Edward A. Dunton, 89, retired deputy executive director of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, died of congestive heart failure Feb. 11 at his home in Hingham, Mass. He was a resident of Bethesda for 52 years before moving to Hingham in 2005.
Mr. Dunton joined the Civil Service Commission in 1940 and was in the forefront of opposing prejudice and discrimination in the employment of minorities in the federal government. In 1942, he promoted the first African American woman to a position above file clerk in the agency, making her his personal secretary. He also actively opposed the creation of a veteran's post within the commission because at that time the post would have enrolled only white veterans.
Mr. Dunton, who worked for about five years at a regional office in St. Paul, Minn., before returning to Washington in 1953, served in several key positions. Along with Commissioner John W. Macy Jr., Mr. Dunton helped set up the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville and was a member of its first class.
As deputy executive director, Mr. Dunton oversaw the commission's 10 regional offices. He received the Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award in 1973 and was the U.S. delegate to the International Personnel Management Association in Salzburg in 1974.
Toward the end of his service, he became a critic of affirmative action, feeling that the opportunities for employment and promotion should be equal for all applicants regardless of race, his family said.
"It was the irony of his life to have been vilified for advocating equal opportunity at the beginning of his career and being called a racist for trying to enforce it at the end," said his son, John Dunton of Waltham, Mass.
Mr. Dunton, who retired in 1975, was born in Mason City, Iowa, and was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of DePauw University in 1939. He pursued graduate work at the University of Cincinnati before graduating from Georgetown Law School in 1959.
He interrupted his work at the U.S. Civil Service Commission to serve as communications officer on the USS Swift, a minesweeper leading the D-Day assault forces and the Southern France invasion. He returned to the commission in 1946.
In retirement, Mr. Dunton was a consultant to the government of Kuwait and for the Appalachian Regional Commission. He was a volunteer reader for the Washington Ear and a shopper for the Red Cross of Montgomery County. He was elected to the board of directors of Sumner Village Condominiums in Bethesda, serving as treasurer.
His hobbies included tennis, golf, playing the violin in a string quartet and studying U.S. constitutional law. He was a member of Kenwood Country Club and the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Besides his son, survivors include his wife of 65 years, Margaret "Suzy" Dunton of Hingham; another son, Thomas G. Dunton of New Bern, N.C.; a sister; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.