Jack Gallon, who spent his 55-year legal career representing labor and volunteering for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in its fight for recognition and its first labor contract, died Saturday at Aspen Grove Assisted Living in Lambertville.
Mr. Gallon, 82, who suffered from dementia, died from internal bleeding found earlier that day, said his wife, Kathryn.
In addition to representing labor unions, Mr. Gallon was a longtime volunteer and activist with Metroparks of the Toledo Area.
He served on its board for 20 years, and was chairman from 2003 to 2009.
He was a devoted follower of his Jewish faith and an advocate for the state of Israel.
Mr. Gallon was born on Feb. 23, 1931, in Toledo to Joe and Sade Gallon.
He made more than 20 trips to Israel, his wife said, the first occurring in 1961 as a member of the U.S. wrestling team for the Maccabiah Games, in which he won a gold medal.
Mr. Gallon began wrestling while at DeVilbiss High School in 1948, going undefeated for three years.
He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1953 and he received his law degree there in 1955. He was a sophomore at UM when he lost his first career match. That loss occurred during a conference championship in 1951.
Six years after leaving college and starting his law career, Mr. Gallon made a wrestling comeback, participating in the National Amateur Athletic Unions tournament to qualify for the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Years later, he pointed to the correlation between wrestling and his legal occupation, noting, “in law and in wrestling, you are required to stand alone and face the opposition. I go into a case the same way I go into a wrestling match, ready for an intense competition.”
His tenacity in the legal arena led Toledo’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee to achieve a historic contract with area tomato growers and Campbell Soup Co. in 1986, ending a more than seven-year-long boycott.
“If it hadn’t been for a guy like Jack Gallon, [FLOC] would not have had the success that we’ve had,” said Baldemar Velasquez, who founded the farm union in 1967. “Jack would be one of those monumental ... historic figures.”
A year after its founding, Mr. Gallon had called Mr. Velasquez “out of the blue” at Mr. Velasquez’s storefront office in Ottawa, Ohio, offering his services.
“He called me up and says, ‘I heard about your fight to organize farm workers and I want to help you’,” Mr. Velasquez recalled.
Mr. Velasquez agreed, and told others about the offer. When Mr. Gallon arrived at the union office, more than 100 people showed up to listen to “a lawyer from Toledo” who wanted to assist the cause, he said.
Mr. Gallon and another lawyer met weekly with the upstart union in Ottawa to develop organizing strategies, particularly in devising ways to gain access to labor camps.
Mr. Gallon advised FLOC to create an incident at a camp that would led to arrests. The lawyer wanted to create a test case that would give union organizers access to the camps and its workers, Mr. Velasquez said.
No arrests occurred, however, after the sheriff learned that a Toledo attorney was in the midst of the farm workers. But the camp owner, upset over the lack of arrests, tried to run over Mr. Velasquez with his truck, Mr. Valasquez said.
Assault charges were filed against the farmer. Mr. Gallon used the arrest as leverage, getting the farmer to open his labor camps to FLOC organizers in exchange for dropping the assault charges, Mr. Velasquez said. “He had enormous talent to go into critical situations.”
The end result was Mr. Gallon eventually forging the three-way agreement with FLOC, tomato growers, and Campbell’s. That deal was a template for other contracts with farmers and food processors in North Carolina, another watershed event in farm-labor organizing.
“Jack was with us for all the milestones with FLOC,” Mr. Velasquez said.
“He helped FLOC navigate everything we should do and shouldn’t do” as a union, he said.
Mr. Gallon jumped into labor law issues after graduating from UM. He returned to Toledo and opened his first office in the Teamsters Local 20 union hall.
Bill Lichtenwald, current president of Local 20, said that was the first time in the country a union had an attorney on its staff.
“He sympathized with the labor movement,” Mr. Lichtenwald said. “He truly believed in the labor movement.”
In 2005, Mr. Gallon was awarded the Toledo Bar Association’s and the area Legal Aid Society’s Access to Justice Award for his work on behalf of agriculture workers.
He was the legal adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mr. Gallon is credited with forming the first prepaid legal services for union members in the 1950s, arrangements that now are considered commonplace, Mr. Lichtenwald said.
Bill Takacs, his law partner since 1978, said Mr. Gallon’s work for the Teamsters union evolved into offering legal advice for its members.
“He was such a good advocate for the union that not only did other unions seek him out to represent them, but so did the rank and file members,” Mr. Takacs said.
In 1991, his firm, Gallon, Kalniz & Iorio, one of the most prestigious labor law firms in the area, split, with Mr. Gallon taking control. Partners Burton Kalniz and Ted Iorio, who were with the firm since its founding in 1975, started their own firm.
Mr. Gallon regrouped and formed Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co. Mr. Gallon retired from practice in 2010 after dementia set in, his wife said.
“He was not able to continue working, otherwise he never intended to retire,” she said.
The couple, who married in 2002, met the year before while in Egypt. The two kept in touch after the trip but “we found it was too hard to be apart.” Mrs. Gallon said she quit her nurse practitioner’s job in California to move to Toledo.
Mr. Gallon’s marriage to his first wife, Myrle, ended in divorce in 1972, his wife, Kathryn, said.
Mr. Gallon was a dedicated environmentalist, serving on the Metroparks board for two decades.
Mr. Gallon traced love of nature to becoming a Boy Scout, where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. In 1947, as a 16-year-old, he and three other Ohio boys traveled to France for the sixth annual World Scout Jamboree. He paid for the trip by collecting newspapers and doing odd jobs.
He wrote about his adventure to war-scarred Europe in a dispatch published in the Toledo Times.
Seven years later, as a University of Michigan senior, he traveled back to Europe. He and his wife, Myrle, visited Toledo, Spain, and presented a key from the Ohio Toledo to the Spanish mayor.
Mr. Gallon was outspoken on causes involving his Jewish faith and Israel.
He was a frequent contributor to letters to the editor of The Blade, in which he decried hartred, racism, and intolerence. He spoke on panels that examined problems in the Mideast and defended aid to Israel at a time when loan guarantees were under attack.
He was involved in the Jewish Community Center in Sylvania and was on the federation board and community relations panel.
“He was very proud of his Jewish heritage,” his wife said.
From the book of Deuteronomy, he lived by the precept “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” his wife said. “He took that very seriously.”
Mr. Gallon is survived by his wife, Kathryn; daughters, Laurie Lindrup, Julie Gallon, and Robbin Gallon; sons, John and Matthew Gallon; four grandchildren, and a brother, Mark.
Services will be held at noon Tuesday at Congregation B’nai Israel in Sylvania.
Memorials are suggested to Congregation Etz Chayim, Toledo Area Metroparks, or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Contact Jim Sielicki at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.
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