Book Cover

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Seat Of Honor

Robbie June Moye's Rocking Chair

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

My name is Kristy Moye Griffin. My great-aunt Robbie June Moye, 16, was a victim of the Winecoff Hotel fire. She was in Atlanta with a group of girls from Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga. My grandfather was Robbie June's only sibling. My family seldom, if ever, spoke of Robbie June; I think the subject was too painful even decades later.

I was lucky enough to have my Great Grandmother (Robbie June's mother) for the first 11 years of my life; I shared a very special bond with this extraordinary woman. She restored an old rocker of Robbie June's for me when she found out my mother was expecting; and from the moment I entered the world she did her level best to spoil me rotten! However, despite our closeness, it was not until days before she died that she ever mentioned my late aunt. She told me while she sat stroking my hair that she once had a little girl just like me. Looking back, I think she knew she was about to see her little girl again.

I am currently expecting my first daughter, and I am in the process of repainting the same rocker my Granny lovingly fixed for Robbie June, and then for me. Knowing the story behind the rocker, my curiosity led me to search the Internet for information on my aunt. I was so excited to come across your web page. Just looking at the old photographs of the fire has been very emotional for me. I will definitely be ordering the book so I can learn more about this terrible chapter in my family's history.

Thank you so much for this site, and for taking the time to read this e-mail. I will scan a picture of Aunt Robbie June to be added to the memorial page.

Thanks again,
Kristy Moye Griffin

Dear Ms. Griffin,

Thanks for your e-mail. It is a poignant one. Your description of your great grandmother's words likening you to Robbie June Moye is lovely. The sentences are full of imagery. It's likely that in that moment, you filled the empty place in her heart. It gave me chills. Conversely, her words should give you warmth.

We have added your photo of Robbie June Moye to our Remembrance Page.

Robbie June Moye must have been a good student of exceptional character to have been chosen a Youth Assembly delegate. Her passing brought sweeping improvements to fire safety codes worldwide. I hope her mother knew that. Prepare that little rocking chair with love in your heart. It is a seat of honor.
Robbie June Moye In Her Rocking Chair - Circa 1930

Thanks so much for writing to me,
Allen Goodwin

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dwight Morrison Remembered

.Dwight Morrison, Sandy & Russ Newbury


My friend Rob kindly contacted you about my hunt to determine the name of the victim who was my Dad's good friend. We've figured out his name was Dwight Morrison, the World War II bomber pilot mentioned in your book. My Dad's name was Russ Newbury and he and my Mom lived in Decatur at the time of the fire. He had always told us that he raced downtown when he learned of the fire and identified his friend's body. I'm sending you a picture of Dwight with my mother and father, Russell and Sandy Newbury, for your files.

All we really know is that my father was travelling that week and wasn't due home until around 4 in the morning, so they had planned to visit with Dwight the next day, had not seen him yet. My mother felt guilty until the day she died because she always thought that if my dad had not been travelling, Dwight might have stayed with them at their house instead at a hotel (the mores of the day, you know - it wouldn't have been fitting). My father wouldn't talk much about the war. He landed on Omaha on D day and we didn't find this out until last year - and only because my brother visited Normandy last summer and discovered it! But, the few stories he shared were of "escapades" with Dwight. He sounds like such an amazing man and was such a great loss to the world. I know my parents were devastated.

I found your book so interesting! I raced through it the first time and will have to reread it to really absorb the totality of it all. My tears flowed so many times as I read. Knowing my Dad was one of those grimly searching for his friend . . .

Janet Newbury Daurity
Myrtle Beach SC

Dear Janet,
Thanks for the photo and we can confirm the man on the left is Major Dwight Morrison. (Room 1026). America lost one of her heroes in Dwight Morrison. He survived sixty-five bombing missions over Europe only to perish in the Winecoff Hotel fire upon his return. Sadder still is the fact that he left behind a wife, Hilda, and a son born in February 1947, two months after the fire.

