Ralph Boyd, a World War II veteran who co-founded Schenectady's NAACP chapter in 1950, passed away Saturday morning. He was 99.
Boyd's wife of 68 years, Katherine, confirmed Boyd's death Monday afternoon. She said a memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Emmanuel Friedens Church at 218 Nott Terrace in Schenectady. Boyd will be buried at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville.
Boyd was named a Patroon of the city in 2008 by then-mayor Brian U. Stratton.
"I am deeply saddened to hear of Ralph's passing," Stratton said Monday afternoon. "He was a constant presence around the city and a tremendous citizen. I was very proud to have named him a Patroon.
Stratton said he got to know Boyd while Stratton was a member of the City Council, before he was mayor.
"He was always at veterans events and was always at City Hall," said Stratton. "When he got up to speak, you knew it wasn't necessarily going to be a short speech. But it always had substance. He was always keeping us on task and helping to guide us. He was very proud of his service during World War II, and he was a real champion of civil rights in Schenectady."
Boyd, who would have been 100 in December, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. He moved to Baltimore with his family when he was 3, graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and then headed to Morgantown State for two years before his college life was interrupted by World War II.
Boyd served with the 366th Infantry Regiment in Italy and Europe during World War II, an all-Black outfit that was honored by President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1994. After the war, he spent the summer of 1947 working in Saratoga Springs and the next year moved to Schenectady, where he was hired by General Electric Co. Two years later, Boyd and a friend, James Stamper, formed Schenectady's first chapter of the National Association of American Colored People. Stamper died in 2006 at the age of 93.
Marsha Mortimore, a local historian and a member of the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church on Hulett Street in Schenectady, had known Boyd for nearly 15 years.
"He was a real force in the community, and he will be missed," said Mortimore, who recently hosted a birthday party for Boyd. "He was an advocate for equality for everybody ... I got to know him through Jim Stamper. Those two men were close friends, and they are the guys who are responsible for our first NAACP chapter."
A Niskayuna resident, Boyd and his wife had lived in the upper State Street neighborhood and were members of the First Baptist Church, which now meets at the Stanford Methodist Church. Boyd was also instrumental in the creation of Head Start, the Schenectady Community Action Program and the Baptist Retirement Center in Scotia.
His son, Ralph Boyd Jr., graduated from Colonie High School in 1975 and then went on to Haverford College and Harvard Law School. He was head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department during the administration of George W. Bush.