I finally had a chance to meet Brenden Barber. I have heard so much about him over the years by mutual friends and acquaintances so it was truly a pleasure to meet him finally. We agreed to meet at The Big Tuna for lunch. His wife, Pamela, of over twenty years joined us, as well.
I asked Brenden to tell me about himself, not his political position on the city council, to which he answered, “Family is very important to me: God then family come first in my life.”
He shared with me that he has four children. Beaming with pride for each of them, he said, “Two of my sons graduated from the Naval Academy, one of which is now a pilot for a commercial airline, the other graduate is in commercial construction.” His third son lives in Vegas working for the government, and his only daughter is an actress, director, and producer in California.
At present, Brenden works with the middle school as a counselor where he helps students with state testing, scheduling, and as an adviser. He says he loves his job. He’s gone to public schools growing up and is the 7th generation Georgetonian to live here in town so it’s his pleasure to work and be a positive influence to the younger crowd.
After graduating from Howard High, he attended Michigan State University on a football scholarship. It was there he studied urban development and renovating neighborhoods. I hear Brenden is pretty good at charity work, too. His passion is football, though. He loves it so much that in the 9th grade at Howard, he joined the team and played for them.
“Things didn’t come together for me though until probably my junior year,” he said of his high school playing days. “I became more focused then which made me a better player on the field.”
Pam said with a fond chuckle, “Here he goes with his football days. He loves football.”
Brenden shared with me that when he attended school, you had to have good grades to play sports, not like today where they brush your poor grades under the table. “Earning the grades to play teaches a student structure, self-respect, pride, and hard work; at least, it did for me. Back then, there was no question about it, you were going to complete high school, and some would even go on to college.” With a shrug he added, “Only a few didn’t go to college. I was excited to go and I even went to the same college as Eric Allen, also a football player.”
My befuddled look was accented by me saying, “Who is Eric Allen?”
Even Pam laughed at my expression before asking, “You don’t know who he is?”
I shook my head that I didn’t when Brenden explained that Eric Allen was a local hero. “He was All State. I thought everyone knew that.”
My apologies to Mr. Allen as I am not a football fan. I do hope he (and the Barbers) forgives my ignorance.
We talked for a long time about many of his projects, interest, and hobbies which include Gullah storytelling. Likewise, Brenden is also heavily involved with different charities and fundraisers. He has many interests in doing things for Georgetown. After all, as I said earlier, he’s the 7th generation of Barbers to live here.
He lives in the West End of Georgetown and still owns his family home. “I’ve invested a lot into the area. I want to see it how it used to be. You know, there used to be a lot of businesses over there in that area, the West End. It was a great place to grow up. I’d like to see that happen again.”
He talked about growing up as a boy and how everyone used to hang out together and had nicknames for one other. He didn’t share with me his nickname, but we did talk about several mutual friends of ours, Barbara Faison, Glenda, Melvin Huell, and one other person who was very special to me personally. I’ve always known him as Robbie Lee Whitley, while Brenden and the neighborhood kids always called him “Bunny.”
Before leaving, I asked him to share a humorous story with me, something about his life, work, or anything really, just something funny.
“Well, I can tell you a couple,” he began. “There was one time, I was on an airplane and it was a pretty windy day. We were sitting in the back of the plane and it hit an air pocket as we were coming into Newark. That thing picked me up off the seat and tossed me to the floor in the middle of the aisle. I just got back up and sat down in my seat like it was something that happened every day.”
I could believe it. Brenden is a small man. I’m sure a strong wind could knock him down quite easily. “What’s the other story,” I prompted.
“We were playing in the Spartan Stadium against Ohio State. It was probably about 125 degrees out there in the field. Whenever we would get in our huddles, there would be two buckets in the middle. One would be filled with water to help cool us off and the other was filled with ammonia in case we needed something a little extra. We could just smell the bucket, you know, like a smelling salt. It would hit you and then wake you up real quick. Anyway, Julius Askew grabbed the bucket of Ammonia and thinking it was the bucket of water, dumped the whole thing on his head. We laughed about that the whole game.”
“I bet he was awake then,” I offered laughingly.
“He was awake,” Brenden agreed.
I have to say, this was such a pleasure and so much fun being with these two Barbers. Even after twenty years, they still act like teenagers trying to sneak off without Mom and Dad knowing anything. I truly enjoyed their energy and lunching with them.
In closing I’d like to say good luck to Brenden this coming election. Although he’s city council, he is running for a new political seat: Mayor of Georgetown and to Pam, I’d like to add, I’m working on the power walking.