MINE-MILL: MAURICE E. TRAVIS -- MILITANT ADVOCATE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY AND JUSTICE [EXPANDED] HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR
AND CLINT JENCKS -- ANOTHER GREAT FIGHTER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE [HUNTER BEAR]
[MANY OF OUR MINE-MILL LINKS ARE HEREWITH LISTED -- HUNTER BEAR]
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
I posted this page on many discussion lists on August 21 and August 22, 2002.
Here are my introductory comments:
Although, as I've often indicated, the social justice
focus of our quite
large Lair of Hunterbear website [
thrust, we do have within it a substantial amount of radical history
material: e.g., labor, Native American, civil rights. And we shall have much
I was fortunate, as a very young person, to spend substantial periods of
time with older veterans-of-struggle -- who were most generous in the time
and effort that they spent with me. Some of these, reaching back into the
very earliest parts of the Twentieth Century [e.g., C.E. Payne, a founder of
IWW and one of its principal activists over many decades], were of advanced
years -- but their bright sun still hovered in full above the Western
horizon. Others had cut important trails in the '30s and '40s -- and were
still doing so in significantly on-going struggles in the cruel era of the
mid '50s when I arrived to Save the World. In appropriate Native fashion, I
incorporated and assimilated all of these courageously committed Left
examples and perspectives into my own being and on my own terms, And, when
I began, soon enough, to cut my own visionary trails in earnest, learning
and building my own experiences and insights and lessons with my own
intensity, all of these people and their shining eyes and minds and vital
recollections were -- and sturdily remain -- of enormous value to me. And,
I should add, since they were humans of several different -- but always
eminently committed and courageous radical traditions -- I came early on to
recognize the great importance of Solidarity, rather than backbiting and
knifing, if one is to effectively confront the Adversary of Capitalism "and
all its wicked works and ways" and blaze the trail to genuine socialist
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Further Note by Hunter Bear:
I'm much into contemporary issues but I never forget my roots. I personally
owe a very significant debt, vis-a-vis my own development as a radical
activist, to a number of great fighters for social justice. And one of
those -- and one to whom my debt is great -- is the late Maurice E. Travis.
I'm presently involved in a major writing project on his turbulent life and
times -- in the context of the American West, the fighting Mine-Mill union,
and the literal bulls-eye of the extraordinarily vicious Cold War Red Scare.
We have much Western radical labor history on our very large website, Lair
of Hunterbear, and this page -- my short sketch of Maurice Travis -- is
taken from one of our many on the International Union of Mine, Mill and
Smelter Workers. [ IUMMSW was formerly known as the Western Federation of
Miners -- founder of the Industrial Workers of the World.] Maurice Travis
was a man who kept fighting and kept going. His fine example is super
relevant to our times. I'll keep our List posted on the progress of my
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Now Is The Time -- a speech (issued as a widely disseminated pamphlet by IUMMSW), given by Mine-Mill International Secretary-Treasurer, Maurice Eugene Travis, at the founding convention of the National Negro Labor Council at Cincinnati, Ohio, October 28, 1951. Maurice Travis, born  and raised in the Pacific Northwest, exemplified, throughout his life, the uncompromising fighter for worker and minority rights. A person of extraordinary capability, he held many Mine-Mill posts and was subjected to extraordinary red-baiting and witch-hunting by private and governmental forces. He was the son-in-law of A.S. "Sam" Embree, the noted Western I.W.W. organizer and later Mine-Mill organizer. Maurice Travis wore a black patch over one eye -- an eye no longer there: kicked out by a gang of KKK members and other white supremacists at Bessemer, Alabama in April 1949.
In his major and historic Now Is The Time speech, Maurice Travis spoke as he always did: forcefully, directly:
"I didn't come here to tell the Negro workers of America, or their leaders, what to do. I didn't come to orate about the problems of the Negro people and hand out a fancy custom-built set of answers designed to wash away all those problems -- like Tide, the Washday Wonder.
Here on the stage, and out there, is a great abundance of genuine Negro leadership. Here are the real leaders of the Negro workers of America. They know what must be done, and they are ready, willing and very, very able to do it. . . .
This is a time for new John Browns to arise, up and down the land. And I am convinced that out of this conference will come a whole army of -- John Browns, men who are dedicated not to talk and double-talk, but to action. Men of principle and of conscience who are convinced that jim crow can be licked, and that the time has come to lick it, so that the Negro can take his full and rightful place as a first-class citizen of this land -- with full social, economic, political, and civil rights.
The time is ripe. Let's go!"
