Saturday for internationally noted Nevada labor leader
by Andrew Barbano, CWA
memorial will be held Saturday, July 9, in honor of internationally
noted Nevada labor leader George Nelson, 83, who passed away at his
Sparks home on June 16. Nelson's "last union meeting" will
begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Training Center,
1150 Greg Street in Sparks.
He asked that his remembrance be conducted like a union meeting in honor
of his five-decade career with the United Auto Workers Union. He was
hired by General Motors in 1964 at the company's assembly plant in Fremont,
Calif., where he earned increasing responsibility for worker training.
This resulted in his assignment to Japan to prepare for the factory's
1984 conversion to joint operation with Toyota in manufacturing vehicles
for both brands. Tesla acquired the facility in 2010.
Nelson stood with UAW President
Walter Reuther and United Farm Workers leader César Chávez
at the 1969 opening of the UAW's Delano, Calif., headquarters. The
UAW funded the construction and helped Chávez's union throughout
its early years.
His work resulted
in Nelson's induction to the César
Chávez Nevada Labor Hall of Fame in 2013. Reuther once assigned
Nelson to a trade mission to the former Soviet Union and one week before
his death, Nelson was honored with the Walter
P. Reuther Distinguished Service Award for his lifetime of achievement.
Nelson was very active in Nevada politics and public affairs both as
president of United Auto Workers Retirees and on the 2010 Johnson-Jeffries
Fight of the Century Centennial Committee.
Both of Nelson's final wishes concerned Jack Johnson, the first African-American
heavyweight champion. Lifelong boxing enthusiast Nelson worked many
years for a posthumous pardon of the unjustly accused Johnson. With
Nelson's time short, UAW members and the Reno-Sparks NAACP persuaded
the Reno Parks and Recreation Commission on June 7 to move forward on
a marker commemorating the Jim Jeffries training camp on Moana Lane.
It will complete the triangle of Fight of the Century monuments including
the event location at E. 4th and Toano and the Johnson training site
at Mayberry at Sherwood.
Nelson served as grand marshal of the 2010 Virginia City Labor Day Parade
in a 1957 Chevrolet. That photo
and many others along with highlights of his life may be accessed at
George William Nelson III was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on Nov. 23,
1932, and passed away peacefully of acute myeloid leukemia on June 16,
He is survived by his daughter, Zabett Buzzone and her husband John,
of Sparks; step-granddaughters Collette Frawley (Patrick) and Brooklyn
Quiroz (Oscar); brother Richard Lee Nelson (Gail); nephews David Lee
Nelson (Leeann) and Scott William Nelson, and several great-nieces and
nephews. His wife of 39 years, Berylann, predeceased him.
An edited version of the above appeared in the 7-9-2016 Reno Gazette-Journal.
> Nelson's Last Hurrah
updates from the Sparks Tribune
TO HISTORY: IN THE BEGINNING
HIS OWN WORDS: George Nelson with César Chávez and UAW
President Walter Reuther at UFW groundbreaking
memories of Battling Nelson
Nelson, III passed away peacefully at the age of 83 in Sparks, Nevada,
on June 16, 2016, of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. A labor activist who stood
with the greatest labor leaders of the 20th century, United Auto Workers
leader Walter Reuther, and UFW leader Cesar Chavez at the dedication
of the United Farm Workers Forty Acres headquarters in Delano, California
George was born on November 23, 1932, in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Marion
Linnie May and Prizefighter Ralph Lee Wildcat Nelson.
Soon after Georges birth, Wildcat moved the family to Campbell,
California to raise George on the familys ranch and to provide
him with access to Shriners Childrens Hospital. Born with
Macrodactyly of the foot, George endured many surgeries as a child to
save his foot. Georges early experience fueled his drive to help
others struggling with lifes challenges.
He graduated from Campbell High School in 1952, where he was Student
Body President, Chapter President of Future Farmers of America, and
head Cheerleader. George attended San Jose City College where
he majored in History and Political Science and was a member of the
student counsel and Chairman of the Student Body Election Committee.
In 1959 he met his soulmate, Berylann Bush, and they married in 1960.
In 1964, George started working for General Motors (sic) Corporation
in Fremont, California, and began his 50-year career as a UAW leader,
Labor-Employment Training Specialist, and political legislative advocate.
Georges distinguished record with the UAW provided him appointments
as Director of the UAWs Northern California Job Development and
Training Region Six Displaced Workers Program, Coordinator of the UAW
CETA Program in San Francisco, Special Consultant of Apprenticeship
Standards, and Director of the Northern California UAW Labor Employment
& Training Corporation. Additionally, George served as a paid professional
campaign manager for numerous political candidates.
When General Motors pursued a joint venture with Toyota Motor Corporation,
New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), George, under the direction
of the UAW, developed planning guidelines for the initial pilot group
of trainees attending a 3-week intensive course in Toyota City, Japan,
before the NUMMI plant began operations. George served as Team Leader
of the first pilot group, and was hired as NUMMIs Human Resource/Training
Specialist responsible for curriculum development and training of the
Toyota Production System to all NUMMI employees.
George never retired, as his stellar energy, charismatic
personality, and commitment to labor activism kept him busy working
with union members and advocating for workers rights in Nevada
until his last breath. In recent years, he served as Retired Chapter
Chairman of UAW Local 2162, Executive Board Member and Chairperson Legislative
Committee for the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans, and participated
in community service activities with the National Council of Senior
Citizens. George also served on the CitiCare Board of Directors. George
was inducted into the Cesar Chavez Nevada Labor Hall of Fame in 2014
[Editor's note: 2013],
and presented with the Walter Reuther Lifetime Achievement Award in
George is survived by his daughter, Zabett Buzzone, her husband John,
step-granddaughters: Collette Frawley (Patrick) and Brooklyn Quiroz
(Oscar); brother Richard Lee Nelson and wife Gail; nephews: David Lee
Nelson (Leeann), and Scott William Nelson, and several great nieces
and nephews. His wife of 39 years, Berylann, predeceased him.
Union members, friends and family are invited to gather for Georges
last union meeting to celebrate his life on Saturday, July 9 at 11 am
at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 350 Union Hall located at 1150
Greg Street, Sparks, Nevada.
The Family Remembrance appeared in the 7-12-2016 Sparks Tribune.