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Eugene Barnett papers

Identifier: Y.USA.25


Barnett's papers cover only his later career from 1937 until his death in 1970. Correspondence with YMCA secretaries in China documents the increasingly unstable political conditions with the occupation of the Japanese during World War II and later, the Communist takeover. As general secretary of the International Committee and the National Council, Barnett made a number of speeches including "The American YMCA, the World YMCA and the World Committee." There are some press releases concerning his appointment to the general secretaryship in 1941. His correspondence as general secretary tends to concentrate on administrative functions. Most of the materials from the 1960s and 1970s concern his memoirs, including the collecting of biographical information and distribution of the finished product. There is also a manuscript of volume two of the memoirs.


  • Creation: 1915, 1920-1975.


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Eugene Barnett was born in Leesburg, Florida on February 21, 1888. A Phi Beta Kappa student, he graduated from Emory University in 1907. In 1908, he began his YMCA career as a student secretary at the University of North Carolina, where he was a graduate student.

In 1910, he married Bertha Smith and was sent to China, where he founded the YMCA in Hangchow (Hangzhou) and headed it as general secretary until 1921. For the next two years he served as the national student secretary for China and then was promoted to national city secretary, holding that position until 1925, when he became senior secretary for the International Committee of the YMCA in China. While in China, Barnett was a confidant of many Chinese civic, military, religious, and educational leaders. He held substantial responsibilities in the development of the emergency program that rendered service to Chinese troops when the country was first invaded by Japan.

In 1937, Barnett was recalled to the United States to become executive secretary of the YMCA's International Committee during a difficult period. Barnett, together with lay and staff colleagues, struggled to secure income to liquidate debt while maintaining a modest program. In 1945, the indebtedness was wiped out with a substantial gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In 1940, Barnett became the general secretary of the National Council. He was active in the work of the World Alliance of YMCAs and played a major role in the shaping of its policies.

Though Barnett retired as general secretary in 1953, his interest and involvement in the YMCA continued. He remained a familiar figure at YMCA gatherings almost until the day of his death in 1970.


1.4 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)


Papers of Eugene Barnett documenting, in part, his work with Chinese YMCAs and his international travels in his role as general secretary of the International Committee.


See also the Eugene Barnett International Visit Reports, separately cataloged as Y.USA.95 in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

The following related materials are available at other archival repositories:

Eugene Barnett, Papers, 1905-1970. Columbia University. University Libraries. Butler Library.

A copy of this finding aid is available at the Archives.

Processing Information:

Material in this collection was formerly cataloged as part of the YMCA Biographical Files.

Audio/visual materials removed from this collection include 22 photographs.

Processed by: Chan Harries, January 2005.

Catalog Record ID number: 4502373

An Inventory of His Papers
Finding aid prepared by Chan Harries.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021-12-28: Language was edited to modify unnecessarily laudatory and aggrandizing language in the biographical note.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area