Ex-Nfl Star, Local Leader Dies Successful In Football And Business, Barber Also A Generous Contributor
Jim Barber scored a touchdown in the East-West Shrine Game and knocked a future president on his fanny.
He became an All-Pro tackle and a National Football League champion with the Washington Redskins.
And along with those thrills, football steered him to Spokane, where for 30 years he competed just as successfully as a businessman - and where he died Friday from heart trouble and other complications.
He was 85.
An NFL all-star in 1939, Barber was the last surviving member of the Redskins’ considerable Spokane connection from the 1930s and early ‘40s - though Spokane was actually Barber’s adopted hometown.
Redskins teammates Cecil and Ray Hare, Ed Justice, George Karamatic and Max Krause had all played at Gonzaga University and were lured to Washington by another Gonzaga legend, NFL Hall of Famer Ray Flaherty.
Barber, however, was a graduate of the University of San Francisco already on the Redskins roster when Flaherty signed on as coach in 1936. It was only when Flaherty brought the Redskins to train in Cheney and Spokane in 1937 and ‘38 that Barber decided to make the area his home.
“And he was the one who kept the pulse of what was going on with those guys,” said Ray Hare, whose father and uncle played with Barber in Washington.
That continued right up to recent years, when Barber was one of the moving forces behind the establishment of the Ray Flaherty Scholarship by the Inland Northwest Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.
Born in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and raised in Manteca, Calif., Barber was a football stand-out at USF and graduated in 1935. He played in the College All-Star game and the EastWest Shrine Game - in which he lined up across from Michigan’s Gerald Ford and scored the West’s first touchdown in a 19-13 victory.
Years later, Barber would still call that his biggest thrill.
“Not even playing for the world champion Washington Redskins could equal it,” he told the Spokane Chronicle’s Bob Johnson.
Barber joined the Redskins in 1935 when the franchise was still in Boston and suffered through a 2-8-1 season before Flaherty came aboard the next year - and took the club all the way to the NFL title game, which it lost 21-6 to Green Bay.
A year later, the Redskins were in Washington - and ruled the NFL, defeating Chicago 28-21 for the title.
That result was resoundingly reversed in 1940, when the Bears staged their legendary 73-0 rout of the Redskins for the championship. But Washington won again in 1942 - a game Barber, having enlisted in the Navy, watched from the sidelines. He would later be assigned to Farragut Naval Training Station on Lake Pend Orielle.
In all, he played seven seasons for the Redskins and six under Flaherty. At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, he teamed with Washington State legend and Hall of Famer Turk Edwards to give the Redskins two of the league’s best tackles.
“Jim didn’t get the notoriety of some,” Flaherty once said, “but he was a fine, dependable player, and a tough one.”
Barber served as an assistant coach under Flaherty for five years with the New York Yankees and Chicago Hornets before leaving football in 1949.
He joined Hatch Sporting Goods in Spokane as a salesman and became vice president and general manager before the business was sold in 1969. He joined G.C. George Securities Inc., and later bought the brokerage firm of L.L. Nicholls Co., which he operated until his retirement in 1977.
An avid golfer at Hayden Lake and Manito country clubs, Barber was a member of the NFL Alumni Association and halls of fame at USF and Manteca. The local National Football Foundation chapter named him its outstanding contributor in 1997.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Lee; a daughter and son-in-law, Becky and Earl Hoal; and granddaughter Gina of Spokane; and two nephews, Jim and Clifford Barber.
Rosary will be said Monday at 7 p.m. at Hennessey-Smith Funeral Home, 2203 N. Division, with a funeral mass Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Augustine Parish, 428 W. 19th. The family requests that memorials be made in behalf of Morningstar Boys Ranch, St. Augustine Parish or Hospice of Spokane.
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