Friday, June 8, 2007

John R. HortonCIA Senior Executive

John Ryder Horton, 86, a CIA senior executive in the directorate of operations who became chief of the Soviet bloc division, died June 3 at Asbury-Solomons Island continuing care center in Solomons, Md. He had bladder cancer.

Mr. Horton joined the CIA in 1948 and was chief of station in Hong Kong, Uruguay and Mexico. He was in Mexico during the 1968 student riots.

He was chief of the Western Hemisphere division before retiring in 1975 as chief of the Soviet bloc division, covering the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations. He received the CIA's Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He briefly emerged from retirement in 1983 to serve as national intelligence officer for Central and Latin America. He resigned after a dispute with CIA Director William J. Casey over what Mr. Horton considered political pressure to radically rewrite intelligence analysis of Mexico.

Mr. Horton was a Chicago native and attended Indiana University before joining the Navy in 1940. He received a master's degree in international relations from the University of Chicago in 1948 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

He had served in the Pacific during World War II, eventually being assigned to assist Chinese guerrilla troops. This became the subject of his 1994 memoir, "Ninety-Day Wonder." His wartime decorations included the Bronze Star with Combat V.

In retirement, he wrote three espionage novels and started a small vineyard on his property in Hollywood, in Southern Maryland. He also started a tree farm and became involved in environmental conservation, including pressuring St. Mary's County and the state to preserve 2,000 acres of land near the St. Mary's River. He received a Sierra Club award for his efforts.

He was a former board member of the Three Oaks homeless shelter in Lexington Park.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Grace Calhoun Horton of Solomons; four children, Andrew M. Horton of Falmouth, Maine, Mary H. Welch of Washington, David R. Horton of Burlington, Vt., and Jane B. Horton of Atlanta; a sister; and seven grandchildren.

-- Adam Bernstein

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