Martin Harvey

Liberation Seen Near
for Framed Harlan Miners

Frame-Up Was Part of Anti-Union Terror

(7 March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 13, 7 March 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The prospect of freedom for four Harlan miners, serving life sentences for conspiring to kill three company gunmen, is brighter than ever before, Herbert Mahler, Secretary-Treasurer of the Kentucky Miners Defense Committee, intimated in an interview recently.

Jim Reynolds, W.B. Jones, Chester Poore, and Al Benson, members of the United Mine Workers of America, were tried for murder as a result of the famous Battle of Evarts. On the morning of May 5, 1931, a band of deputized company mine-guards swooped down on a picket line in Evarts, a mining town in Harlan County, Ky., and opened fire without warning or provocation. In that fight three company gunmen and one union miner were slain.

Perjued Evidence

Forty-three miners were origi-nally indicted for direct murder but only seven were finally convicted of “conspiracy to murder.” These convictions were made possible only by perjured evidence and illegal importation of juries from the wealthy, farming, Blue Grass country. The authorities never attempted to apprehend the murderer of the union miner.

Three of the seven life-termers were set free in 1935 by former Governor Ruby P. Laffoon. He declined to act in the case of the remaining four, saying: “I’ve started the ball rolling on the Harlan cases. Let Governor-elect Chandler show where he stands. He campaigned as a friend of labor.”

Frame-up Demonstrated

Evidence presented before Governor Chandler at two pardon hearings demonstrated conclusively that the union men were framed. Proof of the perjury of the prosecution witnesses, recantations by State witnesses, and appeals from 46 of the 47 living jurors and two of the three trial judges for pardons for the prisoners were presented to the Governor. The Democratic Chief Executive, however, refused to act, as did Lieutenant-Governor Keen Johnson to whom Chandler passed the buck.

The LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee investigated conditions in Harlan County but, despite the demands of the Defense Committee, refused to consider the frame-up of the union workers.

Fight for Their Freedom

The cause of these workers, who are wasting away their lives in the prisons of Kentucky because they fought in the ranks of labor, is the cause of the whole working class. The pardon granted to Tom Mooney a month ago, however, has caused many workers to forget that the slate of capitalist justice is far from clean.

To rely on the tender mercies of the Governor of Kentucky means to leave the heroic miners to their fate – a living death in prison. A tremendous wave of protest directed against Governor Chandler in Frankfort, Kentucky,will demonstrate that labor is united in its demand for freedom for the Harlan miners. The Harlan miners must be freed!

Last updated on 13 February 2018