Joseph Anthony Tates, a retired Social Security Administration section chief and a decorated Army veteran cited for his "inspirational courage" while fighting in World War II, died of cancer Tuesday (December 13, 2005) at his Edmondson Village home. He was 84.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Brune Street, one was one of sixteen children of Arthur Tates and Mabel Collins. A graduate of St. Pius V Parochial School, he attended Frederick Douglass High School and was a tailor before joining the then-new Social Security Administration.
He left that job to enlist in the Army. Assigned to the 761st Tank Battalion, he fought in a segregated unit in France, Belgium and Germany.
He was wounded by shrapnel at Sarre Union, France, after which he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant.
According to Come Out Fighting, a history of his unit, he received a citation for "heroic achievement."
"Under intense enemy fire, [he] distinguished himself by exhibiting outstanding courage and leadership" by firing continuously at enemy installations to cover the movements of six tank crews who had been injured, the citation said. He radioed information regarding the operation to headquarters, then aided in the evacuation of litter cases under heavy mortar and sniper fire.
Mr. Tates took command of three 105 mm guns before being relieved.
"Sergeant Tates' inspirational courage, his loyalty to duty and solicitude for wounded comrades exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States," the citation said.
After the war, Mr. Tates returned to the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn. He was recalled to service during the Korean War and trained troops for combat at Fort Knox, Ky.
He retired from Social Security in June 1977 as a section chief for a supply warehouse at Woodlawn.
For many years, he was a member and usher at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church. For a decade, he was president of the Edmondson Village Community Association.
"His hobby was his community activism," said his wife of nearly 40 years, the former Alice Johnson. "People would come to him with their problems, and he would listen and then go to whatever government agency was involved."
He was a Bon Secours Hospital volunteer and a caseworker in the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general's office. He also fielded phone calls at his neighborhood community police station.
Mr. Tates frequently attended Southwestern Community Relations meetings at the Southwestern District Police Station.
Mr. Tates willed his body to science.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, St. Agnes Lane and U.S. 40 West, where he was a member.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Stephen Tates of Baltimore; two daughters, Sharon Bonner and Antoinette Arrington, both of Baltimore; a granddaughter; and a great-grandson. His marriage to Doris Johnson ended in divorce.(This Obituary was originally published in the Baltimore Sun on December 16, 2005. The photograph of Lt. Tates is from the unit history Come Out Fighting .)