Arthur C. Rowland Sr., 84, of Elkins Park, former president of Laborers Local 57, Mid-Atlantic Region, died Monday, Aug. 19, of cardiac arrest at his home.
Mr. Rowland joined the union as a laborer in 1953 and climbed the career ladder before retiring in 1996 as president of the 2,600-member bargaining unit.
He participated in some of the largest construction jobs in the region, including the Walt Whitman Bridge and a stretch of I-95.
In 1966, Mr. Rowland was appointed field representative and organizer for Local 57. In the 1970s, he helped organize the employees of many companies. He served as secretary-treasurer until 1990, when he was elected business manager of Laborers’ District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia and Vicinity. In 1993, Mr. Rowland was elected president of Local 57.
The district council is the umbrella organization for Laborers Locals 57, 135, 332, and 413. It has 5,000 members in Philadelphia and the suburbs, and is affiliated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
He was a trustee for the district council’s pension fund and training school. In addition, he served on the board of directors for the Allied Trades Assistance Program, a referral service for union members and their families struggling with mental health problems, alcoholism, or drug abuse.
He battled to keep other trade unions from claiming that Local 57 laborers such as cement workers and carpenters belonged under their jurisdiction. “He was adamant. He fought long and hard," his family said.
In 1994, Mr. Rowland was given the Laborers Local 332 “Sammy Award.” The award, named for Samuel Staten Jr., business manager of Local 332, recognizes a strong labor leader in the community. He was thrilled when the boxer Joe Frazier received an award the same night.
Mr. Rowland retired in 1997 but stayed in touch with his union colleagues. In 2014, he received the Local 57 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I was with him,” said granddaughter Cheri Hudson. “He had no idea. You should have seen the look on his face. He was overjoyed. It was a wonderful moment.”
Born in Coats, Hartnett County, N.C., Mr. Rowland was the son of James and Pearl Rowland. His family moved to Philadelphia, where he graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1951. At age 18, he enrolled in the Air Force and served three years before receiving an honorable discharge.
Mr. Rowland met and married Mary L. Rowland in 1965. They had six children, whom they raised in West Oak Lane.
He was a member of Prince of Peace Baptist Church in Strawberry Mansion and was recognized in March for 66 years of continuous service.
Mr. Rowland’s part-time passion was home remodeling. He renovated his entire property and would happily do the same for others.
“Ask Arthur and he could do it the correct way, without hesitation,” his family said. “He was the capital 'P' in the word proud.”
“I used to see him in the neighborhood doing things for people,” said Stanley Sanders, secretary-treasurer of Local 57. “He didn’t take any pay. He just enjoyed it.”
Mr. Rowland looked forward to the holidays and spending time with loved ones. “We will miss his smile, that sharp sense of style, always being the quintessential gentleman, and most of all his laughter, which was infectious,” his family said.
Mr. Rowland’s wife died in 2003. He is survived by daughters Rozell Jackson, Valerie Prater, and Patricia; sons Arthur Jr., Gilbert, and James; 17 grandchildren; 34 great-grandchildren; four great-great grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.