Bob Barber placed second in the state of Illinois cross-country championships in 1962 in an age when there was only one class of schools in the entire state. In the spring of '63 Barber was ranked 8th in the U.S. by Track and Field News for the high school boys three mile run in 15:15 (Jim Ryun was ranked #3 in 14:53).
Bob entered UT in 1963 in Chuck Rohe's second recruiting class. Freshmen were not eligible in those days, but in Bob's four year class at UT they won 11 of the 12 SEC team championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track (the one they didn't win, they didn't compete in due to a scheduling conflict with the NCAA Championships). Bob remembers, "One thing I was proud of was being Captain of the 1966 UT Cross Country Team; I was fourth that year at the SEC and we won the SEC Championship."
Bob was a member of the Knoxville Track Club (freshmen ineligible for UT varsity) cross-country team that finished third in the nation at the National USTFF Cross-Country Championships in 1963. He was a member of the UT varsity cross country team that won the same National USTFF Cross-Country Championship in 1964. He was on the UT team that finished 3rd at the 1965 NCAA Cross-Country Championships, the highest team finish for a UT track or cross country team at that point in their history. He was a member of the UT track team that swept the SEC indoor and outdoor titles all four years---the UT team finished tied for 5th at the 1967 NCAA Track & Field Championships. In a rare sweep of an SEC event, Bob was third in the 1966 SEC two mile run, when UT swept all five places.
After graduation Barber served in the U.S. Army for two years. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device and two Purple Hearts while serving as an infantryman in Vietnam.
Most of Bob's professional career was as the Eastern Region Marketing and Sales Manager for Brunswick Billiards where he was responsible for a region of states from South Carolina to Maine. He was acknowledged for numerous sales milestones by Brunswick Corporation. Bob was unable to train properly or compete while working but after retiring at age 58 he went to the Sea Ray Relays, got inspired, lost 20 pounds, and began training for Masters' competitions.
Some highlights of Barber's Master's running career include:
Bob was a KTC Board member for over four years, serving as Treasurer for 15 months. During that time he proposed and directed the KTC gift of installing quarter-mile markers on all the City of Knoxville and Knox County greenways. Bob and his great volunteer crew accomplished this labor intensive project over a period of about three years, and their effort is appreciated by runners daily as they run the routes, perform their intervals, and total their mileage based on these markers. The project is ongoing, still under Barber's direction.
In 2008 Bob's vision of a KTC Hall of Fame came to fruition with the first induction in February 2009. Bob chaired the KTC Hall of Fame Induction Dinners in 2009, 2011, and 2014. Barber himself was inducted into the KTC Hall of Fame in the class of 2016.
Bob enjoys volunteering for the youth events. He and UT All-American Wilbur Hawkins created and directed the Knoxville Youth Runs after school running program at Christenberry Elementary School. Bob says, "Wilbur and I coached the program together for the first two 8-week sessions. He coached grades 1-2 and I coached grades 3-5. His coaching assignment was more challenging, so I did all the prep work for each session: water, ice, equipment layout. Wilbur was unable to coach the third 8-week session because of his surgery, so I coached that session without him. After coaching that 8-week program without Wilbur, and enduring the 90 mile round-trip each afternoon, I was burnt out and have taken a break from the program. Wilbur has continued coaching/directing the program we started, which expanded to four schools in 2017."
Bob is a USATF certified track and field official (apprentice level) with the KTC/Tennessee Track and Field Officials organization.
Bob and his wife Arli celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary in 2017.