Interview with Lonzo Johnson, July 25, 1987



Description: 
Lonzo Johnson was born in Carter County, Kentucky, in 1907. His father, Thomas Johnson, worked in the coal mines around Matewan, West Virginia. In 1916 his family moved to Rockhouse on Marrowbone Creek where his father began working for the Marrowbone Mining Company. Lonzo Johnson himself began working in the mines when he was sixteen years old and worked as a miner for 45 years mainly at the Henry Clay mine. He recalls that when he first started mining he made two dollars a day, or thirty-five cents a ton. The company then took out deductions for his rent, coal, electricity, and medical care. He describes the division within the coal camps between the sections where the miners lived and the sections where the bosses lived. At Henry Clay, the bosses lived in "Boss Town." Johnson talks about the clean-up system that required that a miner clean up all the coal and rock no matter how long it took. He recalls that when the UMWA tried to organize on Marrowbone Creek, the miners and organizers frequently met on the railroad tracks at Hellier because they were not allowed on company land. He mentions Tom Raney and George Titler as two of the early organizers. If a miner was overheard talking about the union, he was fired and blacklisted. He describes the tactics the company at Henry Clay used to fight the union including the use of armed guards and the installation of a spotlight above the town. He tells how union supporters out on strike would shoot the dinner bucket out of scabs' hands to try to discourage them from going to work. Johnson recalls that G-Tom Hawkins, an area lawyer and union supporter, would make speeches on behalf of the union. Steam engines brought the coal out of Marrowbone Creek. Black miners and their families had to ride in the Jim Crow car to Pikeville. Johnson remembers the loud, spirited singing that came from the black church. The black miners lived in "nigger town," worked in a different section of the mine than the white miners, and sat on a different side of the union hall during union meetings. Johnson comments that union miners "took care of each other but everybody knowed his place." Johnson remembers that at the Wolfpit mine, owned by McKinney Steel, scores of immigrant miners were killed. Johnson states that "the company didn't care." A miner would get killed and "they'd haul him out and keep working, same as you'd kill a chicken." He also talks about listening to his first radio, watching silent movies in the company town theaters, and playing company-sponsored baseball games.

Interview Accession: 
1987oh193_app116
Interviewee: 
Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
1987-07-25

Submit a request for access to a copy of this interview. If you do not have an account, you will be prompted to set up an account in order to submit this request. If you already have an account, log in to your account when prompted.


To request an interview using our request system, you have accepted (or for first-time users you will need to accept) the terms of our user agreement below.

USER AGREEMENT
LOUIE B. NUNN CENTER FOR ORAL HISTORY
COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS

This AGREEMENT is for materials whose intellectual and physical property rights reside with the University of Kentucky (UK) through creation, purchase, gift/donation, or has been assigned to the University of Kentucky for the purpose of research or publication.

Use of materials is expressly limited as described in this user agreement. As a condition of UK providing recorded interview(s) THROUGH THIS ONLINE PATRON ACCOUNT OR OTHER DELIVERY METHOD, and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such, you agree to strictly abide by the following:
Copyright to the recorded interview(s) and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such remains with the University of Kentucky and when use is permitted appropriate copyright credit must be given to UK:

© University of Kentucky, all rights reserved, (Project Name), Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

WHEN permission is granted, it is for one time use only and any subsequent use, including reproduction of recorded interview(s) and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such will require an additional user agreement.

While the University of Kentucky asserts ownership of the items, your use of the recorded interview(s) and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such is strictly at your own risk. The user agrees to hold harmless UK, their officers, directors, employees and affiliated entities, any and all of them, against and from any liability, loss, cost, or expense whatsoever, including attorney's fees, arising out of or relating to use of the recorded interview(s) and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such. UK is solely responsible for making the recorded interview(s) and/or subsequent transcript(s) of such available to you pursuant to this user agreement.

User agrees that any violation of this user agreement will cause irreparable harm to UK, agrees that injunctive relief (a court order directing that you cease activity) is an appropriate remedy and consents to such relief. Injunctive relief will be in addition to any and all remedies that may be available.

I understand that I must provide the University of Kentucky Libraries two (2) copies of any published work (includes books, journals, pamphlets, flyers, buttons, labels, video productions, etc.) free of charge. Ship to the address below:

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
Special Collections
University of Kentucky Libraries
Margaret I. King Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0039


  

  

Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/catalog/xt7g1j979845