Maritime Labor Leader Simpkin Dies

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Talmage (Tal) E. Simpkins, who devoted 50 years to American maritime labor and the seafaring community, died Sunday, March 11, at Fairfax (Va.) Hospital of injuries sustained in a traffic accident last month. He was 79 and lived in Haymarket, VA. At the time of his death, Mr. Simpkins was in his 18th year as President of United Seamen's Service, the agency that provides health, welfare and recreational services to American and international seafarers at eight overseas ports.

He retired last year as Executive Vice President of the Labor Management Maritime Committee, Washington, DC. In April 1956, Tal Simpkins commenced his maritime career as Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director of the AFL-CIO Maritime Committee. In November 1959 he joined the Labor Management Maritime Committee (LMMC) as Research Consultant. In March 1960 he rejoined the AFL-CIO Maritime Committee. In June 1970 Mr. Simpkins was appointed Washington Representative for the National Maritime Union (NMU) of America, AFL-CIO, and continued until July of 1972 when he was appointed Co-Director of LMMC, later being named Executive Vice President of LMMC until his retirement. He was also elected Executive Director of the AFL-CIO Maritime Committee in 1970. A native of Goreville, Illinois, he attended school in Illinois and in 1945 enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After completing Basic Training at Paris Island, SC, Mr. Simpkins received a fleet appointment to the United States Naval Academy in 1946, and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps on November 26, 1947.

He enrolled at the University of Maryland in 1948, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1952. Upon graduation he worked in advertising and insurance, until joining the AFL-CIO Maritime Committee in 1956 Tal Simpkins is survived by his wife, Heidi. Simpkins was pre-deceased in 1996 by his first wife, Irene Ann, whom he married in 1947. They had one son, Talmage E. Simpkins, Jr. (Buddy). Mr. Simpkins' son and his wife, Betty, who live in Atlanta, and four step-grandsons survive him. He also leaves a brother, William, and his wife, Janet, of La Habra, CA. Other survivors include three stepdaughters, Angela Thomas, Michelle DiRienzo and Sheila Burchfield, all of Tampa, FL, and other extended family members.

In 2002, Mr. Simpkins was awarded a special United Seamen's Service Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award (AOTOS) in recognition of his dedicated career benefiting American seafaring labor. In addition to his long commitment to USS, Mr. Simpkins served on the Military Sealift Command's (MSC) National Defense Executive Reserve Unit; was a member of the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy; was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the National Advisory Council on Continuing Education; and was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the International Load Line Convention in 1966.

Locally, he served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Prince George's County Hospital Board, the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, and was President of the Prince George's Country Club for seven years from 1975 through 1982. Simpkins had been a member of the Propeller Club of America Port of Washington, D. C., and of the National Defense Transportation Association, and a lifetime member of the Navy League of the United States.

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