Joseph Blackwell, 82

Social Security employee

August 04, 2008|By FRANK ROYLANCE

Joseph M. Blackwell Sr., a lover of jazz and a longtime employee of the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, died of heart failure Wednesday at St. Agnes Hospital. The former Forest Park resident was 82.

Mr. Blackwell was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Christmas Day in 1925. He graduated from Oliver High School in Pittsburgh in 1942. He later attended the University of Pittsburgh until he was drafted for service in the Korean War.

After his honorable discharge at the rank of sergeant in 1952, he returned to the university and graduated with a degree in English in 1955.

Soon after graduation, he married the former Ruth Slifer, of Carnegie, Pa. While working for Alcoa Aluminum to support his family, he also attended law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

In 1960, Mr. Blackwell was hired as a field representative for the Social Security Administration, and relocated to Buffalo, N.Y., before transferring to the SSA offices in Woodlawn. His work took him to Social Security offices around the country, and in 1974, he served for 12 weeks as an adviser on human services issues to Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Mr. Blackwell retired in 1989, after 32 years of military and civilian federal service.

Mr. Blackwell sang in the choir at Forest Park Community Church in Northwest Baltimore, where he was a member and an elder for three decades, according to his daughter, Donna Blackwell of Baltimore. But his passion was jazz.

"He loved jazz," she said. "He started collecting records when he was a young child, even in the 1930s. He had original Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Washington, all on vinyl. I grew up listening to that music."

He was also a household handyman and devoted father, taking his five children kite-flying or sledding down neighborhood hills, and on regular visits to amusement parks. "He was the dad everyone would want," his daughter said.

In addition to his wife of 52 years and his daughter, Mr. Blackwell is survived by another daughter, Lisa Blackwell of Baltimore; three sons, Joseph Blackwell Jr. of Randallstown, David Blackwell of Louisville, Ky., and Stephen Blackwell of Bordentown, N.J.

Also surviving are two sisters, Ida Alexander and Helen Blackwell, both of Pittsburgh; two brothers, King Blackwell Jr., of Pittsburgh, and Frank Blackwell, of Massachusetts; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A wake and services are set for 11 a.m. today at Calvary Baptist Church, 3911 Garrison Blvd.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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