Eugene V. Debs, Section 1, Lot 44

Eugene V. Debs was born on November 5, 1855 in Terre Haute. At the age of fourteen, Debs quit high school and was employed as a painter in the railroad yards. His labor union activities began when he was nineteen with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. Nineteen years later, he organized the first industrial union, the American Railway Union. In 1879, he was elected City Clerk and served two terms. In 1885, he was elected to a term in the Indiana General Assembly. He was so disgusted with his experience in the legislature, however, that he resolved to devote his time to the cause of organized labor. He ran five times for the President of the United States on the Socialist ticket. Those years were 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920. The last time he ran was while he was serving a sentence in an Atlanta prison. He had been sentenced for making an anti-war speech at Canton, Ohio on June 16, 1918 against the United States participation in World War I. He received one million votes in the 1920 election. The man who defeated him, Warren G. Harding, released him from prison on Christmas Day, 1921. The last four years of his life were devoted to the reform of prisons. He died on October 20, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois. Congress later adopted many reforms that he advocated, such as the eight hour work day, pension plans, and workman’s compensation. His home at 451 North Eighth Street is maintained as a state and national historic site by the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, and also a National Registered Landmark of the National Parks System of the Interior Department of the United States.

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