John L. Lewis Plaque Dedication

Updated: Nov 8, 2021


John L. Lewis plaque dedication - John L. Lewis Memorial Park  - Panama Illinois
John L. Lewis plaque dedication - John L. Lewis Park - Panama Illinois

Friday, November 5, 2021


John L. Lewis plaque dedication in Panama. The weather was beautiful and a large crowd turned out.


John L. Lewis (1881-1969) was President of United Mine Workers from 1920 - 1960 and founder, Congress of Industrial Organization, 1937.


The event was sponsored by: The Illinois State Historical Society, Union Labor Life Insurance Company, Laborers International Union of North America - Midwest Region, United Mine Workers of America and Illinois Labor History Society.


Video from the event will be posted online soon.


Music by: Wildflower Conspiracy


Master of Ceremonies, Bill Furry, Executive Director, Illinois State Historical Society
Master of Ceremonies, Bill Furry, Executive Director, Illinois State Historical Society
Welcome To Panama - Village Clerk Deborah Hancock
Welcome To Panama - Village Clerk Deborah Hancock
State Representative Marcus Evans Jr., 33rd District (Chair of Labor Committee)
State Senator Doris Turner, 48th District
State Senator Doris Turner, 48th District
Michael Kleinik - Director, Illinois Department of Labor
Michael Kleinik - Director, Illinois Department of Labor
Tim Drea, President, Illinois AFL-CIO
Tim Drea, President, Illinois AFL-CIO
Joe Angleton, retired Illinois Director of Mines & Minerals
Joe Angleton, retired Illinois Director of Mines & Minerals
Edward M. Smith, President & CEO, ULLICO Inc.
Edward M. Smith, President & CEO, ULLICO Inc.
Marker Unveiling - Taylor VanOstran, Madison VanOstran, Alivia Willman, Marlyn Tarver with William Furry.
Marker Unveiling - Taylor VanOstran, Madison VanOstran, Alivia Willman, Marlyn Tarver with William Furry.
John L. Lewis Memorial Plaque - Photo provided by William Furry.
Photo provided by: Dale Hawkins
Photo provided by: Dale Hawkins

John L. Lewis - United Mine Workers of America


United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President and Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) Founder John L. Lewis (1880-1969) came to Panama, Illinois, from Iowa with his family in 1908 to work in the mines; within one year he was President of UMWA Local 1475, in 1909, Illinois UMWA district 12 hired him to lobby Springfield after the 1909 Cherry mine disaster, which killed 259. In 1911 the American Federation of Labor (AFL) hired him as an organizer. In 1919 he became the UMWA acting President, an office he was elected to in 1920 and held until 1960. The UMWA was the nation's largest union and Lewis ruthlessly held power. Frustrated Illinois miners rebelled against Lewis in 1932 and organized the Progressive Mine Workers of American (PMWA), which led to bloody battles between insurgents and UMWA loyalists. In 1935 Lewis launched the Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO), challenging the AFL craft unions with industrial unionism, bringing millions of workers into the union movement. Lewis negotiated better wages, safety, health, welfare, and retirement programs for miners. Nationally renowned from the 1930's - 1950's, famous for his bushy eyebrows, stentorian voice, and Shakespearean rhetoric, Lewis was both feared and cultivated by politicians, his support was critical to President Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 re-election though he did not support Roosevelt in 1940. Lewis kept a Springfield home and is buried in that city's Oak Ridge Cemetery.


Sponsored By:

Union Labor Life Insurance Company

Village of Panama

United Mine Workers of America

Laborers International Union of North America - Midwest Region

Illinois Labor History Society

Illinois State Historical Society


Dedicated: Friday November 5, 2021

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Jeff Dunn

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