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Obituaries, September/October 2022 -   -  

George Claxton, who served in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division and later became a leading figure in the Agent Orange movement, died on August 22. He was 79 years old.

George L. Claxton, 1947-2022

George Laughton Claxton, the long-time chair of Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee, died August 22 after a lengthy illness. A former U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division soldier whose life’s work was deeply entwined with the Agent Orange movement, he was 79 years old.

“No one worked longer, harder, and more effectively to help Vietnam War veterans receive their just compensation for being exposed to Agent Orange than George Claxton,” said VVA President Jack McManus. “He began that important and groundbreaking work not long after he came home from Vietnam in the mid-seventies, and continued until his last years.”

In 1978, George Claxton organized a rally on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol to raise awareness of the health hazards of exposure to Agent Orange, featuring prominent speakers and a shopping cart filled with oranges, each labeled “dioxin.” In response, the Michigan State Legislature set up an Agent Orange Commission and appointed him as a member. The commission arranged for a research study of Vietnam veterans’ exposures, which revealed that everyone who served in-country during the war had been exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides sprayed by the U.S. military.

George Claxton was the second individual plaintiff in the 1983 class-action lawsuit, the Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation, which pitted Vietnam veterans against seven chemical companies that manufactured the herbicides and insecticides used in Vietnam. Claxton was one of the ten plaintiffs in the Nehmer v. Veterans Administration lawsuit, which was decided in May 1989 when the VA agreed to reformulate its Agent Orange adjudication rules.

The author of the Michigan Physicians Guide on Agent Orange, Claxton held a B.S. from Northern Michigan University and attended Cooley Law School. He returned to Vietnam three times to participate in exchanges of Agent Orange information with the former enemy.

For many years he spent countless hours online, compiling research reports on toxicants; helped attorneys with their briefs; and when not at his desk, traveled at his own expense to educate veterans’ families about the generational health effects of Agent Orange. He was deeply concerned about the birth defects associated with a parent’s exposure to toxins.

A life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, George Claxton “gave of himself 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a lifetime committed to uncovering truth and delivering justice to those still recovering from their war,” said VVA Communications Department Director Mokie Pratt Porter. “Among his many awards is the VVA Commendation Medal, and he was the sole recipient of the VVA Agent Orange Medal.”

Sandie Wilson, chair of the Agent Orange Committee, lamented the timing of Claxton’s death.

“Unfortunately, his health problems prevented him from recognizing that President Biden had signed the PACT Act on August 10,” she said. “The provisions of the law are what George worked for his entire adult life.”




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