John Chandler, 88, V.I.D. stalwart


By Albert Amateau

John Edward Chandler, a longtime Village Independent Democrats member and activist, died Sun., Feb. 15, in Cabrini Hospice at 88.

A Villager the past 30 years and an avid bicyclist, he rode even after beginning chemotherapy last year and continued until shortly before his death, said a nephew, Conrad Tompkins.

A memorial is planned Sun., March 1, at 2:30 p.m., in St. Mark’s Church parish hall, at Second Ave. and E. 10th St.

The son of Rhodalie and Alexander Chandler, Sr., who came from Barbados, he grew up in Queens. His mother died when he was 6, and his father worked two jobs and kept the family of eight brothers and sisters together.

He joined the Navy in early 1944 and was an airplane mechanic, one of the first African-Americans to serve in that rating. He was on an aircraft carrier bound for Hawaii when Japan surrendered, and was discharged shortly after.

He became a skilled machinist, working for American Machine & Foundry, Intertype Corp., Singer Sewing Machine and Berkey Tech as a quality-control supervisor.

At 60, with factory jobs waning, he applied for a bus driver’s job with the city.

“They refused him but he kept on applying,” said his nephew. “They said he had varicose veins, so he went to the doctor and got that fixed. They finally got tired of his applications and gave him a job.”

A staunch Transport Workers Union member, he had an accident-free record at mandatory retirement age, 70.

He was a lifelong social and political activist. In 1947 he attended Paul Robeson’s concert in Peekskill, and helped drive fleeing audience members to safety when they were being stoned by protesters and clubbed by police, said Katharine Wolpe, a fellow V.I.D. member. He was in the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and in many human rights and peace demonstrations with the Greenwich Village Coalition for Peace and Justice.

On V.I.D.’s Executive Committee, he received the club’s Community Service Award in 2003. He presented the club’s Labor Award to Roger Toussaint, T.W.U. president, at V.I.D.’s 2005 fundraiser. A veteran Democratic County Committee member, he was a Board of Elections poll-site coordinator.

As well as his nephew Conrad Tompkins, five more nephews — Preston Moore, Douglas Chandler, Reginald and Gregory Perry and Anthony Jones — survive, plus a niece, Valerie Robertson. Several grandnephews and grandnieces and at least three great-grandnephews also survive.