Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thomaston Plaques Re-dedicated

A crowd of seventy people filled Memorial Hall in Thomaston, Georgia to re-dedicate the plaques honoring the Youth Assembly delegates and their faculty advisor who perished in the Winecoff Hotel fire. Friends, family and classmates of Mary Minor, Earlene Adamas, Patsy Uphold, Christy Hinson and Virginia Torbert were among those who gathered to remember the five young women, who when faced with certain death, showed uncommon faith and courage.

Patsy Uphold's Bible was recovered from room 1430
Firefighters found evidence of panic throughout the hotel. But not in room 1430. There they found this Bible on the bedside table, opened to this page containing the verse: "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled..." Beside the Bible, the five suffocation victims lay peacefully, side by side, on a double bed.
Ed Cliburn

Reverend Edwin L. Cliburn addressed the crowd calling the Winecoff fire a "defining moment" for Thomaston. He called it, "a time of supreme sorrow." But one that inspired a spiritual rebirth that eventually "had a good wholesome impact" on the city.
Thomaston-Upson Couny Archivist Claude Burgess stands beside the newly re-dedicated plaques. He often fields questions about the Winecoff fire.
The re-dedication was organized by Donna Auth.
The Thomaston Times' front page coverage is here.
Also see: Thomaston Girls Remembered.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big Bets

Winecoff Fire co-author Sam Heys never undertakes anything small. The former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter has completed another epic book. Big Bets: The Decisions & Leaders That Shaped Southern Company.

The lights didn't come on in Georgia all by themselves. Bringing electric power to the South took vision, strong backs and nerve. Heys and co-author Dub Taft tell the century-long story of powering the New South.

Sam Heys' newest book is now available from

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rick Roberts

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department has announced the passing of retired Battalion Chief Thomas H. "Rick" Roberts.

In 1946, then Private Roberts was summoned to the Winecoff Hotel fire on the first alarm. Using ladders and nets, he and his crew rescued many hotel guests from high windows along the Peachtree Street side of the 15 story building - at extreme peril to their own safety.

Roberts went on to serve a long and distinguished career in the Atlanta fire service.

Thirteen days before his passing, on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Winecoff fire, Roberts and two other Winecoff firefighters returned to the hotel for a special luncheon. There they were honored personally by Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and three of the fire's survivors.

"Rick" Roberts was ninety-four.

More here.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Winecoff Firefighters Reunite

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran welcomes Winecoff firefighters R.B. Sprayberry, Rick Roberts and Jim Smith

The sixty-fifth anniversary of the Winecoff Hotel fire was marked by the return of three heroes to the scene of the fire.

Winecoff fire firefighters R.B. Sprayberry, Rick Roberts and James Smith were the honored by Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran at a special luncheon hosted by Winecoff Fire co-authors Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin at the Ellis Hotel.

Also on hand to express their gratitude to the firefighters were three of the fire's survivors: Margaret Foster, Connie Foster Broom and Richard Hamil as well as eyewitness George Goodwin.
Margaret Foster and daughter Connie Foster Broom greet Rick Roberts, the firefighter who in 1946 rescued them by ladder from their fifth floor room. Photo by Donna Bowman

The three former Atlanta firefighters signed autographs for an impressive turnout of well wishers and gave interviews to local media outlets.

The fourth living Winecoff firefighter was unable to attend for health reasons. Raymond McGill, 94, explained, "I'm in no shape to go up there." He sent his best wishes.

WSB-TV & WAGA-TV's coverage of the event is here 

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