Robert L. Burton
{ "" }
Share
Share Robert's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share

Incredible and inspiring people come in all shapes and sizes, but few as large as Robert (Bob) Burton. Bob passed away peacefully on September 22, 2016 in Santa Barbara; surrounded by loving family and many incredible friends. He will always be remembered for his patriotism, razor-sharp wit, love of life, sense of adventure, compassion, generosity and love of animals. 

Bob was born in New York City on August 9,1938 to Helen and Linwood Burton. Linwood was an entrepreneur and chemist; inventing such well-known cleaning products as Mr. Clean. Helen Burton was a Wall Street banker, who refused to allow her gender to determine her success. Bob's early life was largely shaped by his two parents, WWII and a patriotic sense of duty. In 1956, Bob relocated to Santa Barbara with his mother and younger siblings Edward and Evelyn Burton. After serving in the U.S. Marines in the early 60's, Bob returned to Santa Barbara and began cultivating many life-long friendships which still exist today. He later earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate and opened Santa Barbara's first karate school. In the late 60's, Bob's love for Santa Barbara inspired him to campaign for a local City Council seat. Following an unsuccessful bid for Santa Barbara City Council, Bob invested much of his time in his insurance business; until his love for adventure won him over and he decided to pursue his passion for the bail enforcement ("bounty hunting") profession. Always striving to be the best, Bob sought the tutelage of Ralph "Papa" Thorson; widely considered to be the foremost authority on bounty hunting at the time and subject of the movie "The Hunter" starring the late Steve McQueen. A friendship between Bob Burton and Ralph Thorson quickly grew, until Thorson's passing in the early 90's. During this time, Bob worked tirelessly to change the public perception of Bounty Hunters from "lawless thugs" to disciplined professionals, by establishing the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents (NABEA). Through this organization, Bob established industry "best practices", professional training and certifications, which elevated the public and media perception of Bail Enforcement Agents worldwide.

Bob's unique blend of quick wit, public presence and ability to communicate across all demographics, led to national and international media engagements. His appearances on 60 minutes, 20/20, Fox News, Larry King, ABC News and many international TV outlets further propelled the Bounty Hunting profession; ultimately paving the way for a new generation of Bounty Hunters and reality TV shows. After establishing himself as the world's foremost authority on Bounty Hunting, Bob transitioned from Bounty Hunting to international child abduction cases until his retirement in 2012. 

Bob is survived by his sister Evelyn Walters (Burton), nephew Shawn Walters, grandniece Mary Walters, grandnephew Shawn Walters Jr. and cousins, William Hynes and Joanne Mason (Hynes). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara and/or CARE4PAWS of Santa Barbara.

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 on Thursday September 29, 2016 at Welch-Ryce-Haider, 15 E Sola St., followed by a burial ceremony at Calvary Cemetery.