To the good, Dwight Morrison and the other 118 victims of the Winecoff fire inspired the fire safety codes the world relies on. Thanks for thinking of him.
All best,
Allen Goodwin

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hooked On This Book

Mr. Goodwin: Thank you so much for the book. However, I must admit that I already had a copy. On a recent bus trip I met a young lady in her 80's. She remembered hearing about the fire and asked if she could borrow my book. The trip ended before she could finish it, so I lent her my copy. That being the case, I just had to have another copy for myself.
I am absolutely "hooked" on this book. I've read it so many times, and yet I'm drawn back to it over and over again. I know it sounds strange, but I think sometimes those lost in that fire are reaching back to us, asking that someone remember them.
No matter how many times I read it, I seem to find something else that I didn't notice before. Thank you, Mr. Goodwin. You and Mr. Heys did a beautiful job. I'm sure that I will continue to enjoy this book, no matter how many times I read it.
Marjorie Wedincamp

Hi Marjorie,
Thanks for your kind and flattering e-mail.
Hooked on our book?!! Sounds like you've got what Sam Heys and I call "The Spirit".
The story of the Winecoff fire is compelling. Few subjects can grip one's imagination so fully...and permanently! The victims do seem to speak to us because we can see our own virtues and weaknesses in their various reactions to the fire.
Over the years Sam and I have heard from many victims' families who've thanked us for remembering their loved ones. It's humbling.
Kind e-mails like yours are equally humbling. Thank you.
Be safe, Allen

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hello Mr. Goodwin,
I received your book today. I know that it is a good book as my husband and I bought the book when it was originally published. We enjoy reading, especially history. Your book was particularity interesting to us as we are both natives of Atlanta. Unfortunately, I loaned my first edition copy to someone and never got it back. Something brought the book to my husband's mind the other day and I was happy to learn that I could still get a copy.
This book will be very special to us having your autograph. I'll not loan this one to anyone!
We are looking forward to reading your book again. As I was looking on line to see if I could find the book, I enjoyed reading all the information that you have provided on your website. The pictures and stories are heartbreaking yet so intriguing. I know that the victims and their families lives changed forever and the victims' families must surely still be affected at present, as they are connected to such a well known part of Atlanta history.
We have no relatives that were involved, just an interest in the story.
My husband was born in '46 and I was born in '58. The Winecoff fire is something that we have always heard about and became interested in learning more about it. I find it ironic that it happened on the same date as Pearl Harbor.
Thank you very much for sending the book right away. I also want to thank and congratulate you for producing such a well written book. In reading your book the reader can tell how much effort, and research went into it. This is appreciated by people that enjoy reading as we do.
Mrs. Janie P. Wilson

Hi Ms. Wilson,
I'm glad you found our website: winecoff.org . I'm also glad you'll have a 3rd edition copy of our book. The first edition was so full of typos it's embarrassing!
Be safe,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Your Great Book

Dear Mr. Goodwin:

I purchased The Winecoff Fire quite a few years ago and just read it again for the third time this past weekend (and I know it won’t be my last re-read). You and Mr. Heys did a phenomenal job with the book – the research and writing was amazing.
Today over my lunch hour, I searched the internet, and, after all these years, found your website. I am so glad you put this together.

I grew up with a fear of fire. Fortunately, neither my relatives or I have had any personal experience with fire. So, I am not sure where the fear came from. At some point past my college years, my fear turned to an interest of wanting to learn more about the famous fires that have taken place in the U.S. That is when I began to read books about all of the famous U.S. structure fires – the Winecoff, Coconut Grove, MGM Grand Hotel, Our Lady of Angels School, Beverly Hill Supper Club, etc.

In addition to my reading I have done some online research and have collected some pre-fire memorabilia from these different sites (i.e., a pre-fire key from the MGM Grand and pre-fire swizzle sticks from the Beverly Hills Supper Club – memorabilia I could acquire on e-Bay). I am a scrapbooker and want to put together a book on each of these disasters. When I saw the memorabilia section on your website, I could really appreciate that.

I am really glad you and Mr. Heys wrote this book. It shines a light on a tragedy that should not be forgotten and one which we can all learn from.

