Noble E. Barnes, 87, who served the Washington Redskins as a member of the volunteer marching band for 45 years, including 25 of those years as band director, has died peacefully at his home in Morehead City, N.C.
In 1940, at the age of 18, Barnes joined the Washington Redskins Marching Band as a trombonist. Barnes was proud of the outstanding collection of musicians the band had in its ranks during the 1940s, including those from the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Bands–including former members of the legendary Sousa band.
Barnes moved up in the ranks serving as unit chief of the trombone section and, by 1953, was the music librarian and rehearsal conductor. In 1961, as the team moved from Griffith Stadium to D.C. (later RFK) Stadium, the band stood 130 strong with an additional 75-man chorus and a 30-woman Redskinette cheerleading squad that together performed themed and elaborate halftime shows. Barnes was appointed director that year–a post he held until his retirement in 1985. His brother Rod, who lives in McLean, Va., served as the drum major.
In 1979, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) awarded him the prestigious “Music in Sports” Award in recognition of his work linking pro football with his career-long support of musicians, composers, and music arrangers. Barnes also served as drum major for the D.C.-based Almas Temple Shrine Band and as choir director at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Oxon Hill, Md.
In 1985, he retired after serving the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company (through two name changes – Bell Atlantic and Verizon) for 43 years. He moved to the coast of North Carolina, another area traditionally considered Redskins Country.
While not attending many games in recent years, he remained a loyal Redskins season ticket holder. Barnes once took his pastor, King Cole, to a game and when the Redskins band came onto the sidelines, several of the members spotted Noble Barnes in the stands. They yelled, “Hey, there’s Noble” and they all joyously hurried to greet him. During the eulogy, Rev. Cole said that he’s sure the moment that Noble Barnes passed away, the angels yelled, “Hey, there’s Noble” and they all joyously hurried to greet him.
Barnes remained active in many civic causes until his death. While he got things done, he was known as a gentle man who often got his point across using few words. He served as the Morehead City Lions Club treasurer for 19 years and was noted for giving perhaps the shortest treasurer’s reports in history. His statement at each meeting – “we’re solvent” – has gone down as stuff for genuine folklore.
The Washington Redskins Marching Band and the team fight song has also become the stuff of legend and Noble Barnes is a big part of that history.
The new pastor at Noble Barnes’ All Saints Anglican Church, Rev. David Linka, is a big Redskins fan and he quoted the Redskins fight song in honoring him. He noted that the words “fight on, fight on, ‘til you have won…” compares to the passage in the Bible that reads, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
Hail to Noble Barnes.
He is survived by his daughter Louise Barnes Hughes of Morehead City, his son Stephen Hayden Barnes, their spouses, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Shirley Lantz Barnes.
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