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John Washington, retired Bethlehem Steel crane operator, dies

John Washington retired from Bethlehem Steel in 1983.
John Washington retired from Bethlehem Steel in 1983.

John Washington, a retired Bethlehem Steel Corp. crane operator who was an avid fisherman, died Feb. 3 of pneumonia at Clem & Doll, a Windsor Mill assisted living facility. He was 98.

John Washington, son of John Acy Washington, a farmer, and his wife, Lucy Fields Washington, was born in Midland in Fauquier County, Virginia. He attended Blackwell Town Public School in Midland until the seventh grade, when he left to work on the family farm.

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Seeking a better life, Mr. Washington moved to Baltimore in 1941 and was later joined by his parents. In 1944, he followed his father to Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, eventually joining the company’s crane and tractor department, where he was promoted to crane operator.

“A former co-worker said that he was the first Black crane operator at the tin mill,” said his daughter, Ernestine Washington Scott of Mount Washington.

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“He also said they had to close the plant one day because the workers refused to work with a Black man. He often suffered the indignities of racism, but his priority was making a decent living to care for his family,” Ms. Scott said.

A former longtime East 23rd Street resident, he retired in 1983 and later lived in Rosedale.

Mr. Washington’s favorite hobby was fishing aboard Chesapeake Bay charter boats and near Deal Island. He enjoyed telling jokes and was a fan of the Orioles and Ravens.

His wife of 72 years, the former Helena Tucker, a city public schools teacher’s assistant, died last year.

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Funeral services for Mr. Washington are private.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, John J. Washington of Windsor Mill; two granddaughters; and six great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Pam Washington Glenn, died in 1987.

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