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450 S Michigan Ave, AUD 1851
Chicago IL 60605
United States


Illinois Labor History Society

Biographies: I-K

Biographies: I-K

Elizabeth Abramowitz Johnstone

( ? - 1954) Grave 29, Sector B

Johnstone was a member of the CPUSA and was married to the union organizer and CPUSA leader Jack Johnstone. For a number of years she served as educational director for the Communist Party of Illinois. Additional information about her life is being sought.

Jack Johnstone

(1881-1942) Grave 30, Sector B

Johnstone was one of the great union organizers for the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). He was born in Scotland and came to the U.S. in 1915. Working for the CFL, he helped found the Stock Yards Labor Council in 1917 and signed up nearly 40,000 meatpacking workers. He was particularly successful at uniting African-American and white workers into the union and once organizing the Great Steel Strike of 1919. In 1921 he joined the CPUSA.

In the early 1930's he went to work with Mahatma Gandhi in India. He was arrested by the British and would have been executed if he hadn't been released as a result of a world-wide protest. Jack Johnstone was portrayed in The Killing Floor, a PBS documentary about stockyard workers during and after World War I.

Clarence Schwid Kailin

(1914-2009) [ashes scattered]

Clarence Kailin of Madison, Wisconsin was the first American to be made a Citizen of Spain in 2009 under the Law of Historical Memory for his service as a volunteer of the International Brigades.

Clarence Kailin spent his life, active to his final days, fighting for a socialist society. Moved by the ideals of equality and solidarity of the French and Russian revolutions, he considered himself a lifelong Marxist and drew inspiration from fellow communists and progressives. As a volunteer of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, he came to Spain in 1936, which was the front line of the struggle against fascism at the time. In August, 1938, Kailin helped to hold Hill 666 in the nearby Sierra de Pandols during the Battle of the Ebro.

After the Brigades left Spain, Kailin returned to the U.S. where he was renowned for his fight in the labor movement for workers and human rights, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and for his campaigns against U.S. war and intervention in sovereign nations. As a Jew, he championed the right of Palestinians to live free in their own land. A self-taught authority on American Black history, Kailin and his wife Maggie authored Black Chronicle, a primer for school teachers, which inspired a national dialogue on the hurtfulness of racism. The Madison Chapter of Veterans for Peace is named for Clarence Kailin.

His ashes were scattered in a public ceremony in Marçà (Priorat) Catalonia and at the Haymarket Monument and at the family plot in Madison, Wisconsin.

Carl Keller

(1891-1980) [ashes scattered]

Born into a German immigrant family in North Dakota, Carl Keller joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early 1910's and took part in the great Akron rubber workers' strike of 1913. Two years later he helped form the IWW Agricultural Workers' Organization, which rapidly became the Wobblies' largest union. Elected to the IWW General Executive Board in 1925, he was the editor of the union's weekly newspaper, the Industrial Worker, and in the 1930's the One Big Union Monthly magazine. He also taught at the IWW Work People's College in Duluth. In the 1960's Keller was one of the Old Guard who maintained the largest Wobbly hall at 2422 North Halsted Street in Chicago, and served as General Secretary-Treasurer in 1967-68. In the early 1970's he retired with his wife Fanny to California, where he died. Shortly afterward his ashes were scattered at the Haymarket Monument at an IWW service.

Dan Kelley

(1945-2000) [ashes scattered]

Born in Sigourney, Iowa, Dan Kelley was a labor activist and member of the CPUSA. He was the first President of AFSCME Council 61, representing state employees in Iowa. Later he led a disaffiliation of AFSCME's professional employee division, and created an independent union, Iowa United Professionals (IUP). He served as IUP's first President and presided over a period of growth. In 1993 he led the IUP into the United Electrical Workers Union, where it became UE Local 893.

Harry Kelly

(1871-1953) Grave 31, Sector G (missing plaque)

A writer and educator, Kelly was a founder of the Ferrer Modern School in Stelton, New Jersey, and a contributor to Emma Goldman's monthly magazine, Mother Earth. He was an associate of the famous Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin at the time of Kropotkin's visit to Hull House. Kelly offered to marry Emma Goldman to prevent her pending deportation under the politically-motivated Alien and Sedition Act in 1919; Emma refused and was deported. Harry greeted her upon her return in 1935, and accompanied her to a reception in her honor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel sponsored by Roger Baldwin of the ACLU. Kelly was also an organizer for the International Typographical Union. The plaque for Kelly has been missing for decades. This photograph of his plaque was discovered in ILHS files.

