The Will Parry Library
At the 25th anniversary celebration for the Labor Center in November of 2012 we announced that we were naming our library after Will Parry. This brief biography of Will tells a little bit about his life-long dedication to the struggle for social justice and the significance of the donation of his books to the Labor Center.
Born in 1920, Will Parry came of age during the Great Depression. Like his father, who wrote a well-known piece for the Atlantic Monthly in the 1930s called “The Republic of the Penniless,” Will was radicalized by the Depression. He became active in the Communist Party in Washington as it strived to organize the poor and unemployed and played a vital role in helping the labor movement’s resurgence. Will became a journalist for party newspapers, including the People’s World, covering the labor and political struggles of the 1940s. He also stuck to his principles by standing up to the so-called House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954 and invoking his constitutional rights. When he lost his job as a labor journalist during the conservative political climate of the 1950s, Will went to work at a cardboard factory in Seattle owned by Longview Fibre. There he became a rank and file union activist, and later became the lobbyist for the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers where he continued the fight for workers’ rights.
Retirement from the factory did not stop Will's dedication to the working class. He was among the first college instructors in the region to teach labor studies at Shoreline Community College where he inspired new labor activists. Moreover, his work for the past two decades with the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action has put him at the forefront of the fight to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare for all generations, and he remains a tireless advocate for universal healthcare, access to social services, affordable housing, living wages, and labor rights for all.
When Will was moving out of his Beacon Hill home a few years ago, he wanted his enormous personal collection of labor books to find the right home. Betsy McConnell-Gutierrez, a program coordinator at the Georgetown Campus of South Seattle Community College (and an activist within her union, WFSE 304) helped Will move and store his books. When the Labor Center moved from Evergreen to Georgetown in 2010, the books were donated to us—all 430 of them. The books are incredible. Among them are not only some of the greatest scholarship in labor history, but some truly rare books from around the world that deliver unique political and cultural perspectives on the labor movement and other important social movements.
To honor Will, we have created a book plate that appears at the front of every book he donated. It shows an AP press photo of Will at a 1954 HUAC hearing. He’s wearing a “Joe must go” pin – a statement against the red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy who terrorized the left (and even the not-so-left). Will’s book collection has nearly doubled the size of our library. To recognize Will’s contribution to Washington’s labor movement, in September of 2012 the Labor Center's Advisory Committee unanimously agreed to name the entire library fo rhim.
We are deeply grateful for Will's donation to our Center, and for his life-long contribution to the struggle for social justice.