Michael Darr Barnes was born September 3, 1943 in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a housewife. He went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated in three years. Because of the Vietnam War draft, he attended graduate school for only one year, which he did in Geneva, Switzerland at the Graduate Institute of Higher International Studies. After spending a couple of years in the Marine Corps, he went to law school at George Washington University. Through his summer work in 1970, as a clerk at the firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson, he contributed to the Muskie campaign and became interested in politics. In 1978, he ran for Congress himself in Maryland, and won by a landslide. His congressional work allowed him to once again associate with Ed Muskie (who helped him campaign) and he was reelected for four terms. Later, as he started his own firm, he worked at the Center for National
Policy with Ed Muskie, and succeeded him as the chair.
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Nicoll, Don, "Barnes, Mike oral history interview" (2001). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 20.