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Norris Bramlett; J. Paul Getty Aide and Museum Official

Obituaries

January 21, 1997|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Norris Bramlett, longtime personal aide to the late oil billionaire J. Paul Getty and a key administrator of the J. Paul Getty Museum, has died. He was 80.

Bramlett died Jan. 12 at his home in Fullerton of complications of renal failure, said his son, Ken Bramlett of Riverside.

It was Norris Bramlett who suggested to Getty in the 1940s that he realize a tax benefit by establishing a nonprofit museum to house his personal collection of old master paintings, French 18th century furniture and Greek and Roman antiquities.

The museum was first set up in a small ranch house Getty owned in Malibu. In 1954, the present museum opened, patterned after an ancient Roman villa. The new Getty Center overlooking the San Diego Freeway is now being completed.

As the museums developed, Bramlett occupied several positions--secretary-treasurer, director and trustee.

Knowing Getty had always pledged to leave the bulk of his vast estate to charity, Bramlett helped him write the final and governing codicil of his will, leaving a trust fund of $3.2 billion to the museum. The bequest, which survived being contested by a Getty granddaughter, gave Bramlett control over the museum and made the museum the richest in the world.

"He wanted to make sure his name would be perpetuated as long as there was civilization," Bramlett said at the time of Getty's death in 1976.

Bramlett's son said his father left home at age 17 and worked a variety of odd jobs while studying business and accounting in Texas. After a stint in the Depression-era Civil Conservation Corps in New Mexico, Bramlett signed on with one of Getty's early oil companies where he met Getty and soon became his personal assistant.

In addition to his son, Bramlett is survived by two daughters, Carolyn Bramlett-Gery of Irvine and Joanne Stern of Salem, Ore.

The family has asked that any honorary donations be made to either the First United Methodist Church Memorial Fund in Whittier or to the Hospice Foundation of America, 777 17th St., Suite 401, Miami FL 33139.

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