Tuesday, September 3, 2019
John L. Lewis :: Biography Biographies
John L. Lewis John L. Lewis started life in Lucas County, Iowa February 12, 1880 the son of Thomas Lewis, a coal miner and policeman. John was welsh born. In the 1880's and the 1890's their family lived in a company owned shanty with an outdoor privy. Whet John was in his teens they moved to Des Moines. That is where John attended high school, completing almost all of his four years of schooling. Family ties were strong, even though he did not approve of his mothers religion he did obey her when it came to sexuality and alcohol usage. For the most part he was not a troublemaker and played by the rules. In the late 1890's his family moved back to Lucas County and there he became a coal miner. In 1901, he was elected secretary of the United MineWorkers of America. As holding this job, he set up many small events. That same year he left for four years to work out west in coal mines. With him doing this he saw many disasters and aided in many heroic deeds to lend him authenticity to his claim to speak for the working class. In 1905 John returned to Lucas and in 1907 he ran for mayor however he was not elected and all the Lewises left Iowa and moved to southern mining town in Illinois. There the men in the family soon established themselves among the large labor force as hard workers. In 1910 John was elected president of the local mining union 1475, one of the largest in the state. Shortly before leaving Iowa, he had married Myrta Edith Bell, the daughter of a local physician. She provided a stable home life but she did not care for her husband's politics. They kept their personal life and his political life very separated. John's leadership in southern Illinois led to advancement in the labor movement. He was now the legislative agent for the UMWA of Illinois. From there on until 1920 when he became president of UMWA. He kept moving up the union corporate ladder until he was on top. During the 1920's The UMWA declined rapidly, though the union had won some strikes about wages the competition between oil and coal was resulting in layoffs in the South and the Midwest.