Joe Hill, born in October 1879, was a hobo, a rebel, and a dedicated rank-and-file member and songwriter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Born Joel Hägglund in Gävle, Sweden, he came to the United States with one of his brothers in 1902. Changing his name to Joseph Hillstrom and then simply Joe Hill, he lived and worked all over the United States, from New York to Hawaii, sending cards to his sisters back home, and even an eyewitness account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to his hometown newspaper. He was fired from at least one job trying to organize his fellow workers.

In 1910, he joined the IWW in San Pedro, California, where he worked as a longshoreman.

By this time, the five-year-old IWW had begun to use music to get the attention of workers at street corner meetings. As Joe put it, "a pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over."

The IWW’s formula was to put catchy new words to the tunes of popular songs or hymns urging workers to unionize, respect themselves, and fight for rights and dignity. They wanted a society different from the one in which "hunger and want are found among millions of working people, and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life."

In January, 1914, Joe was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah, and charged with murder. Twenty-two months later, despite nationwide and international protests, he was executed by a firing squad.

The state claimed that Joe and another man (who was never identified or found) were the two people who rushed into John Morrison’s grocery store at closing time on January 10, 1914 and shot Morrison and his son to death.

It appeared to be an act of revenge: Morrison’s store was not robbed and John Morrison had once been a policeman and had often voiced fears of a revenge attack. Joe Hill had been shot in the chest that same night, as had the killer by Morrison’s son. Joe refused to explain how he had been wounded except to say that it was in a fight over a woman he refused to name. To the IWW and many others, the state of Utah was tagging Joe as the killer in retribution for the IWW’s organizing efforts in the Utah mining regions.

The prosecutors claimed that Joe’s refusal to prove his alibi was proof he didn’t have one. When the IWW called for his release, and the American Federation of Labor, the Swedish government, and President Woodrow Wilson called for reconsideration of the verdict and the death sentence, Utah’s governor responded with greater resolve to go ahead with the execution.

Joe wrote a farewell telegram to the leader of the IWW, Bill Haywood: "Good-bye Bill: I will die a true-blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning -— organize!"

Fittingly, he is remembered in a classic union song, with Alfred Hayes' poem set to music by Earl Robinson:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night alive as you and me.
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead",
"I never died", said he.
"I never died", said he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe, by God," says I, him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge."
says Joe, "But I ain't dead."
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The Copper Bosses shot you, Joe, they killed you, Joe", says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man",
says Joe, "I didn't die!"
Says Joe, "I didn't die!"

And standing there as big as life and smiling with his eyes,
Says Joe, "What they forgot to kill...
went on to organize.
Went on to organize!"

"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me, "Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where working men are out on strike,
Joe Hill is at their side.
Joe Hill is at their side!"

From San Diego up to Maine in every mine and mill
Where working men defend their rights,
It's there you'll find Joe Hill
It's there you'll find Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night alive as you and me.
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead",
"I never died", said he.
"I never died", said he.

(biography) (lyrics)

It is from the Joe Hill song "Long Haired Preachers" that we get the phrase "Pie in the Sky".

In 1999, fascists in Gävle, Sweden, tried to blow up the birthplace of Joe Hill ("Joe Hill-gården), where the global union IWW's (Industrial Workers of the World) Swedish sister organization, SAC - the syndicalists, houses it's Industrial Secretariat since the 30's. They failed, and only parts of the house was damaged by the blast. The attack was a follow-up on the nazi murder of the syndicalist organizer Björn Söderberg, who had exposed a nazi at his workplace, a warehouse, when he tried to infiltrate the local union.

Joseph Hillstrom King is an author following in his father's footsteps but establishing quite the path. He's a writer of some quite dark and dirty horror stories, some of which you'd secretly been wishing his father did, without even knowing it. In fact, it seems that if he hadn't personally decided to oust himself (with a little help from the tabloids) as the iconic author's son, his writing may well have maintained its anonymity and still held its own. Or so say the awards his books have won, backed by the rather cult following he's accrued.

This pack of fans is fed through Joe's dialed in online presence, via a simplistic/media focused blog and an update-rich facebook page. At this point he's written four books: 20th Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2 with a fifth on the way; as well as a comic series called Locke & Key which is illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez.

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