Thomas J. Mackell Jr. of Port Washington took an unusual route to become chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia.

A labor leader, Mackell was appointed to the bank’s board of directors in 2003 as a liaison to unions, said his son, Thomas Mackell III, then became the board’s deputy chairman in June 2003 and served as chairman from 2005 to 2008.

The elder Mackell, who died Sunday, had learned the intricacies of banking and investments during a long career managing benefits plans for union workers before he was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank board, his son said.

He said his father remained a staunch advocate for unions through his years with the Federal Reserve. At the time of his death, Mackell was executive director of the Maritime Labor Alliance and special adviser to the international president of the International Longshoremen’s Association.

“He was a unique character, to say the least,” the younger Mackell said. “He always believed in the rights of workers [and] the fair treatment of workers. He was a pro-labor guy all the way.”

Mackell died of cancer at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He was 74.

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In a statement on the union’s website, International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold J. Daggett called Mackell’s death “heartbreaking.”

“Tom’s contribution to our ILA and to working men and women is vast and he brought a high level of competence, intelligence and integrity to our great union,” he said.

Mackell, whose father was former Queens District Attorney Thomas Mackell Sr., was raised in Queens. He received a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University, a master’s degree from Long Island University and a doctorate from Rutgers University.

Mackell was longtime president of the Association of Benefit Administrators and authored a text, “When the Good Pensions Go Away: Why America Needs a New Deal for Pension and Health Care Reform.”

He taught at LIU Post, Long Island University’s School of Health and Public Affairs and the New York Institute of Technology’s Graduate Center for Labor and Industrial Relations School of Management.

Mackell’s son said his father taught him that “the clothes that were put on my back were put on my back by the working men and women of America. ... I try to instill that in my kids.”

In addition to his son Thomas of Port Washington, Mackell also is survived by his wife Eileen of Port Washington; a daughter, Christina Burgdorf, of Manhasset; a son, Sean, of Forest Hills; a brother, Terrence of Richmond Hill, Queens; and 10 grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held Thursday at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Mackell was buried at Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington.