Oliver W. Green Sr., a former streetcar motorman who became the first African-American international secretary-treasurer of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Chevy Chase, died Sunday of complications after a stroke at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The longtime Northwood resident was 77.
"Oliver Green was truly one of the great ATU international officers of the 20th century. His devotion to the causes of the transit worker and labor was unparalleled, and the kindness and compassion he showed in his service was appreciated by everyone he worked with, particularly International Headquarters," Warren S. George, international president of the ATU, said in a statement released yesterday "He was a trailblazer who fought for the rights of minorities in the labor movement."
Mr. Green was born in Baltimore and raised on Warner Street. He was a 1949 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and served with an Army construction unit in Korea from 1951 until 1953, when he was discharged with the rank of sergeant.
After returning to Baltimore, he went to work in 1953 for Baltimore Transit Co. as a streetcar motorman. At the same time, began his union involvement with Local 1300 of the ATU.
"He was certainly very knowledgeable about the struggle and of that era in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when African-Americans entering the industry weren't readily accepted and had to earn their way," Mr. George said. "And he worked tirelessly at getting better working conditions and lives for all transit workers."
As an active member of his local, he took part in many union activities, including as serving as chairman of its committee on political education in 1967.
Mr. Green continued his education at what is now Morgan State University studying accounting. He was elected vice president of Local 1300 in 1968 and was elected financial secretary two years later.
In 1975, he was elected an international vice president of the ATU and was responsible for labor issues in southeastern and north-central states.
"He was the second African-American to hold this position," Mr. George said.
His assignments included contract negotiations settlement of internal and external disputes, and assisting in the implementation of financial recordkeeping systems for other locals. He also lobbied locally and nationally for the ATU.
At the ATU's annual convention in Anaheim, Calif., in 1989, Mr. Green was elected international secretary-treasurer. He was responsible for the administration of day-to-day operations of the union, which was founded in 1892, and for maintaining its official records.
Mr. Green held that position until retiring in 2000.
"He'd come over from Baltimore to our headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue early in the morning, and he'd have the coffee when we came to work, and then he'd go home around 3 p.m. to beat the afternoon rush," Mr. George said.
Through the years, Mr. George and Mr. Green developed a deep friendship.
"I got to know him in 1975," Mr. George said. "We enjoyed playing golf together and going to Obrycki's to eat crabs. I'm surely going to miss him. We're all going to miss him."
Mr. Green had been a member of the steering committee of the AFL-CIO's Secretary-Treasurers' Conference and chairman of the ATU's committee on political education.
In addition to his work with the union, Mr. Green had been a board member of the United Way of Central Maryland and later became chairman of allocations.
He was a founding member of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, an organization that helped African-American students become certified public accountants. He also had served on the board of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
"My brother accomplished great things," said Edward D. Green of Baltimore.
Mr. Green was a longtime active parishioner and finance committee member of Northwood-Appold United Methodist Church, 4499 Loch Raven Blvd., where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Also surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Loraine Elizabeth Johnson, a retired Westside Elementary School teacher; two sons, Oliver W. Green Jr. of Suitland and Michael G. Green of Baltimore; and two grandsons.