Dean Nolan and Fred Thompson

Joe Hill

IWW Songwriter

Shortly after Salt Lake City police arrested Joe Hill on January 13, 1914, they got in touch with the Chief of Police at San Pedro, California, where Hill had previously lived. The Chief of Police there had fought Hill's efforts to organize longshore workers and replied: 'I see you have under arrest for murder one Joseph Hillstrom. You have the right man... He is certainly an undesirable citizen. He is somewhat of a musician and writer of songs for the IWW Songbook.' (Salt Lake City 'Herald-Republican' Jan.23, 1914.)

His meaning was clear. Though he lacked details of the murder with which Hill was charged, he had no doubt that Hill was 'the right man.' For him, Hill symbolized working class threats to the established order. The men he admired did not want their workers to organize, or to sing songs such as Joe Hill had written, ridiculing them and the police, challenging their right to wealth they had not produced. From these biases it came about that Joe Hill was tried and executed for a murder he did not commit.