Earle N. Knott, Columbia resident and NSA cryptographer, dies

Earle Nicholas Knott, a retired National Security Agency cryptographer and world traveler, died Saturday from pneumonia at Harmony Hall Hospice in Columbia. He was 89.

He was born in Elkins, W.Va., the son of Nicholas E. Knott Sr., a barber, and Clara Bean Knott, a nurse.

After graduating in 1945 from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Mr. Knott enlisted in the Marine Corps.

He completed sea school and Navy firefighting school in San Diego, Calif., then was assigned to sea duty aboard the cruiser USS Astoria in the Pacific. He later joined the crew of the carrier USS Midway in the Mediterranean.

While traveling from San Diego to Norfolk, Va., Mr. Knott met his future wife, Wanda Coffman. They married in 1950.

Mr. Knott was discharged in 1949 from the Marine Corps. The next day he began working for the old Armed Forces Security Agency, which became the NSA.

He was a cryptographer and a signal collections traffic analyst during a career that lasted more than three decades. He retired in 1983.

Mr. Knott was a member of the Phoenix Society, an NSA organization.

A Columbia resident since 1964, Mr. Knott enjoyed gardening, puzzles, bird watching, traveling and collecting art. He was especially fond of the artwork of Norman Rockwell, family members said.

He also liked reading to children at the Columbia branch library.

He was an active member of Bethel Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon and a member of the Primetimers. He was also a youth group leader and founder of the Betheleens.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at his church, 4261 Montgomery Road, Ellicott city.

In addition to his wife of 68 years, Mr. Knott is survived by three daughters, Penny Keuna of Germantown, Laura Grimes of Selbyville, Del., and Denise Knott of Franklin, Mass.; three grandsons; and two great-grandchildren.

—Frederick N. Rasmussen


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