Selden Robertson, 89, economist, veteran

February 19, 2006

Selden Alexander Robertson, a retired economist who served as a cryptographer during World War II, died Tuesday at his home in Linthicum. He was 89 and had suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Robertson was born and raised in Petersburg, Va., and graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. When World War II started, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces. He taught German to soldiers and intercepted and deciphered codes for the Army. He rose to the rank of lieutenant.

In a journal that his friend and caretaker Catherine Bacot found at the end of his life, he had written about his time in the Army. "Watched the torch in the old lady's right hand fade out as the ferry took us to the embarkment pier," he wrote Feb. 1, 1944, the day he passed the Statue of Liberty en route to Europe.

After he was honorably discharged at the end of the war, Mr. Robertson lived in Calvert County and Baltimore, and worked for the American Oil Co. He obtained a private pilot's license.

Later, he completed graduate studies at Towson University and for 30 years worked as an economist for the state of Maryland. He also volunteered for 25 years as a teacher of English to Spanish speakers.

In his last years, he lived with Mrs. Bacot and her husband, Marshall Bacot, in Linthicum. The Bacots were family friends - as a young man, Mr. Robertson had been a boarder in the home of Mr. Bacot's grandmother. He has no immediate survivors.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Sts. Stephen and James Evangelical Lutheran Church, 938 S. Hanover St. He will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 22.

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