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February 2020

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Denzil Chapman

Retired International Representative Denzil Chapman, a key member of the Organizing Department for 17 years, died at his home in Evans, W. Va., on Nov. 19. He was 76.

After serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, Brother Chapman was hired by Union Insulating and became a member of Parkersburg, W. Va., Local 1018 in November 1963. He quickly got involved in his home local, serving on various committees and in multiple roles, including as president and business manager, from 1965 to 1971. Local 1018 later was amalgamated into Evendale, Ohio, Local 1842, of which Chapman was a member for the rest of his active career. Local 1842 was amalgamated into Hamilton, Ohio, Local 648 in 2008.

Chapman also briefly worked for the AFL-CIO as an organizing field coordinator in West Virginia. That's when Mike Lucas, the Organizing Department's former director, heard about him from then-International Representative Paul Witte, who later became the Fourth District vice president.

Chapman impressed Witte by leading a successful organizing effort at an RCA plant while serving as the business manager of his small manufacturing local. After a six-month trial period under Lucas, Chapman joined the organizing staff as an international representative in August 1972.

"[Organizing] was a young man's job because of the long hours, and a lot of people are scared to death to make those calls," said Lucas, who remained friends with Chapman until his death. "You're out there knocking on doors where some people really don't want to talk to you.

"Paul told me that Denzil did a heck of a job on that plant. He took to organizing like a fish to water and he didn't mind going out and talking to people."

Chapman started out primarily working in the manufacturing branch before expanding his expertise to other IBEW disciplines. Some of his most successful organizing efforts were at Alabama Power, Louisville Gas & Electric and Potomac Electric Power Company, commonly known as Pepco, Lucas said.

Eric Chapman, Denzil's son, said his father was drawn to organizing work because of experiences while growing up.

"He came from basically nothing in rural West Virginia," Eric Chapman said. "I think he saw how people were treated in the workplace. It touches your heart and I guess he wanted to make a difference."

Chapman served as interim organizing director in 1981 while Lucas recovered from a heart attack. Following Lucas' return, he served as his assistant until his own retirement in 1989.

After that, he owned his own tree and landscaping business in Bowie, Md., just outside of Washington, from 1989 to 2002, Eric Chapman said. He moved back to his native West Virginia in 2010.

Chapman was an avid gardener and fan of the Cincinnati Reds. Eric remembered the family making many trips to Cincinnati for Reds games when his father wasn't on the road organizing. Lucas said Chapman and other organizers sometimes spent 250 nights a year on the road.

"He was dedicated to it," his son said. "When he would make house calls to people, he knew where they were coming from because he had been like that at one point in his life."

In addition to Eric, Chapman is survived by another son, Mark, and a daughter, Rachel.

"Denzil was a good man," said Lucas, now retired and living in Florida. "I'll give him the biggest accolade I can give someone: He was a good organizer."

The officers and staff send their condolences to Brother Chapman's family and friends during this difficult time.


Denzil Chapman