By Laurence Hammack
John P. Fishwick, who defined the railroad as much as the railroad defined Roanoke, died Monday at the age of 93.
As president of the Norfolk & Western Railway from 1970 to 1981, Fishwick is perhaps best remembered for negotiating a merger with the Southern Railway to form Norfolk Southern Corp., one of the nation's largest railroads.
The son of immigrants, Fishwick also was known for a work ethic so strong that it kept him going into the office daily until noon, up until he fell ill two weeks ago.
"I think the best thing I could tell you about my dad is that he lived the American dream," said his son, Roanoke lawyer John Fishwick. "He lived it right up to the end."
As the head of the railroad, Fishwick advocated the promotion of women and minorities and started a treatment program for employees with drinking problems long before such programs were widely established.
A graduate of Roanoke College who earned a law degree from Harvard University, Fishwick joined the railroad as assistant to the general solicitor in 1945 after a stint in the U.S. Navy and worked his way up to the top job.
As part of the merger between Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway, the railroad's corporate headquarters moved from Roanoke to Norfolk.