Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Irish immigrants, he attended St. Thomas College (now the University of Scranton). He worked as a carpenter and general contractor. He was on the Scranton city council from 1905 to 1906, the Board of education from 1907 to 1909. He then served as county commissioner of Lackawanna County from 1915 to 1919. A Democrat, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1930, serving until his death in 1942. From 1935, he served as the Majority Whip. He was married twice, first to Sarah Jennings on November 24, 1908; after her death, he married Veronica Barrett on October 27, 1931. Barrett would serve out the rest of his term after he died. He was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and of the Knights of Columbus. A Roman Catholic, he was interred in the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.
Known for Sound