« ForrigeFortsett »
having started to work in the mines when I was 15 years old. I have worked for the Republic Steel Company, the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company, and the Woodward Iron Company. I went to work for the Woodward Company February 26, 1922, where I remained until December, 1931, when this company suspended operation of mine #1. This was during the height of the depression and I remained unemployed until June, 1932, when I went back to work for Woodward.
In July, 1933, I joined local #103 of the International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers. Later I became vice-president of this local. In 1934 conditions were pretty bad among the red ore miners in this district. Almost all other branches of industry at that time had government codes regulating hours, wages, etc., but there was no red ore code and as a result our wages were low and our hours were long. In the spring of 1934 the red ore miners throughout the Birmingham area decided to strike. The newspapers were full of accounts of our decision to go out out on strike on May 4. As early as May 1 National guardsmen were seen riding all along the mountain where all the major red ore mining camps were, looking the situation over. The Woodward mines were between the TCI coal mines and the ore mines operated by Sloss-Sheffield; on the other side of Sloss-Sheffield were two other mining camps of the TCI (the Winona and Muscoda red ore mines). The TCI owns and operates a railroad, known as the "high line”, from their Winona and Muscoda property to their Bessemer mines. This line goes through both the Sloss-Sheffield and Woodward property. Before May 4, the day set for us to go out on strike, we saw tents being put up on TCI property for the National guardsmen "getting ready for the strike. Their high line had to be protected so they could bring scabs and strike breakers in over it.
A few months before we decided to strike, a committee from our union called on Mr. H. A. Berg, president of the Woodward Co. Since I was vice-president of the local I was a member of the committee. We asked him in case of a strike whether the Woodward Co. planned to hire extra deputies or company thugs and he assured us he did not intend to do this, but that he expected us to help the regular night watchmen protect the property of the company and we promised that we would in case of any trouble.
On May 4, as scheduled, all of the red ore miners came out on strike. On the night of May ? TCI deputies rode up and down the highway between the Winona and Muscoda mines shooting in many of the Negroes' houses along the way and terrifying the inhabitants who were forced to hide under their beds to avoid being hit by stray bullets. The next morning I went with G. B. McGraw, president of our local, to see J. T. Sloan, the Woodward Company sheriff, and asked him to check up on the shooting. We got no satisfaction from him-he said how did he know it wasn't the ‘niggers' themselves that did the shooting. Then we went to Bessemer to see Ceph Ross, chief of police of Bessemer, and brother of George Ross, TCI attorney. He promised to investigate.
Somehow Mr. McGraw got word that hell would be raised that night (May 8) and it was decided that I should pick several men to help me guard the air compresser on the Woodward property so that no damage could be done to it by thugs and then charged as the work of union men. I asked William Holloway and Joe Evans, members of our local, to help me. Between 9:30 and 10 that night we heard shooting about three quarters of a mile away. We decided to investigate. We walked down the hill to Harrison Turner's house and asked him if he knew what the trouble was.
He asked us to come in and then he told us that his house had been shot into by the guardsmen and that they were shooting all around the woods about there. We were sitting talking when we heard noises and saw lights flashing in the darkness outside as though the house had been surrounded. Soon there came a knock at the door. Turner's wife asked who was there and there came the gruff answer, "It's the National guardsmen; let us in." Before Turner's wife could get to the door to open it, it was broken down by the guardsmen and into the room came Captain
W. J. Hanna, in the uniform of the National Guards. With him in uniform were Dent Williams and another guardsman whose name I do not know. Tom Norman, a former member of the National Guard but then a special deputy in the employ of the TCI came in too. He was in plain clothes.
Captain Hanna said, "What in h- are you g- d- niggers doing here?” I replied, "We ain't doing nothing but sitting down." He ordered the men with him to "shake them down, tear the d- house up and see what you can find.”'
