Frank Lumpkin

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Frank Lumpkin

Frank Lumpkin was the husband of Bea Lumpkin and a member of the Wisconsin Steel Workers Union.

Frank Lumpkin died, March 2010, age 93. He was survived by three sons, Google Health Advisor, Dr. John Lumpkin and Paul Lumpkin, and Carl Mohrherr, a daughter, Jeanleah Mohrherr, a brother, Warren Sam Lumpkin and two sisters, Bess Slifkin and Bay Rollins.[1]

Early life

Born in 1916 into a family of sharecroppers in Washington, Ga., his early years were shaped by the "struggle against poverty and sweltering racism of the Deep South".

His parents moved the family, including Frank and 5 siblings, to Orlando, Florida in search of work. There they lived and worked on an orange grove, where four more brothers and sisters were born.

At age 15, Lumpkin quit school to work full time in the citrus plantations. He also started boxing professionally and soon excelled at the sport. He was unofficially known as the "heavyweight champ of the South" and "KO" Lumpkin.

In 1940 in search of a better life, Frank Lumpkin followed his older brother to Buffalo, N.Y. where he worked in construction, in an aircraft factory and at Bethlehem Steel. The rest of the family, including Frank's mother and father followed soon after.[2]

Radical family

In Buffalo, Frank's sister Jonnie met and worked with Communists at her workplace who were active trade unionists. Her activism eventually led to the rest of her family being introduced to the Communist Party USA. The Lumpkin home became a "center for struggle in Buffalo. They led struggles against home evictions, racism and against the growing menace of fascism."[3]

Joining the Communist Party

When the United States entered World War II, the Army refused Frank because one of his hands had been injured in childhood. So to help in the war effort, Lumpkin became a Merchant Marine and joined the National Maritime Union.[4]

Lumpkin's union experience and the family activism in Buffalo led him to join the Young Communist League USA along with 200 other young workers at a mass meeting. Later he joined the Communist Party USA and became a member of the national leadership for many years.[5]

Frank and Bea Lumpkin

After the war, Lumpkin continued to work in the Merchant Marine until his ship was sold from under him in Greece. He returned to Buffalo in 1948 and was hired on at another steel plant. He arrived just in time to campaign for the Progressive Party candidate for President, Henry Wallace.

In 1949, Lumpkin answered a Communist Party call to protest racism on a Lake Erie cruise ship. Lumpkin was cruelly clubbed by police and arrested on a charge of interfering with an officer making an arrest. Lumpkin insisted on a jury trial and an all-white jury acquitted him.

That same year Paul Robeson returned to Peekskill, N.Y., for a mass rally in defiance of fascist thugs and Frank Lumpkin was determined to be there. He traveled from Buffalo with a group of steelworkers and walked through a racist mob to act as security with other WWII veterans. The rally participants were later attacked and brutally assaulted while State and Local police stood off to the side and watched.

During this period, Frank Lumpkin married a fellow activist Beatrice Shapiro.[6]

"Saint of Chicago"

Frank and Bea Lumpkin moved to Chicago in 1949 where he found a job at Wisconsin Steel, owned by International Harvester. In 1980, the company shut the plant down, putting 4,000 workers on the street with "bounced paychecks and looted pensions"..[7]

Frank Lumpkin had never led labor efforts at the mill, but after the shutdown, "he didn't have a minute's hesitation" at engaging in battle,his wife said. The Save Our Jobs Committee enlisted labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan to initiate legal action in an effort to restore lost benefits.[8]

Lumpkin led them against an array of powerful forces and corrupt politicians backed by the mob. They marched and protested from city hall, to the state legislature and Congress.

From the start, Lumpkin never, ever considered the possibility of giving up. For 17 years the workers fought refusing nothing less than victory, which finally came in, winning $17 million in stolen pension money that was distributed to the workers. For that he became known as the "Saint of Chicago."[9]

17 years

The Wisconsin Steel Save Our Jobs Committee was active for 17 years, from 1980 to 1997. How was leader, and Communist Party USA member Frank Lumpkin able to keep SOJ together for so many years?

There were favorable factors that helped. First, Chicago is a union town; the United Steelworkers gave SOJ a home. The Wisconsin Steel workers also had the support of progressive public officials. These included Congressman, and later Mayor, Harold Washington; State Representative, and later U.S. Senator, Carol Moseley Braun; Congressman Gus Savage; State Senator Richard Newhouse; and State Representative Miriam Balanoff, followed by Clem Balanoff Consumer organizations such as Illinois Public Action, and later, Citizen Action of Illinois gave important support. The leftist labor monthly, Labor Today, and its editors Fred Gaboury and Scott Marshall, gave SOJ national coverage.[10]

CLUW founder

In 1973, seven women activists from seven different unions put out the idea of a union women's coalition. The seven included m Addie Wyatt, a packinghouse workers' leader; Clara Day, a Teamsters Union leader; and Florence Criley, an electrical workers' leader. Soon they were joined by Barbara Merrill, a welfare worker and a founder of Black Labor Leaders of Chicago. Their work culminated in a national convention to form a "Coalition of Labor Union Women" . The convention opened in Chicago on March 22, 1974.

