John Norton, III is a third-generation Arizonan, born and raised in Phoenix. He spent two years at Stanford University before transferring to the University of Arizona where in 1950 he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. After graduation, John went on to serve his country as a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.
In 1955, John founded J.R. Norton Company, a business engaged in diversified agricultural production in Arizona and California and involving year-round production of lettuce and the seasonal production of strawberries, cantaloupes, honeydews, citrus, asparagus, cotton, wheat, alfalfa, and other crops. The company also ran cattle feeding and ranching operations.
In 1985 President Ronald Reagan appointed John as Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture. During his time in Washington, DC, working closely farmers, ranchers, and agri-business companies to improve their economic viability, John was instrumental in shaping national policy in support of production agriculture and ranching.
Currently, he serves on the UA Foundation Board of Directors, the Ag 100 Council, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Development Committee. .
For his dedicated service to his school, he has received the Alumnus of the Year Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the UA Alumni Association Bear Down and Distinguished Citizen Award, and was presented with a UA honorary doctor of laws degree.
John is the director and past chair of the Goldwater Institute and the St. Joseph’s Foundation, and is the director of the New Directions Institute. He is also a corporate director with the Apollo Group and Shamrock Foods Company.
In 1950, John married Doris Schaefer, a student he met at Bear Down Gym dance, Doris was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and came to Arizona with her family in 1946. She graduated from the UA in 1950. They are the proud parents of Michael R. Norton, John P. Norton, and Melanie Norton-Robinson.