James H. Barrett
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
a contemporary news report:
Tuesday, August 9, 1994
On the eve of what would have been his 75th birthday, abortion clinic escort James H. Barrett was buried with military honors Monday.
Just before he was shot to death on July 29 in front of an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, Barrett had been looking forward with excitement to "the party to end all parties," said the Rev. Paul Johnson, a Unitarian minister and friend.
"Our lives have been touched by the life of Jim Barrett," said Johnson, addressing Barrett's wife, sons and daughter at Arlington National Cemetery. The 100 or so mourners included others who escort abortion patients through protesters at clinics.
Barrett was killed as he was escorting Dr. John Britton into the clinic. Britton was also killed in the attack. Police have charged an inveterate protester, Paul Hill, with two counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
Barrett's widow, June Barrett, who was shot in the arm, received the American flag folded by Barrett's military pallbearers after a bugler blew taps. Barrett's cremated remains were buried later.
Barrett's daughter, Dandy Barrett Witty, and two sons were at the service. A grandson, Sean Witty, played "Amazing Grace" on his guitar.
Barrett grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, obtained a pilot's license as a teen-ager and joined the Army Air Corps. He was commissioned in 1941 before the outbreak of World War II and began service immediately as a navigator, earning the Bronze Star, among other decorations.
He served in the Air Force through the Korean and Vietnam wars and was military attache to the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1969.
He obtained a teaching certificate from Southwest Texas State University and taught middle school math and biology for 11 years.
His first wife, Dorothy, died. Several years
later he met June, a retired U.S. Public Health Service nurse, and they
married in 1990. They worked together as escorts.
STARKE, Florida - Paul Hill, a former minister who said he murdered an abortion doctor and his bodyguard to save the lives of unborn babies, was executed Wednesday by injection. He was the first person put to death in the United States for anti-abortion violence.
Hill, 49, was condemned for the July 29, 1994, shooting deaths of Dr. John Bayard Britton and his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Herman Barrett, and the wounding of Barrett's wife outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola.
As he has since the slaying, Hill showed no remorse and urged abortion foes to use whatever means to protect the unborn.
"If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it," Hill said as laid strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber. "May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected."
Hill was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m., Governor Jeb Bush's office said.
Death penalty opponents and others had urged Bush to halt the execution, some of them warning Hill's death would make him a martyr and unleash more violence against abortion clinics. The governor said he would not be "bullied" into stopping the execution.
Florida abortion clinics and police were on heightened alert for reprisals. Several officials connected to the case received threatening letters last week, accompanied by rifle bullets.
"Paul Hill is a dangerous psychopath," said Marti McKenzie, spokeswoman for Dr. James S. Pendergraft, who runs clinics in Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.
Outside Florida State Prison, extra law enforcement officers, explosives-sniffing dogs and undercover officers were in place to prevent protests from getting out of hand. About 50 abortion and death penalty foes quickly left following the execution as rain fell and lighting struck near the prison.
Hill, a former Presbyterian minister, had final visits with family members and his religious adviser stayed with him until just before the execution.
Since losing his automatic appeals, Hill has not fought his execution and insisted up to the day before his death that he would be forgiven by God for killing to save the unborn.
"I expect a great reward in heaven," he said in an interview Tuesday, during which he was cheerful, often smiling. "I am looking forward to glory."
Fringe elements of the anti-abortion movement that condone clinic violence have invited attacks on Web sites that proclaim Hill as a martyr. Members of the mainstream anti-abortion movement have denounced the calls for violence.
Most abortion clinics in Florida reached by The Associated Press on Wednesday declined comment. McKenzie said security is always high at their clinics, but they are particularly cautious now because of Hill's call for people to follow his actions.
"The bottom line is when you work in the industry you're aware those people are out there every single day," she said.
Inspired by the 1993 shooting death of another abortion doctor in Pensacola, Hill purchased a new shotgun and went to a gun range to practice. The morning of the murders, as Britton and the Barretts entered the clinic parking lot, Hill shot James Barrett in the head and upper body. He then reloaded and fired again, hitting Britton in the head and arm. June Barrett was wounded in the arm.
Hill put down the shotgun because he did not want to get shot by police. When officers arrested him minutes later, he said, "I know one thing, no innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today."
Hill was the 57th inmate executed since Florida resumed executions in 1979 and the third in Florida this year.
BARRETT, JAMES HERMAN JR
Posted: 10 October 1998 Updated: 15 January 2003 Updated: 3 September 2003 Updated: 11 September 2004 Updated: 10 September 2005 Updated: 19 August 2006