Conway Barbour was an early African American lawyer in Arkansas. Barbour was born a free man in Kentucky about 1820. By the 1940s, he was a free man working as a steamboat cabin attendant in Louisville, Kentucky, which caused him to be well-known throughout the community.
He was recorded in the 1860 census in Cleveland, Ohio, as head of household with his first wife and children, and in Madison County, Illinois, with a second wife and family, both families originally from Kentucky. In the late 1850s, he operated a hotel/restaurant in Alton, Illinois. When the Civil War began, he offered to help recruit an African American regiment from Illinois.
In the 1870s, his occupation was listed as “insurance agent” for the Census for Arkansas when he had relocated to Lewisville, Arkansas. He was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives, serving in the 1871 term, representing Lafayette and Little River counties. Following his legislative service, in 1871, Barbour was named tax assessor for Chicot County, Arkansas, although he had to fight to secure the position, since another man also had been named by Clayton as tax assessor.
Attacked as a carpetbagger, Barbour became a lawyer in late 1871, certified by then-Associate Justice of the state Supreme Court, E.J. Searle. His license was recorded in February 1872. He unsuccessfully tried to obtain the Republican nomination as county sheriff in 1872. In 1876, the Arkansas Gazette reported his death in Lake Village, Arkansas, referring to him as “an old colored lawyer.”