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.