Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in July 1854 in Huntsville, Alabama. Elected in 1926, Barnett was a civil rights activist who founded The Progress newspaper and worked as a deputy clerk for the Douglas County Clerk.
He was a Republican who represented the Tenth District in the Nebraska Legislature.
After moving to Omaha in 1887, he became the custodian for the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Jail. Running for state senator in 1924, he lost. Running again two years later, he won and served a two-year term. Fighting for anti-lynching laws, he was one of two African American men elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 1926. He lost the next two elections.
He died on July 18, 1932 in Omaha.