To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Santa Barbara News-Press from Sep. 27 to Oct. 1, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by big bob carignan
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
68 entries
August 26, 2020
In 1968, I left Arlington, Virginia for BROOKS INSTITUTE OF PHOTOGRAPHY in Santa Barbara. I got a part-time job as manager of the camera department at Sears (#2138) and, first day on the job, I looked over at an ALLSTATE booth and there was Bob. I recognized him from the Clarendon, Virginia Sears store where he had a booth in the downstairs Craftsman Tool Department where there was a fresh roasted hot nut stand and the place was a men's hang-out. It would hav been the perfect place to sell insurance and Bob was my dad's agent. I went to Bob's karate class a few times in Santa Barbara but I was too busy to keep it up (Studied Aikido later living on Oahu. Interestingly, after a short career in federal natural resource law enforcement including introducing service dogs to federal law enforcement breeding, training, and handling my own dog which caught-on even with the US MARSHALS SERVICE. Then, I did a little attorney's investigation and bounty hunting myself. I never say Bob after about 1969 but appreciated him as a man's man, nice-looking guy, and was fascinated at such a transcontinental coincidence.
James Clayton
March 7, 2020
COW POKE'S
The Colonel
March 7, 2020
Bob Leslie and friends Palm Beach
The Colonel
October 29, 2019
I had the horrible feeling that Bob was gone. I kept sending Birthday wishes and holiday greetings, but I never got a reply. I had heard Bob had a stroke, but I had no phone ##'s that were in service so I could contact anyone. I called the only Santa Barbara Nursing home I know of, but could not get any information, either. I am Leatha Sturges. Bob and I met in California 1989, and re-met after I began practicing law in 1996 or so. We had great ties together, and I will miss that great voice telling me to hurry up (among other things)! Bob, keep watching out for all of us who love you, and we'll see you on the other side.
Leatha Sturges
September 23, 2019
You meant the world to so many people, most of all your family. We were so proud of you, there was never a dull moment when you were around. Look after us Bobby, I'm a "lone Ranger" now as far as family goes and I could use a little whisper now and then. I love you and miss you so much.
Evelyn Burton
September 23, 2019
My brother had the most incredible friends, some going back 50-60 yrs. These letters and the memories they bring back have made me both laugh and cry at the same time. I remember his parties and someone telling him it was getting "too loud" and that the police were going to show up. Bobby looked at him and told him not to worry that the police were already there! Half of the party were police officers and officials and it was always a great time. Yesterday was a rough time for me, it was Bobby's third anniversary and it's still really hard to talk about him without getting a lump in my throat, I miss him so much. He always brought so much excitement to everything we did like going to Harry's for dinner or Cafe'Del Sol for a drink. it would always end up being a night of laughter hearing Bob's stories and adventures. The newest entry in this Guest Book said it best this morning in a few short words when they wrote "stay with me my buddy", I can only add by saying stay with all of us Bobby, we love and miss you so very much.
Evelyn (Dukie) Burton
September 23, 2019
Bobby, in my heart forever. "Stay with me buddy".
September 22, 2019
Bob Burton
September 21, 2019
An amazing guy with an extraordinary life. Not a Hollywood character- but a real world hero that remained in the background.
I first met Uncle Bob in the 90's in Scottsdale Arizona and afterwards walked up to him at Fort Summer. I said hi sir, where do I know you from? I suspect Scottsdale was the reply. We began a conversation and I learned he was Bob Burton, the same Bob Burton who had written for Soldier of Fortune magazine- and the same Bob Burton that was famous in my profession.
We stayed in contact and remained friends ever since.
His Rolodex contained well-known NSA and CIA contacts.
Over the years I was fortunate enough to work on a few cases with him. If I was out west, I would call him. When he was on the east coast or needed help on this side, he sometimes called me.
Perhaps the most memorable case we worked on-Bob helped locate and return a small child that was taken abroad. I recall being in Mexico and Bob reaching out for a wet nurse. In yet another country, our means of exit severely diminished with a contact's passing- I phoned Bob.
Within a few hours a van appeared and a short while later, we were escorted through customs and on our way home.
He had a lot of life-long friends and many connections abroad. He was often referred to as a brother or Uncle Bob.
Sometime in early 2000 or thereafter he called about COBRA. He and I met at an airport for lunch. I agreed to sign on.
It was there I saw one of Barry Seals old planes.
I was once called to a meeting at Thorny's in Conway South Carolina. There was a retired colonel and other former military personnel including a gentleman from the French Foreign Legion. The mission: to apprehend Usama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Ladin a/k/a Osama bin Laden and of course the $25,000,000 reward. It never came together but I will say this now...they knew he was in Pakistan.
Bob and his stories were an inspiration to all who crossed his path. He had a way with words and people. He enjoyed life. The world was better with him. I was honored to call him my friend.
I miss my friend Bob.
Mark Cartret
