Max Shachtman

A Veteran Passes

Rodney Salisbury Dead

(June 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 26, 25 June 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A few grief-stricken lines from Pete Gallagher and John Boulds have brought us the shocking report that Rodney Salisbury died of a brain hemorrhage in the Plentywood, Montana, hospital on June 14, 1938, after a three-day illness. He was fifty years old.

The death of this model revolutionist came as an especially rude blow to those of us in New York – Jim Cannon, Marty Abern and myself – who had known and esteemed him since the early days of the communist movement.

Prominent As Leader

Born on May 2, 1888, in Brinsmade, North Dakota, he moved to Montana, where he homesteaded in the hard days. From the early founding of Sheridan County, which was later to become Montana’s “red county,” he was a familiar figure in and around Plentywood. For years he was among the leading spirits of the fighting weekly of Montana’s workers and farmers, the Producers News, and a prominent leader in every progressive movement.

In 1922, he was swept into office as sheriff of Sheridan County and served three terms. There never was a more unique sheriff in the United Stats, for his “jail” was plastered with the posters of the International Red Aid, the International Labor Defense and the Mooney Defense Committee. Many a homeless and hungry migratory worker learned that Rodney’s “jail” was far more like a hotel for the night.

Ran For Governor

In 1932 he was the Communist Party’s candidate for governor, stumped the state as he had a dozen times before, and did a dozen times after, indefatigable as speaker and organizer of the thousands of workers and farmers of the state who knew him intimately and respected his courage, selflessness and devotion. At the time of his death he was still president of the Montana Farm Holiday Association, which he founded.

Rodney made good friends and good enemies. He hated oppression and iniquity and his only ambition was the triumph of the revolution. And hard-headed and tough-fisted militant that he was, he had no lack of ability to fight for his views. That is why he could not reconcile himself with Stalinism, and joined our movement in its early days. The bureaucrats hated and feared him, and they had good cause.

S.W.P. Pays Tribute

The National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, to which he belonged and in which all his work and hopes were bound up, sent the following telegram to Rodney’s comrade, Pete Gallagher:

“Please convey to Rodney’s family and all friends and comrades our sorrow and condolence at the untimely death of our noble-hearted comrade and friend, Rodney Salisbury His death is a heavy blow to our movement and to all the oppressed who found in him always a faithful champion, counsellor and friend. Our lives are richer for having known him and his undying memory will inspire us to keep up the good fight to the end.”

Rodney is survived by a widow and five children, Michael, Jardis, Camille, and Gene and Patrick.

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Last updated on 30 July 2015