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Professor Walter Barnes (July 29, 1880-August 27, 1969) was an early leader in the preservation of West Virginia folklore. Barnes was born in Barnesville, Ohio. He graduated in 1905 from West Virginia University, received an M.A. from Harvard in 1911, and a Ph.D. from New York University in 1930. Barnes taught and administered schools in Mineral and Harrison counties, and came to the English Department at Glenville State Normal School (now Glenville State College) in 1907. He served at Fairmont State Normal School (now Fairmont State University), 1914–28; was a member of the State Board of Education, 1914–20; and president of the West Virginia Education Association, 1921. After 1928, he taught at New York University.

While at Fairmont State, Barnes expanded his interest in folklore and its application to teaching, especially through ballads, songs, verses, jingles, and other verbal expressions, as well as folktales. In 1915, he founded the West Virginia Folklore Society along with John Harrington Cox and Robert Allen Armstrong of WVU. Although the Folklore Society became inactive in 1917, when Barnes retired back to Fairmont in 1950 he helped to revive it with Ruth Ann Musick of Fairmont State College and Patrick Gainer of WVU, and encouraged the establishment of West Virginia Folklore as its official publication. He served as the society’s president until 1954 and its president emeritus until 1967.

Barnes was editor of the West Virginia School Journal and literary editor of the West Virginia Review. His books included English in the Country School (1913), An Easy Primer (1918), Types of Children’s Literature (1920), New Democracy in the Teaching of English (1923), The Children’s Poets (1924), Boy’s Life of Mark Twain (1929), English for American High Schools (1931), The Photoplay as Literature Art (1936), Contemporary Children’s Poetry (1938), and The Teacher Speaks (1949). Barnes died in Bradenton, Florida.

This Article was written by Judy Prozzillo Byers

Last Revised on September 25, 2012


Cite This Article

Byers, Judy Prozzillo "Walter Barnes." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2012. Web. 25 September 2017.

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