Clarence Barbour, an 1888 graduate of Brown, was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1891 after being graduated from the Rochester Theological Seminary, where he would become president in 1915. He was elected president of Brown in 1928, and began his duties after the retirement of President Faunce in 1929. He was to be the last of a long line of Baptist ministers to occupy the Brown presidency.
Two weeks after Barbour took office, the stock market crash brought the advent of the Great Depression and an end to his plans for an ambitious capital campaign. Though plans for expansion were not feasible, Barbour did much to connect Brown's far-flung and growing alumni body. In his first year he spoke before 28 alumni clubs, 61 college and school audiences, 63 chapel services at Brown and 70 church services, and a host of luncheons and professional group meetings.
Speaking to alumni at the first Homecoming dinner in 1935, Barbour said, "I came to Brown with lofty dreams and with visions of things to be accomplished. Almost at once we were struck with the most terrible depression in the history of the country.... Many of my dreams have never come to pass and will never come to pass. But I have tried to navigate the ship on an even keel. I have the satisfaction that I have been used in a measure to hold the wheel in a stormy sea. We are steady."
President Barbour left office in September 1936. Vice President James P. Adams served as acting President until Henry Wriston's inauguration.