Turner had several young children who were in bed. The guardsmen made them get up while they tore up mattresses looking for guns. After a thorough bearch of the house they found one broken and useless gun which belonged to
Turner. Then they proceeded to search each of us for weapons. They started with Holloway. They found none on him and in disgust Hanna hit him in the mouth with a flashlight. I grabbed him and told him not to be hitting Holloway like he was a dog. Hannan then ordered the men to take the three of us outside. As I was going out the door, Hanna hit me and we “tied up”. Norman pushed a gun in my back and pulled me off Hanna. Then they took us to the railroad about 50 feet from the house, where they turned us over to Captain Riddle Captain of the machine gun company of the National Guards and about ten others. We were guarded while Williams and Hanna and Norman roamed the woods in the vicinity shooting round after round of ammunition. After half an hour they came back and said they were going to take us in the woods and kill
one of us. Then they walked us about a mile and a half to 7 TCI mine. Here we were put on a truck and taken to the office of the TCI superintendent, G. B. Neal.
We were dumped on the floor in a hallway of the shack and guards put over us who would not allow us to speak to each other. Col. James Webb, who seemed to be the officer in charge there, Hanna, Williams, Norman and others went outside I suppose to hold a conference as to what should be done with us. Finally Norman came in and took Holloway out. After about an hour they brought him back. His clothes were all dirty and torn and his face and head were all full of welts. Then they took Evans out and kept him for about 45 minutes. He too showed signs of having been beaten. Then they beckoned to me to follow them. They led me to a room in a house back of the superintendent's office known as the deputies' shack. There they threw me on the floor. Hanna, Norman and the guardsman whose name I do not know were there. Dent William stood over me. He had taken off his shirt and was in his undershirt with a three quarter inch rubber hose pipe about 472 feet long slung around his shoulders. Ĥe is a heavy set man, well over six feet tall and weighing in the neighborhood of 260 pounds. He asked me what lodge I belonged to. I told him none but that I belonged to a union—the International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers. Then he said, “You're the d- ringleader of this business-going around shooting white folks—You better tell me the truth or ’Ill beat h- out of you." I told him to go ahead because I wasn't going to tell him anything; He bit me for about ten minutes with the rubbber hose. I wouldn't talk so then he began to walk up and down my back, stamping me while Hanna kept kicking me in the side. I still said nothing so then they began to hit me again. After about ten more licks they took me back. On the way Williams said, “You g- dson-of-a-b- I ought to kill you.'
When we got back they took Holloway out again and kept him 15 or 20 minutes. He told me afterwards that they strung him up by his thumbs and beat him in an effort to get him to talk but they were not successful. All this time they had us sitting on the floor in the narrow hallway. Numbers of deputies kept coming through and stepping all over us. One of them in particular I remember. He was L. W. Redman, a TCI deputy and scab herder, who had been a foreman at Woodward and was said to have been fired for incompetence. He walked through saying, “Get your g- d- feet out of the way.”
When they brought Holloway back Williams and Hanna went into the superintendent's office and we could hear a typewriter clicking. After a few minutes Williams, Hanna, and Norman came out and called me to follow them. Williams had a paper in his hand. They took me into a room and Williams laid the paper on the table and told me to sign it. I began to read what was typed on the paper. When Williams saw this he grabbed the paper, and folded it over so that all I could see was the dotted line where I was supposed to sign. He said, “Sign this now, you son-of-a-b— and read it later. When I tried to argue with him, Norman poked a pistol in my back and said, “You better sign it, you gd- son of a b-"
I signed. Then Holloway and Evans were led away and as I learned later were also forced to sign papers which of course turned out to be confessions that we had been guilty of the shooting and disorder that had occurred.
It was then about 5:30 in the morning. Col. Webb passed through the hall and went into the office and we heard him phone to the Birmingham sheriff's office and ask that two deputies that he could trust be sent to take three Negroes to jail. About six o'clock they came and got us. Deputy Bill Snow was one of the officers who came for us. We were charged with assault and battery and put in the county jail. After four days we were released on bond_$1,000 each, Mr. McGraw of our union and Jim Lipscomb, attorney, arranged our bond.
On June 2 we were brought up in Judge Abernathy's court for misdemeanor. He bound us over to the grand jury. About August we were indicted for assault and battery. On January 17, 1935, the trial of Joe Evans came up. Roderick Beddow had been retained as Evans' lawyer and Solicitor Long and George Ross, TCI company lawyer, were prosecutors. I was called as a witness. On my way to the courtroom to testify as I was coming through the hallway I saw Dent Williams, Hanna, Norman and other standing there When Williams saw me being taken to the witness stand he said to the others, “We just as well call this thing off because the wrong son of a b is going to the stand; he'll tell every d thing.'