Eight hundred women were expected but 3,200 came. Many were young; some like participant Bea Lumpkin, not so young. Almost all had come at their own expense. Some thought it was a near miracle that so many women participated. It was no miracle. The mass sentiment was there. Union women were fired up and "not taking it anymore." The ground work had been laid in well-attended regional conferences. Lumpkin got into the action earlier in 1973, at the Midwest Regional Conference of Union Women. It was attended by 200 women from 20 different national unions and from 18 states. Men were invited to join too, to help fight for women's rights. Frank Lumpkin , was one of the first to join CLUW. [11]

Supporting John Lumpkin

In 1978, Frank Lumpkin was on the Committee to Elect Dr. John R. Lumpkin for the 7th Ward Alderman, Chicago.[12]

Electoral work

Lumpkin was present at the first meeting to organize the mayoral campaign for the late Harold Washington. Lumpkin helped set up the Labor for Washington Committee, which was instrumental in getting labor support for Washington and helping him win.[13]

Communist Party USA official Tim Wheeler wrote in Peoples Weekly World on Chicago Party chairman and Save Our Jobs Committee leader, Frank Lumpkin and his role in the elections of Harold Washington, Charles Hayes and Carol Moseley Braun[14];

Lumpkin also led SOJ into independent political action. They played an important role in the election of Harold Washington as mayor of Chicago, a historic victory over the most entrenched, reactionary political machine in the U.S. Bea (Lumpkin's wife) writes that "At that time, Washington and Lumpkin had a special relationship ... Washington seemed to draw strength from Lumpkin's participation. At meetings rallies, street encounters, whatever, Washington would call Frank over and say, 'When I see you, I know things are in good hands."

After the election Mayor Washington appointed Lumpkin to governmental task forces on the steel industry and dislocated workers.

SOJ was also an important factor in the election of Charles Hayes, African-American leader of the Meatcutters union, to take the Congressional seat vacated by Washington, and the election of Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Independent Progressive

Lumpkin continued the fight for independent politics by running for State Representative three times on the Independent Progressive line, challenging the famed Chicago Democratic Party "machine." His slogan was, "Send a Steelworker to Springfield."[15]


During the economic crisis of 1981-83, Lumpkin helped organize Jobs or Income Now, a grassroots organization of the unemployed and the national Congress of Unemployed Organizations held in Chicago. Lumpkin gave the keynote address and was elected chair of the Congress.[16]

Socialist service

Lumpkin was also an active member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. He was also active in Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees and the Alliance of Retired Americans. He served on the Policy Council of Illinois Citizen's Action.[17]

Supported Communist Party call

In May 1992 the Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a May Day supplement which included a call to "support our continuing struggle for justice and dignity"

Endorsers of the call included Frank Lumpkin, Progressive Steelworkers, Chicago.[18]

Progressive Chicago

A Progressive Chicago report to Keith Kelleher, dated October 27, 1993 listed several more contacts and potential members of the organization.

It stated that Alderman Joe Moore had agreed to participate and that State senator Alice Palmer was interested and was awaiting a call from Peter McClennon.

Members had been allocated people to contact;

Others targeted for contact, but not assigned, included Clem Balanoff, Sue Purrington of NOW, Jane Ramsey at JCUA, Erlean Collins, Westside Black elected officials and PUSH, TWO and Joe Gardner's Project Hope.[19]

Communist Party Labor Day call

The Communist Party USA paper People's Weekly World issued a statement to mark Labor Day 1995, entitled "We honor the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Of the more than 100 endorsers listed, almost all were identified members of the Communist Party USA.

Frank Lumpkin, Chicago, was on the list.[20]

Illinois Public Action

In 1995 Frank Lumpkin was a member of the board of directors[21]of Illinois Public Action.

Birthday Greetings to William "Red" Davis

In December 1995 the Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a page of 75th birthday greetings to William (Red) Davis - "Lifelong working class fighter and Communist"

In the fight for the unity and integrity of the Party in St. Louis, Missouri, in the post-war years, "Red" has been a rock of confidence and commitment to building the Communist Party.

Greetings were sent from Frank Lumpkin and Bea Lumpkin of Illinois[22].

