Roy F. Newman, 86, among first SSA employees in 1930s

April 25, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Roy Francis Newman, a building contractor who as a young man helped start the Social Security Administration, died April 18 of cancer at his Cockeysville home. He was 86.

Mr. Newman spent more than 40 years in Baltimore, working on commercial construction and home remodeling. In his early days, he had 16 years in government service that took him from his home in Montana to Washington and the White House.

Born in Anaconda, Mont., a copper-mining town a mile high in the Rockies, Mr. Newman was the son of a Westerner who broke horses, panned for gold and was chief of the fire department. He left his senior year at Anaconda Senior High School to work as a page for Gov. F.H. Cooney in a special session of the Montana House of Representatives.

Family members said the experience was enough to launch him into the ground floor of the New Deal, working for the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

In 1936, Mr. Newman became the sixth employee of Social Security, as confidential aide to the chairman, John Winant. The agency was so young that he would walk to the Treasury building to pick up checks to cover the administration's expenses. Then, a Secret Service agent would escort him to the old Executive Office Building, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt would sign the checks.

"He got to know Roosevelt well enough that he referred to [Mr. Newman] as `the redhead from Montana,'" said Mr. Newman's son, Roy Newman of Clarksville. Mr. Newman "got my mother invited to the White House to see [first lady] Eleanor [Roosevelt], and he took me down there for tea."

Mr. Newman attended Southeastern University Law School at night and went on to various government jobs, in the Railroad Retirement Board, Civil Aeronautics Board, Department of Labor and, eventually, the War Labor Board, where he helped educate trade groups and civic organizations about regulations for wartime production.

He worked for two years as a private business consultant before being drafted into the Navy at the end of World War II. After that, he returned to the government, working for the House of Representatives investigating corruption in the steel industry.

Eventually, though, the travel took too much time away from his family, and he retired from civil service in 1949. He had always liked Baltimore, so he moved here, eventually starting Roy F. Newman Contractors.

"Back before the Harbor and all that stuff, he liked Baltimore," his son said. "He liked the food and he liked the people and he liked Annapolis and the water and the Chesapeake."

Mr. Newman was described as an easygoing man who loved the Colts and Orioles and playing golf. He was a lifetime member of the Mount Pleasant Men's Golf Club and a longtime member and two-time president of the Longview Men's Golf Club.

His marriage to the former Mary B. Crossley ended in divorce. He married Katie Robinson in 1971.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. today at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road, Rodgers Forge.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Newman is survived by another son, Henry Bruce Newman of Louisville, Tenn.; two daughters, Beatrice Ann Krishingner of Hendersonville, N.C., and Katie Leigh Pearce of Towson; nine grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.

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