Norton Armour was at the peak of his legal career, but something wasn't quite right.
As general counsel for the Star Tribune Co., he represented a powerful news organization and fought hard for freedom of the press, a battle he cherished because of his father's experience with repression in Russia.
Yet he couldn't shake a growing sense "that justice and law were moving further apart," said his wife of more than 40 years, Marilyn.
So he went back to school, earned a master's degree in counseling, and spent his remaining years teaching college courses and counseling clients on loss and grief.
Armour, 87, died Sept. 5 at his home in Austin, Texas.
"He really worked at bringing people together in ways that transcended traditional boundaries," Marilyn Armour said. "The idea of going toward psychology in some ways made more overt what he was doing in a sort of covert way."
Armour was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1929. After earning law and business degrees from the University of Michigan, he served in the U.S. Air Force and worked as an IRS attorney before being hired as general counsel of the Star Tribune Co. in 1965. For more than 20 years, Armour worked to protect the First Amendment rights of reporters and editors.
"He loved the product — news. He loved the idea of publishing all the news that was fit to print," said Dave Nimmer former managing editor of the Minneapolis Star. "He was essentially there as a helper to get information into the paper. I loved his sense of that. He was a fine man."
Tim McGuire, former editor of the Star Tribune, called Armour "someone who cared about what we were doing and cared that it was done the right way." But Armour's legal skills never masked the man underneath, McGuire added.
"I never saw him display a mean bone. He always cared about the human being," McGuire said. "In times of stress, he'd always check in on Tim the person as opposed to Tim the editor."
Armour was immensely proud of his association with the Star Tribune, his wife said. Their first date was at the Little Wagon, a longtime favorite of Minneapolis journalists. As the evening ended, she said, "he told me to call him at the paper."
"I said, 'What?' " she recalled. "And he said, 'The PAPER!' "
When he made the shift to counseling, his peers in the legal field were taken aback, she said.
"In some ways, they considered him sort of a renegade," she said. "He had a reputation as a hard-nosed attorney for a major news company, and now he was going in a direction that people didn't necessarily see as allied with law.
"All that is illustrative of his being much more interested in what works than what is tried and true," she said. Armour supported his wife when she had an opportunity to join the faculty at the University of Texas.
"It was a really big deal to give up a life that we were comfortable with," she said. "But he was very clear: 'No, it's your turn now.' "
Armour passed on his love of journalism to his daughter, Stephanie Armour, who covers health care policy for the Wall Street Journal. Her husband, Daniel Eggen, is a White House correspondent for the Washington Post.
Armour is also survived by his children Greta Wexler and Jacob Armour; seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. A memorial service was held Monday at Temple Beth Shalom's Dell Campus in Austin, Texas.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402