Book Cover

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Winecoff Fire Safety Lessons Still Valid

Hi Allen,

I’m thinking about the Winecoff Hotel fire today – as I know you are - and all of the people who perished and those who’s lives were forever changed. Interestingly, when I was earning my degree in Fire Science and graduate degree in Fire Protection Engineering, we never studied the Winecoff Hotel fire. It wasn’t until several years ago when I was working with Hyatt Hotels on improving their fire protection systems that I learned about the Winecoff Hotel.

But, equally as sad, I never read your book so, I’m going to make that right. I order it yesterday via Amazon and I’m looking forward to reading it over the holidays. Hopefully I order it from you – I want to make sure the authors are getting the profits.

Thank you for everything you’re doing to keep this important story in the forefront. I’ll be mentioning it today during my monthly training with my folks.       


David Combs, MS, CFPE, CFPS, CSP, CIT 

Risk Control Specialist 

FCCI Insurance Group  

Thanks so much for your e-mail. I'm pleased to see a young fire protection engineer such as yourself take an interest in the Winecoff story. There are so many lessons to be learned from the tragedy. 
I hope you'll enjoy our book. It was eight years in the making and it seemed at times we would never finish. There was always some new aspect to be explored. After it was published in 1993 more new information began pouring in and has never completely stopped. Hence, the creation of winecoff.org in 2003.
All best,

Allen Goodwin

Friday, October 21, 2022

Family Mystery

Hi Mr. Goodwin,

My name is Ashley Webb and I am contacting you today because of your website and research regarding The Winecoff Hotel fire. My great-aunt, my maternal grandmother's sister, died in that fire. 

Her name was Ruth Powell and she was there on what I believe was either a school or church chorus trip from Bainbridge, GA. That is unfortunately all I really know. My grandmother would never speak about it because it was such a traumatic time in her life. 

I wanted to reach out to you to see if you had possibly, on the off chance, learned any more information about her or the group that she was with through your research. 
I see that you have written a book and I am looking forward to reading it sometime soon. If there is anything other information or groups to join, please let me know. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Ashley Webb
Ms. Webb,
It's good to hear from you. Ruth Powell and the other Bainbridge victims were attending a Youth Assembly sponsored by the Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y, parts of the YMCA. She was a delegate to the assembly which is a mock legislature held yearly at the Georgia state capitol. The tradition was only in its second year in 1946. The assembly still meets every year. Students play the roles of legislators, introduce and vote on bills and generally get to know the legislative process.
Ruth must have been a good student to become a delegate. She was also selected "Best Mannered" among her Bainbridge High School senior class.
In all 30 student attendees (seven from Bainbridge) and two faculty advisors (one from Bainbridge) perished in the Winecoff fire. They came from all over Georgia. This only compounded the tragedy and spread much misery across the state. 
I'm not surprised your grandmother refused to talk about it. That was a common reaction. Most of the delegates had brothers and sisters and my co-author, Sam Heys and I have met many of them over the years. Most were left in-the-dark and curious about the fire, like you were.
Our book will fill you in. If you can't find it in your local library there are links to Amazon.com on our website. Also, if you type - Bainbridge - into the search box on winecof.org several posts will pop up. Ruth Powell's photo appears on our Remembrance Page.
Once you get familiar with the fire I can put you in touch with a woman who knew Ruth Powell.
Thanks for writing to me! Where are you writing from today?
All best,
Hi Allen, 
WOW! I am overwhelmed with emotion with your response. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so thorough and detailed in your response. I have learned more about her from you than I have in my 35 year life. She was always a person that I knew existed in time and died in the fire and that was about it. It wasn't until 2 years ago that I saw her picture for the first time while going through my grandparents' things and had to ask several family members who this person was because I had never seen a picture of her before that. 
It's funny that you have on record that she was there for a Youth Assembly as what my family has always told me was that she was in Atlanta for some sort of chorus trip, they never knew whether it was for school or church, and clearly they were wrong on both ends. 

