Dr. Robert Lee Aston passed away peacefully at his home, Aston Villa, in Elberton, Georgia, on the 1st day of September in the year of our Lord 2013 A.D. He was an attorney-at-law, mining engineer and geologist. Dr. Aston maintained a home and office in his native State at Rapidan, Virginia and Georgia.
He was born in Virginia in 1924, of a long line, maternally and paternally, of Virginians and Anglo-Saxon lineage, the first coming to the English Colony of Virginia in the early 1600’s. He was also a direct descendant of Johann Kepler (1571-1630), the famous German astronomer and mathematician.
Dr. Aston received his early education in Georgia and Missouri. He volunteered for military service with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and served on active duty from 1943 to 1945. During World War II, he flew 35 combat missions against Germany as a First Lieutenant, navigator, with the 67th Squadron of the 44th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, stationed in England. For meritorious and outstanding valor in combat on a mission to Hamburg, Germany, he received two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was promoted to the rank of Captain for serving as the Deputy Squadron Navigator of the 67th Squadron. For other combat missions, he received the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf clusters. Following his tour of European combat in February 1945, he was returned to the U.S. and trained as a single engine pilot with the 2nd Air Force for a tour of duty in the Pacific theatre. He completed pilot training as the War ended with Japan and was separated from active duty October 1, 1945. He served with the Air Force reserves for 8 years thereafter and was discharged from the Air Force Reserves in 1953.
Aston was a highly educated man, earning eight university degrees in engineering and law. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 1948 in science and pre-engineering; in 1950 in mining engineering from the Missouri School of Mines, U. of Missouri; in 1984 in law with a Juris Doctor from Woodrow Wilson College of Law, Atlanta, Ga.; in 1985 with a Master of Laws degree from Atlanta Law School, Atlanta, Ga.; in 1992 with a Master of Geological Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla; in 1993 with the professional engineer’s degree of Engineer of Mines from the University of Missouri-Rolla; in 1996 with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Civil Engineering-Law from the University of Aston, Birmingham, England; and in 2000 with a Doctor of Engineering (D.E. in engineering law) from the University of Missouri-Rolla. His Doctor of Engineering degree was the eighth such degree ever granted by UMR.
Dr. Aston was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Missouri-Rolla occasionally teaching Mining Law and Environmental Law. He authored three published law books on mining law and environmental law. Dr. Aston was a strong proponent and advocate of the full reclamation of surface mines by landfilling thereby restoring the mined land for surface re-use and conserving land. He had been a long time author of legal articles on the subject of minerals, mining and environmental law for several national and international mining and legal publications. He authored many articles under his own trade marked legal columns “Assays from the Legal Vein” and Aston’s Mining Law Case Reviews. Dr. Aston was the Law Editor and a member of the Editorial Board for Mineral Resources Engineering Journal of the Imperial College, London, England.
As an attorney, he was admitted to law practice in the states of Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, and Montana. He was a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, the bars of the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 11th Circuits of the U.S. Courts of Appeal. He had carried appeals to the Supreme Courts of Georgia, Montana and Missouri, and to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the International Bar Association, the Australian Mining & Petroleum Law Association, the Rocky Mtn. Mineral Law Foundation, and the International Mining Professionals Society. Dr. Aston had been a member of the American Institute and Society of Mining Engineers (AIME-SME) since 1952 and was a member of its Legion of Merit. He was a charter member of the Georgia Geological Society, a registered Professional Geologist in the states of Georgia and Missouri.
Dr. Aston began his professional engineering career as a land surveyor in 1949 in Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Virginia, and in 1950 as a mining engineer and mine geologist for the Tennessee Copper Company, Ducktown, Tennessee. In December 1958, after a short stint as a plant engineer and assistant superintendent for Signal Mountain Portland Cement Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee, he entered private practice as a consulting mining engineer. He taught mining and petroleum geology at the University of Chattanooga (later U. Tenn at Chattanooga) from 1958-1959. In 1958 he opened a consulting mining engineering office in Signal Mountain, Tenn., subsequently moving his office in 1959 to Tate, Georgia, and then, to Elberton, Ga., in 1960. In April 1964, he started his own stone quarrying company in Virginia with the opening of a black granite mine. He later opened two more granite quarries in Georgia and North Carolina. In 1987, after passing the bar exams in two states, he added the practice of law. Aston maintained law offices in Elberton, Georgia and in Rapidan, Virginia. He continued his Mineral Engineering and Law practice until his death.
Dr. Aston was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and of the Sons of the American Revolution, and a Director of the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association. He was a life-long member of the Methodist church and served as annual Head Usher for over 20 years at the First Methodist Church in Elberton, Georgia, and was a member of its Administrative Board.
Dr. Aston is survived by his beloved wife, Mary Ellen Pierce Aston, of the home; four children by a former marriage: Laurie Lee Aston of California, Gary Lee Aston, an attorney of Elberton, Georgia and his wife Linda, Roger Aston and his wife, Grace, of California, and Robin Lee Aston of Elberton, Georgia; four grandchildren: Derek David Aston and his wife, Katy, of Elberton, Charlotte N. Aston of Elberton, Ashley Morgan of California, and Ryan Aston of California; and two great-grandchildren: Hayleigh Jo Aston and Brady Anthony Smith. He is also survived by a step-daughter, Katherine and her husband, Tony, and granddaughter, Cortnee Smith, all of Fredericksburg, VA.; and special caregivers: Ms. Celecia Tate, Ms. Theodoshia Brunson, and Mrs. Barbara Fleming.
A service to celebrate Dr. Aston’s life will be Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, Elberton, with Dr. Rev. Wallace Wheeles officiating. Visitation will be at 10:00 a.m. in The Fellowship Hall just prior to the service. Interment will be in Indiana at a later date.
You may express condolences to the family at www.hicksfuneral.com.
Arrangements for Dr. Robert Lee Aston are in the care of Hicks Funeral Home of Elberton.