James R. Neverdon, 96, steel worker for 49 years

September 04, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

James R. Neverdon, a retired steel worker who never let his family forget the importance of God, education and neighborhood, died Sunday of complications of leukemia at the home of a daughter in Northwest Baltimore. He was 96.

He recently had moved in with his daughter, Gail N. Edmonds.

"One of his lessons was that poverty was not born in you," said another daughter, Joan Neverdon Parker of Woodlawn, a Democratic delegate from the 10th District. "So I guess we were the richest poor people in the world."

Mr. Neverdon had a penchant for straw hats and seldom was without one in winter or summer. He seldom lost at checkers and he presided over a dinner table where discussion of serious issues was not just encouraged, but mandatory.

The grandson of former slaves, he was born in Midland, Va., and grew up there working on his family's farm. He dropped out of school at age 16 to help support his family and moved to Baltimore to work in Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant.

In 1932, he married Hattie Oliver, and the couple settled in West Baltimore where they raised their family. Mrs. Neverdon died in 1986.

Mr. Neverdon retired in 1965 after 49 years with the steelmaker and immediately went to work for Jackson's Moving & Storage Co., where he helped manage the company and, when necessary, helped load and drive moving vans. He retired again in 1975.

"He used to say that the way to improve ourselves was through education, the church and service to the community," Mrs. Parker said.

She said her father attended night school after working all day at Sparrows Point, excelling in math and Latin and earning a high school diploma from Frederick Douglass Evening School in 1935.

A longtime resident of Ashburton, Mr. Neverdon's life revolved around his wife and 12 children. The family dinner table was called the "dining room discussion table" where current events were topics each night.

"When we had friends for dinner, he'd ask them their opinions as well," Mrs. Parker said. "No one was spared."

On the subject of segregation, the longtime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People preached to his children: "It's nothing that you've done. Get an education. Have faith in God and stay together as a family. You can rise above it all."

A Republican who became a Democrat in 1960 when he voted for John F. Kennedy, Mr. Neverdon was determined that his children would get their voter cards and vote. He worked in his daughter's 1994 race for the House of Delegates and proved himself an able researcher and coordinator.

Slightly taller than 6 feet, Mr. Neverdon was an imposing man and conservative dresser who was remembered by family members as a loving but strict disciplinarian who didn't allow games or movies on Sunday because it was a day for the Lord.

Said the Rev. Samuel Ray, pastor of Morning Side Baptist Church where Mr. Neverdon was a member for 60 years: "You couldn't find a better person."

Services will be held at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Morning Star Baptist, 1063 W. Fayette St.

He is survived by three other daughters, Barbara N. Adeboye of Washington and Cynthia Neverdon-Morton and Michal Neverdon-Merritt, both of Baltimore; five sons, Thomas Neverdon, Robert Neverdon, Ronald Neverdon, Andre Neverdon and Gary Neverdon, all of Baltimore; two sisters, Oma Brooks of Silver Spring and Beatrice Smith of Washington; 22 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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Pub Date: 9/04/96

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