Top Menu

John L. Lewis

John L. Lewis

John L. Lewis"I have pleaded your case from the pulpit and from the public platform--not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled."

John L. Lewis was president of the UMWA from 1920-1960. He was a giant among American leaders in the first half of the twentieth century, regularly advising presidents and challenging America's corporate leaders. His work to organize the country's industrial workers through the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s helped raise living standards for millions of American families. In the first year of the CIO, nearly four million workers joined labor organizations and wages were raised by over a billion dollars. Lewis sent hundreds of UMWA organizers to help create some of the nation's leading labor unions, including the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and many other important labor organizations that continue to speak in behalf of America's workers.

Perhaps Lewis' greatest legacy was the creation of the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund in a contract with the federal government, signed in the White House with President Truman in attendance. The UMWA Fund would change permanently health care delivery in the coal fields of the nation. The UMWA Fund built eight hospitals in Appalachia and established numerous clinics. In 1964, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian decoration, by President Lyndon Johnson. He remained Chairman of the UMWA Fund until his death in 1969.

Visit the John L. Lewis Portrait Gallery

Become an Associate Member

united mine workers journal

hound dog

Music, Books, Movies

I need a union

UMWA Kerr Scholarship

contact Congress

United Mine Workers of America seal

United Mine Workers
of America

18354 Quantico Gateway Drive
Suite 200
Triangle, VA 22172
703-291-2400