Representative John Barnes attended John F. Kennedy High School in Cleveland and went on to attend Cleveland State University, Youngstown State University, and the American Institute of Banking. He graduated from Harvard University in 1993.
Barnes has devoted most of his professional career to public service. Working for the city of Cleveland, he served as a senior tax auditor for the individual audit department from 1989-91, for the legal department from 1991-1998, and for the department of finance from 1980 to 1998. In November, 1998, he was elected to the Ohio Legislature by the 12th House District.
He has served as chairman of the Ohio Commission on African American Males and as the second vice chairman of the Black Elected Democrats of Cleveland. Barnes was a member of the Council of State Government Workforce Development Taskforce Committee and of the Conference of State Legislators. He has served as the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and as a member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Executive Board. He was also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Committee.