Richard J. Kelly

(1938-2010) [ashes scattered]

Richard J. Kelly was raised in Beverley, Illinois, in a traditional Irish-Catholic family. He was the oldest of six children and graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory School and Notre Dame College. He was a public school teacher, a civil rights and labor activist.

Dick joined voter registration efforts during the 1964 "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi and participated in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Chicago initiatives in 1966. He married Karen Koko, and had one son, Michael.

In the 1970's Dick Kelly was heavily engaged in independent politics. There was a vigorous Illinois independent political movement and Dick was part of it, working in the campaigns that launched the careers of Danny Davis and culminating in the election of Harold Washington as mayor of Chicago.

Living in Oak Park from the 1970's, he was a leading voice for the rights of tenants and low-income people; he served on the Community Relations Commission of the Village of Oak Park. With his wife Margaret E. Field, he was an active member of the St. Giles Family Mass Community, Oak Park, and worked for radical reformation within Roman Catholicism, including supporting women's ordination.

Jack Kling

(1911-1990) Grave 32, Sector B

Jack Kling began work as a furrier in New York City at age 15. He quickly became active in the labor movement and the YCL. Jack came to Chicago as a YCL leader in 1931 and stayed in Chicago for the rest of his life. He was a national leader of the CPUSA for over a half a century, and served as the district organizer for the CP of Illinois for a number of years. He was also a national leader of the CPUSA Jewish Affairs Commission. During the McCarthy period Jack was underground for 4 1/2 years. His autobiography is Where the Action Is.

Sue Kling

(1912-2008) Grave 32, Sector B

Sue Kling was born in Chicago and graduated from Marshall High. She was fluent in Yiddish from her family background. As the Great Depression loomed, Sue became interested in progressive politics, and was attracted to Jack's political leadership and fiery speeches. They married in 1935 and went to the Soviet Union for 18 months. While Jack attended to political activities, Sue worked in an office, and became fluent in Russian. Back in Chicago Sue became a skilled office worker. When Jack went underground during the height of McCarthyism, 1951-1955, she essentially became a single mom with rare, secret visits by Jack.

In addition to working and raising her children, she took great pride in her writings. Sue wrote many articles about life in the US for Soviet Woman.  Sue wrote the first biography, Fannie Lou Hamer: a Biography, about the first African-American woman ever elected to the Mississippi State Legislature. She published 3 short books of essays and poetry. Sue was a member of the CPUSA and later the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and Women for Racial and Economic Equality.

Herbert Kransdorf

(1917-2003) Grave 33, Sector C

Born in New York City, Herb was raised to be a Cantor because of his excellent singing voice. His mother insisted that he be raised as an orthodox Jew and study Hebrew all the way through school. He graduated high school in 1933 at the height of the depression and joined the YCL. The YCL encouraged him to become a merchant seaman to further the CPUSA goal of organizing mass production workers into left-led industrial unions.

These efforts eventually led to an important strike in 1937 that established the National Maritime Union (NMU) as the premier East and Gulf Coast seamen's union. Mentored by his friend and comrade, Al Lannon, the foremost CPUSA leader in the NMU, he moved to Baltimore Maryland where he was an NMU port agent and CP waterfront organizer.

After the war, he married his lifelong comrade and partner, Jean Coppock. Barred during the McCarthy era from employment as a Seaman, he began an odyssey in New York City that led his family across the Midwest as a CP organizer in Youngstown, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, Detroit, MI, and Chicago, IL. During the McCarthy period Herb was underground from 1950 thru early 1954. Herb wrote for the newspaper of the CPUSA for 40 years.

Jean Marie Coppock Kransdorf

(1922-1996) Grave 33, Sector C

Born the daughter of design engineer and a Chautauqua singer, Jean grew up in Painesville, Ohio. Jean was radicalized by the Second World War and her experiences as a union activist while building bombers for the Glenn Martin Company in Baltimore. She joined the Communist Political Association in 1944. Jean met her comrade and lifelong partner, Herbert Kransdorf, the next year, 1945. In the years after the War, Jean struggled single handedly to keep her children fed, housed and happy while her husband went underground from 1950-1954. A talented graphic artist, Jean created numerous signs, posters and banners for strikes, the 1963 March on Washington, to save the Rosenbergs and Angela Davis, and many others. Jean worked 10 years for the Actors Equity Association.

Jean achieved notoriety in Pittsburgh for daring to join Americans for Democratic Action while still a CPUSA member. For most of her life, Jean, a skilled typist and accountant, was the main breadwinner of the family.