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


Illinois Labor History Society

Biographies: W

Biographies: W

Alfred Wagenknecht

(1881-1957) Grave 78, Sector B

Known to his friends as "Wag", Alfred Wagenknecht was an outstanding working-class activist. In his early years he was a member of the left wing of Eugene Debs' Socialist Party (SP), and was jailed by the U.S. government for his outspoken opposition to World War I. His continuing post-war militancy earned him an expulsion from the increasingly conservative Socialist Party in 1919. Wagenknecht and 93 others then immediately turned around and founded the CPUSA on Sept.1, 1919, in Chicago.

Wag later helped build the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) and helped organize textile workers, coal miners and steelworkers into unions. He was present at the Memorial Day Massacre in 1937 at Republic Steel (South Chicago), where ten workers were killed and over 150 were wounded by police.

Alby Aparicio Walsh

(1942-1993) Grave 79, Sector F

Alby Aparicio was born in the town of Tarija, Bolivia. Her father was born to a very wealthy family and was a prominent teacher in one of the oldest universities in South America. From 1979 to 1980, Bolivia was undergoing political unrest--a period during which Alby was working as a psychologist in a drug rehabilitation clinic. A co-worker of Alby's introduced her to Michael Walsh, a U.S. activist who was active in organizing campaigns of laborers in Bolivia and Nicaragua. The couple was married in 1982. Alby's ashes are interred with her father, Oscar Eloy Aparicio, at the main cemetery in Tarija, Bolivia and alongside her husband near the martyrs' monument.

Michael Leo Walsh

(1942-2000) Grave 79, Sector F

Michael Walsh was born in Alton, Illinois, and grew up on the south side of Chicago in a conservative Irish Roman Catholic household. It was the influence of professors at Lewis College where Michael became radicalized. He received his master's degree from Southern Illinois University in 1965. Michael began working at Jewish Vocational Services and launched his union activism there, eventually becoming a staff representative for the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, its suburbs and in Springfield, IL.

Walsh also actively participated in the IWW and did shop organizing in Southern Illinois and in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1979, Walsh was in Bolivia and participated in the general strike and uprising which led to the collapse of the military government. Following the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, Mike Walsh volunteered his time and money doing work in Nicaragua, where he helped organize a women's worker cooperative and a school.  Several times he made the 3,000 mile trip driving a truck load of machinery and equipment. Between 1993-95, Walsh did solidarity work in Chicago for downstate Decatur workers in the "Illinois War Zone" who were on strike and on lock-out at Caterpillar, Firestone and A. E. Staley.

Otto H. Wangerin

(1888-1975) Grave 80, Sector B

Wangerin was among the many members of the left wing of the Socialist Party who were jailed for their opposition of World War I. He was sentenced to 15 years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary for resisting the draft. While in jail, he led a struggle
to celebrate May Day in the prison.

Wangerin was a charter member of the CPUSA. He was an active trade unionist in the railroad industry. During the McCarthy period, he was the man who kept the doors open at the Modern Bookstore, Chicago's oldest socialist bookstore.

James West

(1914-2005) Sector A [unmarked grave]

Born Isador Wexler, the son of a shoemaker and a garment worker, Jim became a leader of the CPUSA in New York, Seattle, Ohio, and Indiana.

West met YCL members while attending evening classes at Brooklyn College. After being arrested for distributing the YCL paper to strikers in Mt. Vernon, NY, he changed his name to spare his family FBI harassment. He volunteered as a copy boy with the Daily Worker, which provided him with a meal ticket and a cot. James helped organize rallies in defense of the nine Scottsboro youth, Unemployed Councils and Erie County's participation in the 1932 Hunger March on Washington.

West was a delegate to the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935. In 1961 West was convicted of violating the Taft-Hartley Act and imprisoned at the Federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. After leaving prison, Jim held various national and international positions with CPUSA.

Charles F. Wilson

(1910-1984) Grave 82, Sector B

Charles Wilson was born in Philadelphia, moved to Boston as a child and was the oldest of 12 children. Charles' father was a descendant of slaves, and worked as a waiter. He was a socialist and admired the Bolshevik revolution.

Despite being a Certified Public Accountant, as an African-American Charles Wilson found the doors to his career barred by racism. During WWII Charles was in the all African-American 99th Pursuit Squadron of the 101st Airborne Division, US Air Force. He successfully brought General Eisenhower to visit a segregated base to expose the conditions faced by Black soldiers living in tar shacks behind the military base. They were moved to new barracks the day before Eisenhower arrived. After serving in the War he went to work in Chicago for General Motors Electromotive Divisions, where he served as a rank and file activist and local leader for 30 years.

