Lavonia "Bobbie" Leverett Jenkins Barnes was born in Hughes Springs, Texas on April 16, 1907. She was the youngest daughter of Dr. I. Warner Jenkins and Della Seaborn Williamson. The Jenkins family moved to Waco in 1921 so that their two girls, Cecil Mae and Lavonia, could attend Baylor University. Barnes earned her degree in 1924, majoring in education and English.
Barnes attended graduate courses in journalism for one year at Columbia University before marrying Dr. Maurice Barnes in the summer of 1930. The couple had twin boys, Maurice and Warner, on November 25, 1934. While Maurice attended Columbia University to specialize in dermatology, Lavonia took courses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1939-1941.
Upon the Barnes family's return to Waco in 1942, Lavonia focused on her passion for historic home preservation. She composed three historical books: The Texas Cotton Palace (1964), Early Homes of Waco and the People Who Lived in Them (1970), and Nineteenth Century Churches of Texas (1982). She co-founded the Waco Heritage Society, the front-runner of Historic Waco Foundation and led the charge in preserving many of Waco's historic homes including Fort House, Earle-Harrison House, Hoffman House, East Terrace, and Earle-Napier-Kinnard House.
In addition to her local efforts, Barnes also served on the Board of Directors for the Texas Governors' Mansion during its renovation from 1979 to 1989. From 1988 to 1998, she was the Director of the American Society of Decorative Arts. Barnes passed away on September 20, 2000 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Waco.
More information about Lavonia Jenkins Barnes can be found in the Lavonia Jenkins Barnes papers at The Texas Collection and in her oral memoirs at the Institute for Oral History. This Texas Collection finding aid is currently incomplete. Please e-mail The Texas Collection at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Barcus, Nancy. Waco People...Making a Difference. Waco, Texas: Vick Publishing, Inc., 1996.