CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Bart Barnes

Bart Barnes is perhaps best known as the publisher of the Bristol Press, an enterprise he led for thirty years until his family sold the newspaper in 1985.

He started there in 1937 as an advertising sales person and moved up in the ranks. He also was among a small group of editors and publishers who, in the mid-1950s, launched a 20-year campaign for the creation of a state Freedom of Information law. Mr. Barnes served on the FOI commission from 1985 to 1989, where he acquitted himself with characteristic diligence, fairness and impartiality. Mitchell Pearlman, executive director of the commission, said Barnes was “an icon of what a newspaper publisher, a public citizen and a public servant ought to be.”

Yale University graduate, publisher, scion of one of Bristol’s best-known families, E. Bartlett Barnes had pedigree and prominence. Yet Mr. Barnes’ personal qualities — an unassuming style, humor, kindness and passion for community — earned him genuine affection.

In Bristol, Mr. Barnes’ influence was pervasive. He is credited with transforming the New England Carousel Museum into a nonprofit group dedicated to preservation and education. He helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for local students.

Remarkably youthful and spry well into his later years, Mr. Barnes relished his daily walks. He was perceptive and curious. When people many years his junior were intimidated by the Internet, Mr. Barnes embraced it. He had a vast store of knowledge about Bristol and shared it. People came away from a conversation with Mr. Barnes more knowledgeable, a little wiser and almost always smiling. Mr. Barnes died at the age of 96.

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