Friday, August 7, 2020

Thomas Wilson Talbot - IAM Founder

On May 5, 1888, railroad machinist Thomas Wilson Talbot, with 18 others, after months of secret planning met in a locomotive pit and founded the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America, shortly after renamed the International Association of Machinists. It's one of the country's largest union organizations and one of the few founded in the South, now the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Today, it's headquartered in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Thomas Wilson Talbot | Grant Park | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Thomas Wilson Talbot | Grant Park | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the organization, in 1948, a bronze bust of Thomas Wilson Talbot was unveiled in Grant Park, Atlanta's oldest city park. The bust sits atop a pedestal of Tennessee marble. It's located in a plaza near the entrances of Zoo Atlanta and the Zoo's new Savanna Hall.

International Association of Machinists (IAM) Grand Lodge Convention delegates placed the monument and IAM President Harvey W. Brown of Washington delivered a dedication speech with a grandson and great grandson of Talbot's in attendance.

Fast-forward to 2013 when on the IAM's 125th anniversary a new plaque was dedicated for the monument’s base. IAM Local 709 in Marietta, Georgia, hosted the anniversary celebration. Their Vice President Mike Owens ensured the installation was performed with union labor.

The new plaque reads: "CELEBRATING 125 YEARS, Placed by the members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to honor Thomas Wilson Talbot's enduring legacy, 125 years after he founded the Machinists Union in Atlanta Georgia on May 5, 1888. Dedicated June 2013." The plaque also bears the logo of the organization.

Thomas Wilson Talbot | Grant Park | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Thomas Wilson Talbot | Grant Park | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Talbot had moved back to his birth state of South Carolina where his life ended much in tragedy, much too young, in the spring of 1892 when two wealthy brothers from a prominent South Carolina family murdered him. He is buried in Florence, South Carolina, his grave marked by a towering obelisk bearing the logo of the International Association of Machinists.

The 1948 plaque on the Grant Park monument to Talbot reads: "Erected by the membership of the International Association of Machinists, May 5, 1948, to the memory of its founder Thomas Wilson Talbot, 1949-1892, through whose efforts came light out of darkness and hope out of despair. And that generations to come might extol his greatness, this monument is solemnly dedicated to free men everywhere who toil for a livelihood."