Happy Labor Day!

It’s been a while since I’ve released a blog post, and I only have myself to blame. Coming of the summer book tour which took me to many locales around the Great Lakes I found myself thrown back into the reality of having a day job. While it was fun and rewarding travelling around the Great State of Michigan in support of the book, Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, life became a bit hectic in the remaining weeks of August and the bills demanded that they must be paid. So I resigned myself to the fact that Oprah has yet to read my book and tell her millions of followers to buy it, and therefore my focus had to turn back to daily tasks of earning my keep.

I had planned on writing an expansive piece on Rev. Law’s thoughts on the strife between the Labor Movements and the corporations of his time as we had a lot to say about it. Unfortunately I ran out of time to have it ready for this Labor Day. Hopefully I will have enough time (and ambition!) to complete it for you by the next time Labor Day rolls around.

Suffice it to say the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes was in favor of people “getting a square deal” from those who employed them and he was not a fan of greedy corporations that squeezed their employees in name of making more profit. He was also not a fan of some in the Labor Movement who used strong-arm tactics to cripple industry as a tool to demand more than what was deserved. His thoughts on the subject were complex, some might say a bit naive, in that he believed corporations should strive to be moral when it comes to labor relations.

But, alas, I failed in my task to have an article ready for this Labor Day that truly explains the expanse of his thoughts on the subject based on his beliefs and experiences in the time that he lived. Instead, I have decided to give a bit more insight into his own “Labor Movement” within his work toward rewarding the men of the United States Lifesaving Service.

In that regard I am including in this post the full text of the article that ran in the Detroit Free Press two days after the passage of the Coast Guard Act of 1915. Law had spent the previous 15 years lobbying the government of the Unites States in instituted better pay and pensions for those in the USLSS and Lighthouse Service and while the passage of this bill was only half the battle (Law would continue his efforts to bring the Lighthouse Service under the umbrella of the Coast Guard for the rest of his life) you will see he was quite pleased with the results so far:


Detroit Free Press Article
Detroit Free Press Article – Jan. 22, 1915


Detroit Free Press: Jan. 22, 1915

Senate’s Action Victory for “Sky Pilot of Inland Seas”

Worked unceasingly for his “2,000-Mile Parish”

W. H. Law, “Laughing Doctor, “Wins Fight for Friends on Great Lakes

There’s a roly-poly, laughing, ruddy-faced 62-year-old sailor in Detroit these days who is leaving himself open to criticism for conduct unbecoming a bishop with a 2000-square mile parish and silver locks.

He is W. H. Law, 135 Pine Street. Known from Pawtucket Light to the last light tower in the Alaskan hinterland as the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, “The bishop of the Inland Seas” and “The Laughing Doctor.”

The cause of his personal mirth is the passage Wednesday by the senate of a bill which will place life-savers on par with navy men and naval reservists, and – this is the important point – pension them on retirement.

Never Quit Fight

When this important bit of news percolates to the last life saving station, the “Sky Pilot’s” mail will assume the proportions of that of a mail order house, for the “Sky Pilot” is the real daddy of the life-savers pension bill and when others after years of discouragement were giving up, he kept on developing new ways of bothering congressmen and senators to gather their support.

The bill provides a 10 per cent increase in pay at the end of every five years of service, and after 30 years the chance to retire with 75 percent of the salary and allowances as a pension. It also places the life-saving service in a new department, The United States coast guards, subject to orders from the Treasury Department. Senator Townsend of Michigan drafted the bill and assumed charge of it after submission. “Sky Pilot” Law started the ball rolling by addressing personal letters to every congressman and senator asking for their support. He got 60 favorable answers.


Congressmen Were Afraid

“Congressmen and senators always were willing to pension the life savers,” said “Sky Pilot” Law Thursday, “but were afraid. The service has the same attitude toward the government as the does the civil service commission and if they pensioned the lifesaver they left the field open to the vast array of civil service employees. They couldn’t do that, so we decided to ask for a reorganization putting the lifesaver on par with the naval reservist and the navy men, where he belonged. By this amalgamation the service becomes greater than a branch, It is a definite part of a new department.”

The bill will affect 2,000 men, 276 in 64 stations on the great lakes, the rest in 221 ocean stations.

21 years “Sky Pilot”

For 21 years W. H. Law has been known as the “sky pilot” of the great lakes. His parish extends from the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence river to Duluth, his parishioners number into the tens of thousands. Each year he pay several visits to every life saving and light station on the great lakes, bringing books, delicacies, mail and good cheer to the men.

Each year he addresses a personal letter to every man in every life saving and light station in American Waters. His lecture text is laughter and optimism; his gospel, optimism, laughter and happiness; his sermon, happiness, optimism, good cheer and laughter. He preaches the doctrine of “fellowship of humanity.”



Buy your signed copy of Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes! $15.00 US + S&H from the Square Marketplace.





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John Kotzian was born in Rogers City, Michigan located on the shore of Lake Huron and raised some 30 miles away in Hillman, Michigan. He is the great-great-grandson of the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, Rev. William H. Law.

His passion for the Great Lakes and its history grew from the stories handed down through both sides of his family about Rev. Law’s travels and relatives lost in the sinking of the S.S. Carl D. Bradley.

He currently resides with his wife, Kimberly, in Brooklyn, MI.
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