Copyright 1999. Esther Katz. All rights reserved.
Socialist organizer and politician. Married Katherine Metzel (1885), National secretary and treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (1880), Indiana state Representative (1892). President of American Railway Union (1893-97), called several major railroad strikes, jailed six months for contempt of court in 1894. Converted to Socialism while in prison in 1894. Formed the Socialist Democratic Party of America from vestiges of the American Railway Union. Ran for President as fusion candidate of Socialist Democratic Party of American and Socialist Labor Party in 1899. The two parties formed the Socialist Party of America in 1900, and Debs was the new party's candidate for President in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Editor of Appeal to Reason
, a Socialist weekly, and later the American Appeal
(1925). Helped to found the Industrial Workers of the World
(1905), though Debs withdrew from active involvement shortly thereafter. Convicted of violation of Espionage Act in 1918, sentenced to ten years in prison, was released by President Harding in 1921. Wrote Walls and Bars
(1927). Margaret Sanger was an admirer of Debs from her childhood and corresponded with him while he was in prison.