SOUTH PORTLAND – James Carson, president of Teamsters Local 340, who dedicated his life to improving and protecting the rights of Maine workers, died unexpectedly Dec. 8. He was 59.

Mr. Carson began his career sorting packages at UPS in 1973. For several years, he drove a delivery truck and served as the union shop steward. In 1983, he left UPS and became a business agent for Local 340.

Mr. Carson became president of the local in 2001. He was instrumental in expanding the union to a record 4,300 members. He was president of the Teamsters Union Joint Council No. 10, a board of union presidents representing each New England state.

Mr. Carson also served on the executive board for the Maine AFL-CIO, which represents most unions in the state.

Business agents for Local 340 said he was an intelligent, compassionate and strong man who worked tirelessly to improve workers’ rights in Maine.

Dan Walsh, a business agent, said he advocated for working-class people and was firm in negotiations. “He had the intelligence to know when to be strong and when to be cooperative,” Walsh said.

Alan Churchill, another business agent and a close friend, credited Mr. Carson with making the union one of the most successful in Maine. He said Mr. Carson had a vast understanding of labor law and the art of negotiations.

He and Carolyn Carson of South Portland celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Nov. 21. They met on a blind date during their junior year of high school.

His wife said Tuesday that he was a deeply religious man, whose faith was the foundation for his roles as a husband and father to three children, and as president of the union.

She said they had planned to renew their wedding vows on Thursday, the day after he died.

Mr. Carson was remembered by his children as a good father who encouraged them to succeed.

His son Eric Carson of Portland had a close relationship with his father. They enjoyed talking about politics and watching the Boston Celtics.

“My dad never missed a game,” said his daughter, Angelique Carson of Portsmouth, N.H. “He was the biggest Celtics fan I have ever known.”

She said he instilled a sense of compassion, integrity and pride in each of them.

Mr. Carson suffered a heart attack during a business trip to Rhode Island. When he missed an arbitration hearing on the morning of Dec. 8, union officials became concerned.

Churchill, who accompanied him on the trip, identified his body. He said Mr. Carson looked peaceful lying on his bed.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]