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Budenz, Louis (17 July 1891–27 April 1972), labor organizer and anti-Communist government witness, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of Henry Joseph Budenz, a bank cashier, and Mamie Gertrude Sullivan. Both parents were devout Catholics. After graduating from Indianapolis Law School in 1912, Budenz served as national organizer for the Catholic Young Men’s Institute. Although he was admitted to the bar, he never worked as a lawyer. A brief stint as editor of the Carpenters’ Union journal from 1912 to 1913 ended with his move to St. Louis to work for the Central Bureau of the Catholic Central Verein, where his main task was to try to secure passage of state workmen’s compensation laws. During his stay in St. Louis, Budenz, an independent radical, helped lead a strike of 4,000 women working in department stores and fought for public ownership of utilities....

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Ford, James William (22 December 1893–21 June 1957), labor leader and Communist party official, was born James William Foursche in Pratt City, Alabama, the son of Lyman Foursche, steelworker, and Nancy Reynolds, a domestic. Not long after his birth, the family began to use a new surname when a white policeman questioning his father insisted that “Foursche” was too difficult to spell and changed the name to Ford. The most traumatic experience of Ford’s boyhood was the lynching of his grandfather, a Georgia railroad worker. Ford started work at thirteen, joining his father at the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, where he worked as a water boy, mechanic’s helper, and then steam-hammer operator. Nevertheless, he managed to complete high school....

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Larkin, James (21 January 1876–30 January 1947), Irish labor leader and charter member of the Communist Labor party in the United States, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of James Larkin (mother’s name unknown). Both of his parents were Irish. When Larkin was eleven, his father died of tuberculosis, the death leaving the family in poverty and cutting short Larkin’s brief formal education. Larkin was taken on as an apprentice at his father’s Liverpool engineering firm, although he soon quit. After hiring on at a series of odd jobs, he landed work as a laborer on the city’s docks in 1893. In that same year an injury at work changed the course of his life. For nineteen weeks he spent his days reading at the local library and his evenings attending open-air socialist meetings. This period of study was the beginning of a lifetime commitment to socialism. Interestingly, Larkin also would cultivate a fervent Irish nationalism. These beliefs mixed with a devout Catholicism, which produced his commitment to improving the lives of working people....

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Parsons, Albert Richard (24 June 1848–11 November 1887), anarchist and labor organizer, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Samuel Parsons, a shoe and leather factory owner, and Elizabeth Tompkins. Samuel Parsons was religiously affiliated with the Universalists and involved in the temperance movement. Elizabeth Parsons was a Methodist. Both parents died before Albert turned five, and he subsequently went to live with his older brother William in Tyler, Texas. He attended public schools until the age of thirteen, at which time he worked for a Galveston newspaper as a printer’s apprentice....