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. In Bob's four years at UT he was a prominent member of 11 teams (cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track) that won SEC championships. Bob remembers, "One thing I was most proud of was being Captain of the 1966 UT Cross Country Team that won the SEC Championship."
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:
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 (Associate level) with the KTC/Tennessee Track and Field Officials organization. He is also a member and previous officer of the local VFW and volunteers with their community projects. Bob also volunteers as a weekly groundskeeper at the Smoky Mountain Service Dogs kennels, a non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs to veterans in need.
Bob and his wife Arli celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary in 2020.