MOSCOW — Henry Winston, the blind national chairman of the U.S. Communist Party for two decades and a veteran labor leader of the Depression era, has died in a Moscow hospital, the Tass news agency reported Monday.
Sources said he died either Friday or Saturday of complications from an operation on a recurring brain tumor that blinded him while he was imprisoned in the 1950s. He was 75.
State television showed a picture of a smiling and youthful-looking Winston and a broadcaster read his obituary on the air--a rare tribute to a foreigner.
Winston joined the Young Communist League in 1931 and rose steadily through the ranks before joining the Communist Party of the United States in 1933 at the age of 22. Five years later he was elected to the Central Committee and in 1947, after serving in the United States armed forces during World War II, was named secretary of its organizational committee, Tass said.
Among his labor efforts in the 1930s was his organization of a march of unemployed from Kansas City to Washington.
In 1949, Winston and 10 other of the nation's top Communist leaders were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the American government. Winston went into hiding but gave himself up in 1956 and was sent to the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind.
There a brain tumor was diagnosed but he claimed later that a delay in treating it caused him to go blind.
President John F. Kennedy commuted his sentence in 1961 and Winston continued his efforts on behalf of the Communist Party, becoming national chairman in 1966.
The Soviet Union awarded him several honors, including the orders of the October Revolution and the Friendship of Peoples.