Joe Hill

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Governor Spry didn’t like being pushed around. He replied firmly to Wilson’s second telegram. Nothing was going to save Joe Hill.

On November 18, 1915, Hill sent a telegram to “Big Bill” Haywood, the general secretary of the I.W.W. : “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”

The next morning they took him out to the prison yard, strapped him to a chair in front of a five-man firing squad, and pinned a paper target to his heart.

The deputy commanding the firing squad called “Ready, aim!”

Hill grinned beneath his blindfold. “Fire—go on and fire,” he shouted, and they shot him.

The night before, Hill had written a final poem in his cell. He called it his “Last Will.” It does not have the sting of his labor songs or the thunder of Hays’s ballad, but it does have a power of its own:

My will is easy to decide, For there is nothing to divide. My kin don’t need to fuss and moan… “Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.” My body? Ah, if I could choose, I would to ashes it reduce, And let the merry breezes blow My dust to where some flowers grow. Perhaps some fading flower then Would come to life and bloom again. This is my last and final will. Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill