Obituary Notices

Industry Leader Charles Lehman Dies At Age 91

Capt. Charles F. Lehman, 91, of Louisville, Ky., a longtime and influential industry leader as vice president-government affairs for American Commercial Barge Line, died on January 20 at his home.

Capt. Charles F. Lehman
Capt. Charles F. Lehman

Born in Chicago in 1932, Lehman was a lifelong student of practical maritime studies. He began his career as a deckhand aboard the S.S. Bennestvet Brovig, a Norwegian-flagged cargo ship, in 1950 at the age of 18. Although he loved the sea, he found the net pay of $40 a month wasnt career sustaining and decided to try his luck on the river. His first river post was aboard the mv. St. Paul Socony, pushing oil barges on the Mississippi, and he rose to the position of tankerman. With the onset of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Navy and served four years aboard the second USS Juneau light cruiser before returning to the river in 1955 and beginning work for ACBL. Lehman rose through the ranks on board to become a steersman, pilot and master before focusing on maintenance and construction issues in a shoreside position.

In December 1972, when he was superintendent of barge maintenance and a 17-year veteran of the company, ACBL named the new 5,000 hp. mv. Charles Lehman in his honor.

He ultimately rose to vice president of government affairs for ACBL and was intimately involved in the legislative and regulatory affairs of the industry. Lehman worked with the Coast Guard as vice chairman of the Rules of the Road Advisory committee and played the lead role in the unification of the navigation rules for operating towboats and barges on the inland rivers, Western Rivers and Great Lakes. A Waterways Journal profile called him “the industry’s ‘go-to guy’ on the Rules of the Road.”

“Such was Charlie’s impact on industry affairs,” said WJ Chairman H. Nelson Spencer, “that I bet it would be hard to come up with a Coast Guard regulation during his career that he hadn’t thoroughly scrutinized and influenced as needed for the betterment of the river industry.”

Lehman was honored with the Distinguished Public Service Award by the Coast Guard and the Achievement Award by the National Rivers Hall of Fame, along with numerous other industry honors.

Upon retirement, he authored A Riverman’s Lexicon, a 500-page tome that serves as the most comprehensive guide to the unique language used by rivermen throughout the ages.

In addition to historical research, book collecting and poetry, he enjoyed painting and listening to country music.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 3 at St. James Episcopal Church, 401 LaGrange Road, Pewee Valley, Ky. A committal of ashes will be held privately by the family at a later date.