Citizen Action of Illinois

In 1997 Frank Lumpkin served on the board of directors of Citizen Action of Illinois.[23]

Black Radical Congress


At the 1998 Black Radical Congress in Chicago, a panel was convened on "Black Radicalism, Black Workers and Today's Labor Movement"

Panelists were Saladin Muhammad, Lou Moy, Frank Lumpkin, Jim Wilkerson, Theresa Polk-Henderson, Jarvis Tyner (coordinator)

Rally to Lower Gas Bills

In the winter of 2001, the gas bills for heating Chicago homes rose. Members of Bea Lumpkin's South Side Communist Club were angry too when they saw their huge gas bills. We agreed, anger is not useful unless it leads to effective action.

So on February 7, 2001, the Communist club took the first step to start the fightback. They talked to their coalition partners and together acted fast. Within a week they had a rally of 130 people to demand lower gas prices.

On February 13, 2001, USWA and Save Our Jobs Committee co-sponsored a rally in the steel union hall in South Chicago. They formed a new group, "Angry Utility Consumers." They included presidents of three USWA locals, Bea Lumpkin , Frank Lumpkin of Save Our Jobs Committee, Katie Jordan of Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women; community leaders included Rev. Winfield Phillips, Free Salvation Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Bill Hogan, Saint Bride Roman Catholic Church, and many block club presidents and members.

The next month (March) they brought a busload of protesters to a demonstration against Peoples Gas, a company owned by Peoples Energy. The company claimed they were not profiting from the rise in gas prices. At a later date, the Illinois attorney general proved the company had lied. Peoples Gas was forced to pay back the overcharge to their gas customers.

That demonstration was organized by Pat Quinn, later elected Illinois lieutenant governor. He became governor after Rod Blagojevich was removed. Other community groups came from Bridgeport, Back of the Yards (stockyards) and South Austin. That same evening, at our coalition strategy meeting, they were joined by State Senator Donne Trotter, who was asked to introduce a bill to extend the moratorium on gas shutoffs until the gas crisis ended. He promised to "look into" it. [24]

ARA founders

In 2001, the national AFL-CIO helped establish the Alliance for Retired Americans , a "progressive retiree organization".

Chicago Communist Party USA members Frank Lumpkin and Bea Lumpkin attended the founding convention, representing the Save Our Jobs Committee. They paid our own fare but stayed with son Paul Lumpkin in Washington DC. [25]

ARA opened its arms to community groups, too. SOJ, the retiree group, had found a new home!

Endorsed Communist Party Call

On March 30 2002 the Communist Party USA paper People’s Weekly World called for a national holiday in honor of late Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chavez. The article was followed by a long list of endorsers[26]including Frank Lumpkin, Almost all endorsers were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA.

Communist Party USA

In September 2006 the Peoples Weekly World[27]listed several members, or supporters, of the Illinois Communist Party USA.

Joan Elbert, Barbara Russum, Bea Lumpkin, William Appelhans, Bill Mackovich, Carolyn Black, Carroll Krois, Dee Myles , Doug Freedman, Frank Lumpkin, John Bachtell, Kevin Collins, Lance Cohn, Mark Almberg, Marguerite Horberg, Martha Pedroza, Mike Giocondo, Pepe Lozano, Roberta Wood, Scott Marshall, Shelby Richardson, Sijisfredo Aviles, Sue Webb, Terrie Albano.

Honoring Frank Wilkinson

Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights organized a "Celebration of the The Dynamic Life of Frank Wilkinson (1914-2006)" on Sunday October 29, 2006. Wilkinson had been a leader of the Communist Party USA, the New American Movement and Democratic Socialists of America[28].

Honoring Committee members included Bea Lumpkin and Frank Lumpkin.

Supporting Duckworth

At age 90 Lumpkin was still active, including a labor walk for Tammy Duckworth, a candidate for Congress in 2006 in the 6th CD in Illinois.[29]


  10. Joy in the Struggle, Bea Lumpkin, page 209]
  11. [Joy in the Struggle, My Life and Love, Bea Lumpkin, page 163]
  12. Committee to Elect Dr. John R. Lumpkin letter, Sept. 10, 1978
  18. PWW, May Day Supplement May 2, 1992
  19. Progressive chicago report to K Kelleher October 27, 1993
  20. People's Weekly World Sep 2 1995 p 14
  21. IPA 20th Anniversary Dinner leaflet
  22. Peoples Weekly World December 9, 1995 page 19
  23. Citizen Action of Illinois B.O.D. list
  24. Joy in the Struggle, Bea Lumpkin, page 220]
  25. [Joy in the Struggle, Bea Lumpkin, page 226]
  27. We salute the labor movement!, People's World, September 1, 2006