Philip Lustine, 87, one of the pioneers among Washington area automobile dealers who also was active in civic, charitable, fraternal and political organizations, died of kidney failure Dec. 17 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.
Mr. Lustine had been in the auto sales business since 1923, when he opened a Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership in Southwest Washington. At the time of his death he was the head of Lustine companies that operated a Datsun dealership in Lanham, a Toyota and Dodge dealership in Woodbridge and a Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership in Hyattsville.
Mr. Lustine lived in Rockville. However, he had long been active in Democratic Party politics in Prince George's County, where he also had been a chairman of the old Community Chest fund-raising drives during the 1950s and the March of Dimes campaigns during the early 1960s. He was "Man of the Year" for the Heart Fund in 1954.
Mr. Lustine was born in Washington. He opened his first auto dealership when he was 25. It was a time when the car business was still in its early stages.
He told members of his family several years later that he got the idea while shining shoes in a Washington barbershop.
He overheard what was obviously a prosperous group of men discussing afternoons at the race track and dinners at expensive restaurants. When he discovered that they were in the automobile business, he decided that was the business for him, too.
In time Mr. Lustine's firm grew into one of the largest automobile dealerships in the Washington area with millions of dollars in sales annually.
During the 1950s he was a leader in the fight against enforcement of Maryland's centuries-old blue laws, which prohibited commercial transactions on Sundays. In 1955 he was arrested in Hyattsville in a crackdown against blue-law violators.
"We've been operating this way since 1926," Mr. Lustine said at the time. Ultimately he won his battle, and for years Maryland automobile dealers have routinely done business on Sundays.
In recent years, Mr. Lustine had been retired, but he continued to visit his dealerships regularly. He was succeeded in the business by his son, Burton.
In addition to his automobile business, Mr. Lustine invested in real estate and owned apartment houses in Mount Rainier and Suitland. He served on the board of directors of Citizens Bank of Maryland.
He was a member of the Ben Franklin Masonic Lodge, the Woodmont Country Club, the United Jewish Appeal, the M Club at the University of Maryland and the Washington Hebrew Congregation.
In addition to his son, of Potomac, survivors include his wife, Alma, of Rockville; three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.