Barton grew up in the Bemiston mill town near Talladega. He served for in the National Guard from 1959 to 1962 and in the U.S. Army until 1965. He went on to study at a number of colleges, including Jacksonville State University, Gadsden State Junior College, Talladega College, Jefferson State Junior College, the Birmingham School of Law, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University's Graduate School of Banking. He completed a PhD from North American University and began a career in banking with some time in auto sales. He and his wife, Mary attended the Cherry Street Church of God. He also performed with the Pioneer Quartet gospel group.
Barton was first elected mayor in 1979 and was re-elected in 1983. During his tenure, he takes credit for the city's purchase of the Ritz Theater, development of a municipal golf course, acquisition of two city parks, and the recruitment or expansion of 100 businesses in the city. In 1984 he presented a "key to the city' to Miss America Vanessa Williams when she served as grand marshal of the city's Christmas Parade and sang the national anthem before that year's Talladega 500. Later when it was revealed that Williams had posed for Playboy magazine, he wrote to ask her to return the token because she had "disappointed thousands of Amaericans…[and] disappointed God."
Barton left office in 1987, but ran successfully for a third term in 1991. In 1993 he was indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering stemming from a $5,900 check from the city for stump removal. Prosecutors claimed he fabricated the identity of a "Jerry Jackson" and cashed checks written to him. Following the indictment, the Talladega City Council removed his power to hire and fire city employees and to write checks on city accounts. He was convicted in 1994 and served 37½ months in federal prison at Eglin Air Force Base. He trained as a barber during his incarceration.
Barton ran for mayor again in 1999 and 2003, but lost in runoffs to Brian York. He and Benny Green co-hosted a radio and television program called "In the Interest of the People" which airs on Coosa Valley's WOIL-TV.
Barton eventually won the office back in a runoff against revenue commissioner Harvey Bowlin in the 2011 election. In 2014 he filed a lawsuit against the city of Talladega seeking to preserve the powers and duties of the mayor's office relative to the city manager's office.
On the morning of August 8, 2015, Barton was assaulted by his former radio partner as he arrived at the Plaza Barber Shop for work. He fought back and both men were taken to UAB Hospital for treatment. Green's former divorce attorney, Steward Springer, told columnist John Archibald that Barton had been caught on tape conducting a sexual affair with Green's wife.
- Barton, Larry (1998) From Politics to Prison.
- "Vanessa Williams won't return key to city" (September 19, 1984) United Press International
- "Talladega council takes away indicted mayor's city car, phone." (December 30, 1993) Associated Press/Tuscaloosa News
- Archibald, John (July 12, 2015) "Alabama mayor convicted of stealing from city is re-elected. But how?" The Birmingham News
- Archibald, John (August 9, 2015) "Talladega Mayor Larry Barton describes beating; questions raised about sex tape." The Birmingham News
- Mayor of Talladega at talladega.com