Oldest Pullman porter dies at 107

Aug. 18, 2012 at 10:41 AM
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VICTORVILLE, Calif., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The man believed to be oldest railway Pullman porter, 107-year-old Ben Isaacs, died this week at his home in Victorville, Calif., his family said.

Ben Isaacs' brother, Andrew Isaacs, said he died of kidney failure Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

As a Pullman porter, Ben Isaacs was one of a corps of uniformed railway workers who served first-class passengers traveling in sleeping cars -- a highly sought job for African-Americans between the 1870s and the late 1960s.

Andrew Isaacs said Ben Isaacs, who went blind later in life, was hospitalized Aug. 10 and released several days later.

Ben Isaacs began working in a repair shop for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway soon after he graduated from a Kansas City, Kan., high school.

An illness led to Isaacs moving about for several years before settling in Los Angeles in 1929, where he was chauffeur before becoming a Pullman porter in 1936, the Newberry Library, which maintains data on Pullman employees, indicated.

The work was hard -- he sometimes was responsible for up to 50 berths -- but rewarding, Isaacs told the Times in a 2010 interview.

"I just kind of liked traveling around and seeing the country, and helping people," he said.

His brother said Isaacs was married at least four times, the Times said.

Besides his brother, Isaacs is survived by a daughter, six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 12 great-great grandchildren, and two great-great-great grandchildren.

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