Barney Barnett

Barney Barnett

Legend has it that Hoyt Barnett has attended more than 1,500 Florida Southern Moccasin basketball games and more than 2,500 Moc baseball games.

So no one should be surprised that he took his son to an awful lot of sporting events.

“If there was something going on with ‘ball’ on the end of it, we were there,” said Barney Barnett, Polk County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 inductee. “He grew up in an era without television, so if you wanted to follow sports, you went to the game. Whether it was football, basketball or baseball, he was a true sports fan.”

Dad may have beat him into the Hall of Fame by a few years – Hoyt was inducted in 2012 – but his son paved his own path.

Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, but having lived in Lakeland on and off for most of his life, the younger Barnett first tasted sporting success in 1955.

“In 1954, the Lakeland All-Star Little League team – with Boog Powell – went all the way to the Little League World Series,” said Barnett. “I made the All-Star team the next year. We went all the way to Plant City.”

The younger Barnett also became a diehard basketball fan.

“1957 was a big year for me as far as basketball is concerned,” he said. “I was in the eighth-grade living in Kinston, NC. UNC went undefeated and won the NCAA Tournament, beating Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime.”

The Kinston team had quite a year on the court.

“We only lost one game all year,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was in the state playoffs.”

When he returned to Lakeland, he played basketball on the first Southwest Junior High team before going to Lakeland High and playing there.

“I played on the freshman team at Florida Southern, but I soon realized I would not play much on varsity,” said Barnett. “I became an intermural player on our Sig Ep Fraternity team.”

Following some years in public accounting, Barnett accepted a position as an internal auditor of Publix Super Markets, where he’d work until 2019. He’d make stops as Controller, then Vice President of Administration, Executive Vice President and, finally, Vice Chairman before he retired.

But his love of sports – and his support of them – didn’t end.

Along with his late wife, Carol, both Barnett’s supported not only sports programs, but other worthwhile causes throughout Polk County.

Barnett has served as Chairman of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, Florida Tax Watch and Tampa Bay Partnership, and held leaderships positions in the Florida Council of 100, Enterprise Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

In a professional career that spanned from 1969 to 2019, he has provided scholarships and contributions to projects benefiting all athletic and club sport programs at Florida Southern. He has directly donated to the benefit of the basketball programs, the baseball and softball programs, the golf, soccer and volleyball programs. Additionally, both lacrosse teams, as well as the softball and soccer teams, compete within the Barnett Athletic Complex that bears his name.

“I was lucky,” he said. “Carol was a big sports fan too.”

He remains actively involved in a number of important community service agencies, including the United Way, GiveWell Community Foundation and Bonnet Springs Park, and his alma matter, Florida Southern College.