Ellis A. Boston, an attorney and businessman who helped pioneer labor negotiations in Baltimore's public school system, died of lung cancer Dec. 23 at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Ellicott City resident turned 70 the day he died.
Mr. Boston was born in East Baltimore near Dunbar Senior High School, the son of a steelworker father and homemaker mother. He bagged and delivered groceries and worked at Gordon's Seafood House while in elementary school and started his own car-washing business while in high school. After graduating from Dunbar in 1956, Mr. Boston began working for Black & Decker, according to his wife, Charlene Cooper Boston.
Five years later he was drafted into the Army and served at Fort Benning, Ga., before being stationed in South Korea. He was honorably discharged in 1963 and immediately enrolled in Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
He graduated in 1967 and began working as a social worker in Baltimore; he was dedicated to helping disadvantaged children, his wife said. The pastor of their church, Wayland Baptist on Garrison Boulevard, introduced Mr. Boston to Miss Cooper that year. The two became good friends, married in 1979 and moved to Ellicott City. They also spent time at their condominium in Ocean City and at a second home in Salisbury.
Mr. Boston graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School in 1972 and was admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. He began working for the Baltimore City school system as director of staff relations in 1974, at the same time the teachers union was first starting to exercise its collective-bargaining rights.
"It was new all over to have labor negotiations in school systems," said Mrs. Boston, a 37-year veteran of the city school system who stepped down last year as its interim chief executive officer. "He was in the forefront of serving as chief negotiator for the school system in contract negotiations and contract administration," she said.
She said the Baltimore Teachers Union sent a floral arrangement to her husband's funeral, a sign of the respect for the professionalism he displayed in dealing with the labor group.
"Even though they would have been on opposite sides, he established a good working relationship with them to get things accomplished," she said.
He left the Baltimore school system in 1978 and joined Washington's public schools as labor relations counsel, a position he held until he retired in the mid-1990s. An avid landscaper and news reader, he also invested in local real estate while in retirement and was active in several social organizations.
He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi, Sigma Phi Sigma and Alpha Psi Omega fraternities. He was also the first president of the Dunmor Woods Community Association in Ellicott City. In addition, he was the past president of the No Name Club and was active in the Mules and Connecting Links.
As a member of the Baltimore chapter of the University of Maryland's Eastern Shore Alumni Association, Mr. Boston helped raise thousands of dollars for scholarships.
Services for Mr. Boston were held Monday at City Temple of Baltimore.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Constance Kelley of Baltimore County; two brothers, Richard Crowe-Cheppell Sr. and Miles D. Crowe, both of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.