George Tucker (1942-2020)

Posted on June 22, 2020

by Library News

A glance of the labor history timeline on the national AFL-CIO’s website reveals this sage quote in bold letters from one of America’s most prominent abolitionists and social reformers – Frederick Douglass. It reads the following:

“Power concedes nothing without demands”

These words serve as a reminder of the grit and spirit embodied in one great northwest Ohio labor leader and justice advocate – George Tucker.

His warm smile and approachable manner were a delicate disguise for the passionate fight he waged throughout his career for radical changes in the workplace, throughout northwest Ohio and in society. Maybe Douglass’ quote should be slightly altered to give a more accurate explanation of Mr. Tucker’s importunity – for, it was actually the pursuit of fairness, not necessarily power, that George championed throughout his lifetime. His demands were bold and unapologetic because conformity was never his concern, George Tucker simply sought righteousness.

Serving two decades as a dedicated trustee of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library Board, appointed by the Lucas County Commissioners, the late Mr. Tucker, a retired AFL-CIO and AFSCME labor leader, will be lovingly remembered and sorely missed.

Fellow trustees, Library administrators, staff, friends and family – those George touched along his journey on Earth – are all left echoing a variety of similar sentiments.

“He was a huge help to me covering organized labor when I began my career … Always a straight shooter and always willing to find the time to explain things to someone trying to understand public sector unions,” said longtime business journalist for The Blade Jon Chavez, in a recent Facebook comment.

Others, from politicians to labor workers and a wide variety of friends, described their memories of Mr. Tucker as “a real labor man,” “a great advocate,” “a kind man,” “an icon,” “a model for generations,” and the list of accolades trails as long as the stories he proudly shared about golf, antique cars, and his service in the United States military. Still, it was his legendary and numerous international travels with his beloved wife Deborah “Deb” Laskey Tucker, that appeared to bring him one of his greatest joys. The couple collected Christmas ornaments from every country they visited and looked forward each December to decorating their global Christmas tree. Deb beautifully sums up her abiding loyalty and love in this pondered reflection about her husband: “He was my main focus, My most important person.”

Born in 1942 to Virginia and Clarence Tucker, George Tucker grew up in Point Place, a neighborhood in North Toledo surrounded by the Ottawa River, Lake Erie, Maumee River and the Maumee Bay. He was a proud graduate of Woodward High School and often reminisced of his honorable service in the United States Navy, where he was aboard a naval destroyer in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between the United States and the then Soviet Union.

His career started as a City of Toledo employee in various roles, and his work spanned the labor union continuum from beginning as a union steward in AFSCME, followed by roles including president, regional vice president, staff representative, and he came out of retirement in 2012 to serve as director for a year. He also served as executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO, where he had previously served on its steering committee, executive board, and as president.

After his passing, the Ohio AFL-CIO tweeted this point of view on its official Twitter page: “Today, we lost a 1st-class trade unionist in George Tucker. George spent his life in the U.S. Navy and the labor movement, looking to make the world a better place, and he succeeded.”

Mr. Tucker held roles in organizations such as the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Toledo Port Council, the United Labor Committee, and the historic Toledo Lucas County Public Library benefitted greatly from his commitment to serve. In his reflections, Library Director Jason Kucsma notes Mr. Tucker’s role in the creation of Labor Loves the Library, an annual fundraiser honoring the region’s labor history and the Rogowski-Kaptur Labor History Room located at Main Library in the local history and genealogy department. The important collections held, which Mr. Tucker cherished, define the historic labor history of our community, one shaped and molded by local and regional economic growth.

U.S. Congresswoman, The Honorable Marcy Kaptur, after bestowing a moving speech in honor of Mr. Tucker’s retirement, said the following:

“Our community has been bettered immeasurably as a result of his dedication and good cheer. Onward friend.”

There are no truer words about the life’s work of the late George Tucker. ###

Memoriam Blog written by Rhonda Sewell, TLCPL Manager, External and Governmental Affairs

Author’s Note: I will always cherish George Tucker as a friend and confidant. He helped one of my twin daughters who at the time was in dire need of a specialty doctor. He knew a world-renowned specialist in the area, and our family’s year-long wait to see a physician turned into an appointment attained in a week after one convincing phone call from George. Before his call, my daughter and I and our family were scared and confused, but Mr. Tucker lit our path. It was just his way. I will never forget his kindness and help in a time of need.

Rest now George Tucker, good and faithful servant.

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