It must have been amazing talking to the individuals who survived this tragedy. I would be mesmerized hearing their stories. It must be frustrating, though, not seeing an exact cause of the fire ever “officially” determined. I assume you support the arson theory, which must make the frustration level even greater…knowing that someone got away with this horrible crime. Do you think it was Roy McCullough who set the fire?

Thank you for reading through all of my rambling. God bless you for remembering the people -- both the victims and the survivors -- involved in the Winecoff fire.

Caroline Lilienthal
Minneapolis, MN

Dear Caroline,

Thanks for your very kind e-mail. Because we worked so hard on the book it's always gratifying to know readers still benefit from it.

I can understand your interest in the families who are touched by fires. We continue to be astounded by the reaction we get from families who tell us we've answered many lingering questions about their loved ones.

A fire's impact on a family seems to outlast the impact of other tragedies: car crashes, heart attacks, etc. What we've learned about the Winecoff fire's lasting impact could fill a second book. Just last week a fellow mailed me a photo of his aunt, Ethel Stewart, room 1228. He just wants her remembered. Watch for a new post soon on winecoff.org that will do just that.

Actually, I don't feel any frustration about the mystery surrounding the fire's origin. In fact, I remain intrigued by it. You are correct, Roy (Candy Kid) McCullough is our favored suspect but Richard Fletcher, room 510-12, the Luckey brothers, room 330 and others were there with motives and opportunities also.

Congratulations on converting your fear of fires to a productive interest in them. That's a good trick. A cool head in an emergency is essential. Our study of the Winecoff fire showed us that many who panicked died unnecessarily.

Thanks again and stay safe,

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Dear Allen,
I purchased your fascinating book about a year ago and after reading it, e-mailed you with the story of how my mother (Sarah Floyd) was one of the two girls from Spalding High school who did not attend the youth conference.
The story had been told to us that my grandmother had a premonition that something bad would happen and did not let my mother attend (leaving only Betty Huguley who survived on the fourth floor). My mother and grandmother have both passed away so, I was wondering if you had anything to corroborate the story (maybe through Betty's interview?).
Also, after reading the book again I noticed a detail that had gone unnoticed before. In telling Betty's story, at the end of one paragraph you had written that Betty was 'reassigned' to a smaller room. I wonder if my mother's story is true and if she and the other girl had attended from Spalding High, would they have been on an upper floor and subsequently perished. If that were true, I would, of course, not be writing this. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
David Reeb

It's probable that your grandmother's premonition did make it possible for you to write to us! Here's more from my co-author Sam Heys:

I have checked my file on Betty Huguley, and she did indeed tell me that two other girls were supposed to go but did not. She said she did not know why they didn't go. She also did not mention their names. I also have a letter that Betty's mom sent to another family member telling her of the entire Winecoff ordeal. She also mentioned that the "other two girls" did not go.
Because Betty showed up by herself, she was given a different room from the one she had been assigned before check-in. We don't know what room that was, but it likely would have been on the 7th floor or above. Only one Youth Assembly group was assigned a room lower than the 7th floor. All four boys from Rome on the fourth floor survived. Four of the six delegates on the 7th floor survived. The other 28 youth delegates in the Winecoff were above the 7th floor and all perished.
Let me know if you have other questions.
Sam Heys

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reader Lauds Historic Presevation

Hello Allen,
I have been enjoying the updates on winecoff.org. After church this morning my friend and I finally visited the Hotel Ellis for the first time and had brunch on the terrace. What a wonderful (and rare) story of historic preservation in Atlanta, and how nice to see 176 Peachtree a happy place again after so long.
Thanks for all your work,
Greg Earnest

Hi Greg,
Great! I'm glad the weather was nice for you today. As you know, the terrace was part of the the building's original 1913 design but was removed after the fire in 1946. It was not included when the hotel reopened in 1951 as The Peachtree on Peachtree Hotel. The dining terrace was restored to the structure in 2007 with the opening of Ellis Hotel.
Thanks for staying in touch,