George G. Higgins
Msgr. George Gilmary Higgins (January 21, 1916 – May 1, 2002) was a renowned labor activist. He is known as the "labor priest," and has been a moving force in the Roman Catholic church's support for the late Cesar Chavez and his union movement.
Higgins was a native of Chicago, Illinois, where he attended Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake, where he studied under the visionary rector Msgr. Reynold Henry Hillenbrand. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1940. He studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, obtaining a Master's degree in Economics in 1942 and a Ph.D. in 1944.
Higgins served on the staff of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), now known as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB)/United States Catholic Conference(USCC), from 1944 to 1980 and was Director of their Social Action Department, 1954-1967.He was elevated to Papal Chamberlain with the title of Monsignor in 1953 and was named a Domestic Prelate in 1959.
Higgins taught at the Catholic University of America, served as chairman of the public review board of the United Auto Workers and chairman of the board of the United Farmworkers' Martin Luther King, Jr. Fund.
President Clinton presented Higgins with the Medal of Freedom in August 2000 in recognition of his role as a vocal supporter of the labor movement and an advocate for social justice. Higgins was the 2000 recipient of the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for 'Peace on Earth.'
He died in La Grange, Illinois on May 1, 2002.
The George Gilmary Higgins papers are housed at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.