top of page


Billy Irwin’s formal education, in Ireland and the United States, went only to the 5th grade. After leaving the mines and the ring he advanced himself to a number of jobs and positions of considerable responsibility.


He started out as a plugman for the Leadville Fire Department in 1903 and by 1907 he was Leadville’s Fire Chief. He was elected worthy President of Leadville’s Eagle’s Lodge (1908). In 1909 he received the appointment as Deputy County Clerk and Recorder (Lake County), “as a recognition of the services which he had rendered to the Democratic Party.” By 1910 his party peers chose him to be the Secretary of the Democratic Party Central Committee (Lake County).


All of these advancements required more than a fifth grade education and through diligent effort and much self-study he was able to overcome his educational handicap. He self taught himself to type. He took correspondence courses in public speaking and became an accomplished public speaker. And he mastered the art of penmanship. A handwriting analysis expert once examined Billy Irwin’s signature and commented that “he had remarkable hand to eye coordination which undoubtedly must have served him very well as a prizefighter.”


Here (above) is an enlarged copy of Billy Irwin’s business card as President of the Leadville Eagles. The original business card (smaller, smudged and soiled) has been digitally cleaned up. It stands as a visual testament to a man’s efforts to rise above his station (Irish immigrant, miner and prized fighter) and thrive in America, the land of opportunity.

bottom of page