As the viciousness of the Red Scare intensified in both the United States and Canada, the attacks against Mine-Mill and its activist radical leadership mounted from the mining bosses, the Federal government, some state governments, then-right wing unions such as the Steelworkers, and thugs and vigilantes. The relentless assault against the Union was the most concerted and venomous campaign of its kind since the multi-faceted attack on the Industrial Workers of the World during the World War I and post-war Red Scare epoch. [And what remained of the old-time I.W.W. was formally listed by the United States Attorney General on the Federal "subversive list" in the late '40s and carried thereon for a generation.]
Maurice Travis, a person of great ability and courage and commitment, was an especial Mine-Mill target of the witch-hunters for many years -- as was, for example, Clint Jencks, the equally courageous and committed Mine-Mill International Representative in southwestern New Mexico. Jencks, of course, was also a major figure in the splendid and enduring Mine-Mill film, Salt of the Earth -- to which Travis had given full backing as International Secretary-Treasurer.
Mine-Mill fought back year after year -- hard and effectively -- on all fronts: collective bargaining, labor defense, civil rights, civil liberties. But, in 1956, the Union's Executive Board -- in an unsuccessful effort to stop or at least reduce the attacks, pushed the "controversial" Travis and Jencks out of their Mine-Mill positions. The Union, fighting on, continued to handle all of their legal defense needs.
Clint Jencks wound up as a graduate student at UC Berkeley and then the London School -- securing a PhD in economics. He then taught successfully for many years in the California university system. Travis went on to the West Coast where he initially worked as a chef in the Bay Area and then as a cabinet maker. Securing a shipping clerk's position with International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, he worked in that capacity for thirteen more years.
In 1967, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers merged -- in both the United States and Canada -- with its bitter adversary, United Steelworkers of America, which had, by this time, a few relatively better faces in its top leadership. [One Mine-Mill local, 598, representing workers at Falconbridge Nickel, Sudbury, Ontario, refused to merge and continued a very effective life on its own -- eventually, many years later, entering Canadian Auto Workers, and then the New Century. It maintains its unique Mine-Mill identity to this very moment.]
Maurice Travis never lost a spark of his basic fire.
In a late Summer, 1984 letter to a friend, commenting on the 1967 merger of Mine-Mill, he wrote in part: "I regret very much what happened to Mine-Mill in both this country and Canada and, as a matter of fact, if I were younger I would attempt to restore that international union to a place in the sun. I think this could be done without too much difficulty under present circumstances because there is no doubt that the American labor movement, with a few exceptions such as the ILWU and some of the other so-called left-wing unions, are merely the tools of a reactionary government. The sorry workers and even the employers as well are paying the price for their short-sighted policies. The steel industry is practically shut down in this country. The poorer south-west miners and smeltermen, etc., are on strike under hopeless conditions, the mines are shut down in the south-west, the smelters and mines of Montana are completely shut down. . ." [Note by Hunter Gray: Travis, in his reference to the copper workers' situation in the Southwest, is referring to the disastrous Steel-led Phelps-Dodge strike of 1983-84. Characterized by the usual top-down decisional polices of the Steel union -- in contrast to the grassroots democratic approach of the old Mine-Mill -- the PD strike was functionally lost.]
Although the latter portion of his life was increasingly isolated and often bitterly lonely, Maurice Travis consistently maintained his powerful commitment to militant and democratic radical unionism and social justice in general. And he kept his good humour, high spirits, and great optimism all the way through. He died in 1985 at Fremont, California -- an area that he and his wife Una had come to love deeply. In one of his final communications before he succumbed to painful and debilitating illness, he wrote in conclusion:
"Perhaps [it's] the most beautiful spot in America, under the shadow of Mount St. Helena and rich in the varied colors of the grape leaves and the smell of burning grape cuttings. There is no place like it on the face of the earth.
Perhaps one day I will return there. However like the greatest brains that lived in this century, Albert Einstein, who was an Agnostic, I believe only that there is a powerful force somewhere in the scramble of stars."
I am very fortunate to be one of a tiny number of people who has a transcript of Maurice Travis' extensive oral history. I also have in my personal possession much other rare Travis material.
NOTE BY HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] 12/25/05
Clinton Jencks died December 14, 2005 at San Diego. Notified of this by his daughter, Ms. Linda Jencks O'Connell, and by his grand daughter Ms. Heather Wood, I posted widely and immediately. See http://www.hunterbear.org/CLINTON%20JENCKS%201918%202005.htm
12/20/05, Portside -- which has an e-mail circ of about 15,000 -- carried posts
by myself and by Herb Shore of San Diego:
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 12/15/05
I have just heard from the daughter of Clinton Jencks.
