Biography: William B. Wilson

Born in Scotland, Wilson emigrated to America with his parents in 1870 and settling in Pennsylvania. At nine years of age, Wilson joined his father in the coal mines, helping to support his family. He became active in the movement to unionize coal miners, and served as Secretary-Treasurer for the United Mine Workers from 1900-1908. Elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1907, Wilson served as chairman of the House Committee on Labor from 1911 to 1913. Failing to win reelection to Congress in 1912, he nevertheless remained in politics. He was appointed as the first Secretary of the newly-created Department of Labor by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, and served in that post until 1921. He was a member of the Council of National Defense during World War I. Following his public service, he returned to mining and agricultural pursuits, and was also a successful amateur poet. He died in 1934 while travelling in Georgia.