Paul E. Atkinson, 88, formerly of Society Hill, president of Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. in Chester from 1961 to 1977, died of complications from a fall at home on Aug. 4 at Los Altos Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Center in California. He moved to Palo Alto, Calif., in 2004 to be near his daughter, Mary Hafner.

While in college, Mr. Atkinson spent two summers as a shipfitter's helper and welder at Sun Ship, which Sun Oil Co. had established in 1916 to build tankers.

After graduating in 1942 from Webb Institute of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in Glen Cove, N.Y., Mr. Atkinson went to work in the shipyard's production department. During World War II, Sun Ship employed 35,000 people and built more than 100 tankers.

Mr. Atkinson was named vice president of operations and supervised the rebuilding and modernization of the shipyard in 1956.

As Sun Ship president in the 1960s and 1970s, he directed the building of safer double-hulled tankers and was aboard for test runs. He also oversaw ship repairs, the design and production of rocket casings for the Atlas missile program, and the production of machinery for nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, paper mills, and other industries.

The shipyard pioneered the building of innovative roll-on/roll-off cargo ships with special ramps to allow automobiles, trucks, and railroad cars to be driven on and off the ship on their own wheels. It also produced anchors and castings for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which opened in 1964, and refitted the oil tanker Manhattan with an icebreaker bow. In 1969, the Manhattan was the first commercial ship to cross the Northwest Passage.

In 1973, Sun Ship built the Glomar Explorer for a CIA mission to raise a disabled Soviet nuclear submarine in the Pacific.

That same year, Sun Ship began a two-year project to build the largest floating dry dock in the United States.

Mr. Atkinson wanted the shipyard to be able to bid on contracts involving the most sophisticated, cutting-edge technology, his daughter said.

In 1975, Sun Oil underwent major restructuring and became Sun Co., now Sunoco. Sun Co. did not support Mr. Atkinson's plans for Sun Ship's diversification and expansion, and he retired in 1977.

In 1981, Mr. Atkinson and several partners made an unsuccessful bid to buy Sun Ship from Sun Co., which wanted to get out of shipbuilding. Later that year, Sun Ship was acquired by Penn Ship.

Shipbuilding in Chester came to an end in 1989 when Penn Ship defaulted on a contract to build two Navy tankers.

In 1994, Mr. Atkinson and Eugene Schorsch, a former Sun Ship vice president, filed a lawsuit alleging that Penn Ship and officials of the former First Fidelity Bank conspired to not file financial documents that would have secured the Navy's claims against the shipyard's assets if Penn defaulted on the construction of the tankers.

In 2004, a federal judge dismissed the case, saying the circumstantial evidence to show a conspiracy to defraud the Navy was insufficient. A federal court dismissed an appeal of the ruling.

Mr. Atkinson and Schorsch continued to pursue legal options through their Chester Challenge L.L.C. In 2004, he wrote an article, "Piracy on the Delaware," which was published by Sanders Research Associates.

"He was a man of integrity," his daughter said. "This jewel on the Delaware had been snuffed out." He felt he owed it to the people of Chester and to the taxpayers to continue with legal proceedings, she said.

Mr. Atkinson grew up on Long Island, N.Y. An Eagle Scout, he loved the sea and rivers and had a passion for bridges, his daughter said. In 1942, he married Bernyce Mulcahey, the sister of his college roommate. The couple raised four children in Malvern. She died in 1981.

An accomplished athlete, Mr. Atkinson was on the track and basketball teams in college and later played on Sun Ship's softball team and in its bowling league. He was a tennis and golf enthusiast and remained an Eagles and Phillies fan after moving to the West Coast, his daughter said. He enjoyed travel, especially to Alaska and Bermuda.

Active with professional, civic, and educational organizations, Mr. Atkinson served on the boards of Shipbuilders Council of America and Webb Institute. He was a member and technical representative of Lloyd's American Committee and was past vice president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by sons Paul and Peter and seven grandchildren. A daughter, Gillis, died in 1978.

Services were private.