Former Times-Democrat and Times-Mirror editor dies at age 68 (updated)
Tuesday, Nov. 27
Former Fauquier Times-Democrat and Loudoun Times-Mirror editor and Loudoun County Chairman George Barton died Nov. 24 in Outer Banks, N.C.
Barton, 68, a Vietnam veteran who earned four Purple Hearts, a bronze star and a silver star with valor, began his journalism career in 1980 as a government reporter for the Times-Democrat shortly after earning a master's degree from the University of Virginia.
Although new to the local newspaper business at the time, Barton brought focus and maturity to the newsroom, according to John Toler, former Times-Democrat general manager.
“As a Vietnam veteran, he stood apart from the younger reporters he worked with, but he and I were kindred spirits, and at times would talk about his service," Toler said.
"One interesting story I recall was that he was once put up for an Air Medal, although he wasn’t a pilot or member of an aircrew," Toler said.
"This happened when the UH-1 helicopter he was on board was hit by ground fire, and the pilots were badly wounded and unable to fly," he said. "George took over the controls and flew the chopper back to base, landing so hard he broke off one of the skids. But they made it. I believe this was the action that earned him the Silver Star."
Barton was promoted to the Times-Democrat editor’s position in 1982, following a shake-up in the newsroom initiated by the publisher and editor-in-chief Arthur W. Arundel. His experience as a government reporter helped prepare him for the job, as he had already made many contacts and knew the important issues.
As editor, he mentored and guided the young reporters on his staff, in particular Mrs. Cathy Dyson, who was the Lifestyle feature writer, and Toler's brother Jim Toler, a general assignment reporter. Both went on to have distinguished careers in journalism.
Editor of Times-Mirror
In 1983, he became editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, a sister paper of the Times-Democrat.
Barton was best known for his work at the Leesburg weekly in forcing the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI to investigate political activist Lyndon LaRouche and members of his group for fraud.
He worked with former reporter Bryan R. Chitwood on a series of stories that brought the allegations to light.
“Nobody wanted to do that story because they really didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” said Doug Graham, a former Times-Mirror reporter who worked for Barton.
“George basically got Bryan interested and said ‘get what you can get.’ Bryan forced the IRS and the FBI into doing something," Graham said. "Finally, it was making the authorities look bad because this newspaper is continuously running stories on the issue.”
In the LaRouche investigation, hundreds of state and federal officers in October 1986 raided LaRouche’s offices in Leesburg and Massachusetts for two days.
While his Leesburg office was surrounded, LaRouche, an activist in the U.S. Labor Party and the National Democratic Policy Committee, reportedly sent a telegram to President Ronald Reagan saying an attempt to arrest him “would be an attempt to kill me.”
LeRouche and 12 associates were indicted in Boston on credit card fraud and obstruction of justice.
In trials in Virginia and New York, 13 LaRouche associates received prison terms ranging from a month to 77 years.
After a series of appeals, 14 states issued injunctions against LaRouche-related organizations. Three organizations were forced into bankruptcy after failing to pay contempt of court fines.
Tough but fair
Barton was known by his former reporters as a tough, but fair leader.
“He was the best editor I ever had. I learned so much from him, like integrity and to not cut corners,” Graham said.
In 1991, Barton was elected as Loudoun County’s first chairman at-large. He served one term.
Following his stint in politics, Barton went on to be an English teacher at Park View High School in Sterling, earning Teacher of the Year in 2005.
Barton was known as a well-rounded journalist who understood writing, editing and photography.
He was never one to brag, Chitwood said, even about his achievements in bringing the LaRouche cases to light or his service with the 101st Airborne Division.
Barton graduated from the Virginia Military Academy and went straight into service with the U.S. Army. “He was never one to recount war stories. He just viewed it as a duty done and moved on from it,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood, a 20-year veteran journalist, credits Barton with his work ethic and life achievements as a writer.
“I was fortunate really to have the opportunity to work with George. He was definitely the finest editor I ever worked with. He was extremely disciplined and principled,” Chitwood said. “He was just a born editor. A born newspaper man. I always felt like he was not just the leader of the editorial team but a teacher. We’re much the poorer for his passing.
“He had a nose for the news and once he got the scent he was not to be deterred,” Chitwood said. “The community was lucky to have him, and I was lucky to have worked with him and known him”
Surviving Barton are wife, Kathy Fleming Barton; children, Sara Barton of New York, Ethan Barton and his wife Cyndi, of Colorado, and India Barton Rose and her husband, John, of Rapidan, Va., and four grandchildren, Peyton, Corinne, John III and Cecelia.
Also surviving are his father, the Rev. George Barton III of Irvington, Va.; sister, Cecelia Barton, and husband Kent McCraney of Irvington, Va, and brother David Barton and his wife Sarah, of Lynchburg.
The family will receive friends at the Colonial Funeral Home, Leesburg, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Services will be held on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. at Harmony United Methodist Church, Hamilton, with a celebration of his life to follow at the church. Burial will take place at a later time at Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorials may be sent to the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 44, Hamilton, Va. 20159 and the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 5216, Glen Allen, Va. 23058.
Editor's Note: Crystal Owens, Times-Mirror staff writer, and John Toler contributed to this story.