William Henry Barry was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on February 11, 1836, the oldest of six children, the son of Hugh W. and Malinda (Kilgore) Barry. Both parents were of Irish ancestry. The family lived in Alabama, then Mississippi and farmed for a living. When William was fifteen years of age he entered Oxford academy to prepare for college. After two years he enrolled in Memphis Medical College in 1856, graduating in 1858 at age of twenty-two.
He began his practice of medicine at home in Mississippi, living there for two years. He then moved to Monticello, Arkansas. When the Civil War began Dr. Barry enlisted with the First Arkansas Regiment as an assistant surgeon and served until he contracted jaundice at the battle of Shiloh. Returning to Monticello he resumed his practice of medicine. In 1875 he moved to Hot Springs and became a prominent citizen.
In 1859 he married Miss Lou (Louisa) Watt, (August 20,1841 – July 1, 1913). The couple had four children, three boys and one girl: Linda H., Nita, Pat L., and H. Walter (who died in October 1887).
The year Dr. Barry moved to Hot Springs (Garland County) the city was not incorporated and there were very few services available for the people. In the following year, 1876, with incorporation, Dr. Barry wrote most of the city ordinances. He remained on the Board for two years resigning to become the City Health Officer (later expanded to a more powerful position of chief executive officer and President of the Board of Health, a position held for many years). He addressed sanitary procedures, handled the smallpox epidemic in 1895, created and managed a 10-bed charity hospital on the second floor of the old firehouse. Then with a gift from a patient, built and managed a 25-bed hospital, caring for charity patients as well as others. Later, Otto Neubert an immigrant from Germany, gave $100,000 for Dr. Barry’s hospital and for an orphan home. One source states that Dr. Barry always wanted to do more especially for the poor.
Ever civic minded, he organized schools for the county and became Garland County School Superintendent. He was elected state legislator for two terms, and became manager of the Telegraph Company of Hot Springs after his son, who managed the service, died. He edited a newspaper for several years. He was also a member of the Odd Fellows and was a Mason.
As a practicing physician he was elected President of the Arkansas State Medical Association and President of the Board of Surgeons in Hot Springs.
Dr. Barry was also part of a group who wanted to organize a Presbyterian church in the city. He gathered children for a Sunday afternoon Sunday school class, which he taught in the Baptist Church. Gradually the Presbyterian church was built and in 1876 he transferred his Sunday school to the new building. He served as elder and Sunday School Superintendent for many years.
Two of Dr. Barry’s sons, Pat and Linda H., became doctors and together they formed a partnership called Barry, Barry, and Barry.
Dr. William Barry died on September 26, 1916 at the age 80 and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Hot Springs. As a distinguished and beloved citizen of Hot Springs he had practiced medicine for more than 55 years.