Cover photo for Bernard F. Ashe's Obituary
Bernard F. Ashe Profile Photo
1936 Bernard 2023

Bernard F. Ashe

1936 — March 9, 2023

Bernard F. Ashe, Esq., a defender, litigator, educator and mentor of labor law, husband, father, brother and grandfather, passed on his 87th birthday.

Born on March 8th, 1936, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Victor J. Ashe and Frances C. Johnson, Bernard graduated from Douglas High School  and received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Howard University in 1956. For two years, he taught in the Baltimore City Public School District before returning to Howard University to pursue a law degree. He met his wife Nannette while she pursued her undergraduate degree at Howard. The couple received their degrees in 1961 and were married in 1963.

Bernard was a lawyer with over 60 years of professional experience. He began his legal career at the National Labor Relations Board in 1961. In 1963, he and Nannette moved to Detroit where he served as Assistant Counsel for the United Automobile Workers (UAW), working to expand unemployment compensation, health care and pension benefits. In 1971, the family moved to upstate New York where Bernard became General Counsel for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). There, he and other lawyers at NYSUT were a primary force in the development of the law of public sector collective bargaining in the state of New York, litigating over 90 cases, winning almost 70% of those cases, to create a solid foundation for state and federal labor relations issues, until his retirement in 1996.

Later, Bernard became an adjunct faculty member at several universities that include Fordham University, Roger Williams University and Cornell University. He served with the Urban League of Albany on the board of directors from 1979 to 1985 and as vice president from 1981 to 1985. He was a trustee of the New York State Lawyers Fund for Client Protection from 1981 to 2008 and Adelphi University from 1997 to 2005.

In his four decades of involvement with the American Bar Association, Bernard served on many committees and commissions. He was appointed Chairman of the Labor and Employment Law section from 1982-1983, making him the first African American chair of a substantive section of the ABA. Among his other ABA roles, he served on the ABA's Board of Governors, House of Delegates, Executive Committee, and Journal Editorial Board.

Bernard dedicated time to serving on the board of directors for the American Arbitration Association from 1982 to 1998 and was an emeritus member of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers Inc., a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a life member of the American Law Institute. He held affiliations with the National Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.  He was also a 30-year Emeritus member of Sigma Pi Phi Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Well-regarded in his field, Bernard regularly contributed to  professional journals, with a focus on labor and constitutional law. A collection of his personal papers, entitled the Bernard F. Ashe Collection, is held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.

Bernard received many awards including the Whitney North Seymour Senior Medal from the American Arbitration Association in 1989, the Thurgood Marshall Justice Award from the NAACP in Albany, New York in 2000, and the Nat Weinberg Award from Wayne State University in Detroit the following year. He received the Arvid Anderson Public Employment Lawyer of the Year Award from the Section of Labor and Employment Law of the American Bar Association in 2017.

Happily married for almost 60 years, Mr. Ashe is survived by his wife, Nannette, sons, Walter (Wendy) and David (Rosemary); grandchildren, Ricardo, Miguel and Aech; brother, Samuel Flemming (Mildred), brother-in-law Marlin Johnson; and many nieces, nephews and friends. He is predeceased by parents, Victor J. Ashe and Francis C. Flemming; siblings Julius Flemming, Jr. (Mary), Cecelia Flemming -Walker and JoAnn Flemming Johnson.

A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church of Delmar, 428 Kenwood Avenue, on Saturday, March 25 at 1:00 pm.

A livestream of the service is available at

.  Relatives and friends are invited to call prior to the service at the church from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to

Parkinson's Foundation


American Cancer Society


Howard University

(designate School of Law Annual Fund)
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Bernard F. Ashe, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, March 25, 2023

11:00am - 12:30 pm (Eastern time)

First United Methodist Church of Delmar

428 Kenwood Avenue, Delmar, NY 12054

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Memorial Service

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

First United Methodist Church of Delmar

428 Kenwood Avenue, Delmar, NY 12054

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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