Born Milton Nathaniel Barnes in Monrovia, Liberia. He graduated from High School at the College of West Africa before spending a term at the University of Liberia. He worked as an intern in Liberia's banking system before eventually going to the United States for college. He earned a degree in the United States at Rider University in 1978 and an MBA from Pace University in 1979. On May 15, 2009, Barnes received an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. Barnes received his award from Dr. Mordechai Rozanski, President of the University.