Huntington, WV Black History

Walter L. Barnes

Community Activist

Walter L. Barnes was a Huntington native who went on to make a tremendous impact as the executive director of a YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky, for 42 years.

Barnes was a 1949 graduate of Douglass High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State University and studied at George William College in Chicago and Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In 1969, Barnes received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Huntington Professional and Businessmen’s Club, the YMCA’s national William A. Huton Award for Outstanding Staff Member. was inducted into the Kentucky State Hall of Fame.

He served as the executive director of the Chestnut Street YMCA in Louisville for 42 years and was inducted into the Kentucky State University Hall of Fame in 1989.

Barnes was most successful as a fundraiser and conducted two capital fundraising drives that exceeded a goal of $1 million and secured $500,000 in government grants for renovation projects. Under his leadership, the branch’s annual budget increased from $87,000 to $800,000. He organized several programs for young people and adults. One creative idea was a mobile recreation-on-wheels program in which a flatbed trailer with a swimming pool traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood to teach kids to swim.

He received his highest praise for organizing the Chestnut Street Branch YMCA Black Achievers Program, which was a career development program for youth in grades 8 to 12. The program enrolled more than 650 kids.

At the 1990 annual Salute to Black Achievers Banquet, the program awarded more than $480,000 in college scholarships to 57 kids. The program gained national acclaim.

Barnes was a member of the YMCA Black Achievers Association, the Derbytown Toastmasters Club, the Louisville Y’s Men’s Club and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He was a member and trustee of Calvary Baptist Church.

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