The leaves fall, but this is hard to hear.
Clinton Jencks, a major figure in Western radical labor
for a generation, and then an always much appreciated
professor in California, has just died at San Diego. A
decorated World War II hero, and long-time
International Rep. for the International Union of Mine,
Mill and Smelter Workers [formerly the Western
Federation of Miners] for more than a decade following
World War II, he did much of his gifted organizing work
in Southwestern New Mexico. Many have seen him and his
late spouse [Virginia] as Frank and Ruth Barnes in the
great labor/civil rights/women's rights film, SALT OF
THE EARTH [1953-54.] This film, designated several
years ago by the Library of Congress as one of the most
significant ever made in this country. is based on the
famous Empire Zinc strike which lasted from October
1950 to February 1952, a struggle in which Clint played
a major role as The Organizer. Named as a "Communist"
by the infamous Fink, Harvey Matusow, Clint was charged
by the Federal government with "perjury" vis-a-vis the
infamous "Non-Communist affidavits" mandated by the
venomously anti-labor Taft Hartley Act. Convicted in a
hysterical Federal trial at El Paso, he was sentenced
to a long prison term. Free on appeal, he and his
multitude of supporters fought resolutely through the
Federal courts, Matusow eventually recanted and, in
that context, wrote his fascinating confessional, FALSE
WITNESS; and in 1957, in Jencks v U.S., the USSC
exonerated Clint and ruled that the FBI henceforth must
provide the defendant with written and oral informers'
reports. Clinton Jencks went on to secure the
appropriate graduate degrees in economics and taught
for many rich and productive years at San Diego State
His monument is a great many of us over decades -- for
whom he was a major inspiration as we came of age as
radical labor activists. It is higher than the Rockies
above his native Colorado Springs.
See this for information on the life and times of
Clinton and the much embattled Maurice Travis, also of
Mine-Mill. http://www.hunterbear.org/travis.htm On the
witch-hunting attacks against both men and Mine-Mill as
a whole, see http://www.hunterbear.org/repression.htm
And for Remembrance:
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
From Clinton Jencks' daughter to Hunter Gray: 12/15/05
I just got a call from his wife. I am Clint's daughter.
He died last night. They found him dead on the floor
next to the bed this morning, "he hit his head on the
bed." He should never have been left alone, he was
terribly frail. He might not have made it many weeks
more, but I hoped to see him in January (I live in
His body will be cremated tomorrow, Friday, and the
service will be held Saturday in San Diego. . . I'm
sorry to say good-bye to our brave Colorado boy.
I thought you would want to know. I'm glad I found your
Linda Jencks O'Connell [Note by HG: daughter of
Clinton and the late Virginia Jencks.]
San Diego DSA regrets to announce that our esteemed
member Clint Jencks died on December 15, 2005. Clint
was 87 and was a Professor Emeritus of Economics at San
Diego State University, having retired from SDSU in
1986. Younger DSA members and friends may not know
that in Clint Jencks we had a legendary figure from the
American labor movement and the struggles against
McCarthyism. In 1950, Clint was a leader of the
International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers
in southwest New Mexico. He led a strike of mostly
Latino zinc miners in Silver City, NM. Shortly after
this strike, in the midst of the Hollywood red scare, a
group of blacklisted film industry artists formed their
own production company and were looking for a story
about American working people. They chose a story
based on the IUMMSW strike, and used the actual
participants in the strike as actors. Clint
essentially played himself. Every step in the
production of the film, processing, editing, etc.
encountered determined opposition from the industry.
It was almost impossible to find theaters that would
show the film, but in 1954 "Salt of the Earth",
starring Clint Jencks opened to very, very limited
Times changed. Salt of the Earth was ultimately
recognized as a national treasure, and was selected by
the Library of Congress as one of 100 films to be
preserved for posterity. Clint went on to get his
Ph.D. in economics at U.C. Berkeley. He joined the
SDSU Economics Department in 1964 and played an
important role in the SDSU community and in the SDSU
faculty union movement for 22 years. After retirement,
Clint remained a familiar figure and participant in DSA
and the San Diego progressive movement.
Members of San Diego DSA will actively participate in a
memorial service for Clint on Jan. 8, 2006.
See, among other Mine-Mill sections of our Lair of Hunterbear website, these links on the Red Scare attacks against the Union and a discussion of the great film, Salt of the Earth. All of these link-pages are at and around this page on Maurice Travis.
AND MORE ON MAURICE TRAVIS:
AND A KIND FOLLOW-UP:
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]
Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
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