Uriah Barnes

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
July 9, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 446-447

HON. URIAH BARNES. While he has practiced law suc-
cessfully and has been an influential member of the Leg-
islature, Uriah Barnes is now and will be in the future
known permanently for his remarkable industry and his
mature scholarship as a legal writer and contributor to
the literature of the legal profession.

He was born in Jackson County, West Virginia, in 1883.
His father, Charles W. Barnes, was a native of Ohio,
and the Town of Barnesville, Ohio, was named for the
family. Charles W. Barnes about 1875 settled in Jackson
County, West Virginia, and is still living there. Uriah
Barnes was accustomed to farm labor when a boy, secured
his education in public schools, and also attended West
Virginia University. At the age of sixteen he began
teaching, and taught for two terms.

His home has been at Charleston since 1901. He finished
a business course in Elliott’s Business College, did clerical
work in several offices, and in the meantime was diligently
studying law and qualified for practice in 1908. The next
four years he was at the state capitol with the Supreme
Court of Appeals, briefing cases for the use of the judges
of that court. No law school could offer opportunities
for a more thorough training for a young lawyer, and
it was in this work that Mr. Barnes improved his talent
for a legal analysis and a clear statement that distin-
guished his own publications. For years he has been a
student of the best in standard and general literature as
well as in his own field. For years he was a law instructor
in the University College of Law and for one year was
secretary of the College of Agriculture and the Experiment
Station at Morgantown. His literary work has been done
both as an editor and author, and he has contributed a
number of articles to law encyclopedias. Recently he com-
piled and edited the ordinances of Charleston. His first
important achievement was editing the “West Virginia
Code” of 1916, making a careful and exhaustive study of
all state statutes. This was issued in a handy form, but
has recently been fully revised to include all the laws
down to 1922, with full annotations to the same date, and
has been published as “Barnes’ West Virginia Code of
1922, Annotated.” One or the other of these books is
probably known to every practicing attorney in West
Virginia and in many other states as well.

In 1919 his “Barnes’ Federal Code” appeared. This
book is now the standard and monumental work in its field.
The American Law Review said: “It marks an epoch
in law publishing.” The “Bench and Bar of West Vir-
ginia,” by Judge Atkinson, speaks of this work as fol-
lows: “He brought to bear in this work a comprehensive
knowledge, a sound and discriminating judgment, a genius
for editorial detail that have combined to bring him uni-
versal recognition as a master in his field. The remark
able sale of the Federal Code in every state in the Union
and abroad, and the unsolicited encomiums upon it, coming
from bench and bar and from eminent scholars and edu-
cators throughout the country, attest its rank as a master-
piece of compilation.”

Mr. Barnes was elected to the House of Delegates in
1920 as a member from Kanawha County. He served on
the judiciary committee and the committee on public build-
ings and humane institutions, and was sponsor for a law
creating the State Board of Childrens’ Guardians, and
the State Training School for Mental Defectives. He
introduced a minimum wage bill, which was killed in com-
mittee, and was author of a bill favored by many of the
ablest lawyers and judges of the state for the reform of
the judicial procedure.

Mr. Barnes has participated in a number of republican
campaigns and has attended three national conventions
of the party. He has a mind of remarkable power, and
has carried on his studies and investigations over a large
field involving sociology, economics, political science and
history, as well as the literature of his own profession.
He is a member of the Methodist Church.

Mr. Barnes married Lena Belle Ice, and they have two
children, Hugh and Margaret.