In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World

By Dan Rottenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13

Prelude to Murder

Stonega’s union problems at the Glenbrook mine failed to evaporate when Lewis removed the Deaton cousins to the Midwest. Lewis had never enjoyed the absolute power in the UMW that the world (not to mention young coal executives like Ted Leisenring) believed he possessed. Now that Lewis was in his mid-seventies, his health was failing—he suffered a heart attack in 1956—and the troops below him were jockeying for position in anticipation of his retirement. Within a few years Jack Deaton himself returned to the UMW’s District 19, which covered Kentucky and Tennessee. Here, in a district that was poised to play a pivotal role in the coming post-Lewis power struggle, Deaton hooked up with the district’s secretarytreasurer and (because he controlled the district’s funds) de facto boss, Albert E. Pass—a stocky, cold-eyed little man with close ties to Tony Boyle, Lewis’s right-hand man in Washington.

Ted Leisenring never met Pass but knew him by reputation. Within the UMW Pass was widely referred to as “Little Hitler. ” He was said to have instigated and funded the “Jones boys, ” a gang of some hundred miners who terrorized coal operators in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. When operators refused to sign union contracts, the Jones boys dynamited and burned their tipples, forced their drivers to dump their coal in the middle of the road, and in one case buried a Tennessee operator named John Van Huss alive in a ditch. Pass was hated and feared by operators and union officials alike—including District 19’s mildmannered figurehead president, a lawyer named William Turnblazer, the son of the William Turnblazer who had organized Harlan County for the UMW in the 1920s and ‘30s. “That son of a bitch Pass would cut

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In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Leisenring and Givens Family Trees ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Part I 11
  • Chapter 1 - A Rock That Burns 13
  • Chapter 2 - A Passage from the Mines 21
  • Chapter 3 - Holy Trinity 29
  • Chapter 4 - Boy Wonder of the Anthracite 37
  • Chapter 5 - Souls in Darkness 47
  • Chapter 6 - A Road Not Taken 57
  • Part II 65
  • Chapter 7 - The Ambitions of Henry Clay Frick 67
  • Chapter 8 - At War in the Coke Fields 75
  • Part III 99
  • Chapter 9 - Starting Over 101
  • Chapter 10 - The Rise of John L. Lewis 115
  • Chapter 11 - Utopia Goes Union 135
  • Chapter 12 - Be Careful What You Wish For 165
  • Chapter 13 - Prelude to Murder 187
  • Part IV 207
  • Chapter 14 - The Age of Uncertainty 209
  • Chapter 15 - Riding the Roller Coaster 231
  • Chapter 16 - Nowhere to Hide 245
  • Principal Characters 267
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 315
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index 321
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