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Home > Family History > SACO  > Veteran's Forum > Obituary of John Ryder Horton



SACO Veteran's Forum:

Obituary of John Ryder Horton 

(Submitted by Jane Horton)



John R. Horton, 86, a former senior executive of the Central Intelligence Agency and author of three espionage novels and a war memoir, died of cancer Sunday June 3, 2007 at Solomons, MD.


John Ryder Horton was born November 14, 1920, and raised on the north shore of Chicago, graduated from Evanston Township High School and attended Indiana University in Bloomington before enlisting in the Navy in 1940. He was stationed in the Philippines as an ensign when the Japanese attacked in December 1941. Mr. Horton went from the Philippines to Java, then Australia, before going to China for two years where he served with Chinese guerrilla troops, briefly served in underwater demolitions and was a Lieutenant Commander USNR when the war ended. His military decorations include the Bronze Star with Combat V and the Order of the Cloud Banner (China).   In 1994, Mr. Horton published an account of his wartime experiences, “Ninety-Day Wonder: Flight to Guerilla War.”

Despite not having a bachelor’s degree, Mr. Horton pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago, studying under Hans Morgenthau and earning a master’s in international relations.  He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.


He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1948 as an operations officer, serving in Washington, the Philippines and  Japan, and then as chief of station in Hong Kong, Uruguay, and Mexico. In the early 1970s, he was chief of the Western Hemisphere division, and retired as chief of the Soviet Bloc division, covering the Soviet Union and the former Warsaw Pact nations.  On retirement, he received the CIA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. 


His primary activities after retirement were to build a house and establish a vineyard on land beside the Patuxent River in southern Maryland.  However, in 1983 he was asked to returned to the CIA as the National Intelligence Officer for Central and Latin America, resigning that post in  1984.

After retirement he published three espionage novels and his war memoir, completed his house, built a sailboat by hand; made and bottled wine from his vineyard, started a tree farm, and became deeply involved in environmental conservation and social causes in southern Maryland.  Notably, he was instrumental in getting the State of Maryland and St. Mary's County to designate 2000 acres as WildLands on the St. Mary's River.  In 1996 he became the second recipient of the Sierra Club's Bernie Fowler Award for Conservation and Environmental Action in Southern Maryland.  Mr. Horton also served on the board of the Three Oaks Shelter for the homeless in Lexington Park, MD. Most recently, St. Mary's College honored Mr. Horton by naming its community courses program for him.


Mr. Horton is survived by his wife of 60 years, Grace Calhoun Horton; his son, Andrew Marcus Horton and his wife Peggy McGehee of Falmouth, Maine; his daughter, Mary Horton Welch and her husband, Timothy Welch of Washington, DC; his son, David Ryder Horton of Burlington, VT and his daughter, Jane Byrne Horton of Atlanta, Georgia; his sister, Jane Cabanyes de Horton of Madrid, Spain, and seven grandchildren.


A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, June 16, at Middleham Episcopal Parish, 10210 H. G. Trueman Rd., Lusby, MD.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Calvert Hospice, P.O. Box 838, Prince Frederick, MD, 20678.