May 27, 2019
I love and miss you every day my brother, and especially today, Memorial day. You were such a great patriot. I know you're in Heaven stirring things up! love, Dukie (Evelyn)
Evelyn Burton
January 26, 2019
My name is Donald L Collingwood,I remember my Dad Ronald and Bob use to talk on the phone. My dad sometimes would tell me to say Hi to your Uncle Bob.I would say Hi Uncle Bob.My dad was part of MAC V SOG.Rest In Peace Uncle Bob.
Donald L Collingwood
January 19, 2019
I had the honor of meeting Bob in Sacramento while attending his bounty hunter classes. He was a wealth of information and a great personality. Loved his stories. RIP Bob
Ross Tremayne, Pacific Coast Recovery
November 24, 2018
A framed article about me that Bob presented me as a gift in 1993, The Leopard Lounge in Palm Beach was his favorite stop. God Bless You Bob! AAA
October 31, 2018
I ALWAYS WAS THAT SPECIAL ONE IN SANTA BARBARA... NO?
JUAN CARLOS GUADARRAMA
July 27, 2018
Very sad to learn you left us. Many fun times back in the mid 90's... crazy nights, fun seminars, great partying. Miss ya man....
John N.
April 2, 2018
Rest in Peace Bob, been along time since Ports mouth NH with the start of NABEA, good times and memories with Lance and you.
Roger Beauchamp
November 5, 2017
Dear Bob and the Burton Family,
I just found out of your passing, but the memories and legacy you left with us will always simmer and flow in our blood. Your compassion, humor and interpersonal skills created NABEA and put it on the map. It has been 20 long years since we last shook hands in New Orleans, but I remember it like it was last week. I am near Tombstone now and going to walk the streets you walked on. Thank you for all you have done. RIP Sir, Semper Fi
Steven Anselmetti
November 5, 2017
Steven Anselmetti
October 28, 2017
We miss you Bobby, more than ever. Thanks for watching over us.
October 27, 2017
Bob , thanks for the training provided by the N.A.B.E.A. in Arizona in 1996. It has helped keep me safe over the years .
Howard Harris
Friend
August 10, 2017
thank all of you for remembering bob burton,,its been a year now, and when looking at all the letters and pictures , bob shared with me, have a feeling he is just doing gods work , as a bounty hunter in heaven, thank you bob
robert carignan
August 9, 2017
Bob, thanks for being in my life, mar 1996 grad, funny thing, believe you still have my back, down here, but with a better view! Thanks, see you when I get there..........
Fred Kempster
June 11, 2017
Took Bob's class in West Palm Beach FL, then later went to Tombstone for a bounty hunters gathering. He was bigger than life yet always had kindness toward everyone around him.
JERRY HENDERSON
June 4, 2017
With Reagan
Robert Raffealli
Friend
June 4, 2017
Bob was larger than life because he decided to be.
After I met Bob around 2003 and began drinking and socializing with him and exchanging favors, I realized that I'd met him before, in 1975 when I was still in college and Bob was a buddy of my friend's dad! One day around 2006, I turned on the news, then raced for the phone to tell a mutual friend, "Turn on the TV! Bob's on CNN!"
Asked how he would locate a particular fugitive, Bob said, "Find his Judas."
Invited to karaoke at his friend's bar, Bob sang the Marine Hymn.
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
At my birthday party
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
With Reagan
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
With G. Gordon Liddy
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
At my birthday party
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
With Reagan
Robert Raffealli
June 4, 2017
Bob was larger than life because he decided to be.
After I met Bob around 2003 and began drinking and socializing with him and exchanging favors, I realized that I'd met him before, in 1975 when I was still in college and Bob was a buddy of my friend's dad! One day around 2006, I turned on the news, then raced for the phone to tell a mutual friend, "Turn on the TV! Bob's on CNN!"
Asked how he would locate a particular fugitive, Bob said, "Find his Judas."
Invited to karaoke at his friend's bar, Bob sang the Marine Hymn.
Many times I thought Bob was making up his exploits, but everything I looked into was true, or pretty close.
Robert Raffealli
May 6, 2017
I went to Bob s school N.A.B.E.A. in 1996 in Tombstone Ariz.
Howars Harris
March 13, 2017
Miss you my dear Bobby. Watch over us like nobody else can.
Ruth Blewett
March 12, 2017
I will miss you Bob.
john landgraf
February 11, 2017
Just finished training with Bob, Fugitive Recovery Agent, Tucson...
Going to miss you buddy. Rest in Peace... We had a few good times together while you were in Tucson and Tombstone, AZ.... Till we meet again...
Jim Shorten
December 14, 2016
Bob and I dated years ago. We actually met in the Young Republicans. We had a special friendship throughout all these years. Whenever I got to SB, I always had a drink or lunch with Bob. He was fun to be around and a good friend. I will miss knowing that he isn't in this world anymore.
Eileen Padberg
December 13, 2016
Always the life of the party.
Lots of ups and downs and memories as well. Rest in peace, amigo, until we meet again.
Paul Coulis
December 4, 2016
Rest in Peace Amigo!!
Glenn Lawlor
December 3, 2016
As a big brother, Bob had a loud bark, but no bite! His little sister, Evelyn (Dukie)and I caused him a lot of aggravation, but he loved us. Our families were involved for many years because his dear Mother, Helen, and my Mom were best friends. It's been many years, but never forgotten. God bless..
Linda (Gennari) McCallion
November 28, 2016
A towering individual that devoted his life to helping others, Bob will be missed.

