John Roberts Sr., the father of the chief justice, died on Tuesday after a long illness, the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday. But in the manner of local newspapers everywhere, the headline on the Johnstown (Pa.) Tribune-Democrat story on his death today focused on how he was known in his community: "Former Bethlehem Steel Manager Dies." The story begins, "Before John G. Roberts Sr. was known as the father of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, he was known in Johnstown as a steel man."
The story recounts Roberts' career at Bethlehem Steel and adds, "At the time of his retirement from Bethlehem in 1985, Roberts was described by the corporation as 'a shirt-sleeved manager who is as much at home in the mills and furnace area of a steel plant as in an office.'"
After he retired, Roberts traveled to Poland for the International Executive Service Corps to help that nation with its steel industry. “I thought hard about going ... because of the steel industry in Johnstown, my old hometown, and the problems the mills there have with imported steel,” Roberts said in a 1990 interview with the newspaper. “There’s none better than the Johnstown workers, and I don’t say that lightly.”
Roberts is survived by his wife, the chief justice, three daughters, and six grandchildren. The funeral will be held Friday in Johnstown.