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O-A alumnus was a flying ace and lawyer

By Tasia Boland
Jul 30, 2009, 2:37pm

Sometimes we get so caught up in our everyday tasks, we tend to forget those who've helped create the life Americans enjoy.

Like the late 1st Lt. Harmon J. Norton, for example, who served his nation admirably during the Great War.

He graduated in 1913 from Oakfield-Alabama High School and served in the Marine Corps. He was widely regarded as one of the best fliers in America. Joe Cassidy, the Town of Alabama historian, will be representing Norton at the O-A Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 5 p.m. Oct. 3.

After graduating high school, Norton studied law at the Detroit College of Law. For two years during college he was a clerk for the New York State Legislature and the Constitutional Convention of New York State. In 1916, he joined the military and two years later he was appointed as an officer in the air branch of the Marine Corps.

During World War I, Norton served as a flying instructor at various air bases throughout the country.

The lieutenant was known as an able and skilled aviator, an "ace" famous among his fellow officers and aviation enthusiasts.

Along with piloting planes, Norton also represented defendants in court martial trials. His success in court had him traveling to different parts of the country to defend men facing court martial.

In 1923, his focus was back on aviation. He was appointed to command a newly established land airplane squadron at Pensacola, Fla.

Captain J.J. Raby, Navy Commandant at the time, described Norton as a pilot of long experience and sure ability especially in landing planes. Raby also noted him as an exceptional all-around officer particularly valuable to aviation.

Norton became the aviation liaision officer in the Marine Corps of the expeditionary forces. This position is responsible for handling all matters between the force and its flying section. His skill at making short trips quickly and manipulating safe landings on hazardous fields were the primary reasons he was selected for the job.

Norton was going to compete in the Schneider Trophy, a prize competition for seaplanes. But he died in 1926 when a military plane he was testing crashed into the Potomac River.

Norton's grandson, who lives in Texas, and granddaughter, who lives in Florida, plan to attend the ceremony.

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