Robert N. Barnette, Jr. was raised in Chase City, VA and attended West End High School. He graduated from Bluestone Senior High School in 1970, and then joined the United States Air Force where he was trained as a Fire Protection Specialist. He served four years in the military and then returned to Chase City and enrolled at Southside Virginia Community College. Robert completed three SVCC programs: Industrial Service Technology, Air Conditioning/Heating & Refrigeration and Applied Electricity.
After graduating from SVCC, Robert was encouraged by Dr. Charles Vaughan, a Division Chair of the college, to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice and Public Safety. With that degree, he accepted employment as a Safety Manager/Safety Engineer with Reynolds Metals Company (then DuPont).
Robert later completed a Master's of Science Degree from Central Michigan University and is currently employed by Chicago Bridge & Iron.
Robert credits the encouragement he received from SVCC professors for motivating him to further his education.