Tony Boyle was born in Montana on December 1, 1901. His controversial tenure as president of the United Mine Workers of America would lead to big changes in the way the union was operated.
In 1947, he moved to Washington, D.C., to become an assistant to UMWA president John L. Lewis. In 1963, Boyle himself became national president. Lacking Lewis’s charm and political savvy, he quickly made enemies with union miners who wanted more local and district control. A turning point occurred after the 1968 Farmington mine disaster, in which 78 West Virginia coal miners perished. Boyle seemed to side more with the Consolidation Coal Company than with the victims.
Rank-and-file miners launched an opposition movement. Jock Yablonski, a former Boyle ally, ran against Boyle in an election for union president. After a bitter campaign, Yablonski, his wife, and daughter were murdered on New Year’s Eve 1969. Boyle was ousted by West Virginian Arnold Miller in the 1972 union election.
Tony Boyle and three others were sentenced to life in prison for the Yablonski murders. Boyle died in prison in 1985 at age 84.