University of Texas. Barnes also acts as Vice-Chairman of the LBJ Foundation.


Barnes is the author of the book Barn Burning Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life, From LBJ to George W. Bush and Beyond (ISBN 1-931721-71-8) (with Lisa Dickey), which was first published in 2006. It went on to place on The New York Times Best Seller list.


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-09-03. Retrieved 2004-09-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Kerry Keeping Eye On Big Donors". 18 June 2004.
  3. ^ Barn Burning Barn Building, Ch. 1
  4. ^ Barn Burning Barn Building, Ch. 1
  5. ^ Barn Burning Barn Building, Ch. 1
  6. ^ Barn Burning Barn Building, Ch. 1
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-17. Retrieved 2014-01-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ben Sudderth
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 73 (De Leon)

Succeeded by
Richard C. Slack
Preceded by
O. H. Schram
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 64 (De Leon)

Succeeded by
Lynn Nabers
Political offices
Preceded by
Byron M. Tunnell
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Gus F. Mutscher
Preceded by
Preston Smith
Lieutenant Governor of Texas
January 21, 1969–January 16, 1973
Succeeded by
William P. Hobby, Jr.