July 31, 1958: Labor Leader Bill Blizzard Dies at 65

Jul 31, 2017

Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  Labor leader Bill Blizzard died on July 31, 1958, at age 65. The Kanawha County native was the son of two passionate union activists.

During the 1910s, Blizzard quickly rose in rank in the United Mine Workers of America labor union. In 1921, he played a key role in the armed miners’ march on Logan County and personally led some of the front-line fighting at the Battle of Blair Mountain. He was charged with treason and murder for his actions. He was tried in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town—ironically, in the same building where John Brown had been convicted of treason six decades before.

Although Blizzard was acquitted of all charges, he lost leverage in the union. In 1931, however, he won favor again by helping to defeat a rival miners’ union. He served as president of UMWA’s District 17 from 1945 until 1955, when he was forced out by national president John L. Lewis.

Bill Blizzard was one of the most influential labor leaders in West Virginia history and one of the main reasons the UMWA became a political powerhouse in the state.