Honoring FLOC Leader Jack Kilroy

We are very saddened to announce the passing of Jack Kilroy, one of FLOC’s longtime supporters, organizers and leaders. No one could ask for a better friend, a better comrade in the midst of battle than Jack Kilroy.  Jack was our San Patricio warrior that never stepped back from shoulder to shoulder in our fight with the Campbell Soup growers, or the sheriff’s department even when beaten, harassed and targeted.   

Throughout the decades, Jack was unwavering in his efforts to advance human and labor rights. He remained steadfast in his support of FLOC and migrant worker organizing. Today we want to take a moment to honor his contributions and sacrifices made for the betterment of farmworker lives in the United States.  

Jack first became involved in FLOC in the early 1970s, during the early days of our organizing. He was FLOC’s attorney when we first began to organize tomato farmworkers across the Midwest. During this time, our organizing efforts were met with violence, racism and extreme resistance from the public. The atmosphere of the time is best shown in FLOC’s Labor Day demonstration in 1979. On September 1st, to intimidate organizing efforts, the Putnam County police began arresting members at a Labor Day action. Many FLOC members and leadership, including President Baldemar Velasquez, were arrested and held without charge in the county jail. (pictured below) 

Being FLOC’s lawyer and an advocate for justice, Jack went down to the county jail to speak with those detained. The deputies prevented Jack from communicating with those being held and beat him unconscious. The deputies beat Jack so aggressively that they fractured his skull. He sustained such significant brain damage he was unable to practice law for three years.  

A picture of Jack Kilroy after being beaten unconscious by Putnam County deputies outside the county jail.  

Jack and FLOC eventually went on to sue Putnam County for harassment, intimidation and assault and eventually won a groundbreaking out-of-court settlement in 1984. Jack never gave up his pursuit of justice. He took the three years to recover his health, then was right back to the frontlines organizing and supporting farmworkers and those at the margins of society. He was unwilling to be deterred in the face of violence and harassment. Jack continued to serve on our non-profit board, supporting the many organizing campaigns after the Campbell Soup victory up through the victory of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company that brokered the agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association.  

We must never forget the sacrifices Jack Kilroy made to support FLOC’s organizing efforts. The rights we have today were hard fought for, oftentimes with blood and sweat. We honor Jack by continuing our fight for justice, no matter the obstacles.  

His steadfast support and unmatched loyalty can never be replaced and one can only hope that he be an inspiration to freedom fighters everywhere

Rest in Power Jack.  

Hasta La Victoria

Baldemar Velasquez