UPDATED: Former LTM editor dies at 68
Former Loudoun Times-Mirror editor and Board of Supervisors Chairman George Barton died Nov. 24 in Avon, N.C. He was 68.
Barton, a Vietnam veteran who earned four Purple Hearts, a Bronze star and a Silver Star with valor, served as editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror starting in 1983. Prior to that, he was editor of the Fauquier Times-Democrat, a Times-Community Media publication. He left the newspaper industry to start his own public relations firm, George Barton Enterprises, closing it in 1995 to become the director of Loudoun’s Shenandoah University campus.
In 1991, Barton was elected Loudoun County’s first chairman at-large. He served one term. Baton’s tenure was a period of growth and fiscal stress for the county. One of that board’s successes was bringing public water to residents living near a landfill.
“George Barton understood that it was the self-discipline of the chairman, not the institutional limits of the chairmanship, that determined whether a board of supervisors could accomplish significant goals. Cast in that light, his chairmanship was a remarkable success,” said Brett Phillips, who worked with Barton at Shenandoah University.
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 best known for his award-winning work at the Loudoun Times-Mirror in forcing the Internal Revenue Service and FBI to investigate political activist Lyndon LaRouche and members of his organization 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. George basically got Bryan interested and said ‘get what you can get’,” said Doug Graham, a former Loudoun Times-Mirror reporter.
During the LaRouche investigation, hundreds of state and federal officers in October 1986 raided LaRouche’s offices in Leesburg and Massachusetts for two days.
LeRouche and 12 associates were indicted in Boston on credit card fraud and obstruction of justice.
In trials in 1988 in Virginia and New York, 13 LaRouche associates received prison terms ranging from a month to 77 years.
Barton was known by his former reporters as a tough, but fair leader.
“I would say if I had to name three people who formed me into my journalist being, George Barton would be at the top of the list,” Graham said.
Barton was known as a well-rounded journalist who understood writing, editing and photography.
“You wanted to please him. Not because you were scared of him, but because you wanted to achieve those lofty goals as well,” Graham said.
Barton 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, where he served as a second lieutenant. Barton graduated from the Virginia Military Academy with a bachelor’s degree in English and a doctorate in education from George Washington University. After school, he 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.”
Barton was a journalist who double-checked his sources and ran his newsroom to perfection, his former reporters said.
The former editor was tough when necessary, but was a Virginia gentlemen with tough skin that led him through battles with elected officials. One day he could be arguing with a town council member and the next hanging out and laughing with the Hamilton Volunteer firefighters, who he served with for 10 years as a certified CPR instructor.
“He was like a throwback. The way you thought of editors back in the heyday,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood recalled the time Barton sensed something was awry with LaRouche.
“Things just didn’t seem right. Something alerted George to dig deeper and what happened was a massive criminal conspiracy in our own backyard,” Chitwood said. “There was a fair amount of tension because we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. You really felt like you were being targeted for doing your job.”
Tensions surrounding the LaRouche stories became so high that Barton and Chitwood were concerned for their safety.
Barton, his former reporters said, was the type of editor every journalist respected.
“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.”
Barton is survived by his wife, Kathy Fleming Barton; children Sara Barton, Ethan Barton and his wife, Cyndi and India Barton Rose and her husband John; four grandchildren, Peyton, Corinne, John III and Cecelia. Also surviving are his father, the Rev. George Barton III; sister, Cecelia Barton and her husband, Ken McCraney; brother David Barton and his wife Sarah.
The family will receive friends at Colonial Funeral Home, Leesburg, from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 28. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 29 at Harmony United Methodist Church in Hamilton. Burial will take place at a later time at Arlington National Cemetery. For information on where to send memorials visit http://www.colonialfuneralhome.com