General Robert Taylor III, Aspen’s link to top military command, dead at 89
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Elegant and dignified, warm and friendly, Major General Robert Taylor III died March 16. He was 89 years old.
Burial will be with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on May 1.
General Taylor, a longtime supporter of the local arts scene and The Aspen Institute’s first connection with the military, first discovered Aspen four decades ago. He became a full-time resident in the early 1980s after retiring from a distinguished career with the military, the CIA, the Dew Line in Canada, and with the Pentagon.
Taylor was born in Catonsville, Md., in 1913. On his graduation from the Augusta Military Academy of Virginia, he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in June 1937.
As a second lieutenant fresh out of West Point, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps. His first duty assignment was to Randolph Field in Texas where he completed primary flying school and received his rating as a pilot.
He served with various military commands in England, Canada, Italy and Greece in addition to his stateside assignments.
During World War II, he served as an adviser on military aviation with the Directorate of Civil Defense in Washington, D.C., training private pilots to defend both coasts.
He then joined his unit in England to engage in the Battle of Britain. Taylor was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading Allied bombers deep into Germany to destroy oil fields.
Returning to the United States in 1945, he entered the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. After graduating in 1946 he was named chief of the collection division, Directorate of Air Intelligence working with the CIA in Washington, D.C.
In 1949, Taylor entered the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and in 12 years went from a student to Commandant of the War College.
He served in Greece in the 1950s, with duties as chief of planning activities in the eastern Mediterranean. From there he was designated chief of staff of Allied Air Forces of Southern Europe, and was stationed in Italy.
Returning to the United States, he was assigned to Colorado Springs where he performed duties as deputy chief of staff, intelligence, Continental Air Defense Command Headquarters. And in 1957, Taylor assumed command of the newly created NORAD.
He had always enjoyed sailing and skiing while in Europe and while stationed in Colorado Springs. During that time he discovered Aspen and bought a home on Hallam Street.
A neighbor and close friend across the street was author Fred Glidden, otherwise known as Western writer Luke Short. Other close Aspen friends were Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke.
Taylor brought students from the War College not only to ski in Aspen but to be the first military connection with The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.
On June 30, 1959, he was promoted to the rank of major general.
He was serving in the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who also has an Aspen home, during the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s.
General Taylor’s decorations and medals include the Distinguished Flying Cross; Bronze Star Medal, American Defense Service Award; European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; Victory Medal World War II; Army Commendation Ribbon; Air Force Longevity Service Award with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster. He was rated a command pilot. He was listed in Who’s Who in America in 1964.
He moved to Aspen full time in the early 1980s, sharing a home with Merrill Ford, first on Francis Street and then at the Aspen Meadows.
In Aspen the general was active with the Music Associates of Aspen, the International Design Conference at Aspen, and he served on the National Council of the Aspen Art Museum. He enjoyed skiing and attending the music concerts.
He loved to do his errands on foot and could be seen around town with a backpack on his back, stopping and visiting with friends along the way. He was widely known as a “Gentleman of the Old School.”
Survivors include Merrill Ford, Fred Ford III, Robert Foerster, Mary Haverstock, Alison Rea, and Kim and David Floria.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be sent the the Music Associates of Aspen at 2 School House Road, Aspen, CO 81611 or to the International Design Conference at Aspen, c/o Box 445, Aspen, Colo. 81612.
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