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   2000-07-14: Joseph Filner Obituary

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Congressman's fathert was a 
stalwart for civil rights 

San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, July 14, 2000 


By Donald H. Harrison

Back in San Diego from the funeral of his father, Joseph Filner, who died June 28 in Columbia, MD, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, immediately paid a shiva call on the relatives of Fay Recht, a Holocaust Survivor who died in San Diego on June 29.

Following evening services at the Recht home, Filner and Lucy Goldman, a daughter of Recht, consoled each other on the deaths of their parents, who were both 86 years old. 

Admirers of the elder Filner's contributions to the civil rights movement drew the congressman out on how his father had become so involved with the Rev. Martin Luther King.

The congressman said his father had read about King in the 1950s when the civil rights leader still was in the early stages of his career, while serving as a pastor in Montgomery, Ala. He said that Joseph Filner telephoned the young minister and told him he was impressed with what he was doing.

"How can I help?" Joseph Filner asked.

King said that the need to earn his salary made it difficult for him to travel too far from home. How much is that? Joseph Filner required. Shyly (as Congressman Filner remembered the tale), King said it was $35,000.

Joseph Filner said he would see what he could do. A successful scrap metals trader, Filner assembled some personal friends and business associates -- "most of them Jewish," the congressman remembered -- and told them about King and his work.

"They contributed over $100,000," the congressman said. "That money really helped King to put his Southern Christian Leadership Conference on a sound financial footing."

After Bob Filner became involved in politics, one of the people who campaigned for him was Andrew Young, then mayor of Atlanta, Ga. Young had been mentored by Martin Luther King, and he remembered Joseph Filner well. At one point, he told a campaign rally that he supported Bob Filner's candidacy not only because of their shared Democratic viewpoints, but also, quite simply, "because of his daddy."

Joseph Filner, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and used to work in his parents' bakery and drive the delivery truck. Concerned about the conditions of workers at other bakeries, he became involved as an organizer for the bakers' union and later for the Teamsters, Steelworkers and other industrial unions.

He enlisted in the Army for World War II, fighting with the 180th Infantry Regiment through North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He was among the American soldiers who witnessed the atrocities perpetrated by the nazis at Dachau after his unit liberated the concentration camp.

Following the war, Filner returned briefly to the bakery business, but thereafter recognized how important stainless steel scrap metal would become to American industry. He founded the Stainless and Alloy Corporation of America, eventually expanding its scope of operations worldwide. In the process he also formed and operated Considar Inc., Newmet Corp., and Project Development Inc. He created a charitable foundation, Frieda Foundation, through which he gave to many liberal causes, especially programs to "rid the world of the threat of nuclear annihilation."

Divorced from his first wife, Sarah; Joseph Filner is survived by his wife of 47 years, Doris. Besides the congressman, his children are Dr. Bernard Filner, a Maryland physician who specializes in pain medicine; a stepdaughter Nancy Stein who is associated with the Little Red School House of New York, and five grandchildren.

The family requests donations in his honor be made to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta.