Ray Anderson Barnhart, Class of 1950
Civic Leader, Federal Administrator
A native of Elgin, Ill., Ray A. Barnhart graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marietta College. One year later, he received his Master of Arts from the University of Houston in Texas, subsequently returning to Marietta as an instructor in radio, speech, and drama.
Barnhart relocated to Texas in 1956 and in 1965 was the first Republican ever elected to the Pasadena (Texas) City Council. Among other civic activities, he served as a member in the Texas State Legislature (1972-73), was Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas (1977-78), and was one of three commissioners governing the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation (1979-81). In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Barnhart to head the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in Washington. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment.
Throughout his transportation career, Barnhart insisted that policy be driven by engineering and economic principles, not by partisan politics. Under his stewardship, Congress, for the first time in 23 years, agreed to increase federal motor fuel taxes in order to construct and improve the vital national highway infrastructure, which at the time was in serious disrepair.
Upon his 1987 retirement from the FHWA, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted HR 3734, which noted that "The United States Government expresses its gratitude to Ray A. Barnhart for his honest, effective, and meaningful efforts to preserve and improve the Federal-Aid Highway System …" To date, Barnhart's tenure continues to be the longest in the history of that agency.