I started coal mining April 9, 1928. I quit school and my father said, If you're going to quit school, you'll have to come work with me in the coal mines. So that's what I did.
I started in No. 2 Mine and worked there until 1935. Then I went up into No. 1 Mine. It was an old seam of coal that was all broken. I worked in No. 1 Mine until 1954 and then they transferred all the No. 1 miners back into the No. 2 Mine.
No. 1 Mine was worked out and they had us stop working it because the seam was above the No. 2 seam and it was causing some severe bumps on the main slope of No. 2. The company thought there was a risk the main slope could be blocked and would trap some coal miners.
I worked there until just a month before the disaster occurred in 1958. Being chairman of the mine committee over a number of years, I knew this disaster was going to happen. I used to preach that the conditions were right for a major bump and that it would kill a lot of men. So I decided not to go down into No. 2 Mine no more.
As I said, I didn't work for a month. But the day of the disaster, in the morning, a very good friend of mine came and told me the three hand-loaded longwalls on three levels were lined up. I said, They're going to kill everybody in the mine. He said the officials were telling the men that the mine would never bump again.
That night at 8:00 p.m., the disaster happened and it killed 79 men. My two brothers, aged 36 and 34, were killed as were my brother-in-law John Jackson and my first cousin, Tommy Tabor. I took part in the rescue and helped them get the bodies.