May 5, 2006 by

Arthur Winston


Categories: Extraordinary People

Arthur “Deke” Winston was a legend in the annals of Southern California mass transit. Punctual, friendly and dedicated to his job, he spent more than seven decades helping Los Angelinos get safely to and from work each day.
The son of a sharecropper, Winston began working in the cotton fields of Oklahoma when he was only 10 years old. After droughts and storms ruined several crops, however, his family was forced to pick up and move to the west coast. At 17, he found work cleaning trolley cars for the Pacific Electric Railway Co., a forerunner of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Winston left the company four years later because he was frustrated that his race kept him from becoming a driver, but returned in 1934 and continued working in the mass transit system for 72 more years.
Every morning at dawn, five days a week, Winston drove to the bus depot wearing a freshly pressed shirt, eager to begin his day. Despite years of racial inequities, he labored his way up to a supervisory position, leading a small crew of workers in refueling and maintaining the city’s bus fleet. Known as “Mr. Reliable,” Winston only missed a single day of work during his entire tenure — and that was to bury Frances, his wife of 65 years, in 1988.
To honor his tireless work ethic, the MTA renamed its South Bay bus depot the “Arthur Winston Bus Division.” In 1997, President Bill Clinton gave him congressional citation naming him the “Employee of the Century.” The 27-minute film, “Mr. Winston, A Living Treasure,” received Best Documentary, Best Short Subject and the Audience Award nominations at the Pan African Film Festival.
Outside of the MTA, Winston lived a simple life. He loved telling stories, sharing his opinions and tending his flower garden. A nonsmoker who rarely drank, Winston often credited his longevity to his workaholic nature and an avoidance of over-the-counter medication and credit card debt.
Winston finally retired on March 22, which was also his 100th birthday. He died less than a month later, on April 13, of congestive heart failure.
Listen to an NPR Interview With Winston

5 Responses to Arthur Winston

  1. Dan

    I did not know Mr. Wilson, I only heard of him when a news story reported his retirement at age 100. I was – and still am – inspired. I was also saddened to hear of his passing.

  2. Geoffrey Brandner

    What a hard worker. The best employee one could have. He will be missed by the other workers I am sure. Now they will have to work extra hard.

  3. Deborah

    I didn’t know this legend of a man, but I did read aaout him over the years. I felt really proud of this man and to still be working at his age was just amazing to me. When I saw the headlines that he had passed away, I was so very touched. I’m sure he will be truly missed.

  4. Dick Kazan

    Mr. Winston was a remarkable man, in part because he was so humble, that he never saw himself as being remarkable, or in any way unusual, “just a working man.” Yet his life teaches us many valuable lessons, including how to live a long, happy, and meaningful life.

  5. Jeff Aguiar

    I remember reading about Mr. Winston in march of 2006 when he was retiring on his 100th birthday. Man, I walked around work for weeks showing the newspaper article that I had clipped out of the paper. Mr. Winston’s story is what us young parents should teach our children. We all should take a piece of his story and truly honor it.

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