Wayne Holley, steelworker, CPUSA leader

Wayne Dallas Holley, steelworker, scholar, activist and lifelong member of the Communist Party USA, passed away on Dec. 30, 2003. He was 93.

Holley dedicated his whole life to the struggles of working people in Utah and around the world. Just weeks before he died, he was one of hundreds who gathered on the steps of the Utah Statehouse to protest the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Holley said in the Salt Lake Tribune, “I see many things that remind me of the ’30s. The economy, the job situation, nothing being done about it.”

Wayne Holley was born in Mapleton, Utah, on Nov. 23, 1910, to a devout Mormon family of farmers, one of the first to settle in Utah in 1848. He attended nearby Brigham Young University, as well as the University of Utah and Heidelberg University in Germany, receiving degrees in Germanics and Philosophy.

Holley traveled to Germany on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or the Mormons) in 1929. While in Germany, he witnessed rising fascism and the Nazi Party, including a speech by Adolf Hitler in Eastern Prussia. “I will never forget the look in those diabolic eyes,” recalled Holley. He called his first trip to Germany his “first awakening” where he began a lifelong commitment to fighting oppression and right-wing extremism.

Holley served in the U.S. Army in Burma during World War II. Returning from the war, Holley abandoned his promising academic career and worked as a crane operator at U.S. Steel’s Geneva Works for 25 years until his retirement in 1975.

Holley successfully defended against attempts during the McCarthy-era witch-hunts to remove him from his job and the steelworkers union which he had helped build. He also successfully fought false charges by the Subversive Activities Control Board under the unconstitutional McCarran Act.

Holley was also victorious in defending his membership in the LDS church. Up until the end, Holley remained active in the steelworkers union and was a proud member of the LDS church and the CPUSA. He was the founder of the Communist Party’s Joe Hill Club in Utah.

Holley worked for all economic and social issues including universal health care, fair housing, jobs with justice, women’s issues, and all movements for peace. He fought against nuclear testing at the Nevada test site, the Viet Nam War, and the MX Missile Program. He fought for truth, justice and equal rights for all, regardless of social sanctions or consequences.

He is survived by his wife, four children, and numerous grand and great-grandchildren, all of whom are proud of the legacy he left to them. Wayne will be greatly missed.