After being educated at the local public school, Bernard became an iron-ore miner (1910 to 1917). During the First World War Barnard served in the United States Army and reached the rank of corporal. On his return to America he worked as a fireman (1920-36).
A member of the Farmer-Labor Party, Bernard was elected to the 75th Congress (3rd January, 1937 - 3rd January, 1939). Bernard and Jerry O'Connell were the only Congressmen to visit the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.
John Bernard died at Long Beach, California, on 6th August, 1983.