James J .A. Barker, lawyer and Confederate officer, was born in South Carolina in 1834, the son of Jesse and Ophelia Gilliam (Adams) Barker. Shortly after his birth, Barker's family moved to Benton County, Alabama. In 1856, following the death of his parents, Barker left for Texas.
After studying law he was admitted to the bar and began his practice at Rusk, in Cherokee County. At the beginning of the Civil War, Barker volunteered and was assigned as first lieutenant in Company C of the Third Texas Cavalry on June 3, 1861. The unit left Rusk on June 10 and was mustered into service in the Confederate Army on June 13, 1861. Shortly after the battle of Oak Hill, near Springfield, Missouri, Barker was promoted to captain on December 5, 1861, following the death of the company's commander, a Captain Taylor. In the spring of 1862 Captain Barker led his company in action at Elkhorn Tavern, Duvall's Bluff, Memphis, and Corinth. At Corinth on May 20, 1862, Barker was promoted to major and acted with distinction sufficient to receive a citation of praise from Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard at a dress parade. However, on May 29, 1862, during a skirmish near Corinth, Major Barker was killed in action. After the war, one of the two organizations of Confederate veterans in Cherokee County was named in honor of James Barker.