William Hunt Sr., 86, conducted classified work as NSA executive

October 12, 2003|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

William Hunt Sr., a retired National Security Agency executive who conducted classified work for governments of three countries, died Oct. 5 of hydrocephalus, a fatal accumulation of fluids in the brain. The Silver Spring resident was 86.

Born and educated in County Sligo in western Ireland, Mr. Hunt began his career working for the British Admiralty as a communications specialist during World War II. After the war, he immigrated to Canada and worked for the Canadian defense forces for several years.

In 1950, Mr. Hunt moved to the United States and began working for the U.S. Air Force Security Service in San Antonio. After becoming an American citizen, he joined the NSA at its founding in October 1952 and spent the rest of his career in operational and management positions within the spy agency.

"He served in silence," said son William Hunt Jr. of Columbia. "He never spoke about his accomplishments and never told anybody what he did."

Mr. Hunt's technical reports were considered so polished that one of the agency's professional societies established an award in his honor, the William Hunt Technical Literature Award.

After retiring from the NSA in January 1980, Mr. Hunt spent his time reading history books, tending to his 2-acre yard, and occasionally penning contributions to the newsletter of the Phoenix Society, a group of retired NSA employees.

On St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Hunt enjoyed playing his tin whistle, a traditional Irish instrument. Although he rarely returned to his birthplace after he left, Mr. Hunt retained his thick Irish brogue.

Mr. Hunt was buried Thursday at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Silver Spring on his 55th wedding anniversary.

In addition to his son, Mr. Hunt is survived by his wife, the former Marguerite Flynn; another son, Dr. Sean Hunt of Frederick; two daughters, Maureen Hunt of Silver Spring and Emily Hunt Shipman of Clarksville; and three grandchildren.

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