The House Un-American Activities Committee called Wilson to testify 79 times, but he refused each time. Charles was also a founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, a reporter for the Daily World and member of the Central Committee of the CPUSA. He also ran for U.S. Senate on the CPUSA ticket.

Wilson served as state chair of the Communist Party's Illinois district until the time of his death.

Ida Wilson

(1913-1994) Grave 82, Sector B

Ida Wilson was born in Russia and, as an infant, fled with her family to the United States in fear of violent anti-Semitic attacks. She attended Salem College in Massachusetts where she became involved in radical politics, joined the YCL around 1930, and met her life-long companion, Charles Wilson. Because she chose an interracial marriage, Ida was rejected and pronounced dead by her family.

Ida and Charles moved to Chicago in the 1940's to organize workers. She was fired from the Chicago Public School System as part of the Cold War hysteria and taught in private and suburban schools. In Chicago she was active in the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the Women's movement and the campaign of Harold Washington, Chicago's first Black mayor. Ida was a member of the CPUSA, and later the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

Abraham Winokour

(1894-1969) Sector G [ashes interred]

Abraham Winokour was born in the Ukraine, the middle of 5 children. At the age of 11 he volunteered to work with the 1905 revolutionists. As a small child he could run messages between the fighting groups and not be noticed.

The family settled in Philadelphia. Abraham's father and oldest sister came first; the rest of the family followed. He became extremely well read and became active in the Radical Library, an Anarchist's group. Abraham learned his trade of paper-hanger from his brother-in-law and worked in that trade throughout his life. He was an activist in the Brotherhood of Painters, Paperhangers and Decorators. During WWI he rode the rails to Mexico to escape the U.S. draft, carrying the tools of his trade so he could stop and work whenever necessary. Abraham and Anna Sosnovsky had 2 children. Abraham's ashes are interred alongside those of his wife Anna.

Fern Pierce Winston

(1914-2004) Sector B [ashes interred]

Fern Pierce was born near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the daughter of a sharecropper family. In 1931, while still a high school student she became active in the unemployed movement and from there the movement to free the Scottsboro Nine and the YCL. In 1932, she rode by truck to Washington DC with a delegation to the National Hunger March in Washington DC.

She married Henry Winston in 1934 after both attended a school of the CPUSA in New York City. The couple subsequently divorced and married others. Fern lived in upstate New York and ran for city council. Following Henry's release from prison in 1960 they re-united and Fern joined him in New York City where he served as National Chair of the Party and she led the Party's Women's Equality Commission and was a member of its National Committee. In the 1970's Fern helped found and lead Women for Racial and Economic Equality. Fern was a hospital worker and member of Local 1199.

Henry Winston

(1911-1986) Grave 83, Sector B

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Henry Winston was drawn in his teenage years to the struggles of the unemployed in Kansas City, Missouri, where his family had moved in search of work. Winston quickly rose to be a leader of the militant Unemployed Councils. He joined the YCL in 1931, and soon became one of its most outstanding African-American leaders, becoming the National Organizational Secretary of the YCL. He later helped found the Southern Negro Youth Congress.

In 1946, Winston became organizational secretary of the CPUSA and, in 1948, was among the twelve CPUSA leaders indicted under the Smith Act. Convicted in 1949, Winston was eventually imprisoned in Terre Haute, Indiana, where his deteriorating health—caused by a brain tumor—was criminally neglected by the authorities. Surgery came too late; he lost his eyesight. Winton's spirit, however, was unbroken. Upon his release from prison in 1961 he remarked, "My sight is gone but my vision remains."

He became national chairman of the CPUSA in 1966, a position he held until his death. Winston led the campaign to save the life of Angela Davis in the 1970s, and was a pioneering figure in the anti-apartheid movement. He wrote two books, Strategy for a Black Agenda and Class, and Race and Black Liberation.

Carl Winter


(1906-1991) Grave 84, Sector B

Carl Winter was born in Pittsburgh. to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. Carl was raised in a family with socialist parents. In 1922, Carl joined the YCL in Cleveland. As a young man he emerged as a talented organizer, teacher, and journalist.
Carl went to work as a civil engineer for the NYC subway system and became a member of the Union of Technical Men. While in New York he became active in the struggles of the unemployed and became the secretary of the Unemployed Councils of Greater New York. He was one of the main organizers of the National Hunger March on Washington, D.C., in 1931, and served as secretary of the Unemployed Councils of Greater New York in 1932-33. His membership in the CPUSA and his leadership abilities led to assignments in Ohio, Minnesota, Southern California, and Michigan.

