Patricia Anne Morton, 84, passed away Oct. 16, 2019, at her home in Washington, D.C. She was born May 30, 1935, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Centralia, Wash., to Russell and Clara (Haase) Morton. Patricia graduated from high school in Napavine, went on to college in Centralia and finished at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
Patti worked in the office of the governor in Olympia for four years. In 1963, she went to Florida to visit friends and took a job at a law firm in Orlando. Patti put in her application for Foreign Service and by 1965, was accepted. She was given her choice of three locations, she chose Nepal as it seemed the most remote and challenging. From Nepal, Patti went to Kinshasa Africa where in 1968, she received a commendation for the excellent quality of security work she did as Post Security Officer. This was work she did in addition to her regular duties as secretary to Administrative Counselor. Finishing her tour of duty in Kinshasa, she was sent to Cameroon, then to Singapore. Upon her return to Washington, D.C., Patti was recommended for training as a security officer and in 1972, she became the first Female Diplomatic Security Special Agent.
It was a difficult transition for Patti, being the first female in an all-male field. She faced many challenges being the first female agent, including lack of support from some of her colleagues, specifically the secretarial staff. She would have to type all of her documents, memos and instructions herself, even those that were hundreds of pages, because the secretaries would not do it. At the time, Diplomatic Security did not issue gun holsters that would fit or be practical for a woman, so Patti had to come up with her own way to carry her weapon. She decided to carry it in a blue clutch handbag, which she did say made it a little tricky to quickly pull her weapon when needed! During her years as a Special Agent, she earned the nickname “Pistol Packin’ Patti.”
Patti served at the United States Embassy in Saigon as the first female Regional Security Officer. She led training sessions and briefings for embassy staff and family including defensive driving techniques in which she utilized a set of toy cars to go over scenarios. As the emergency and evacuation coordinator, she wrote the post’s evacuation plan which was put in use during the fall of Saigon in April of 1975.
Later, Patti would become the Federal Women’s Program Manager where she would direct the department’s efforts to provide employment for women at all levels. She then went on to become a member of the State Department Board of Examiners where she was responsible for the selection of those that would enter foreign service. In the State Department, Patti was the only woman to have been a Regional Security Officer, the first woman admitted to the Office of Security as a Special Agent and the first woman to work as a desk officer in the Foreign Operations Division.
Patti knew as the first woman Special Agent that her work was always under scrutiny, but she was a trailblazer. She hoped by working hard, being adaptable and doing her best with what was available to her, she would make it easier for the women who would follow.
Patti was preceded in death by her brother, Donald Paul Morton (Kay).
She is survived by her brothers, Edwin Robert Morton (Elvera) of Chehalis, Wash., and Delbert Dale Morton (Diane) of Allyn, Wash.; along with four nieces; and three nephews.
A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Napavine Cemetery.