Biographical note


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The rugged topography of Harlan County in 1962 is the same as it was twenty-two years ago. But conditions are different. A war has been fought. Literally thousands of small mines have been opened and closed.
Immediately after World War II the Union's strength was at its highest peak ever. The trying days of 1946 to 1950 brought forth the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund, which has done more for the coal miners in Harlan County than we dreamed of in the bloody days of the 1930s.
The Fund's Harlan Memorial Hospital stands as a symbol of the fact that union coal miners no longer are cast aside when they are injured, broken down, or too old to work. It is the biggest employer in the City of Harlan today.
This hospital and nine other like it have opened careers in medicine to sons of coal miners who have the ability to aid and comfort the ailing and sick in the remote mountain areas near Harlan. Its School of Pro­fessional Nursing has meant that hundreds of miners' daughters, whose. Only hope of a career previously had been for a drab married life and a "passel of hungry young 'uns," will now have a profession they can work at for the rest of their lives.

Other changes in Harlan have not been for the best, perhaps. In the late 1940s, Harlan County, with its miners fully employed at union wages, had the highest per capita income in the State of Kentucky. Today, due to mechanization and a long-time depression in the coal industry, Harlan has become a pocket of unemployment and tragic poverty. Able-bodied, strong men unable to find jobs — whose unemployment compensation benefits have expired, are subsisting on meager handouts of government surplus food and what little money State Welfare will provide. In the early days, Harlan County children wore clothing made of flour sacks because their fathers were union men. Today, other helpless little children wear flour sacks and go barefooted because of a failure in our economic system.

Harlan is no longer "Bloody Harlan," at least so far as the union and the operators are concerned. The last coal strikes during World War II and in the period 1946-1950 were without bloodshed. The men merely laid down their tools and went home. Even in 1959, when the operators tried to break the union contract, a strike resulted in only one death which was under circumstances so obscure that one is led to believe that it was not a labor dispute death at all, but merely a crime of passion or the result of a private feud.

Most male residents of Harlan County today still carry pistols but these are used to commit murders in the traditional America way — when liquored up, in disputes over property or women, or just for the hell of it. A new attitude toward labor disputes has made violence and gunplay unprofitable and unnecessary. The operators today use the Taft-Hartley law instead of hiring gun thugs.

The UMWA is not as strong in Harlan as it was in its heyday. Un­employment and hunger breed scabs. There are far too many men working in little dog holes in Harlan and elsewhere in our southern coalfields. They are underpaid and work long hours in unsafe surroundings. They will be there as long as the coal market is depressed and as long as men merely need a pick, a shovel and a five-dollar license fee to become coal opera­tors. This is a new challenge to our union. The challenge has been recognized but the problem is not solved. But I am sure that our leaders and members will win out again in Harlan, just as we did in the bloody days recounted in this book.

Five months after Joe Yablonski made his keynote speech at the United Mine Workers of America convention in Denver, Colorado, he declared himself a candidate for International President of the UMWA. He attempted to harm President W. A. Boyle by saying that President Boyle was soft on operators, while he (Joe Yablonski) was working for the biggest coal operator in the world, the Rockefellers. He traveled in the airplanes of the steel companies. Oil company lawyers were showering UMWA officials with lawsuits in attempts to weaken the union by voiding the election of Secretary-Treasurer John Owens who had no opposition, removal of President Boyle as trustee of the UMWA Welfare and Re­tirement Fund for raising the miners pension $35 per month, and con­victing him for approximately 15c per member to the Humphrey cam­paign, while Mrs. John D. Rockefeller spent one and one-half million in the Nixon campaign with immunity. This is why the average American citizen is turning sour on both political parties because of the preferential treatment of oil tycoons of America and the average voters feel that he is considered a second class citizen to the millionaires who pay no taxes. This is the secret of Governor George Wallace's success; the little people be­lieve that he has the courage to defend them against King Midas.

On January 7, 1970 George J. Titler checked into Beckley Memorial Hospital with a tumor on the spine. The head nurse received a telephone call presumably from the FBI that they would come and take Titler out for interrogation. The director nurse called the FBI back to inform them that they could not take him out of the hospital without the permission of his doctor. She was told by the FBI that they had not called and to call the sheriffs office. The sheriff furnished fifteen deputies that guarded Titler for three weeks around the clock in the hospital. The deputies were Kenneth Laraby, Harold Gwynn, Robert Williams, Godfrey Pryor, Ed Starr, Lewis Adones, Robert Sweeney, Edward Wyco, Victor Birchfield, Albert Hughes, Bobby Morris, Everett Bennett, Lowell White, Sam White and Roger Gill.