I will look into getting the book from Amazon tonight as I always want to have a copy. I am very anxious to learn more about the fire. After I have gone through your website and read the book, I would love nothing more than to meet the woman who knew Ruth Powell. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking that someone out there still remembers her and can speak about her. 

I am writing from Washington, DC. I have lived here for 12 years now and lived, believe it or not, in Atlanta, GA before that. I was talking to my husband and telling him that in my 23 years of living in Atlanta my mom never even took us to where The Winecoff used to be or any of the memorials for it. I think my grandmother's trauma was passed down to her. But as I am getting older, I want to remember Ruth and keep her memory alive for all of her many great nieces and nephews. 

I truly cannot thank you enough for your response and look forward to keeping this conversation going. I think it is absolutely wonderful that you and Sam have provided some much needed answers and history for families seeking this information because nobody would talk about it with them, including myself. 

All my best, 

Thank you for your kind words! I've arranged a three way phone call between you, me and Sara Parker. Sara knew your great-aunt, Ruth Powell, well. Sara's looking forward to speaking with us.
All best,

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A Winecoff Fire Survivor Writes On The 75th Anniversay of The Tragedy

Dear Mr. Goodwin

As I was three years old at the time, I don't remember the night but have gathered many stories and met people involved in the fire event. I want to recall the Winecoff story today and thank you and Sam Heys for all you have done to bring it to the attention of those of us who want to remember. 

I hope you will post your thoughts of today's moment of history. You and Sam have kept the story alive and we who read your work appreciate all you have done.
Bob Cox
Winecoff rooms 1002 and 1004
son of Robert and Billie Cox who did not survive
Thank you Dr. Cox!
In Georgia, today we honor your parents and the other 117 victims of the fire as well as the brave Atlanta firefighters who, thankfully, saved you and dozens more.
Allen B. Goodwin

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Goodson Family Remebered in Pictures

Mr Goodwin,

Recent news reports of the tragic building collapse in Florida made me remember my family stories of  the Goodson family who perished in the Winecoff Hotel fire in Atlanta in 1946. When my mother died in 2014, I found photo negatives (2 3/8 x 4 inches) of the Goodson family in a box of mementos in her closet. She never threw anything away. I wonder if you might like to have those negatives for your memory archives?

Mr Goodson had been a geologist with the Pure Oil Company, living in the company camp in Clay City, Illinois at the time of the fire. My father, Fred Pampe, was a young geologist hired by the Pure Oil Company at the end of the war in December 1945. Because of the housing shortage, my parents, my brother and I were living with my grandparents on a farm near Parkersburg, Illinois for a year until a house came available in the Clay City Camp in December 1946. The house had been occupied by the Goodson family, parents and two children,  who died in the Winecoff fire.

My parents bought some of the furniture left by the Goodsons and moved to the house in Clay City. I recall two full size beds, a sofa, coffee table, dining table and buffet which my parents kept for decades. The sofa and coffee table are pictured in one of the negatives. The photo prints were probably given to surviving family, but the negatives were left behind, probably in a desk drawer or something. My mother, Mary Louise Minkler Pampe, never threw things away and the negatives survive today in a paper envelope from the Speith’s Photo Service in Olney, Illinois with a note written in my mother’s handwriting saying “Goodson’s Negatives”.

If you would like to have the negatives, please advise where they should be sent.

Cheryl Pampe Fowler

Lake Jackson, Texas

Ms. Fowler,

Well, YES! I'd be honored to care for the negatives. I'll share your find with our readers. I expect you learned reverence at an early age, moving into a home where tragedy had struck so recently and so completely. I'm sorry about the loss of your mother in 2014. I think it's really sweet that she held on to the negatives all her life.

Thank you,

Allen Goodwin 

Update! Negatives received & processed. The Goodson family photos are here.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

An Atlanta Reader Writes

Hi Allen,

I want to let you know how much I am enjoying reading your book about the Winecoff Hotel Fire--the level of detail in the research is meticulous, and you and Sam really paint a picture of what it might have been like to have been there on that terrifying night.

