Cecil Edward Roberts, Jr., a sixth-generation coal miner and one of the labor movement's most stirring orators, became president of the United Mine Workers (UMWA) of America on October 22, 1995, having served as vice president of the union since December 1982. Roberts succeeded Richard L. Trumka, who was elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
Born to Evelyn and Cecil E. Roberts, Sr., on October 31, 1946, Roberts grew up on Cabin Creek in Kanawha County, W.Va. His great-uncle, Bill Blizzard, was a legendary organizer during the West Virginia mine wars of the 1920's and a UMWA district president under John L. Lewis. Both of his grandfathers were killed in the mines.
After college and military service in Vietnam, Roberts began work at Carbon Fuels' No. 31 mine in Winifred, West Virginia, in 1971. He worked for six years in a variety of underground jobs including general inside laborer, shuttle car operator, unitrack operator, greaser, beltman and mechanic.
In August 2004, the UMWA membership again elected Roberts by acclamation to a new, five-year term. This is the first time in UMWA history that the membership has elected its president three times in a row by acclamation.
In addition to serving as UMWA president, Roberts has also held office or worked on behalf of several other organizations over the years, including serving on the Committee for Employer Support of Veteran Employment and the West Virginia Employment Opportunities and Economic Development Commission. In 1985, he was elected president of the National Council of the Holmes Safety Association. He has also been appointed to serve as a member of the West Virginia University Institute for Labor Studies and Research Advisory Board in 1996 and he is a member of the American Legion, and a lifetime member of the VFW.
Roberts graduated in 1987 from West Virginia Technical College, and in 1997, he received an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from West Virginia University of Technology.