Over 44 years, he took on window-makers and car dealers, investigated police departments and hospitals, ferreting out workplace discrimination and hostile office environments at employers around the Pittsburgh area.
Eugene V. Nelson, who served as the director of the regional office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, died Wednesday. He was 83, and lived most recently in Stanton Heights.
As the director of the EEOC office, he and his staff stuck up for those who alleged they had been discriminated against because of their skin color, their age, their gender or their physical disabilities. Some were harassed, others had work schedules changed without notice, others were overlooked for promotions.
"This case, where the talents of productive employees were ignored, is a classic example of why companies have to take diversity issues seriously," he said in 2001, regarding a lawsuit his office filed against a company accused of denying promotions to black employees.
These were causes he was passionate about -- evidenced by his more than four decades on the job.
"Once he committed to it, he was into it," said his son, Craig Nelson.
Mr. Nelson was born in Pittsburgh, raised on the North Side. After graduating from Oliver High School, he moved to Atlanta for college and met his wife during classes at Morris Brown College, a historically black school.
He wrote for the school newspaper and attended college on a football scholarship, according to his wife, Hassie Nelson, but a knee injury ended his athletic career. After graduating from college (and marrying his wife in 1951), he enlisted in the Army and soon moved his family -- now with two young boys -- to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kan.
Two years later, they moved to Pittsburgh, beginning his career as a civil servant, first with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, a civil rights agency, then with the U.S. EEOC.
In addition to his wife and son Craig, he is survived by sons Miles, Kevin and Sheldon; daughter Vikki M. Herald; four siblings and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; he was preceded in death by daughter Debra Muzela.
Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday in the Coston Funeral Home, 427 Lincoln Ave., East Liberty. Funeral services are to be held at 11 a.m. Monday.
Bill Toland: email@example.com or 412-263-2625.