-Mark Cartret
Mark Cartret
November 5, 2016
See you later!
Very Sad! Met Bob in the Young Republicans and had many fun moments!
He invited me to join him as a mercenary to go to Nicaragua to fight the communists and to set up a defense system to protect the plantations. God! Please bless his soul!
Tony Andrade
October 31, 2016
I am Bob's first wife. We had a big wedding & the reception was at the Mar Monte Hotel in Santa Barbara. We had wonderful marriage while we were together. I divorce Bob because he did not want to have children. And he never did have any children. Although, he would have been the best as a father. As you can see he was the best at everything he did in his life. May God be with him in his new place.

Leslie Ashe, Plano, Texas
October 30, 2016
...
October 30, 2016
My wife and I met Bob as strangers, while having coffee at Lafonds. He and I (him first, smile) exchanged favorable compliments across the tables to the two beautiful women we were with. Hence, our friendship was started. Bob rode on the life he had lived and was living, it being indeed remarkable to say the least. A man of great pride, character, intelligence, and wit. September of 2015 our last visit, his spirits were high. Sadly now a void will exist in our future visits to the area, we will miss Bob but his memory will remain. Rest in peace my friend.

..

Henry & Patricia
Southern Arizona
Henry and Patricia
October 20, 2016
Godbye my good friend Tony Andrade
October 16, 2016
was talking to sam Wallace in texas about bobs passing , he wants to have a reunion for all bounty hunters in Houston area this summer for bob burtons friends and co bounty hunters to get together and honor bob ,
robert carignan
October 7, 2016
Ever so sorry to hear the news
Bobby Del Sesto
October 7, 2016
My condolences to Bob's family.I met Bob when we both worked for Allstate nearly 50 years ago. I had some issues from Vietnam & a divorce. Bob got me involved in SB social life & politics.After 3 years I left SB,but kept in touch when I visited SB. He lived AN EXTRAORDINARY life: working for G. Gordon Liddy running an executive security program in Florida, editing "Soldier of Fortune" magazine developing an association to deal with cattle-rustling in AZ, his long adventure with bounty-hunting, and finally writing about these experiences in many novels & non-fiction books. Unfortunately the "Quiet-Ops" school never got off the ground. I know that he suffered deeply with the loss of his fiancée who was the final piece of the puzzle that was Bob Burton. That final piece was a lot larger than most realized. I am fortunate to have known him & to have followed his many exploits. He was a "larger than life" character who will be sorely missed. RIP old friend.
Jim Marxer, Poughkeepsie, NY
October 3, 2016
I'm very sad to hear of Bobs passing. He was a menter to me. I first met Bob in Thombstone just after he arrived. I was a veteran and was working for US Customs. We hit it off right away. At his urging, I taught many classes for him and spoke at the first Bounty Hunters Convention. We continued a friendship and professional relationship even after we both moved away, he in California and Florida, and me in Texas. He will be remembered by many people as a great guy, a patriot, a hell raiser at times, a menter and just a good friend. God bless and RIP my friend.
Timothy Meyer
October 2, 2016
I first met Bob when he had his karate studio, which was in an apartment he shared with Stu Moore. Lots of parties ! I think Bob was always the one in control !
I didn't know him well, but knew his brother, Eddie, who passed away at a very young age. Eddie was so very proud of Bob. When Bob was in the military, he would send Eddie gifts from around the world. Eddie would share his joy with classmates.
Whenever I ran into Bob, the last time being about 2 yrs. ago, he always remembered my friendship with his brother.
Bob also knew and liked my dad. He could never remember my first name or married last name but always greeted me, calling out my "maiden name".
He was always so friendly and welcoming. No matter who he was with he'd ask me to join him and his usually boisterous "party". Mostly this happened at Café Del Sol or Harry's !
RIP Big Guy.
You were one of a kind.
MCS
October 1, 2016
