Barnette attended Dunbar High School in Kanawha County, where he lettered in five sports (football, basketball, baseball, track and wrestling) for the Bulldogs. He graduated from Dunbar in 1962 and attended West Virginia University, where he was a two-year starter and letterman in football in 1964 and 1965 at center under head coach Gene Corum. At WVU, Barnette earned first team All-Southern Conference honors his junior and senior years, while being named third team All-American honors in 1964 as a member of the Mountaineers’ 1964 Liberty Bowl team.
Faced with the opportunity of playing professional football, Barnette made a life-changing decision when he decided to dedicate his life to working with young people. In 1966, he took a position at Connellsville Area High School in Connellsville, Pa., where he was assistant football coach and head wrestling coach for two years. In 1968, Barnette was called back to West Virginia to become the head football coach at South Harrison High School in Lost Creek. Although wins were not his main goal, in 30 years coaching the Hawks (1968-1997), he experienced only two non-winning seasons and ended with 197 wins. His “young men,” as Coach Barnette referred to his players, were known for playing disciplined, hard-hitting, fundamental football. During his tenure at South Harrison, he also coached basketball, baseball, track, started the wrestling program and, when a coach could not be identified, he volunteered to coach cheerleading.
As a Christian, Barnette — who passed away on July 8, 2000 — worked with young people with attention to their whole lives, not simply what they could do with a ball or on a field. He spent many evenings counseling young people and entertaining visits from former students.
Barnette’s favorite standard for success was, “Be proud of who you are, what you are, and where you are from.” If you can remember and abide by these things, you will be a success, he stressed.