Alexander E. Barkan, 81, who as the director of the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education (COPE), was one of organized labor's top political operatives during the 1960s and 1970s, died of cancer Oct. 18 at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Barkan, a gifted orator and energetic labor evangelist, was one of the last of the Old Guard lieutenants of the late AFL-CIO President George Meany. Mr. Barkan was known in the labor community for an unusual level of directness and candor in dealing with people. He was also the crafty gray eminence of labor politics, who was most at home behind the scenes where strings could be pulled and agreements reached out of the public spotlight.
As director of COPE, he had a major say in the distribution of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and the allocation of countless volunteer hours to political candidates. The result was that he was a vital influence in bringing about the election of members of the House and Senate who were friendly to labor.
But he was less successful at the level of presidential politics, and he saw the once-formidable power of organized labor within the Democratic Party deteriorate badly during the 1970s, when much of the party machinery was seized by people whom he had attacked as "disciples of the three As -- acid, amnesty and abortion." In Mr. Barkan's view, the party had been taken over by the "kooks and the crazies."
"To know Al was to be lifted by his great vitality and the single-mindedness with which he pursued trade unionism in general and election victories in particular," AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said yesterday in a statement released by the union.
A resident of Bethesda, Mr. Barkan was born in Bayonne, N.J. He graduated from the University of Chicago, then returned to Bayonne where he taught high school English at night while helping with union organizing during the day. He wrote a weekly column for a union newspaper, "Through Workers' Eyes," in which he denounced capitalist oppression of the working class.
In 1937 he left teaching to work as a full-time volunteer with the Textile Workers Organizing Committee. He served in the Navy during World War II as a radioman in the North Atlantic and later in the South Pacific.
After the war Mr. Barkan returned to New Jersey, where he became a paid staff member of the Textile Workers Union, then executive director of the New Jersey CIO Council and later political director of the Textile Workers Union.
He came to Washington in 1955 as assistant director of the newly merged AFL-CIO's political arm, COPE. Meany named him COPE's director in 1966.
In that role Mr. Barkan presided over an operation that included extensive computer data on voter registration and statistics, voluminous files on political candidates and their opponents and data on which campaigns and elections were likely to be of particular importance to organized labor.
He directed an ambitious AFL-CIO campaign against the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and failed, but he was later successful in lobbying on Capitol Hill against Nixon's nominations of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Nixon's list of "political opponents or enemies" surfaced during the Watergate hearings of 1973, Mr. Barkan's name was included, and he took pride in that distinction.
Mr. Barkan was convinced that involvement of labor's liberal wing in such divisive social issues as abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment diluted its political effectiveness, and he argued that labor's mainstream constituency would be alienated by alliances with special interest groups.
He left the 1972 Democratic convention that nominated Sen. George McGovern (S.D.) as its presidential candidate. He said he was convinced that the party had been taken over by "fags, feminists and far-outs." Meany and the AFL-CIO executive council remained officially neutral in the general election.
In December 1972, Mr. Barkan played an influential role in the election of Robert S. Strauss as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but he feuded bitterly with Strauss two years later when the Democrats institutionalized reforms for selecting national convention delegates.
Mr. Barkan retired in 1981.
Survivors include his wife, Helen Barkan of Bethesda; two daughters, Carol Alt of Potomac and Lois Wolkowitz of Chatham, N.J.; and four grandchildren.
MILLARD F. HAGEMAN
Millard F. Hageman, 77, a retired Navy administrator and clerk, died of heart ailments Oct. 17 at his home in Perry, Okla.
Mr. Hageman was born in Perry. He served in the Navy Seabees in the South Pacific during World War II, then moved to Washington after the war and began working as a civilian employee of the Navy Department. He retired in 1971.
A former resident of Arlington, Mr. Hageman moved to Culpeper, Va., on retirement and raised Black Angus cattle there until 1981, when he returned to Perry.
Survivors include his wife, Mildred Grace Shober Hageman of Perry; a brother, Philip M. Hageman of Perry, and a sister, Leona Esther Hess of Gladstone, Ore.
MYRTLE B. DAVIS
Myrtle Bowers Davis, 70, a retired teacher with the D.C. schools, died of cardiac arrest Oct. 11 at Washington Hospital Center. She had lupus.
Mrs. Davis, who had lived in Washington since 1957, was born in Florida. She graduated from Spelman College and received a master's degree in history from Smith College.
During World War II, she served with the American Red Cross in North Africa and Europe. In 1946 and 1947, she taught history at Spelman before attending the University of Wisconsin for doctoral studies in modern European history.
Her husband, Robert L. Davis, became a Foreign Service officer in 1959, and in the early 1960s, she accompanied him on his assignments to Tunisia, Senegal and Nigeria.
About 1965, she became a teacher with the D.C. schools. She taught history and geography at Randle Junior High School and later at Roosevelt Senior High School. She retired for health reasons in 1977.
Mrs. Davis was a past president of the Washington Spelman Club and in 1988, she received a distinguished alumnae award from the college. She held life memberships in the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. She was a member of the LaMond-Riggs Citizens Association in Washington and the National Cathedral School PTA.
In addition to her husband of 41 years, survivors include two daughters, Brenda Davis and Fath Davis Ruffins, all of Washington; a sister, Tessie B. Payne of Jacksonville, Fla.; and two grandchildren.
CHARLES A. RIDGELL
Charles A. Ridgell, 45, general maintenance foreman of the Library of Congress buildings, died of cancer Oct. 18 at his home in Falls Church.
Mr. Ridgell was born in Arlington and graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School.
He began working as a maintenance man on Capitol Hill as a teenager and had worked there for more than 30 years. From 1970 to 1980 he also operated C&G Heating and Cooling service in Vienna.
Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Margaret Ridgell of Falls Church; three daughters, Desiree A. Tomlinson of Waldorf, Deidre A. Iannelli of Manassas and Vargas Joi Ridgell of Falls Church; and two grandchildren.
GEORGE R. CARSON
Builder and Developer
George Russell Carson, 76, a retired suburban Maryland developer and builder, died Oct. 19 at Anne Arundel General Hospital. He had emphysema.
Mr. Carson, who lived in Davidsonville, was born in British Columbia. He came to this country and Prince George's County at an early age. During World War II, he was an Army Air Forces pilot who ferried aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, Africa and the Himalayas. His decorations included the Air and Distinguished Flying medals.
He began his development and home-building business after the war. Among the projects he directed were Good Luck Estates and Princess Anne Gardens in Prince George's County, and the Harbor Hills development in Davidsonville. He retired in 1970.
Mr. Carson was a member of Davidsonville Ruritan Club, Ducks Unlimited and the West River Yacht Club in Annapolis.
Survivors include his wife, Marjorie, of Davidsonville; two sons, Edward Russell Carson of Still Pond, Md., and Robert Whyland Carson of Davidsonville; two brothers, Keith and John, both of Terrace, B.C.; a sister, Jean McKenzie of Campbell River, B.C.; and a grandchild.