John L. Lewis was born February 12th 1880, to Welsh immigrang parents in the coal mining camp of Cleveland, Iowa- one mile East of Lucas, Iowa. He began working in the Big Hill Coal Mine in Lucas, IA as a teenager, joining the UMWA Local #799 in 1990. In 1907, John married Myrta Bell, daughter of the local town doctor. The following year they moved to Springfield, Illinois where he began his rise to power in the United Mine Workers of America and served as President of the UMWA for forty years and was founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
After serving nine years as President Emeritus of the UMWA, John L. Lewis died June 11, 1969 and is buried in Springfield, Illinois in the same cemetary as Abraham Lincoln. Both men were born February 12th and both were destined to make great changes in our "American Way of Life"
The John L. Lewis Commission
The John L. Lewis Commission, Inc. was organized in February 1986 by a small group of Lucas residents interested in honoring and preserving the memory of John L. Lewis who was born February 12, 1880 in a coal mining camp adjacent to Lucas, Iowa. He became a prominent international labor leader of the twentieth century who dedicated his life to the needs of all working men, women and children. The commission was also organized to assist in the renovation of Mr. Lewis' hometown of Lucas and to honor any and all related areas of Labor and to aid, in an advisory capacity, any business related to tourism development of Lucas, Iowa.
This nonprofit corporation is controlled by a 15 member Board of Directors, including one from the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO the United Mine Workers of America and the balance are "at large" residents of the Lucas area and union members.
Meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm in the John L. Lewis Museum Library. Directors are elected for three-year terms at the annual meeting in March. Officers of the board are elected each year during the annual meeting by the directors. All persons of the commission and persons who work at the museum are volunteers. No salaries are paid.
Through the years, the commission has acquired properties, other than the museum, by grants and gifts from the city of Lucas. All relate to John L. Lewis: Paymaster Park on the site of the Big Hill Coal Mine (where Lewis started his mining days) with the paymaster station; Burlington Park includes a Burlington Northern Caboose (railroads were the lifeline of Lucas and the coal mining industry) and Bandstand Park where the 1906 town bandstand is located (a local entertainment center in Lewis' day). The city of Lucas has given the commission a lease on the former Dr. J. C. Bell building. It was the office of Dr. Bell who was John L. Lewis' father-in-law. At present the commission is raising funds to renovate the building.
Maintenance and operating costs of the properties are met by the commission through a past Farmer's Market & Craft Shop, sponsoring the annual Labor festival, memberships, museum admission, retail sales, memorial gifts, donation, grants and other fund raising efforts.
As many of you know, the commission and its dream of the John L. Lewis Memorial Museum of Mining & Labor began at Kathryn Dixson's dining room table in February 1986. From that day on, she worked tirelessly as president, vice president, treasurer and curator.
In 2005, Kathryn suffered a stroke and was not able to volunteer as she had previously. That did not stop her from being a part of the commission and museum. She still found way to help out. In 2006, the commission honored Kathryn with a "Lifetime Membership Plaque and Card". On January 23rd this year, Kathryn passed away.
She was a valuable asset to the commission and museum and has been and will continue to be missed by all. She once said, "My dream of the museum was never as wonderful, as the museum, in reality has become.