Charney Harris, 75, city firefighter

August 22, 2006

Charney L. Harris, a retired Baltimore firefighter and former union official, died of a heart attack Friday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Westminster resident was 75.

Mr. Harris was born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, the son of a city firefighter. He was a 1949 graduate of Parkville High School, and after serving in the Army joined the city Fire Department in 1955.

He spent most of his career as a pump operator at Engine Co. No. 6, from which he retired in 1989.

Mr. Harris was twice elected president of Baltimore Firefighters Local 734, AFL-CIO. He served as its leader from 1969 to 1972 and from 1975 to 1978.

Known for driving around town in a "flashy late model red Eldorado Cadillac," as reported in The Evening Sun, Mr. Harris in 1977 organized a work slowdown with a six-day sick-in labor protest. It helped gain a shorter work week for firefighters, down from 56 to 48 hours, collective bargaining and improved pension benefits for widows.

During his tenure as president, the union became more involved in local politics.

"Our whole ballgame is politics," he told The Evening Sun in 1978. "If we don't have the support of the politicians from the mayor on down, we're nowhere."

For the past several years, Mr. Harris had been president of the Baltimore City Retired Fire Fighters and Fire Officers Association.

He was an avid golfer and Orioles fan. He also liked collecting firefighting memorabilia and Irish knickknacks, family members said.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Lassahn Funeral Home, 7401 Belair Road.

Surviving are his wife of 55 years, the former Vincenza "Ginnie" Sorrentino; a son, Charney L. Harris Jr. of Essex; a daughter, Karen R. Antosca of Westminster; a brother, Jack Harris of Santee, S.C.; a sister, Beverly Willis of Winter Haven, Fla.; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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