Donald Gralike, a former Missouri senator and representative and president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1,, died Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, after a brief illness. He was 86.
Mr. Gralike, was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party and served the in the state legislature from 1962 to 1978, defending workers’ rights to organize. He served as a four-time delegate to the National Democratic Convention and was defeated by Dick Gephardt in the Democrat primary election in 1976 in a bid for Congress.
Mr. Gralike challenged a state constitutional amendment that compelled candidates to declare unconditional support for term limits. The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Cook v Gralike was decided in his favor.
Brother Gralike was a third-generation electrical worker, and his grandfather was the international president of the IBEW from 1919 to 1929. The local union, IBEW Local 1, was the first in the country. Brother Gralike served as its president from 1972 to 1995. He modernized the union’s membership benefits structure to include a variety of financial planning initiatives and services. In 1978, he was appointed to the U.S. Labor Relations Task Force by President Jimmy Carter.
“He really believed in the middle class and trying to promote equity in justice and economics, to advance mankind,” said son Daniel Gralike of Mehlville told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s how I always saw him. He was a leader, a beautiful father, and just instilled confidence in everybody he met.”
Mr. Gralike was a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War and served as a vice chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission, and retired from that job in 2003.
“Don Gralike was a true champion for the causes of the working middle class as well as a fighter for the men and women that served our country,” Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs said. “When a man of his tenure and stature passes away, it is as if a library burns down. We lost a great labor leader and a great man.”
Three out of Brother Gralike’s four sons went on to become electrical workers. Dennis Gralike is director of the St. Louis Electrical Industry Training Center where apprentices are trained.
Daniel Gralike became an attorney. His father always supported him, he said. “He once told me, ‘don’t think about what you want to do. Think about what makes you happy.’ So that’s what I did. He did, too.”
Survivors also include his wife of 61 years, Rita, sons Donald Gralike of Highland and David Gralike of Oakville; sister Kay Tominia of Fenton, and 10 grandchildren.
A celebration of Mr. Gralike’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 16 at IBEW Local 1 Union Hall, 5850 Elizabeth Avenue in St. Louis.
(Information for this report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and IBEW Local 1)