Sunday, October 30, 2022

Who Was She?

Ruth Powell, 16

When Winecoff Fire reader, Ashley Webb, 35, found an old photo among her grandmother's effects she started asking questions but got few answers from her family. "She was killed in a hotel fire," she was told. No further details were forthcoming so she reached out to winecoff.org. We determined her photo is of her grandmother's sister, Winecoff fire victim, Ruth Powell, 16. Ruth was in Atlanta on December 7, 1946 as a Youth Assembly delegate from Bainbridge, Ga. 

We arranged a phone call between Ashley and Sara Parker, 92, who knew Ruth Powell well. The two women spoke for fifty minutes and Sara shared her wonderful and vivid memories of Ruth Powell.  "Ruth was just the sweetest and funniest, always in the best mood, laughing and fun," person to be with. Ashley was thankful for the call and the women made plans to meet.

Ashley Webb's e-mail inquiry to winecoff.org is here.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Gainesville High School Plaque Re-Dedicated


A brief but moving ceremony was held at Gainesville High School December 7th to re-dedicate the school's plaque honoring the memory of the four senior girls - Gwen McCoy, Ella Sue Mitchum,  Suzanne Moore and Francis Thompson - who perished in the 1946 Winecoff Hotel fire. 

New construction on campus has forced the plaque to be moved a few times over the years. This latest outside placement is in a prominent space on campus and is easily visible to visitors. Originally a wall plaque, it's now affixed to a large smoothed stone and looks excellent. 

Listen to Sandra Parrish's WSB Radio News report here. See Berndt Petersen's WSB-TV News report here. See Paola Suro's WXIA-TV News report here.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Gainesville, Georgia Plaque Re-Dedication December 7th

Winecoff fire victims Suzanne Moore, Ella Sue Mitchum, Gwen McCoy & Francis Thompson
The Gainesville Times reports a brief ceremony is planned at Gainesville High School December 7th at 4:30 p.m. to re-dedicate the plaque honoring the memory of the four senior girls who perished in the Winecoff fire. New construction on campus has forced the plaque to be moved a few times over the years. The public is invited. The Gainesville Times notice is here.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - 75th Anniversary Article

In Atlanta, December 7th is a date that lives in infamy for two reasons: the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the 1946 Winecoff Hotel fire. Veteran Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Bo Emerson has written an article for publication December 7th. But the article is already available for viewing on AJC.com, the newspaper's pay-to-read internet service that is free for regular subscribers. Emerson's 75th anniversary article is here.

Update: Bo Emerson's article has been picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer as well as the U.S. News & World Report website via the Associated Press. Read it here

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Saturday, November 13, 2021

Winecoff Book Makes New-Media Debut

 

The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire is now available in e-book and audio-book form. 

The e-book is here.

The audio-book is available on Audible, Google Play, Chirp, Scribd and Rakuten Kobo.

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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Vintage Goodson Family Photos Surface

Gladys Goodson and son, Joe III, circa 1943
Newly discovered photos of the Goodson family of Clay City, Illinois have surfaced. Cheryl Pampe Fowler tells the story of her discovery here. The photos are here.
 

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Once in a Lifetime Test of Courage

Grover C. Williams 1939

Friday night in Atlanta, the war was over and a festive atmosphere pervaded the city. After a night on the town, 35-year-old Grover Williams and a buddy were looking for a room. They stopped by the 15-story Winecoff Hotel but were told it was already full for the night. No vacancy. So they walked a short distance to the corner of Houston and Pryor Streets and checked into the Avon Hotel. 

When silence finally descended on the city, the men were safe in the Avon. Then came the commotion on Peachtree Street: a cacophony of screams and sirens. One man said it sounded like the crowd at a football game. 

Out of the Army and back on the job with Atlanta's Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Williams and his buddy went to investigate. What they saw shocked Williams into a life of silence on the subject. 

The Winecoff Hotel December 7, 1946

A scene of horror played out before a growing crowd on Peachtree Street. Fire was working its way up the Winecoff, forcing guests out of their windows. They saw a shower of window screens, suitcases, broken glass - and bodies - falling from the hulking brick structure. 

A once in a lifetime test of courage lay before the two men. His buddy peeled off, done for the night, but Grover Williams stepped up. He helped Atlanta firefighters with a net on the Peachtree Street side of the building. Suddenly, Dr. Bob Cox, 33, and his three-year-old son struck the net from high above. Dr. Cox's head struck the net's rim, killing him,  but his son, little Bob, landed on the net and was scooped up by Williams, who took him to an ambulance bound for Grady Hospital.  

Williams worked 36 years for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Atlanta.
 
Whatever else Williams saw and did that night died with him in 1996. He never spoke about the Winecoff fire. He only revealed the story of the net rescue forty-eight years later when he met the one person whose right-to-know outweighed his own need to repress the whole experience: little Bob Cox, all grown up, and a physician like his father. The two men met in 1994 when a historical marker was dedicated at the site of the Winecoff, honoring the fire's 119 victims and the firefighters who saved the rest.
 To Bob Cox, Grover Williams told his story. Cox wrote in 2021, "he (Williams) was emotionally touched when he met a person he had helped survive. It was a special time for both of us." 
(Photo by Sheryl Cox)

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Monday, December 07, 2020

Winecoff Fire 74th Anniversary Articles

 

Seventy-four years ago today Atlanta's Winecoff Hotel burned. 119 perished. Ed Grisamore has written about the fire for The Macon Telegraph. His anniversary article is here. Also, The Rome-News-Tribune remembers the fire here.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Facebook Users Remember The Winecoff Fire

 As the 74th anniversary of the Winecoff fire approaches Facebook is abuzz with talk and remembrances of the tragic event. Links are here, here and here

Monday, January 20, 2020

Winecoff Author Presents New Book

Today Winecoff Fire co-author, Sam Heys, announced the release of his newest book, Remember Henry Harris. Harris was the first African-American athlete to earn a major sports scholarship in the Deep South. Inspired by the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, “We must be the change we want to see in the world,” Harris walked the walk of Jackie Robinson but on the basketball court of Auburn University, where in 1968, a warm welcome was hardly assured. Sam Heys reveals the whole riveting story. Heys' eye for courage amid tragedy is unparalleled in literature today. Remember Henry Harris is also available on amazon.com.