Cemetery 24 O'Brien Joel.jpg


Joel Heaton O’Brien (1914-1991).

To honor Labor Day in 1960, the ABC television network broadcast Land of Promise, a half-hour history of working conditions and the labor movement, narrated by Melvyn Douglas. Produced by Joel O’Brien for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, it told the story from the vantage of Mr. Average Worker. Viewers would probably have had no idea that the producer’s mother, Mary Heaton Vorse, was recognized as one of the great chroniclers of the labor movement, though is she is better known locally as the author of Time and the Town. O’Brien’s father was Joseph O’Brien, who died 19 months after Joel was born. Joel worked as a radio script writer, then as a correspondent with the Coast Guard. In Mary Heaton Vorse: The Life of an American Insurgent, Dee Garrison places Joel in London in the 1940s, which is also the period in which a Joel O’Brian produced programs for the British Broadcasting Corporation, according to IMDb. I’m assuming they’re one and the same O’Brien. Garrison also reports that O’Brien won the National Brotherhood Award in 1960 from the National Conference of Christians and Jews “for a public service production that discussed restrictive housing policies in the United States.” In the 1970s, O’Brien was the host of The Heritage Series — “interviews with interesting people and general information of a historical nature about Provincetown” — on WVLC-AM and WLOM-FM in Orleans, predecessors of WOCN. He wrote a lovely reminiscence for Provincetown Trapboat Fishing: The End of an Era. In the 1980s, he lived at 195 Bradford Street. He’s buried with his mother and his half-brother, Heaton White Vorse.

¶ Last updated 23 July 2017.

Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key N-71, Page 19.

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