Jack Conway: A Career in Images

(46013) Jack Conway

The images chosen from the newly opened Jack Conway photographs reflect Jack T. Conway and his close relationship to Walter P. Reuther. Conway served as Reuther’s close aide for over a decade, and is seen below with Reuther at speeches, demonstrations, and even a fishing excursion. When Walter suddenly passed away in 1970, Jack stood vigil by the casket during the memorial service.

Although he was born in Detroit in 1917, Conway’s union involvement began in Chicago. While attending the University of Chicago during the 1940s, he joined UAW Local 6 at the Buick Aviation Engine Plant in Melrose Park. At Local 6, Jack met an up-and-coming Walter Reuther, beginning a prolific professional relationship and dear friendship. When UAW delegates elected Walter as their International President in 1946, he offered Conway a job as his aide. Conway provided Reuther with indispensable counsel for 15 years, also representing Reuther’s viewpoints during collective bargaining and other UAW initiatives.

Conway left the UAW in 1961, becoming deputy administrator for the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency under the Kennedy Administration. Some of his notable accomplishments included working on the passage of the Omnibus Housing Act of 1961 and the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In March 1963, he took on the executive directorship of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department. During this period, at the personal request of Robert Kennedy, he helped to raise bail money for Martin Luther King, Jr. in jail in Montgomery, Alabama.

He returned briefly to government service to help organize the Office of Economic Opportunity under Lyndon B. Johnson. He led development on the Community Action Program as a part of the War on Poverty. The Community Action Program was the start of such initiatives as VISTA, now associated with AmeriCorps. After his resignation, Conway continued in politics by chairing the national committee of Americans for Democratic Action during the 1968 presidential nomination, and continued advocating for labor friendly politics. His activism for the common worker remained a central point in his life until his death in 1998 at the age of 80.

This project was created as a part of the Michael S. Wells Digital Librarianship Endowed Scholars Fund at the Reuther Library by Katie Okonowski. Katie is an MLIS candidate at Wayne State University’s School of Information Science. She would like to thank Michael Wells and the Conway family for making this project possible. In addition, she would like to thank the Reuther staff for their time and generosity during the creation process. This post was co-written by Katie and Gavin Strassel