Former UAW VP Ernie Lofton dies at 84
Ernest Lofton of West Bloomfield, the first African-American to direct the National Ford Department for the auto workers’ union, died Aug. 4 at the age of 84, according to Swanson Funeral Homes.
A public viewing is set for the former vice president of the United Automobile Workers for 3 p.m to 8 p.m. Friday at the funeral home in Detroit. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, according to a news release.
“Ernie Lofton cared deeply about people and was a lifelong champion of economic and social justice,” Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. said in a statement. “A strong and effective advocate for UAW members, he also understood that it was in everyone’s best interest to make sure our company was successful.”
Mr. Lofton was a member of UAW Local 600 and served as a vice president as well as the Ford department’s director from 1989 until he retired in 1998.
UAW President Dennis Williams said Lofton went to apply for a job at Ford in the 1950s, but the lines were so long, he had to come back the next day. “Ernie was a tireless leader and a man who never gave up,” Williams said in a news release. “He showed up the next day just as anxious as the first day. He was hired and never looked back.”
As a child, Mr. Lofton received Christmas gifts from the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit and as an adult he made sure he gave back, supporting the organization in many ways and joining its board of directors from the late 1990s to 2013. He also worked on the fund’s tribute breakfast planning committee for more than 25 years. In 1996, he was selected as Goodfellow of the Year.
“Everybody loved Ernie,” said Sari Klok-Schneider, executive director of Detroit Goodfellows. “He was a Goodfellow through and through.”
UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Ford department, said Mr. Lofton was a “friend, a mentor and a pioneer.”
Settles said in a statement that, “Ernie was someone I had great admiration for and the impact he left upon my life and our great union is immeasurable. He will be remembered as a true trade unionist.”
Mr. Lofton will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.