Book Cover

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winecoff Fire Touched Murphy, North Carolina

Dear authors,
Thank you for your e-mail about the book.
Yes, I knew 8 people in the fire.
Dr. Bob Cox and his wife Billie, "Little Bob Cox"
, Delilah Chambers, Bob and Pauline Bault, Emogene Bates and her son Gene.

Dr. Cox worked for my father at the hospital in Murphy. He delivered me. Emogene Bates was my father's nurse. Bob and Pauline Bault were the parents of my best childhood friend from Murphy, NC. Their daughter, whom you refer to on p. 31,lives in Atlanta and we keep up with each other.

I was at the memorial service on December 7, 2007. We went to the funeral for Arnold Hardy that afternoon before the memorial service that night at The Ellis.

Bob Cox and his wife had flown in from Hays, Kansas. I had probably not seen Bob since the fire. I was two and a half at the time and he was three. My parents received Christmas cards from the Fishers in Kansas (who reared Bob), so I kept up with him that way - through pictures, etc.

Last Sunday, I was teaching Sunday School to my ladies class and it was appropriate to use things from the book and my experience at the memorial service with the class. Some of my friends had heard part of the story, but not much. They were so enthralled with the story, that I decided to order a book for them. Many want to read it. I didn't want to turn loose of my copy which you and Sam Heys both signed in 2007. It was a book that my mother had had.

The Baults and my parents were best of friends. Bob Bault built my parent's house and after my father died, my mother moved into the last house that the Bault's had lived in in Murphy.

The Baults lived right above my house in Murphy when I was a child. I lived right next to the hospital and Sally lived up on the hill above me.

Thank you for the research you have done on the fire. It is an amazing story.

Becky Haney

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

John Irwin's Daughter Writes

My father was John Newton Irwin. He was the adopted son of Frances and Winifred Irwin. I do not have the names of his birth parents as my grandfather refused to discuss it with me. My mother said that she was told my father's birth parents were a supreme court judge and an English nanny. When you think about it, I guess it was pretty important to keep those identities quiet.

My father was born on September 19, 1923 and died December 7, 1946, at the age of 23 in the fire of the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. I was one day shy of 3 months old at the time. He and my mother had been married only one year at the time of his death.

He served as a photographer in the Allied Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, 1st Oak-Leaf Cluster to Air Medal, 2nd Oak-Leaf Cluster to Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with one Silver and one Bronze Service Star for Bismark-Archipelago, Luzon, New Guinea, Northern Solomons, Southern Philippines, and Western Pacific Campaigns; World War II Victory Ribbon, Army Air Forces Technician Badge with Photographer Bar, Aviation Badge, Aerial Gunner, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star.

It is my understanding that the photographers accompanied troops on missions. The following is a quote from a letter received from George C. Kenney, Lieutenant General, Commander and written to my grandfather Frank E. Irwin on November 18, 1944 regarding the Bronze Star Medal award for heroic achievement against the enemy on Manus Island from May 25, 1944 to June 5, 1944:

Your son was a member of a photographic party of three men who volunteered to make a pictorial record of the hardships and dangers encountered by ground troops on jungle patrols, armed with only .45 calibre automatics, and heavily laden with photographic equipment, they traveled with a ten-day patrol over mountainous country, through five malarial mangrove swamps, and across four crocodile-infested streams. On one occasion your son accompanied a four-man group engaged in a wire-laying mission, during which they twice surprised parties of Japanese. In the first encounter, your son wounded an enemy soldier twice, and the second time, he killed one who was charging another photographer. The heroism and devotion to duty displayed by your son are worthy of commendation.

My mother told me that when he was home he would take me out in my baby carriage and show me off to everyone he met. It makes me so sad every time I think of him and I have always wondered how my life would be different if he had lived. It is heartbreaking to think that he went through wartime without injury only to come home, go away on a business trip, and die in a hotel fire.

Although she (my mother) didn't give me many details, she did say that there was a lawsuit against the Winecoff Hotel and she and her father (John Godbout) received a very small settlement, but only after being subjected to humiliation in the courts and even being called "carpetbaggers." I can only imagine what she must have gone through as a young widow, trying to raise a baby daughter on her own.

Pam Windspirit

Dear Pam,
Strong public reaction to the Winecoff fire forced congress, state legislatures and parliaments around the world to upgrade fire safety codes. Your father is remembered for his service to others. In World War II, to millions of Americans. In his peace, to billions the world over.
Be safe,