Ron Barber was born in Wakefield, England and grew up in a military family. He first came to love Tucson when his father was an airman stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the 1950s. Barber attended Tucson schools and graduated from the University of Arizona in 1963.
While still in high school, Barber met Nancy, the woman who would become his wife. Nancy and Ron went on their first date in 1960, and they’ve been together ever since. They raised their daughters, Jenny and Crissi, in Tucson. Jenny grew up to become an educator and Crissi is a nurse. Both are married and now they’re raising their children in Tucson, too. Ron and Nancy now have four grandchildren: Kieran, Tillie, Ailsa and Elliot.
While raising their children, Barber and his wife also found time to run a small Tucson business. Toy Traders/Stork’s Nest, was a place where families could trade and buy children’s toys, clothing, and equipment. There were two locations with 20 employees, giving Barber the experience of meeting payroll, keeping the doors open and providing good customer service.
In 1976, Barber began a 30-year career with the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Arizona Department of Economic Security, eventually serving as its director. Barber worked to get people with disabilities out of government-run institutions and back into their community where they could become employed and live full lives with their families and friends. This meant working closely with families and providing them the support they needed to care for their children at home. Under Barber’s direction, the division improved services for families, while running one of the five most cost-efficient, high-quality programs in the country.
In 2007, Barber was appointed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district director.
In that capacity, Barber helped Southern Arizona families who experienced problems with the federal government. He oversaw a staff that intervened when families were not receiving Social Security, Medicare or Veterans Administration benefits that they had earned or when they had other issues with the government.
Barber also worked with military leaders at Davis-Monthan, Fort Huachuca and the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard to protect their missions.
On Jan. 8, 2011, Barber was with Rep. Giffords as she held one of her Congress On Your Corner events in Northwest Tucson. An assassin shot the congresswoman, Barber and 17 other people. Six of those people, including one of Barber’s aides, were killed. Rep. Giffords and Barber were critically wounded.
Shortly after the shooting, Barber and his family established The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding. The mission of the fund is to sustain and build upon the outpouring of good will, compassion and kindness that the community responded with after the shooting.
In January 2012, Giffords resigned from office to focus on her recovery. She asked Barber to run in a special election to replace her. Voters picked Barber in the June 12, 2012 election. He was sworn into office one week later.