Dick Meister: The man who didn't die

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Joe Hill told his IWW comrades just before he stepped in front of the firing squad, "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize."

By Dick Meister

(Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor, politics and other matters for a half century.)

It's Nov. 19, 1915, in a courtyard of the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Five riflemen take careful aim at a condemned organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, Joe Hill, who stands before them straight and stiff and proud.

"Fire!" he shouts defiantly.

The firing squad didn't miss. But Joe Hill, as the folk ballad says, "ain't never died." He lives on as one of the most enduring and influential of American symbols.