John G. Roberts Sr., father of U.S. chief justice

November 19, 2008|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN

John G. Roberts Sr., a retired steel executive, former general manager of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant and father of the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., died yesterday of respiratory failure at his Ellicott City home. He was 80.

Mr. Roberts, the youngest of 10 children, was born and raised in Johnstown, Pa. After graduating from high school in 1946, he served in the Army for several years.

After earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1951, he began his career with Bethlehem Steel at the company's plant in Lackawanna, N.Y.

In 1963, he was promoted to electrical engineer at the company's new plant in Burns Harbor, Ind., and later was superintendent of its electrical department and finally assistant general manager in 1976.

In 1979, he moved to Bethlehem, Pa., when he was promoted to general manager of facilities services. He was general manager of the Bethlehem for a year before being named general manager of the Sparrows Point facility in 1983.

While in Baltimore, Mr. Roberts was a member of the boards of the old First National Bank of Maryland and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Roberts "was highly regarded on both sides of the spectrum - both by his white-collar colleagues and by his United Steel Workers of America colleagues," Bruce Davis, a former Bethlehem legal executive, told The Sun in a 2005 profile of Mr. Roberts.

"Jack was one who vigorously resisted the characterization of 'us versus them,' " he said.

Mark Reutter, a former Sun reporter and author of M aking Steel, a history of Sparrows Point, observed, "Roberts, I think was much more of an intellectual. Not quite the old-line, rough-and-tumble steel man."

A year after his 1985 retirement from Bethlehem, he joined Copperweld Steel Co. in Warren, Ohio.

In 1987, he was named president and chief executive officer of CSC Industries Inc., parent company of Copperweld, positions he held until retiring in 1990.

Mr. Roberts moved to Columbia, S.C., in 1990 after being designated a lecturer at the University of South Carolina business school.

A resident of Ellicott City since 2001, Mr. Roberts was a communicant of the Church of the Resurrection Roman Catholic Church.

Services to be held in Johnstown, Pa., are private, family members said.

Also surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Rosemary Podrasky; three daughters, Margaret R. Roberts of Timonium, Barbara R. Burke of Hampstead and Kathleen A. Godbey of Valparaiso, Ind.; a sister, Margaret Goddard of Melbourne, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

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