Here’s a short excerpt from an oral history interview with Joe Ozanic, conducted in 1974 by Bobbie Herdon as part of the COAL MINING AND UNION ACTIVITIES PROJECT, University of Illinois Springfield. Ozanic was a coal miner and a leader of the Progressive Miners of America during the Illinois Mine War.
Ozanic was also a driving force for the construction of the monument: “I conceived the idea that we built a monument to the memory of Mother Jones, which should also include the 21 martyrs who died in the Illinois mine war up to that time.”
He tells the story of transferring the Union Miners Cemetery deed from the United Mine Workers to the newly founded Progressive Miners Local 35 in Mt. Olive. (The Mt. Olive UMWA local was among the many Illinois locals that “went Progressive”.)
Ozanic also discusses fundraising and construction of the monument, the dedication ceremony attended by over 50,000, and the search for the Pathe Newsreel and KMOX recording of the dedication event.
He also tells the story of guarding the monument during the nights that led up to the dedication, having overheard a local “thug” claim that: “That monument will never be dedicated. We’ll blow that damn thing off of the foundation. There’ll be nothing there to dedicate.” (A well-intentioned late night visitor was almost shot as a result.)
Finally, did you know that Joe Ozanic modeled for the miner figure displayed on the right side of the monument?