My Clemson: James Barker ’70

There’s one story that seems to always rise to the surface in conversations with Jim Barker’s fellow alumni, especially his DKA fraternity brothers. There may be a few details that differ in the accounts, but the basic story is always the same. J. Allen Carroll ’69, M ’71, fellow DKA and Barker’s roommate for a semester or two in the frat house, tells it this way:

“As a pole vaulter on the track team, Jim had to find time to practice. The pole vault pit was behind the frat house. One morning we looked out and saw Jim asleep in the pit where he had collapsed following a late night practice session.”

According to others, including Chair of the Board of Trustees David Wilkins (also a fellow DKA), Barker awoke, “covered in dew, having slept in the pole vaulting pit the entire night. Since the gym was closed at that early hour, Jim struggled to get his pole up the stairs and into the fraternity house, having to finally lay it down in the hall.”

Barker’s DKA pledge master, Steve Hutchinson ’68, says, “When Barker was out there on the track by himself pole vaulting, I thought, ‘He can’t clear 8 feet, much less 18 feet.’ But he did it over and over and over. That was just how dogmatic he was. He would knock the bar down, then would get up and re-set the bar. And do it over and over again. At night, no less!”

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