January 23, 1888: Labor Leader Fred Mooney Born

Jan 23, 2018

Mooney was part of a more radical leadership team that also included district President Fred Keeney and Vice President Bill Blizzard.
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Labor leader Fred Mooney was born in Kanawha County on January 23, 1888. At age 13, he began working in coal mines as a trapper boy. 

Six years later, at the young age of 19, he became secretary-treasurer of District 17 of the United Mine Workers of America.

Mooney was part of a more radical leadership team that also included district President Fred Keeney and Vice President Bill Blizzard. This was a particularly active period in the Mine Wars—a violent time that pitted miners against coal operators. Mooney was a key union organizer in Mingo County in the weeks leading up to the Matewan Massacre.

And, he helped oversee the 1921 armed march on Logan and Mingo counties. The march culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain. His most lasting contribution to history is his autobiography, Struggle in the Coal Fields.

In it, he provided firsthand accounts of the Mine Wars and the subsequent trials, in which more than 500 miners were indicted for treason and murder. Almost all, including Mooney, were acquitted. Fred Mooney committed suicide in Fairmont in 1952 at the age of 64.