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Ex-Union Chief Tony Boyle, 83, Dies

Times Staff Writer

W. A. (Tony) Boyle, John L. Lewis’ handpicked heir as president of the United Mine Workers of America union who was convicted of ordering the murder of a union rival and two members of his family, died Friday in a Pennsylvania hospital.

A spokeswoman for Wilkes-Barre General Hospital said Boyle, 83, had been suffering for several years from a variety of illnesses but attributed his death to heart failure.

Boyle, who was serving three life terms for the slayings, had been transferred several times to the hospital from his cell at the Pennsylvania Correctional Institution in nearby Dallas.

Boyle, who headed the miners union for nine years, was convicted of ordering the deaths of UMWA insurgent Joseph (Jock) Yablonski, 59; his wife, Margaret, 57, and daughter, Charlotte, 25, who were shot as they slept in their Clarksville, Pa., farmhouse on New Year’s Eve in 1969.

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The murders occurred just weeks after Boyle defeated Yablonski, who had been urged to seek the presidency by consumer advocate Ralph Nader and others concerned with the disrepute into which the union had fallen.

A federal court three years later overturned that election because of ballot irregularities.

Boyle was convicted in 1974 of plotting the Yablonski killings after a two-week trial highlighted by the confessions of those directly involved.

The prosecution charged that Boyle had appropriated $20,000 in union funds to pay for Yablonski’s murder, saying Boyle feared that Yablonski, once a close aide, would expose his involvement in fiscal corruption.

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Boyle protested his innocence throughout two trials.

Born in Montana

William Anthony Boyle was born at a mining camp in Montana where he became active in the mine workers organization Lewis took over in 1919. He held union offices in Montana until Lewis summoned him in 1940 to Washington, where he began referring to himself as W. A. Boyle.

He became vice president when Lewis retired in 1960 but actually ran the 200,000-member union during the three-year term of Lewis’ successor, Thomas Kennedy, who was ill. Boyle became president in 1963 on Kennedy’s death.

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He was deposed in December, 1972, by Arnold Miller in a government-ordered election prompted by wide-ranging investigations into illegal use of union funds. Boyle was in a federal prison for using those funds in political campaigns when he was charged with the Yablonski slayings. It once was estimated he had spent $200,000 alone for portraits of himself and other highly paid union officers.

Conviction Overturned

Boyle’s murder conviction was overturned in 1977 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which said the trial judge had refused to allow the testimony of a government auditor.

He was tried again for the killings--before the same judge in the same courtroom. And in February, 1978, he was convicted.

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Eight other people also were imprisoned for their parts in the murders. Two defendants, a father and daughter who were credited with breaking open the case, eventually were set free and given new identities.

Friday the mine workers union issued this statement:

“The death of former UMWA President Boyle marks the final passage in a tragic chapter in the union’s history.”


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