Barnes earned his nickname of “Piggy” from catching a piglet when a boy. Playing football at Parkersburg High School, he was on the unbeaten 1938 team and played in the 1939 North-South Game. Following military service in the United States Army in World War II as a Army Sergeant he enrolled in Louisiana State University where he became not only a football player but a college weightlifting champion. Following graduation he joined the Philadelphia Eagles football team as a guard before retiring and becoming a coach of football teams of Columbia University and Arizona State University. While playing for the Eagles, Barnes made time to help his alma mater, LSU, by spying on the practices of the University of Oklahoma football team prior to the 1950 Sugar Bowl. After being caught by members of the OU football staff and Biloxi, Mississippi residents, Barnes fled to hide in the house of a former LSU teammate, Elbert Manuel. Both Barnes and Manuel refused OU coach Bud Wilkinson’s offer to present themselves for identification to clear their names. In the end, the spying incident would have little to do with the outcome of the game, as the superior OU team handled LSU very easily 35-0. He was inducted into the Coaches’ Association Hall in June 2010.
Barnes entered acting through after appearing several times on The Eagles Nest a local Philadelphia television show. WCAU television placed him on several local shows. His contacts with Walt Silver, a producer for Warner Bros. Television lead him into several appearances on television and films. Some of his more notable appearances included Bronco, Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Bonanza, Have Gun – Will Travel and Death Valley Days. John Wayne got him a small role as Charlie the Bartender in Rio Bravo. Tiring of small roles and seeing opportunities overseas, Barnes was one of the many American actors who moved to Italy in the early 1960s. Kirk Douglas recommended him for a role in his The Vikings television spinoff Tales of the Vikings that was filmed for Douglas’ production company in Germany. From 1960 to 1969, he was first active in pirate movies, then Karl May film adaptations and Spaghetti Westerns. His popularity in Germany would lead him to receive top billing when his films played there. Barnes returned to the United States in 1969 and appeared in more films and television series, which included The High Chaparral. His friendship with Clint Eastwood on Rawhide later lead him to several roles in Eastwood’s films. He retired from acting in 1987 and became increasingly ill due to his Diabetes. Barnes died on January 6, 1998. He was the father of German former actress Lara Wendel, who was born Daniela Barnes.
- January, 26, 1918
- Parkersburg, West Virginia
- January, 06, 1998
- Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- Los Angeles National Cemetery
- Los Angeles, California