The Carbondale Koppers Tie Plant Workers


Robert Ollie - Photo by Amelia Blakely for Pulitzer Center.

Robert Ollie

Photo by Amelia Blakely for Pulitzer Center: A Tale of Two Brownfield Sites in the Midwest

Charlie Brown

Photo by Amelia Blakely for Pulitzer Center: A Tale of Two Brownfield Sites in the Midwest

Charlie Brown - Photo by Amelia Blakely for Pulitzer Center.


  • Charles A Rudolph October 19, 2021
    I worked at Kopper’s from 1974 to 1991 when the...
  • Rev Sonja Ingebritsen October 1, 2021
    I am so thrilled to see this history witnessed and...
  • Joe Boor September 30, 2021
    I grew up in Carbondale. I knew Koppers was there...
  • Arlinda Steele Morgan September 29, 2021
    For years this was a place that we thought was...
  • Shri A. Verrill September 29, 2021
    May health and justice prevail!

Shelly Chappell

Shelly M. Chappell worked at Koppers Tie Plant from his late teens until his retirement in the late 1960s. Mr. Chappell was an aggressive fighter for the members of his local of the United Mine Workers of America District 50. Mr. Chappell, a change agent, made an impact in the community and a difference in the lives of Black Laborers and their families. As President of the United Mine Workers Union for the Koppers’ Plant in Carbondale, he was key in the negotiation of wage increases for the plant workers. He headed the local 12176 union in the Summer of 1950 during an eight-week strike that ended in significant gains for the laborers at Koppers in Carbondale, IL. He was still president of the Local in 1960 and helped negotiate even more gains for the works. After three key negotiations failed, he led a strike of 115 common and skilled laborers. The strike slowed down the plant for 17 days but lead to a bargaining agreement with the workers for a pay increase. The Local had represented Koppers laborers since 1941.

Mr. Chappell had been a resident of Carbondale since the early 1900s. Born in Spring Hill, Tennessee, he migrated to Carbondale with his parents, Amos and Belle (Fowler) Chappell along with several brothers and sisters. He married Ida Melton on August 28, 1919 and they parented six children.

Shelly Chappell was known as a community activist and politically charged man in the community. He continues to be remembered for his stand for better work conditions and wage increases. The Koppers Tie Plant was one of the main reasons for the rise in population of blacks on the northeast side of Carbondale. Koppers provided homes for workers and their families, and other workers found it worthwhile to move to the northeast side to be in close proximity to the plant.

Other acts of Mr. Chappell’s service include City Auditor, an elected office with City of Carbondale; Past Worshipful Master of the Masonic Tuscan Lodge #44; and a Past Patron of Marion Chapter No. 17 Order of the Eastern Star.

Shelly Chappell

PDF Downloads:

Southern Illinoisan, Sun. May 1 1960: Union Shop Agreement at Koppers: Article May 1 1960 Koppers | Image

Southern Illinoisan, Aug. 26 1950: Koppers Plant Workers Due To Return Sunday


Versus Smith and Shelly Chappell

Versus Smith and Shelly Chappell

Image credit to The Southern Illinoisan, July 25 1961: Carrying 200 pound ties at Koppers Wood-Treating Plant

Versus Smith and Shelly Chappell

It’s impossible for us to know the names and stories of all the men along with their families and friends who were affected by the Carbondale Koppers Tie Plant. We honor their memories and keep them in our hearts.