Assistant Director, New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center
Department of Urban-Global Public Health
R. Thurman Barnes received his Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law—Newark. He interned in the Newark Prosecutors Office, Appellate Division, and a boutique entertainment law firm in New York before joining the Assembly Majority Office. During Mr. Barnes’ time in the Assembly Office he worked in a senior capacity and closely with Assembly leadership. As Chief of Staff to the Assembly Majority Leader, Bonnie Watson Coleman (currently, Congresswoman NJ-12th District), he authored an extensive criminal justice bill package that was hailed by the New York Times as a model for the rest of the country (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/opinion/25fri1.html#story-continues-2). At the start of the 2010 legislative session, incoming Speaker, Sheila Y. Oliver (currently, Lieutenant Governor, New Jersey), asked Mr. Barnes to serve as Chief of Staff. He admirably served the Speaker and the Democratic caucus before transitioning to an opportunity with a major telecommunications company based in New York. As a registered government affairs agent, he was responsible for all federal, state, and local interests within the state of New Jersey and supervised a team of outside consultants to best position the business interest of the company. However, after several successful years with the company, Mr. Barnes resigned his position to enter Princeton Theological Seminary where he received his Master of Divinity. Mr. Barnes remains well-respected in New Jersey’s political and policy circles having forged relationships on both sides of the aisle as well as with key community-based organizations and stakeholders.
R. Thurman Barnes brings a wealth of practical experience to the School of Public Health, from years in government to the private sector and ministry. He will help manage grant funded research projects and civic engagement for the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center. The areas of research will have a dual focus, suicide prevention and interpersonal violence in the context of the ever-present racial disparities in black and brown communities. Mr. Barnes will pursue areas of personal interests like the intersection of Black voices in the public health space—often discounted or overlooked—with an emphasis on historical figures with a tangible connection to faith and/or faith-based communities. An ecumenical and interfaith approach to examining these voices will allow a holistic understanding of the history of public health advocacy, or public health justice, with a focal point on the foundational work championed by resilient men and women of color.