Scribner rose from paperboy to president of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News
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Edgar Scribner, former president of Metro Detroit AFL-CIO.

Ann Arbor — Long before becoming president of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, Ed Scribner showed a lot of gumption.

How much gumption?

By 14, he had saved enough money from his paper route to buy a 1931 Ford hot rod, said relatives. He may have been too young to drive the thing, but clearly he was a young man in a hurry. A newspaper story at the time referred to him as a “real go-getter.”

Car or no car, he reached a lot of places before his death Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, at Arbor Hospice in Ann Arbor. He was 86.

His wife, Patricia, marveled at everything her husband accomplished in his life, from union work to community service to traveling around the world.

“He led a full life,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who achieved all the things they wanted in life. His checklist was checked in all places.”

If he had any regrets, it was not playing for the Detroit Tigers, said his wife. He told her he had a tryout with the team but wasn’t offered a spot on the roster.

Mr. Scribner was born in 1932 in Oakland City, Indiana, and moved to Detroit six years later, said relatives.

Edger Ed Scribner - Labor leader

He began his 58-year association with unions in 1951 when, at 19, he was hired to work in the circulation department of the Detroit Free Press. He also joined Teamsters Local 372.

The following year he joined the Army and served in the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star.

After the war, he resumed working for the newspaper, eventually becoming a district manager in the Circulation Department. At the same time, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wayne State University.

He steadily rose through the union ranks. At 30, he became vice president of the Teamsters local and later served three terms as president from 1972 to 1980, said the union.

In 1988, he became president of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, which had 330,000 members.

Despite his highfalutin job, he always referred to himself as an old paperboy from Detroit's east side.

During his dozen years as president, he was an unflinching leader who, when Detroit’s two dailies went on strike in 1995, rallied support for their unions from the public and organized labor, said the union.

“He loved his union,” said his wife. “It was one of the most important things to him.”

When Mr. Scribner retired in 2009, he was director of the Teamsters’ department of retiree affairs, said the union.

Besides his union work, he served on the Wayne State University Board of Governors from 1992 to 2000.

He also worked on numerous community boards including United Way, Economic Alliance of Michigan and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said relatives.

For fun, he enjoyed hunting, golfing and boating. He and his wife also loved to travel, visiting Ireland, Italy and Greece.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Ann Arbor. A luncheon will follow at Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest in Ypsilanti.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to Arbor Hospice or Dawn Farm in Ypsilanti.

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell

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