Ex-AFL-CIO leader dies

The man who headed the state's AFL-CIO during a troubled period died Friday after a stroke.

Robert T. Curtis of Eminence had a stroke on Monday and was admitted to Jewish Hospital in Louisville, where he died. He was 71.

Mr. Curtis, an Air Force veteran, had worked for Philip Morris before becoming vice president of the BCTW International Union of the United States and Canada. He retired from that position about 10 years ago.

Mr. Curtis had farmed every day of his life and continued to after his retirement, a relative said.

He also was a past president of the Oldham County Country Club and a member of the Masonic Lodge in Louisville.

Mr. Curtis was elected president of the state's AFL-CIO in 1984. His term was filled with chaos, but he handled the madness well, said his son, Doug Curtis.

The organization's top three elected officials, including Curtis, were suspended with pay in September 1998 pending an internal audit of finances prompted by complaints from local unions. Curtis, who was not full-time, was later dropped from the payroll.

The other executives also were dropped from the payroll or resigned, and new officers were sworn in in July 1999.

Kentucky State Police were simultaneously investigating a burglary, in which records at the Frankfort headquarters were stolen, and an arson, in which some records were destroyed. Later, a union bookkeeper, who with her husband was accused of theft, committed suicide.

The national AFL-CIO associate general counsel called management problems in Kentucky's AFL-CIO the worst the national organization had seen in 25 years.

"He just happened to be president at that time," Doug Curtis said.

Mr. Curtis is survived by his wife, Donna Mann Curtis, his son, of Charlotte, N.C., and a daughter, Suzanne Curtis Patrick of Bardstown.

His funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Hall-Taylor Funeral Home in Shelbyville. Visitation is scheduled for 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.