In Memoriam: Claude Barton
Claude D. Barton, 96, of Columbia, died Dec. 24, 2012. He was born Aug. 12, 1916 in Derma, Miss., and grew up in a loving family on a small farm, where he learned the values of hard work, responsibility and integrity that would stand him in good stead all his life. ROTC made it possible for him to attend college, and he graduated from Mississippi State in 1939 with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering but decided to make the military his career. Less than four years after entering the Army in 1939, he was given command of an infantry battalion. He led his soldiers in combat in the Philippines and Okinawa and various islands in the Pacific. The combat stories he told his children in his late years, though matter-of-fact and unembellished, nevertheless captured for them the image of a very young officer carrying the weighty dual responsibility for the lives of his men and the success of his mission, and gave a glimpse of the horror, the valor, the absurdities, the boredom, and the humor that can all co-exist in wartime. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in June 1945.
At the end of the war he was assigned to the newly formed Central Intelligence Group (now CIA) and served in Washington, D.C. as that agency’s first Chief, Security Division. When the Office of the Secretary of Defense was created in 1947, he became its first Director of Security, in which capacity he organized the security division and wrote the initial security regulations for that office.
While he was in Washington, D.C. he met a pretty and lively young WAC on a bus; she told her friends after that encounter, “I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.” Sure enough, Ruth and Claude were married three months later and spent 53 very happy years together until her death in 2001. He said not long before his own death that he continued to miss her every day.
In 1950 he spent a year attending the Army’s Command and Staff College and then he and his young family departed for Italy, where he was assigned to help organize the headquarters for Allied Forces Southern Europe, then being formed in Naples. In 1954 they returned to Fort Benning, Georgia, where Claude was assigned to the Army’s Infantry School. During this time he was promoted to colonel and selected for attendance at the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA. Upon graduation in 1959 he was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Korea and served for a year as senior advisor to the 12th ROK Infantry Division. In 1960 he was assigned to the Pentagon as Chief, Security Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff–Intelligence Division, Department of the Army. In 1963 the family moved to Hawaii, where Claude was assigned to Headquarters United States Army Pacific in Hawaii as Chief, Combat Developments Division, and then served as the Commanding Officer, 1stBrigade, 25th Infantry Division.
In 1967, at his request, he was assigned to the University of Missouri–Columbia as Professor of Military Science, where he found real satisfaction in teaching the young cadets. He retired from the Army after more than 31 years of service in July 1970. His awards and decorations include the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He also wears the Presidential Unit Citation, awarded to his battalion for an action on Ie Shima in the Ryuku’s Islands in April 1945. He was very proud of his service to his country.
After retirement from the Army he served for seven years as the executive director of the United Fund in Columbia, MO. He also pursued a hobby of building musical instruments, primarily hammered dulcimers, an interest he developed through his musician daughter Cathy. He attended the First Baptist Church in Columbia and was a good steward and faithful servant in his role as a church member.
Claude remained in remarkably good health until well into his 90’s, but in the last few years he faced many health difficulties. He has now followed his beloved Ruth into the arms of the Lord, where it was surely said when he arrived, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Claude was preceded in death by his wife Mary Ruth Catlett Barton. He is survived by his sister Marie Lofton of Jonesboro, AR; his brother Roy Barton of Germantown, TN; his three daughters and their husbands, Claudia Barton and Tom Welsh of College Station, TX; Judy and Tom Gibbons of Richardson, TX; and Cathy Barton and Dave Para of Boonville, MO, and by five grandchildren.