The Centralia Tragedy of 1919: Elmer Smith and the Wobblies

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University of Washington Press, Jul 1, 2011 - History - 256 pages
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On November 11, 1919, the citizens of Centralia, Washington, gathered to watch former servicemen, local Boy Scouts, and other community groups march in the Armstice Day parade. When the marchers swung past the meeting hall of the Industrial Workers of the World, a group of veterans broke ranks, charged the hall, and were met by gunshots. Before the day was over, four of the marchers were dead and one of the Wobblies had been lynched by the mob.

Through a wealth of newly available primary source material including previously sealed court documents, FBI records released under the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with surviving witnesses, Tom Copeland has pieced together the events of that day and has traced the fate of the men who were accused and convicted of murdering the marchers. Copeland focuses on Elmer Smith, the local attorney who advised the Wobblies that they had the right to defend their hall against an anticipated attack.

Although he never belonged to the IWW, Smith sympathized with their interests, championing the rights of working people, and speaking on their behalf. He was originally arrested with the Wobbles and then took up their cause in the courts, beginning a life-long struggle to free the men who were charged with murdering the Centralia marchers. Copeland recounts Smith s disbarment and eventual reinstatement, his run for political office, his speeches throughout the Northwest, and his unyielding support for the workers cause.

This book is a balanced treatment of the Centalia tragedy and its legal repercussions written by a practicing lawyer. It is also a compelling human drama, centering on the marginal life of an industrial frontier labor lawyer, a study of radical politics of the 1920s, and a depiction of conditions of life in the lumber camps and towns. It is thus biography as well as legal, political, and social history.

 

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Contents

The Determind Advocate
3
Im Looking for Trouble
7
Timber Beasts and Soldiers
19
Lawlessness Leads to Bloodshed
36
The Essence of Law and Order
50
On the Prisoners Bench
65
Lest We Forget
88
The Kicking Jackass
103
The Lumberjack and the Mule
136
The Spirit of Persecution
149
The Conscience of the Legion
160
I Have a Failing of Being Optimistic
171
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
184
Notes
189
Bibliography
219
Index
227

Acid in a Wobbly Shoe
116
Get Thomas Jefferson
127

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