George Thomas Karras, 96, a retired official of the US Department of Commerce, died peacefully on June 21, 2022 at a retirement facility in Gaithersburg, MD.
Mr. Karras, whose birth name was Kotrotsios, was born in Manchester, NH, to first generation Greek immigrants. He served in the Navy during World War II, graduated from Suffolk University in 1949, and received his Masters degree in labor economics from UNH a year later.
Mr. Karras began his career as a labor economist and staff writer at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1951, where he met his beloved wife of 54 years, Mary Mead Smith. In 1953 he went to Philadelphia, PA to join the staff of the Upholsterers International Union, where he first trained local union officers and later administered the contracts department.
In 1961 he returned to Washington, DC to join the Area Redevelopment Administration, which became the Economic Development Agency, working to bring economic improvement to depressed communities nationwide. Mr. Karras was awarded the Commerce Department’s gold medal twice: in 1968 for “exceptionally outstanding leadership in economic development,” and in 1976, as Deputy Assistant Secretary, for implementing the six billion dollar Public Works Jobs Act which eased the mid ’70s recession. Mr. Karras was a charter member of the Senior Executive Service, created in 1978 under President Carter.
After resigning at the start of the Reagan administration in 1981, he served as a consultant to Congress on new development legislation, and for the Ford Foundation in the South Bronx and elsewhere. He helped set up development programs in Jamaica and in Poland, as a consultant for the Agency for International Development. He also served on the board of the Montgomery County Historical Society, Peerless Rockville, and the Unitarian Church of Rockville. In 1987 Mr. Karras established his own business and over the next ten years completed several ventures in Washington County, MD.
Mr. Karras is survived by his son Thomas Karras of Gaithersburg, MD; his daughter Jane Karras of Williamsburg, MA; grandchildren and great-grandchildren; beloved nieces and nephews; and a great many loving friends. He was an extraordinary and generous person, who believed deeply in fiscal and social equality. He will be profoundly missed by his many loved ones near and far. Private services will be held in Gaithersburg, MD and Nashua, NH. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in his name to Montgomery Hospice,1355 Piccard Drive #100, Rockville, MD 20850 or at montgomeryhospice.org. Condolences may be sent to the family at [email protected] and [email protected].