April 25, 1923: Labor Leader Arnold Miller Born in Kanawha County
Labor leader Arnold Miller was born in Kanawha County on April 25, 1923. The son and grandson of coal miners, Miller quit school at age 16 to become a miner himself.
He served in the Army in World War II. During the D-Day invasion, he was severely wounded in the face by machine-gun fire and lost most of his left ear. He underwent 19 operations in military hospitals.
Returning home after the war, he eventually found a mining job. But, in 1970, black lung disease and arthritis forced him to retire from the mines.
In 1969, as leader of a union local, he helped lead a three-week coal strike that led to passage of West Virginia’s first black lung compensation law. In 1972, Miller defeated the corrupt United Mine Workers of America national president, Tony Boyle.
Miller was the first true rank-and-file miner to head the labor union. During his presidency, he liberalized UMWA rules to give miners more of a say in their union.
Due to health problems, Arnold Miller resigned as UMWA president in 1979. He died six years later in Charleston at age 62.