Do you know who was the real painter of J.J. Evans’s ghetto art on Good Times? Meet the Artist, Enie Barnes …
"One day on the playing field, I looked up and the sun was breaking through the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, 'That's beautiful!' I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I had felt on the field into my paintings.“ ~Ernie Barnes
Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. was born July 15, 1938, in a poor section ("the bottom") of Durham, North Carolina. His father, Ernest Barnes Sr., worked as a shipping clerk at Liggett Myers Tobacco Company and his mother, Fannie Mae Geer, was employed as a domestic for Frank Fuller Jr., a wealthy Southern attorney who would guide Barnes into the world of art.
Unusual for a lower-middle class child growing up in the segregated South of the 1940s, Barnes' mother believed in education and exposure to the arts. "She tried to get me to do all the things that would make me a culturally enriched person. She pushed me in the direction of art and music. I took lessons in tap dancing, saxophone, trombone, violin and piano," he says, noting with a laugh that he mastered none of them. Early on, however, he showed a talent for art .
During his senior year in high school, he became the captain of the school's varsity football team, state champion in the shot-put, and was graduated from Hillside High with 26 scholarship offers from colleges and universities -- giving him a college education he would not otherwise be able to afford.
During Barnes' senior year at NCC, letters from professional teams began arriving practically every week. Even so, he had barely given any thought to turning pro, especially since Blacks were still a novelty among their ranks. Instead, he had set his sights on a career as an artist. But the lure of money for a 21-year-old prevailed. In 1959, as an art major fresh out of college, Barnes became a 263-pound 10th round draft choice for then-World Champion Baltimore Colts. He also played for the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers.