Today marks the 47th anniversary of the passing of Gerry Allard, a founder of the Progressive Miners of America, and life-long advocate for coal miners. The following biography is taken from The Gerry Allard Memorial Program. The event was held in Collinsville, Illinois, October 3, 1965:
Gerry Allard, was born in Pas de Calais, Oignes, France, on March 10, 1908, the son of Auguste and Eugenie Defresne Allard. He was called Germinal, after Zola’s famous novel of the French miners.
He was brought to Illinois when four and entered the cola mine at Dowell when he was fifteen years old. He was a miner intermittently until 1935.
He helped organize the Progressive Miners of America and was first editor of The Progressive Miner. After a policy split with the union’s conservative leadership, he edited the Socialist Call, worked on the WPA writers project, wrote for newspapers and magazines. From 1941 to 1956 he traveled for various shoe companies.
He was director of the Illinois Miners relief Committee during the dark depression days, helped organize the Workrs Alliance of Illinois. He was later chairman of the DuQuoin Miners Defense Committee, a cause to which he was deeply devoted.
He built a summer house on Long Lake, near Birchwood, Wisconsin, in 1951, and made it into a permanent home in 1961.
He married Irene Walley in Waukegan, Illinois, August 24, 1926.
Longtime friend Jack Battuello delivered the following tribute at the memorial event.
Gerry Allard — A Tribute To A Buddy
In the world of today various methods are used to measure a man’s worth. Some people believe that wealth is a good barometer of worthiness. Some people believe the attainment of high military honors is the insignia of greatness. Others, still, believe that academic and scientific achievement is the hallmark of fame. And, then, there are those who would settle for a Babe Ruth or Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate criterion.
There is no doubt that many of these endeavors play an important role in the affairs of Man.
But without the Man who cares about humanity, without the Man who dares to step beyond the narrow boundaries of nationalism, without the man who is unafraid to stand foursquare for universal brotherhood, without such a Man, our world would still be submerged in utter darkness.
It is easy enough for those who profited from colonialism to justify the plunder of primative people. But Gerry Allard cried tears of humiliation for those victims, and predicted we would one day rue the handiwork of the exploiter.
It is easy enough for those who revel in the spoils of exploitation and who believe that property rights are more sacrosanct than human rights, to accept a system of life which keeps the world in shambles. But Gerry Allard died with an ache in his heart for those who to to bed hungry every night…for those who died because they had no equality…and for those who have never known a day of surcease from fear and fratricide.
It is easy enough for those who concern for the human family is limited by the horizonof finances, commerce and national interests to favor war as a solution for social and political problems. But Gerry Allard condemned war in totality believing it to be the tool of the ignorant and the tyrant, a tool which would inevitably drag mankind down the road to ruin and oblivion.
It is easy enough for those who have become entrapped by the myth of superiority to mistreat his fellowman…to ridicule the color of his skin…to downgrade him aas an inferior…and to deny him equality. But Gerry Allard denounced this shameful attitude, scorning it as a behavior beneath the dignity of a civilized person and contrary to every concept of humanitarianism.
In a moment of history when world governments are playing Russian roulette with loaded guns and statesmen speak with forked tongue, when the social institutions remain captives if the economic and religious dogmas of the medieval period, when the schools and colleges and scientists are used as instruments for the endorsement and promotion of militarism, Gerry Allard’s presence in the world was an opportune occurrence. For with his being he brought a ray of light, a touch of hope and a breath of inspiration.
By Jack Battuello
To close, Stephane Elise Booth quotes Gerry’s vision and passion in her 1981 paper, “Gerry Allard: Miners’ Advocate”:
But for me, I will do my shouting young. I will express my wails, my woes and torures. My kind will force the new, will abolish the old and on the ruins of the antiquated we will build a place where the dreams born with the dawn of civilization will be realized.
Gerry Allard, The Progressive Miner, March 3, 1933
Gerry Allard – March 10, 1908 – April 29, 1965
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