With the exception of Eugene V. Debs, who occupies a unique niche in American Socialist history, William Dudley Haywood was the best-known radical of his day. Born in Salt Lake City in 1869, Haywood was regionally famous as a militant leader of the Western Federation of Miners after 1900. He won national notoriety in 1906 as the principal defendant in a sensational murder trial which featured a former governor of Idaho as victim, a self-confessed multiple murderer become religious zealot as star witness, the nation's most famous detective as investigator, a United States Senator and a future governor as prosecutors, two of the era's foremost criminal lawyers as defense attorneys, and the tacit intervention of the President of the United States for the prosecution on the eve of the trial. Haywood remained a frequent subject of front-page copy for the next decade and a half until he defected to the Soviet Union and obscurity in 1921.
Debs has been accorded the usual posthumous respectability, and was received at the White House even during his lifetime, but Haywood lived and died notorious, untrusted, and hated. Throughout his career, his name was associated with murder, violence, and sabotage. Nor has time substantially altered the image. Even those historians who have sympathized with Haywood's motivations have been quick to demur at his alleged methods.
Haywood did look the villain's role. Well over six feet tall, big-boned and brawny, he was rarely photographed except