After being out about 20 minutes the jury came back and reported that they found Evans not guilty.
Holloway's and my trial was scheduled to come off March 31 and on that day we appeared in Judge Wheeler's court. Special prosecutor Ross did not appear. Solicitor Long asked Judge Wheeler that our cases be temporarily passed until
We waited an hour and still Ross had not come. Then Williams, Hanna, Long, and one or two others went outside. After a while they came back and Long asked Judge Wheeler to nol pros the case on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Judge Wheeler agreed and we were released.
This was in March, 1935. On October 8, 1936, I gave up my job at Woodward's and went to Pittsburgh where all my wife's people lived. My wife died shortly after we got there and in November of the same year I returned to Birmingham, and tried to get work at Woodward's. Though the company has been taking new men on, they have not reemployed me. At the present time I am still unemployed.
BEN WINSTON. Sworn to and subscribed before me this the February, 1937. (SEAL)
Notary Public. My commission expires November 23, 1939.
EXHIBIT 2837 STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County. Personally appeared before me the undersigned authority in and for said County in said State, the undersigned, who being by me first duly sworn deposes and says as follows: That they are legally and duly appointed committee to represent Wenonah Local #157, which is a bona fide Labor Organization affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. And we further aver that said Labor Organization represents a majority of the employees of the Wenonah Mine Divi. sion of the
nnessee Coal Iron & Railway Company. We further aver that we were duly and legally appointed by the above mentioned Local for the purpose of discussing and adjusting discriminatory methods used against members of this Organization in the Wenonah Mines; the substance of these grievances are as follows:
Mr. G. B. Neal Jr. Plant Superintendent of Wenonah Mines Division has laid off or caused to be laid off our members on account of the fact that they were members of our Union; or they would demote our members, or transfer them to a job that paid less, or give them time off, and grievances of other and different nature affecting our membership:
We further aver that on the 25th day of September, 1933, we, the undersigned committee, called upon Mr. G. B. Neal Jr., as Superintendent of the Wenonah Mines, for the purpose of discussing these conditions and complaints, with the idea in view that we could reach å settlement or adjustment of same. The Committee reported to Mr. Neal's office as above stated and requested an interview with him and he refused to talk to the Committee as a whole and ordered the members of the Committee who were not his employees out of the office. He was also informed that they were the duly representatives of this Organization, but, notwithstanding that, he said, "that he would refuse to discuss grievances other than with his employees,” or to a "respective committee”, and requested that those men not his employees to immediately retire, at which time the entire committee withdrew as they considered, that the employees had a right to select
and appoint those whom they saw fit to represent them on this committee whether they were employees of that particular Division of the Company or not.
Signed: C. J. McDANIELS,
(his x mark) TOWLES,
Bessemer Steel Smelters' Council. Sworn to before me this the 25 day of Sept., 1933.
This same committee, on the 26th day of September, did call on Mr. Ryding, president of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Rail Road Company, office at Brown Marx Building, Birmingham, Alabama, to confer with him about grievances as above stated.
Mr. Ryding, through his secretary, absolutely refused to meet, or recognize this committee in any way. This secretary informed us that they would only receive and confer with the "respective representatives”. This committee represented a majority of the employees of this said Company.
Signed: C. J. McDANIEL (SEAL)
Chairman of Committee. Sworn to and subscribed before me this the 13 day of Oct. 1933. (SEAL)
EXHIBIT 2838 STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County, ss: Personally appeared before me the undersigned authority in and for said County in said State, Byrd H. Barksdale, 413 Owen Avenue, Bessemer, Alabama, who after being first duly sworn, deposes and says, that he is the President of the Muscoda Local Union No. 123, of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers a bona fide labor organization, and that during the month of November 1935 the members of the said local union, who are employees of the Muscoda Division of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, did instruct their representatives to request the said Company to divide equally the working time among their employees, which was in accordance with an understanding had with the Management of the said Company. The said Company would give an employee full time if he would join the “company union” an organization known as the "Brotherhood of Captive Ore Miners.”