In 1948 he was indicted with 12 other CPUSA Political Bureau members under the Smith Act; he was convicted of "conspiracy to advocate violent overthrow the U.S. government" and served 5 years in Leavenworth. While serving his term, his wife Helen Winter was on trial in Michigan under a similar indictment. Winter subsequently served as editor of The Worker (1966) and then as co-editor of the Daily World (1968), now the People's World.

Helen Winter

(1908-2001) Sector B [ashes interred]

Helen Wagenknecht Winter was born in Seattle, Washington. Her parents were Alfred Wagenknecht and Hortense Allison, both leaders of Washington's state Socialist Party. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where her earliest memories were of visiting her father in the Canton, Ohio workhouse where he had been imprisoned for his opposition to WWI.

Following the philosophical footsteps of her parents, Helen, at age 15, joined the YCL and soon the CPUSA. Helen married Carl Winter in 1927. In the late 1920's Helen worked in the office of the Trade Union Unity League helping the organization of office workers. Both Helen and Carl were convicted under the Smith Act for "conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence." Helen's conviction was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and declared unconstitutional and the charge was overthrown.

In the 1950's, Helen helped found Global Books, offering books on African-American, women's struggles and socialism. She was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which tried to label Global Books as an agent of a foreign power. In 1965 the Winters moved to NYC where Helen's work included the founding of the U. S. Peace Council as well as serving as the International Affairs Secretary of the Communist Party. Helen returned to Michigan in 1983 and continued her work for Global Books the Peace Council and the Communist Party.

Corinne Shear Wood

(1925-2009) Grave 85,  Sector F

As a war-time shipyard worker, Corinne was drawn to Baltimore's communist waterfront street corner orators and organizers like the legendary Al Lannon. Lannon dispatched the teenager to Jacksonville, Florida to help seamen there produce their union newsletter.

Corinne married communist steelworker Bill Wood and raised four children. She was a medical technician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was active in the party, peace activities, the PTA and the League of Women Voters.

Wood completed her PhD in medical anthropology at the age of 50 and authored the first college textbook in that field. She was honored by the Maori people in New Zealand for her assistance in establishing of a system of community-based health facilities.

William Hallinan Wood

(1918-1996) Grave 85, Sector F

Born in Boise, Idaho, Wood joined the CPUSA at the age of 16, moved by the desperate struggles of the state's unemployed and farmers. His brother Roy had contacted the Party via a letter to its New York office. A statewide convention put Bill on the ballot as Communist Party candidate for Secretary of State of Idaho.

Serving in the infantry in France and Germany during World War II, Bill was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart and was field commissioned as a second lieutenant.

After the war Wood was a blast furnace millwright helper at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point works in Baltimore. He married Corinne Shear; they raised four children. In 1957 Wood and 12 other Sparrows Point activists were called before House Un-American Activities Committee. Refusing to testify, the 13 were summarily fired.

Wood re-located to Riverside, California. He was active in the local labor movement, as a leader in the teachers union and helped organize a historic school boycott that led to the integration of Riverside's school system.

Sylvia Green Woods

(1909-1987) Grave 86, Sector B

Featured in the documentary film, Union Maids, Sylvia Woods was a pioneer in the African-American liberation and labor movements. Sylvia was born in New Orleans to a roofer and a domestic worker. Sylvia's father was an ardent union man and a Garveyite. At 16, she married and migrated to Chicago to work in a laundry. There she spearheaded an organizing drive. She worked at Bendix Aviation during World War II and held numerous positions in her United Auto Workers (UAW) local there.
Sylvia Woods was an outspoken and eloquent foe of racism and police brutality, and a public spokesperson for the Communist Party in Illinois. In 1970, a she took up the struggle to free Angela Davis, the California professor framed on a murder charge. Woods rallied thousands to the cause of the Davis' freedom, and later helped to found the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Milton Wright

(1929-2008) Grave 87, Sector H

Milton Wright's parents met in Chicago. His father was born in the Ozarks and his mother came from a town in Bohemia. As a child Milton was with his father at the Memorial Day Massacre in 1937. He worked at Continental Can Company and was drafted into the Korean War. After the war he went nights to complete his High School diploma and graduated from Allied Institute of Technology, an unaccredited engineering school set up during the GI Bill. Milton returned to Continental Can and became a Union Steward for the United Steel Workers of America.

Milton loved all things mechanical and worked at the company as a "maintenance man", making sure that all the conveyors and other equipment ran smoothly. He met his wife Pammela at a Labor Youth League club meeting and like his father, Milton was a member of the CPUSA.