Book Cover

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nell & Walter McDuffie Remembered

This story I know well. My great aunt, Nell McDuffie lived and worked at the Winecoff. She pasted away in 1989.

Her brother Walter McDuffie was one of the firemen to fight the fire that night. When my aunt was still alive she told me the story of the Winecoff and how she climbed to safety across a latter to next building.

My mother has a bread platter from the hotel's china that my aunt got when she returned to her room after the fire. I have not read the book, but would like to very much.

Toby McDuffie

Toby, Your Great Aunt Nell was a huge help to Sam Heys and me during our book research. We came to know her well and liked her a lot! She was a vibrant woman with a sharp memory.

She was our "go to" source for details about the hotel's day to day functions. Plus, her own rescue story is one of the most compelling stories I've ever heard face to face. She had to be brave to crawl across that ladder over the alley way.

Fire Fighting Family


My name is Anne Webb Desrosiers and I live in New Hampshire. I was born in 1941 in Atlanta. I was just speaking with an old Roosevelt High School friend and he reminded me of the horrible fire at the Winecoff Hotel. Both my grandfather and father were firemen present at the fire.

My grandfather was Assistant Fire Chief James Garnett Webb who was overcome by smoke and was taken to the hospital (as I remember being told) and my father was Garnett Pearson Webb. Not too sure of the numbers of the fire stations to which they were assigned.

My grandfather died in 1952 at the age of 64 and from what I remember, it was said that he never got over the physical problems he had endured at that fire. My father went on and retired from the Atlanta Fire Department in 1962 or 1963 and died in 1964 at the age of 49. Both died of heart attacks.

My memories of the fire are very vague as I was only 5 years old but I do remember the smell of the smoke and various cuts, burns and scratches on my dad when he got home the next day.

I intend to buy and read the book. Thank you. For years, I have wanted to remember and honor both my dad and grandfather and all the other firemen who fought that fire and had residual health, (both mental and physical) problems I believe caused by the fire.

Thank you again,
Anne Webb Desrosiers

Thanks so much for writing! Thanks also for remembering for us two heroes of the Winecoff fire. We are familiar with Assistant Chief Webb's name as it appears in some of the accounts of the fire. We did not realize his son was also on the fire scene.

They were not the only father & son team to fight the fire. Richard & Relford Ellington fought it too. Many lives were saved thanks to the bravery of the Winecoff firefighters. All of them were affected for the rest of their lives.