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Found the answer at {http://askubuntu.com/questions/168101/why-cant-i-access-super-user-mode-with-su} and it worked.

$ sudo passwd -S root
root PS 1969-12-30 0 99999 7 -1 (Password set, SHA512 crypt.)
$ sudo passwd root
Changing password for user root.
New password:
Retype new password:
passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
$ sudo passwd -S root
root PS 2016-02-27 0 99999 7 -1 (Password set, SHA512 crypt.)
$ su --login
Password:
Last failed login: Sun Feb 28 05:58:49 MST 2016 on pts/1
There were 5 failed login attempts since the last successful login.
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The date of the original password is interesting as it seems that the su default password was set by the original programmer.