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John H. Michener, Social Security Administration official and activist, dies

John H. Michener, a retired Social Security Administration official who was a civic activist and served on the city’s zoning appeals board, died Feb. 17 from pneumonia at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. He was 92.

John Harold Michener was the son of John Morrison Michener, a high school science teacher, and Anna Jane Baker, a homemaker. He was born and raised in Wichita, Kan., and graduated from high school there.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in 1948, also from Kansas.

In 1952, he was awarded a doctorate in constitutional law from the University of California at Berkeley.

While at Berkeley, he had a teaching assistantship. His wife, the former Ann Crabtree, a high school friend whom he married in 1945, worked in the university’s education department.

They were fired in 1950 after refusing to sign the California Loyalty Oath which, among other provisions, required signers to accept any civil defense duties that might be assigned. Mr. Michener was a lifelong Quaker, and in a profile of his career, he wrote: “As a Quaker, I did not feel I could give a blanket acceptance of unknown future civil defense assignments.”

In 1952 he joined the SSA in Sacramento, where he served as a claims representative and later as a field representative. Mr. Michener transferred to Baltimore in 1956 and helped set up the newly enacted Disability Insurance program. A year later, he was promoted to the SSA’s Management Analysis Branch.

While continuing to work for the SSA, Mr. Michener enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law, and obtained a law degree in 1962.

He went to work for in 1962 for the Public Health Service and the next year transferred to the Bureau of State Services-Environmental Health. There, he was deputy chief of its management systems branch.

After Medicare was enacted, he was recruited back to the Social Security Administration in 1966 and was chief of the Administrative Management Branch of the newly established Bureau of Health Insurance. He later became its acting assistant director.

Then, in 1975, he moved to the agency’s management coordination and special projects staff at the Office of Management Administration, and later became its director.

He retired in 1978, but returned to work a year later, taking a position with the state when Kalman R. “Buzzy” Hettleman, then secretary of the Department of Human Resources, asked him to be his special assistant.

The following year Mr. Michener was asked to take over the Maryland Judicare Program, which provided legal services to individuals who could not afford an attorney.

The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Association then hired him to be its executive director, and he headed that association while continuing his role with Maryland Judicare until 1990, when he resigned from both.

A longtime Windsor Hills resident and neighborhood activist, Mr. Michener served as executive director of National Neighborhoods, an association of integrated neighborhoods scattered across the U.S.

He had been a board member, treasurer and president of Windsor Hills Neighbors, and from 1976 to 1995 served as a member of the Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals.

He also served as a member of the Maryland Education Coalition, co-chaired the Mayor’s Home Ownership Task Force from 1977 to 1979, and chaired the Governor’s Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities from 1972 to 1978.

Other civic activism included membership on the board of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association and, from 1969 to 1971, service on the board of Baltimore Neighborhoods.

Mr. Michener was a longtime active member of Stony Run Friends Meeting. A resident of Broadmead since 2008, he enjoyed traveling by car, puzzles, and learning languages.

“He was also a horrible punster,” said a son, Dr. James L. Michener of Chapel Hill, N.C.

His first wife died in 2008.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Stony Run Friends Meeting, 5116 N. Charles St.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of eight years, the former Jane Brown; two other sons, John R. Michener of Seattle and David C. Michener of Ann Arbor, Mich.; a daughter, Josephine A. Michener of Cary, N.C.; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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