John Byrne was born circa 1866 on a small farm 25 miles south of Dublin near Asford, Wicklow County, Ireland. In 1906 Byrne moved to Los Angeles, California and became instrumental in helping to fund the Irish nationalist movement. Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) emerged in California in 1916, becoming the state's primary Irish American organization. Its main purpose was to gain independence for Ireland. John Byrne was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern California chapter of the FOIF and worked to promote the cause by writing letters and distributing pamphlets. When the FOIF of California merged with Eamon De Valera's newly founded American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR), Byrne became the Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles chapter. Although returning only once to Ireland, John Byrne devoted his life to the Irish nationalist cause.
From the guide to the John Byrne Collection, 1886-1987, (San José State University Library, Special Collections & Archives)