Robert Norton Jr.

[ Age 90 ] An FBI agent, he focused on informants in the U.S. Communist Party.

December 16, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Robert C. Norton Jr., a retired FBI agent whose career in Baltimore spanned nearly two decades, died of heart failure Dec. 9 at Salisbury Center Nursing Home. He was 90 and had lived in Salisbury since 1976.

Mr. Norton was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a lawyer. He was a 1939 graduate of Columbia University and earned his law degree from the university's law school in 1942.

That same year, he enlisted in the Army and served as a warehousing officer in Luzon, the Philippines, where supplies needed for the planned invasion of Japan were stored. He attained the rank of lieutenant and was discharged in 1945.

He joined the FBI as a special agent in Dallas, and moved to the Baltimore field office in 1950, where his main focus was counterintelligence. He retired in 1969.

In an unpublished autobiography, the longtime Gittings Avenue resident wrote of his work in the early days of his career on developing informants within the U.S. Communist Party.

Those handling informants "must be a good judge of character - and have a lot of faith in his appraisal. ... In my years with the Bureau I developed a lot of informants. A number of them are still my friends," Mr. Norton wrote.

"Before I accepted any one of them as an informant I would tell them that the FBI might be forced to disown them but I never would even though it might be hurtful to me," he wrote.

His son, Robert C. Norton III, suffered brain damage when he was 5, and since that time Mr. Norton and his wife devoted their lives to working with and helping the developmentally disabled.

He served on the boards of Holly Center and Dove Point, facilities in Salisbury that assist the developmentally disabled. In recognition of his work in this field, Mr. Norton was presented the Governor's Medal by Gov. Harry R. Hughes in 1982.

Mr. Norton was a member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Salisbury, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan.13.

In addition to his son, who also lives in Salisbury, Mr. Norton is survived by his wife of 64 years, the former Helen Vivian Keeler; and a daughter, Gloria Lynn Norton Cargill, of Newport News, Va.

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