GEORGE T. DUKES, a Philadelphia political and community leader of the '60s and '70s who was at the forefront of numerous causes of benefit to minorities, a high school teacher, hospital administrator and Air Force veteran of the Korean War, died Tuesday. He was 76 and lived in Fern Park, Fla., but had lived most of his life in South Philadelphia.
George's major battle was against the Crosstown Expressway, a proposed highway that would have run three miles from river to river between South and Bainbridge streets.
As a leader of the Citizens Committee to Preserve and Develop the Crosstown Community, he led the fight against the superhighway for some seven years, before the plan was abandoned.
The group threatened boycotts of city stores, demonstrated, and badgered city officials. Although the movement was biracial and nonpartisan, a major complaint was that it would have isolated the black communities to the south of the predominantly white and upper-class Center City.
In addition to opposing the highway, his group was instrumental in developing the South Street area, which had gone to seed.
He was founder and president of the Southwest Center City Community Council, which built 100 homes and sold them to members of the community.
George was a Republican who won the GOP nominations for the state Senate from the 2nd District in 1970, and city commissioner in 1971, but lost to Democratic incumbents in the general elections.
The Inquirer endorsed him for the City Commission, which runs the elections. "We think the board needs an infusion of new blood with new ideas," the paper said in an editorial. "Both would be provided by George Dukes . . .
"He is an innovative person who is pledged to enhancing the use of the franchise in every possible way."
In 1966, he was appointed executive director of the Fellowship Commission. In the late '70s, he served as director of civil rights for the Environmental Protection Agency.
While serving in that job, he was shot and seriously wounded by a disgruntled employee on Aug. 18, 1978, in the EPA office at 6th and Walnut streets.
George told police he had been discussing a negative evaluation of the employee, Herbert L. Pinder, when Pinder pulled a pistol and shot him in the chest and jaw. Pinder later surrendered to police, but was discharged by a judge who ruled he was incompetent to stand trial.
George was born in Philadelphia to Oliver Dukes Sr. and Ethel Parham Dukes. He graduated from Northeast High School and went to La Salle University, where he received his bachelor's degree in education. He later earned a master's in education from Temple University.
He was a social studies teacher at Vaux Junior High School for many years, and later became employment manager for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
He was a member of the 1976 Bicentennial Corp. board of directors, and former director of Americans for Democratic Action.
George was always concerned about the problems of getting out the vote in black communities, and blamed the difficulties on the lack of registrars signing up voters in those areas.
"Historically, black voters have not fully utilized their franchise because of the laxity of registrars and their confusion about their voting rights - confusion sometimes aided and abetted by the political parties," he wrote in a letter to the editor in the Inquirer in 1971.
George's family said of him, "He liked to cook, entertain and take care of his family."
He was a member of the Lombard Central Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Ruth Bell Dukes; three daughters, Joyce L. Dukes, Patricia D. Mickens and Georgette D. McAllister; a son, George T. II; a sister, LaVerne King; a brother, Howard C. Dukes; and five grandchildren.
Services: Were Saturday. Burial was in Fernwood Cemetery. *