James McNamara , Gompers, and John McNamara , 1911 (Brown Brothers)
On Oct. 1, 1910, an explosion and fire killed twenty people and destroyed the Los Angeles Times building. Calling it "the crime of the century," the newspaper's proprietor Harrison Gray Otis blamed the disaster on organized labor, a charge denied by trade unionists.

In April 1911, however, James McNamara and his brother John , an officer of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers , were arrested-- James in Detroit and John in Indianapolis--and charged with murder; John was also charged with involvement in the Dec. 25, 1910, dynamiting of the Llewellyn Iron Works in Los Angeles.

The McNamaras were taken to Los Angeles and imprisoned; on July 12, 1911, they pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. James McNamara's trial began on Oct. 11 and for many weeks focused on jury selection. Then, on Dec. 1, in an arranged settlement, James McNamara pleaded guilty to the murder charge; he was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in San Quentin prison in 1941.

John McNamara pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the dynamiting of the Llewellyn Iron Works in Los Angeles and received a fifteen-year sentence. He was given an early release in 1921 for good conduct and returned to Indianapolis, where he served as financial secretary and business agent of Structural Iron Workers 22 (1922-27). In 1924 he was arrested for allegedly blackmailing and intimidating employers into hiring union members. He was convicted in 1925 but released pending appeal, and in 1932 the Indiana Supreme Court overturned his conviction. He spent most of his later life on a farm near Fortville, Ind., returning to Cincinnati shortly before his death in 1941.


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