Ernest Eugene "Ernie" Barnes, Jr. (July 15, 1938 - April 27, 2009), a native of Durham, Durham County, North Carolina was an American pro football player and neo-Mannerist artist.

Early LifeEdit

Mr. Barnes, son of Ernest Eugene Barnes (1899-1966) and Fannie Mae Geer (1905-2004), descends from John Geer (?-1769) of Orange County, North Carolina and is the great-grandson of Frederick C. Geer (1823-1919) and Priscilla (b. c1835), a slave of the Geer family. His parternal grandparents were James and Lizzie Barnes of Durham.

He graduated from Hillside High School in Durham; where he was a member of the track and field and football teams, before attending North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) where he majored in art and played offensive guard on the football team.

Pro Football CareerEdit

In 1959 Barnes joined the American Football League as the 8th-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins who renounced the pick in the 10th-round to the then World Champions Baltimore Colts after discovering that Mr. Barnes was an African-American. He later went on to play as an offensive lineman with the New York Titans (now the New York Jets), San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, retiring in 1966, when he made his artist debut at Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City.

Artistic WorkEdit

Barnes' artistic style displayed muscular and elongated forms of athletes, dancers and figures in motion that expressed the physical and spiritual struggle of his subjects. He received wide notoriety when Norman Lear featured his work on the TV comedy series “Good Times,” which featured actor Jimmie Walker, as “JJ”, the family painter. Barnes’ 1971 work “Sugar Shack” dance scene was featured in the series closing credits and on the album cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 recording I Want You.

In 1984, Barnes was named an “Official Artist of the Games” of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles and later honored as the first recipient of the Sport Artist of the Year by the United States Sports Academy, an honor he again received in 2004. His numerous awards include an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from North Carolina Central University, Honoree by the Museum of African American Art - Los Angeles, “Contributions to Humanity Award’ by the United Negro College Fund, “Treasure of Los Angeles Award” by the Central City Association, “The University Award” by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and Honoree by the California Legislative Black Caucus.

His 1995 autobiography, From Pads to Palette (Waco, TX: WRS Publishing) chronicles his childhood in the segregated South, his college and professional football career, to his first solo exhibition in New York City. At the time of his death he was preparing for an upcoming traveling exhibition “Liberating Humanity from Within.”


Mr. Barnes, who was married three times, was survived by his wife of twenty-five years, Bernadine Cecile Gradney; two sons: Michael Keith Barnes of Virginia, and Sean Christopher Barnes of Washington; three daughters: Deidre "DD" Barnes of Durham, Erin K. Barnes and Paige K. Barnes, both of Los Angeles; and brother James Wesley Barnes of Durham. He was preceded in death by his half-brother, Benjamin B. Rogers, Jr., of Durham.

Maternal AncestryEdit

Four Generation Pedigree
Fannie Mae Geer (1905-2004) John Wesley Geer (c1856-1909) Frederick C. Geer (1823-1919) Jesse B. Geer (1799-?)
Mary Williams (1803-?)
Priscilla Unknown
Florence Morgan Mr. Morgan Unknown
Mrs. Morgan Unknown