Bob, was the greatest..a true compatriot,emphasis on patriot. Jean and I loved him very much and unfortunately were out of town when he passed. We will always remember him and will cherish his memory.Our three kids also loved Bob and will always remembefr him fomdly.We had many wondewrful social encounters with Bob which we will always treasure. God has opened the gates of heaven for Bob and will be GOP1,in paradise.
Frank&Jean Umanzio
September 30, 2016
I met Bob in SB CA at a friend's house during a get together. I was introduced to him by Jim W. & being military had some commonality right away. I'm a retired minister and computer tech & web site developer. Bob cornered me right away to do his website's & I complied, after seeing what he did have, which started a wonderful 13 year relationship with him & my wife. When Bob had to go into the nursing home about three years ago my wife & I would call him to cheer him up He always appreciated our calls. We were planning on seeing Bob this year, after my chemo treatments, but were so saddened to hear of his passing away. We considered Bob to be a good & wonderful friend & we will miss him sorely. May the Lord bless his family & loved ones.
Gene & Noel Williams
September 30, 2016
Thanks Bob 4 everything!
I called Bob for advice one morning, at the time had known Bob for about 10 years. I never got to ask Bob what I originally called about, he interrupted me and told me that he wanted me to speak at a Bounty Hunting class he was having. Bob gave me the subject he wanted me to speak about and ordered me to do it. I quickly informed him that I was not a public speaker nor was I interested in speaking. Bob said quickly, I've got to go and hung up. Well, Bob started my public speaking and I have him to thank. Ya gotta love Bob's personality
Sam Wallace
September 30, 2016
8-18-2005
September 30, 2016
September 29, 2016
bob was my bouty hunter mentor, we met thru school in 1987 , in Tucson,az. , we found solice being friends , me a air craft inspector at boeing flight test , him being a student of pappas, when we got together to bar hop , it was very interesting to say the least, we met all bobs contacts by simply running in to them while traveling and no one ever gave bob greif , it wasn't allowed , to his many friends and contacts , includeing myself , he will be missed , god speed old warrior ,
robert carignan
September 29, 2016
First met Bob in Santa Barbara at a YR meeting. He ALWAYS felt I wasn't conservative enough. People like him encouraged my career in politics. Knew of his many accomplishments, and last saw him on a street corner in Tombstone in 1994 -- full regalia even gun on his hip. Shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. A true patriot in a nation that is fast forgetting what the term means. Will miss him!
Tom Glass
September 29, 2016
September 28, 2016
It was with great sadness we read of Bob's passing. Thru 40 years of friendship we valued the unique person Bob was. He never forget to contact us on our birthdays, which is pretty unusual for a single man. He gave great parties (with half of the police force attending) a proud young Republican, Civil War Buff, Bounty Hunter and all around good guy. After we moved out of Santa Barbara, we saw Bob on our annual trip back for lunch at Harry's or dinner at Cafe del Sol, unless he was in Florida. Visited him in April at the convalescent home. RIP Bob, we will miss you.
Sharon and Larry Levinson
Sharon Levinson
September 28, 2016
Sam Wallace
September 27, 2016
I remember we decided to meet on East Beach to sign the papers for my auto insurance as we were both very much into our beach walks. After signing he shook my hand and then held it for a second and said, 'you're in good hands with Allstate'. I had fallen for it again as he was my insurance agent for a number of year. Good guy - good stories! This was 40+ years ago.
Mark Winkler
September 27, 2016
Very Sad! Met Bob in the Young Republicans and had many fun moments!
God! Please bless his soul!
September 27, 2016
Take comfort in knowing that now you have a special guardian angel to watch over you.
Frances Ragsdale
September 27, 2016
God Bless ! Charlie Dozer
September 27, 2016
AAw how sad, I used to work next door to Bob at the insurance company on State Street. Last time I saw him we had a drink and he told me all about his bounty hunting! He was a character and I never realized how accomplished he was!RIP Bob
Terry Contreras
September 27, 2016
Ruth Blewett
September 27, 2016
Ruth Blewett
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences