Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs

Celebrity Profile

Name: Eugene V. Debs
Occupation: Civil Rights Leader
Gender: Male
Birth Day: November 5, 1855
Death Date: Oct 20, 1926 (age 70)
Age: Aged 70
Country: India
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

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Weight: in kg - N/A
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Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs was born on November 5, 1855 in India (70 years old). Eugene V. Debs is a Civil Rights Leader, zodiac sign: Scorpio. Find out Eugene V. Debsnet worth 2020, salary 2020 detail bellow.


He ran for President of the United States in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 as a Socialist Party candidate.

Does Eugene V. Debs Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Eugene V. Debs died on Oct 20, 1926 (age 70).

Net Worth

Net Worth 2020


Salary 2020

Not known

Before Fame

He dropped out of high school at age 14 before taking a job in the Vandalia railroad car shops, as a painter and a car cleaner.

Biography Timeline


Debs was born on November 5, 1855, in Terre Haute, Indiana, to Jean Daniel and Marguerite Mari Bettrich Debs, who immigrated to the United States from Colmar, Alsace, France. His father, who came from a prosperous family, owned a textile mill and meat market. Debs was named after the French authors Eugène Sue and Victor Hugo.


Debs attended public school, dropping out of high school at age 14. He took a job with the Vandalia Railroad cleaning grease from the trucks of freight engines for fifty cents a day. He later became a painter and car cleaner in the railroad shops. In December 1871, when a drunken locomotive fireman failed to report for work, Debs was pressed into service as a night fireman. He decided to remain a fireman on the run between Terre Haute and Indianapolis, earning more than a dollar a night for the next three and half years.


The railroad brotherhoods were comparatively conservative organizations, focused on providing fellowship and services rather than on collective bargaining. Their motto was "Benevolence, Sobriety, and Industry". As editor of the official journal of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Debs initially concentrated on improving the Brotherhood's death and disability insurance programs. During the early 1880s, Debs' writing stressed themes of self-upliftment: temperance, hard work, and honesty. Debs also held the view that "labor and capital are friends" and opposed strikes as a means of settling differences. The Brotherhood had never authorized a strike from its founding in 1873 to 1887, a record which Debs was proud of. Railroad companies cultivated the Brotherhood and granted them perks like free transportation to their conventions for the delegates. Debs also invited railroad president Henry C. Lord to write for the magazine. Summarizing Debs' thought in this period, historian David A. Shannon wrote: "Debs's desideratum was one of peace and co-operation between labor and capital, but he expected management to treat labor with respect, honor and social equality".


In July 1875, Debs left to work at a wholesale grocery house, where he remained for four years while attending a local business school at night.

Debs joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF) in February 1875 and became active in the organization. In 1877 he served as a delegate of the Terre Haute lodge to the organization's national convention. Debs was elected associate editor of the BLF's monthly organ, Firemen's Magazine, in 1878. Two years later, he was appointed Grand Secretary and Treasurer of the BLF and editor of the magazine in July 1880. He worked as a BLF functionary until January 1893 and as the magazine's editor until September 1894.


Debs married Kate Metzel on June 9, 1885. Their home still stands in Terre Haute, preserved on the campus of Indiana State University.


Debs gradually became convinced of the need for a more unified and confrontational approach as railroads were powerful forces in the economy. One influence was his involvement in the Burlington Railroad Strike of 1888, a defeat for labor that convinced Debs of the necessity of organizing along craft lines. After stepping down as Brotherhood Grand Secretary in 1893, Debs organized one of the first industrial unions in the United States, the American Railway Union (ARU), for unskilled workers. He was elected president of the ARU upon its founding, with fellow railway labor organizer George W. Howard as first vice president. The Union successfully struck the Great Northern Railway in April 1894, winning most of its demands.


In 1894, Debs became involved in the Pullman Strike, which grew out of a compensation dispute started by the workers who constructed the rail cars made by the Pullman Palace Car Company. The Pullman Company, citing falling revenue after the economic Panic of 1893, had cut the wages of its employees by 28%. The workers, many of whom were already members of the ARU, appealed for support to the union at its convention in Chicago, Illinois. Debs tried to persuade union members, who worked on the railways, that the boycott was too risky; given the hostility of the railways and the federal government, the weakness of the union and the possibility that other unions would break the strike.

The membership ignored his warnings and refused to handle Pullman cars or any other railroad cars attached to them, including cars containing U.S. Mail. After ARU Board Director Martin J. Elliott extended the strike to St. Louis, doubling its size to 80,000 workers, Debs relented and decided to take part in the strike, which was now endorsed by almost all members of the ARU in the immediate area of Chicago. On July 9, 1894, a New York Times editorial called Debs "a lawbreaker at large, an enemy of the human race". Strikers fought by establishing boycotts of Pullman train cars and with Debs' eventual leadership the strike came to be known as "Debs' Rebellion".


After Debs and Martin Elliott were released from prison in 1895, Debs started his socialist political career. Debs persuaded ARU membership to join with the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth to found the Social Democracy of America.


The Social Democracy of America (SDA), founded in 1897 by Eugene V. Debs from the remnants of his American Railway Union, was deeply divided between those who favored a tactic of launching a series of colonies to build socialism by practical example and others who favored establishment of a European-style socialist political party with a view to capture of the government apparatus through the ballot box.


The June 1898 convention would be the group's last, with the minority political action wing quitting the organization to establish a new organization, the Social Democratic Party of America (SDP), also called the Social Democratic Party of the United States. Debs was elected to the National Executive Board, the five-member committee which governed the party, and his brother, Theodore Debs, was selected as its paid executive secretary, handling day-to-day affairs of the organization. Although by no means the sole decision-maker in the organization, Debs' status as prominent public figure in the aftermath of the Pullman strike provided cachet and made him the recognized spokesman for the party in the newspapers.


Along with Elliott, who ran for Congress in 1900, Debs was the first federal office candidate for the fledgling socialist party, running unsuccessfully for president the same year. Debs and his running mate Job Harriman received 87,945 votes (0.6% of the popular vote) and no electoral votes.

Following the 1900 Election, the Social Democratic Party and dissidents who had split from the Socialist Labor Party in 1899 unified forces at a Socialist Unity Convention held in Indianapolis in mid-1901—a meeting which established the Socialist Party of America (SPA).


Debs was the Socialist Party of America candidate for president in 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920 (the final time from prison). Though he received increasing numbers of popular votes in each subsequent election, he never won any votes in the Electoral College. In both 1904 and 1908, Debs ran with running-mate Ben Hanford. They received 402,810 votes in 1904, for 3.0% of the popular vote, and an overall third-place finish. In the 1908 election, they received a slightly higher number of votes (420,852) than in their previous run, but at 2.8%, a smaller percentage of the total votes cast. In 1912, Debs ran with Emil Seidel as a running mate, and received 901,551 votes, which was 6.0% of the popular vote. Though he won no state's electoral votes, in Florida, he came in second behind Wilson and ahead of President William Howard Taft and former President Teddy Roosevelt. Finally, in 1920, running with Seymour Stedman, Debs won 913,693 votes, which remains the all-time high number of votes for a Socialist Party candidate. Notably, the Nineteenth Amendment passed in 1920, granting women the federal right to vote, and with the expanded voting pool, his vote total accounted for only 3.4% of the total number of votes cast. The size of the vote is nevertheless remarkable since Debs was at the time a federal prisoner in jail for sedition, though he promised to pardon himself if elected.


After his work with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the American Railway Union, Debs' next major work in organizing a labor union came during the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). On June 27, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, Debs and other influential union leaders including Bill Haywood, leader of the Western Federation of Miners; and Daniel De Leon, leader of the Socialist Labor Party, held what Haywood called the "Continental Congress of the working class". Haywood stated: "We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class". Debs stated: "We are here to perform a task so great that it appeals to our best thought, our united energies, and will enlist our most loyal support; a task in the presence of which weak men might falter and despair, but from which it is impossible to shrink without betraying the working class".


In 1906, when Haywood had been on trial for his life in Idaho, Debs had described him as "the Lincoln of Labor" and called for Haywood to run against Theodore Roosevelt for president, but times had changed and Debs, facing a split in the party, chose to echo Hillquit's words, accusing the IWW of representing anarchy. Debs thereafter stated that he had opposed the amendment, but that once it was adopted it should be obeyed. Debs remained friendly to Haywood and the IWW after the expulsion despite their perceived differences over IWW tactics.


Although the IWW was built on the basis of uniting workers of industry, a rift began between the union and the Socialist Party. It started when the electoral wing of the Socialist Party, led by Victor Berger and Morris Hillquit, became irritated with speeches by Haywood. In December 1911, Haywood told a Lower East Side audience at New York's Cooper Union that parliamentary Socialists were "step-at-a-time people whose every step is just a little shorter than the preceding step". It was better, Haywood said, to "elect the superintendent of some branch of industry, than to elect some congressman to the United States Congress". In response, Hillquit attacked the IWW as "purely anarchistic".


Debs' speeches against the Wilson administration and the war earned the enmity of President Woodrow Wilson, who later called Debs a "traitor to his country". On June 16, 1918, Debs made a speech in Canton, Ohio urging resistance to the military draft of World War I. He was arrested on June 30 and charged with ten counts of sedition.

Debs was sentenced on September 18, 1918 to ten years in prison and was also disenfranchised for life. Debs presented what has been called his best-remembered statement at his sentencing hearing:


Debs went to prison on April 13, 1919. In protest of his jailing, Charles Ruthenberg led a parade of unionists, socialists, anarchists and communists to march on May 1 (May Day) in Cleveland, Ohio. The event quickly broke into the violent May Day riots of 1919.

In March 1919, President Wilson asked Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer for his opinion on clemency, offering his own: "I doubt the wisdom and public effect of such an action". Palmer generally favored releasing people convicted under the wartime security acts, but when he consulted with Debs' prosecutors – even those with records as defenders of civil liberties – they assured him that Debs' conviction was correct and his sentence appropriate. The President and his Attorney General both believed that public opinion opposed clemency and that releasing Debs could strengthen Wilson's opponents in the debate over the ratification of the peace treaty. Palmer proposed clemency in August and October 1920 without success. At one point, Wilson wrote:


Debs ran for president in the 1920 election while in prison in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. He received 919,799 votes (3.4%), slightly less than he had won in 1912, when he received 6%, the highest number of votes for a Socialist Party presidential candidate in the United States. During his time in prison, Debs wrote a series of columns deeply critical of the prison system. They appeared in sanitized form in the Bell Syndicate and were published in his only book, Walls and Bars, with several added chapters. It was published posthumously.


In January 1921, Palmer, citing Debs' deteriorating health, proposed to Wilson that Debs receive a presidential pardon freeing him on February 12, Lincoln's birthday. Wilson returned the paperwork after writing "Denied" across it.

On December 23, 1921, President Warren G. Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served, effective Christmas Day. He did not issue a pardon. A White House statement summarized the administration's view of Debs' case:


In 1924, Debs was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Finnish Socialist Karl H. Wiik on the grounds that "Debs started to work actively for peace during World War I, mainly because he considered the war to be in the interest of capitalism."


Additionally, Debs was visited in jail by Milwaukee socialist newspaper editor Victor L. Berger, who in Debs' words "came to Woodstock, as if a providential instrument, and delivered the first impassioned message of Socialism I had ever heard". In his 1926 obituary in Time, it was said that Berger left him a copy of Das Kapital and "prisoner Debs read it slowly, eagerly, ravenously". Debs emerged from jail at the end of his sentence a changed man. He would spend the final three decades of his life proselytizing for the socialist cause.

He spent his remaining years trying to recover his health, which was severely undermined by prison confinement. In late 1926, he was admitted to Lindlahr Sanitarium in Elmhurst, Illinois. He died there of heart failure on October 20, 1926, at the age of 70. His body was cremated and buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana.


On May 22, 1962, Debs' home was purchased for $9,500 by the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, which worked to preserve it as a Debs memorial. In 1965 it was designated as an official historic site of the state of Indiana, and in 1966 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark of the United States. The preservation of the museum is monitored by the National Park Service. In 1990, the Department of Labor named Debs a member of its Labor Hall of Fame.


Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has long been an admirer of Debs and produced in 1979 a documentary about Debs which was released as a film and an audio LP record as an audio-visual teaching aid. In the documentary, he described Debs as "probably the most effective and popular leader that the American working class has ever had". Sanders hung a portrait of Debs in city hall in Burlington, Vermont when he served as mayor of the city in the 1980s and has a plaque dedicated to Debs in his Congressional office. It has been argued that Debs was important in first advocating for reforms which were subsequently implemented by more moderate left-leaning politicians, such as banking reform and child labor laws.

Family Life

Eugene lived with his wife Kate Metzel.

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Eugene V. Debs is 167 years, 0 months and 22 days old. Eugene V. Debs will celebrate 168th birthday on a Sunday 5th of November 2023. Below we countdown to Eugene V. Debs upcoming birthday.


Recent Birthday Highlights

158th birthday - Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eugene V. Debs: Quotes For Workingmen

Eugene Victor Debs – railroad fireman, union organizer, socialist, and presidential candidate – was born on November 5, in 1855. Yesterday would have been his 158th birthday. He died on…

Eugene V. Debs 158th birthday timeline

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