Ernest J. Colton, 96, a retired official with the U.S. Information Agency who served overseas for many years, died Oct. 25 at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield.

He had emphysema, said his son, David Colton.

After serving as an Army intelligence officer in Europe during and after World War II, Mr. Colton worked as an information officer for U.S. consulates in the early 1950s. He joined USIA when it was founded in 1953.

During the 1950s and 1960s, he served as a public affairs and broadcast official in Germany, Austria and South Africa. He was director of the U.S. cultural center in Berlin from 1966 to 1968 and retired from USIA in 1972.

From 1974 to 1978, Mr. Colton was director of a U.S. cultural center in Freiburg, Germany.

Ernst Kohen was born in Berlin and immigrated in the late 1930s to New York, where he changed his name to Ernest Jack Colton. He joined the U.S. Army in the 1930s and later served in the reserves.

He was a longtime Springfield resident and enjoyed gardening and photography.

His wife of 55 years, Ruth Litten Colton, died in 2001. Survivors include two children, David M. Colton of Alexandria and Esther Colton of Berlin; and a granddaughter.

— Matt Schudel