After almost being passed over as the next Commandant of the Marine Corps by the Secretary of the Navy, George Barnett became commandant in February of 1914. John A. Lejune was the favorite for the position, but was deemed too junior to advance to the rank of commandant.
Barnett was born in Wisconsin and entered the Naval Academy in 1881. He served as a midshipman until he worked out an agreement with Charles McCawley to be commissioned in the Marine Corps.
Barnett served during the Spanish-American War aboard the New Orleans. He was aboard ship when it was brought under fire at Santiago. After this experience, Barnett led troops in Panama, the Phillipines, Cuba and China. In China, he lead the troops that guard the legation to Peking.
During his time as commandant, Barnett supervised the expansion of the Corps from 15,00 to 76,000 and helped to create the base located at Quantico. The reason for the expansion of the Corps was due to World War I. At the outbreak of World War I, Barnett wanted to have a regiment of Marines aboard the first convoy heading to France, however the Secretary of the Army told him there were no room for Marines. So he arranged for the regiment to travel aboard Navy ships. Thus keeping the motto that Marines were "First to Fight." 1
Barnett was originally appointed to a four year term that was extended during American involvement in the war. However, he came into conflict with the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and was asked to resign. Barnett did not want and was transfered to the newly created post of commanding general of the Department of the Pacific, a post was createad especially for him.
Barnett retired on 9 December 1923 and died 27 April 1930. He is burried in Arlington National Cemetery in special section for those who were members of the Naval Academy class of 18812.
1. Taken from http://www.marinecorps.com/MarineCorps.nsf/0a184b8ed8e7da6c8525692600647ae0/1260f52f64f3a5418525692800583975?OpenDocument
2. Taken from http://hqinet001.hqmc.usmc.mil/HD/Historical/CMC/12_Barnett.htm