Affiant states the the representatives of the said local union had gained some points in a meeting with the Management which was a set-back to the company union.
Affiant states that a few nights later a bomb was exploded in the front yard of his residence, blowing out two window panes in the front part and frightening his family very much.
Affiant states that the said Company did not investigate this explosion, which was contrary to common practice, as he believes this was due to him being an active member in the said bona fide organization.
Affiant states further that if and when any violence is committed, the said Company strives through serious investigations by their “Special Deputies or Gun-men” to place the blame on the members of the said bona fide Union. Affiant also states further that these said Company Gun-men or Special Deputies. furnish the results of their investigations to the Office of the Solicitor, (Deputy) of Jefferson County at the Court House in Bessemer, Alabama.
BYRD H. BARKSDALE,
413 Owen Avenue, Bessemer, Alabama. Sworn and subscribed to before me this the 14 day of Jan. 1937. (SEAL)
EXHIBIT 2839 STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County, 88: Personally appeared before me, the undersigned authority in and for said County in said State, Byrd H. Barksdale, of 413 Owen Avenue, Bessemer, who after first being duly sworn by me, deposes and says, That he is the President of the Muscoda Local Union No. 123, of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, a bona fide labor organization, whose members are employees of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, at their Muscoda Mines near Bessemer, Alabama, and further that the members of this Union were working under an agreement proposed by the honorable Governor of this State, curtailing for the present, or a period of four months, a strike which had been in progress at the red ore mines of this Company.
Affiant states further that at or about 5:30 p. m. on the afternoon of December 26th, 1936 he boarded a street car near his home to attend a regular meeting of his local Union. He says that two certain persons, one J. Ardmore Mason and one Ernest Cater, both white men, and former members of the said local union, did board this same street car. He says that he did get off the street car at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 20th Street, North, for the purpose of attending to some personal business before going to the meeting.
Affiant states that these said two persons, J. Ardmore Mason and Ernest Cater did get off the street car at the same time, and that the said J. Ardmore Mason did accost him by saying that he wanted to see him about some remarks alleged to have been made by affiant in the meeting hall. Affiant states that he replied alright-and as he stepped upon the sidewalk J. Ardmore Mason did strike at him and then both men, Mason and Cater did attempt to "beat him up”; he says that he managed to get away from these men, and that the said Mason told him that if he (affiant) ever said anything else about him that he would beat him up again. (Affiant states the the said Cater did strike him.)
Affiant states that these said men thought they had given him a pretty good beating, whereas the darkness was setting in, and they could not see very distinctly.
Affiant states that these said men, J. Ardmore Mason, and Ernest Cater are members of the Company Union at the said division of the said company, known by the name of "Brotherhood of Captive Ore Miners.”
Affiant states that he went to the Solicitor's office and placed warrants against these two men, and that about three days later a city policeman came to his house requesting that he appear in City Court to testify against these said men. He says that he and his attorney, J. A. Lipscomb, went to the City Court and told them that they chose to prosecute the men in the County Court, in which the warrants were sworn. The Recorder, who is presiding Judge of the Bessemer City Court is a brother of a Special Deputy of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, and that the Recorder's name is Clyde Morris.
Affiant states that one Jack Brown, Chief Deputy at the said Muscoda Division was present in the City Court with the said J. Ardmore Mason, and further that the said Judge insisted on trying the case in the City Court.
Affiant states that after their appearance in the City Court, they appeared before the Chief Depty, W. T. Kemp, who recognized the signatures of the said two men on their own bonds, with no others signing the bonds with them.
Affiant states further that since the assault was made upon his person, that the said Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company has notified one of his assailants, the said J. Ardmore Mason, that he would soon be promoted from Section Foreman in the said mines to Assistant Mine Foreman.
BYRD H. BARKSDALE,
418 Owen Avenue, Bessemer, Alabama. Sworn to and subscribed before me this the 14 day of Jan. 1937. (REAL)
WILLIE RUSSELL, Notary Public.