Titler was transferred from the Beckley hospital to George Washing­ton Hospital, in Washington D. C. where Dr. Hugo Rizzoli operated him on on February 23, 1970.

He was discharged from the hospital on April 9, 1970 with a hospital bill of $30,000.

On May 1, 1972 Judge Bryant ruled the election of International Officers illegal and ordered a new election to be held. I will not run for reelection. I have served the UMWA fifty-nine years of honest service.

A younger man can take up the burden now. For fifty-nine years I have "kept the faith".

I have seen John P. White, John L. Lewis and W. A. Boyle maligned because they fought for the little man. They were America's greatest labor leaders. They all fought the powers of greed. The men who follow in order to preserve this great union will require the courage of a wolverine or the oil interests who now have a monopoly on coal will destroy them.

I admonish the young coal miner to carry on and not sell your birthright for a mess of pottage on Election Day. Defend your leaders against dualist who are only interested in betraying their union.

There were 4 Int. Presidents who served over 2 years in office, John Mitchell, John P. White, John L. Lewis and W. Anthony Boyle. The greatest negotiations was Tony Boyle who in 8 years put more meat on the table and clothes on the kids' back than any other Int. Pres. in history. Gov. Arch Moore who chaired the negotiation and used his political influence to get the Pay Board to approve the contract, which every coal miner should appreciate, assisted him in the 1972 negotiations. Boyle is also the most maligned president this union ever had.
For example he was convicted on 13 counts for giving to H. H. Humphries 15 cents per member or $30,000 from Labors Non Politician League while Phil Hall and 7 other men from the Seafarers was acquitted for giving $750,000 for the same thing by a federal court in New York.

June 28, 1972

I have had 4 pensioners come to my house to discuss the persecution of Tony Boyle by the Department of Justice of the United States. We discussed the $1,700,000 given to the Republican Campaign Committee by the three members of the Rockefeller family and the $30,000 given by the Mine Workers Union to the Hubert Humphrey campaign in 1968. All of the four miners were World War veterans.

They all said: "when I was a soldier I was fighting for liberty and justice for all." They all agreed that the country has changed and we are not living in the land of liberty and justice for all. If the miners had given thirty thousand to the Attorney General for his (the Republican) party Tony Boyle would at least have been given the Purple Heart instead of 2 to 4 years in jail and a $130,000 fine. The oil tycoons who gave almost two million dollars to the Nixon election fund can expect pre­ferential treatment from their beneficiaries.

These four pensioners concluded that this is the land of the free only for the barons and tycoons. Common folks who were in the front lines in two World Wars are trash. Our patriotism has been wounded.
One of the pensioners was a Baptist minister who said that the Bible said that "one the day of judgment God would make all things right." He said "wait ye till the harvest. If you pull up the tares you pull up the wheat also." He said, "It is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle as a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven."

He said "John L. Lewis had called the Taft-Hartley and the Landrum-Griffin act slave laws and the men responsible for them would hang in limbo for 1,000 years between Purgatory and Hell and be dropped into the fiery furnace on the Day of Judgment." This is the consensus of opinion of millions of good Americans of our system of equality and justice and it is the opinion of our political system that is driving millions of decent Democrats and Republicans to extremists, looking for a man with guts to try to bring back Liberty and Justice to all. The recent actions of our Department of Justice are comparable to the Roman Emperor who threw his political opponents to the hungry lions.

In conclusion the eleven large oil companies who have taken over the coal industry have been attempting to destroy the union before they start converting coal to oil and gas. Their agent it is believed by most coal miners is the Democratic candidate for Governor of West Virginia, who has surrounded himself with gadflies, non-members of the union whose only motive is destruction.

One of them said last week "The mine workers union is up for grabs." He is apparently DROOLING over the National Bank of Washington. The Democratic candidate runs on an anti-strip mine plank in West Virginia while he tears up the beautiful prairies of Indiana with 125 yard drag lines and shovels of the old Ben coal companies which belongs to Standard Oil of Ohio. Consistency thou art a jewel."

Jay told the world on Meet The Press that he had paid the bill for a two time convicted felon, convicted for burglary to run for the president of the Union. He is trying to purify according to his statement on Meet The Press. The Miners did not fall for his guff in 69 and they will not follow him in 72.

Coal miners who have received $23 advance in wages plus $5 in fringe benefits in the last 8 years are not looking for a change. Coal miners realize/e that Boyle is carrying out the principles enunciated in 1932 by the GREAT John L. Lewis when the Union gave Franklin D. Roosevelt $500,000 and it is not wise to attack the name of the great Legendary John L. Lewis among the coal miners of America.

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