Retired Lt. Col. James H. Barrett, killed at Pensacola abortion clinic

August 03, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. James H. Barrett helped people.

He helped revive the Retired Officers Association chapter in his native Annapolis. He drove voters to the polls on Election Day. He gave advice to young people interested in college. If someone needed help, he would lend a hand.

When he died Friday in Pensacola, Fla., Mr. Barrett was still helping -- escorting a doctor into an abortion clinic. He and Dr. John Bayard Britton were shot to death by an abortion opponent.

"He loved to help people," his younger brother, Annapolis printer Reggie Barrett, said yesterday. "If a woman needed help, he would help, and that's what he died for."

Mr. Barrett, 74, was born in Annapolis, the son of a local printer. He graduated from Annapolis High School and studied at St. John's College and the University of Maryland College Park before joining the military in 1939.

He was a navigator during World War II and a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. His military assignments took him throughout the United States and to posts in Greenland, Saudia Arabia, West Germany and Japan.

He retired from the Air Force in 1969 and, after a stint in the real estate business, returned to Annapolis, settling in the family home on Locust Avenue.

He taught math and science at George Fox Middle School in Pasadena between 1976 and 1982.

Mr. Barrett and his late wife, the former Dorothy McDonald, raised two children, a son, Bruce Barrett, who now lives in Pensacola, and a daughter, Dandy Barrett Witty of Huntington, Conn.

In 1988, Mr. Barrett, then a widower, was among a number of retired military officers who revived the Annapolis chapter of the Retired Officers Association.

He met his second wife, the former June Griffith Allison -- a widow who retired with the rank of captain as a U.S. Public Health Service nurse -- the night they were both elected to the association's board of directors.

"They hit it off and less than a year later they were married," said retired Army Col. David Hoagland, who served with them on the board.

Mr. Barrett was president of the Annapolis Chapter of the Retired Officers Association from 1989 until 1992. The organization provides scholarships for the children of military officers, operates a job bank for retired officers and performs charity work.

Mr. Hoagland described Mr. Barrett as affable, friendly and involved.

His hobbies included flying and gardening. He was a member of the Fort Meade Flying Club.

In 1992, the Barretts moved to Pensacola seeking warmer weather and a new life.

They attended the Pensacola Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, volunteered for Escambia AIDS Service and Education (EASE) and were active in the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

For the past 17 months, they had served as escorts at the Ladies Center, which provides gynecological services. Once ...X...XTC month, they would greet Dr. Britton at the airport and drive him to the clinic.

"He believed a woman had a right of choice," Reggie Barrett said.

Mr. Barrett had last visited Annapolis in May. At the time, he talked with his brother about the escort work at the clinic and indicated that he thought it was dangerous.

"I don't think I fully realized the risk," Mr. Barrett said, "but he did."

On Friday, Mr. Barrett was driving a pickup truck, taking Dr. Britton to the Ladies Center. Mrs. Barrett was riding in the back seat of the cab.

A gunman opened fire with a shotgun, fatally wounding Mr. Barrett and Dr. Britton in the head.

Mrs. Barrett was wounded in the arm.

Police charged Paul Hill, a well-known abortion opponent, with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

The Barrett family has planned a private funeral.

His wife suggested memorial donations be sent to the Ladies Clinic, 6770 Ninth Ave., Pensacola, Fla. 32504; to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 904 E. Scott St., Pensacola 32503; or to EASE, P.O. Box 13584, Pensacola 32591.

In addition to his wife, brother, and children, Mr. Barrett is survived by his mother, Mabel G. Barrett of Annapolis, and two grandsons, Sean Witty and Jason Witty of Connecticut.

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