What an incredible story--it is clearly devastating because of the loss of life but also inspiring because of the drive of the survivors and family members to go on, and the resolve to use the event to change fire codes and make buildings safer for everyone. I wish more Atlantans knew about this story


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Georgia Reader Writes

Hi... I really enjoyed your book, and have passed it on to my daughter. It came up on my FB page. I grew up in Warm Springs GA and just love anything about our great state.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Ellis Hotel Visitor Writes

Dear Allen,

Your book arrived in the mail yesterday and I am well into it. In my eagerness to acquire more information about the fire, I didn't even take note that I had ordered it from an author! Only when I opened the book and saw the signature AND the date, did I realize it was from you!

 My only connection to the fire is that my wife and I just spent the better part of the week of Dec. 12 at the Ellis Hotel, room 1110. While touring the Georgia Capitol, we saw an exhibit regarding the Winecoff fire and a photo of a survivor, etc. While I was in high school, I participated in a similar mock government experience as some of the victims.

I had never heard of the Winecoff fire and was a bit disappointed in myself that I hadn't. After being at the Ellis several days, I happened to swing around the corner of the building to read the plaque on the south side. Holy crap, THIS was the Winecoff! I then had a very enlightening conversation with one of the managers (I believe). He did seem a bit concerned that I felt safe. I did.

Regardless, it's a tragic story, but it served as motivation to build structures smarter. My thanks to you for preserving this story and committing to the task. This involves time and work and should be acknowledged. I am greatly enjoying this book and already recommending it to friends.

Ric Frambach

Dear Ric,

Thanks for writing. The Ellis Hotel is rigged out with all the latest fire safety technology today. But in 1946 there were no fire escapes, no fire alarms and no sprinklers. The hotel's operators are well aware of the building's history as are the men and women of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. Everyone minds their Ps & Qs during routine inspections. No one cuts any corners.

It's amazing and heartening really, seventy years after the Winecoff fire, those responsible for fire safety there today are so inspired to do their best.

All best,

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Fire Service Reader Writes

Hi Allen,

I read your book "The Winecoff Fire" and it was excellent. I enjoyed the thorough and meticulous research that you and Sam did and all of the very detailed info that was included in the book. What an absolute tragedy that people thought there was such a thing as a "fireproof" building. While reading other stories about the Winecoff and Cocoanut Grove fires when I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to work in fire prevention, which is what I do now, so hopefully my contribution is somehow saving lives.

Thank you again for writing such an excellent book.
Kathy Woofter

Thank you for your kind words and good work, Kathy!
All best,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Broken Hero

Mr. Goodwin, 

My father, J.C. “Bill” Lawhon, was a firefighter at Station 4 and responded to the Winecoff.  I’m traveling to Atlanta with my husband for a business meeting and his firm has booked him at the Ellis Hotel (formerly the Winecoff).  I read your book a few years back and appreciate your attention to detail and historical information.  My father was best friends with Rick Roberts and in fact my parents, Bill and Pat, introduced Rick to his second wife, Daphne.  The often socialized together. 

After the fire my father struggled to come to terms with what he witnessed.  He once told me he was left standing once the fire cooled and thus was among those sent in to recover bodies.  This haunted him.  He left the Department about a year or so later and went into a business his brothers had started, Refrigerated Transport.  But, he was plagued with alcoholism which set in a few years later.  His time in the Army in New Guinea where he saw too much death was coupled with the Winecoff memories and this made for a hard life for him.

At times he would mention a particular scene that haunted him.  This was his phrase “that poor child had her head stuck in the toilet trying to get air and was there just charred”.  Please understand this phrase was often uttered when he was in a drunken state but I heard it often as a child and knew he’d seen things that affected him greatly.  He was a strong, tall man and once told me that had he been smaller and less strong he’d have succumbed to fatigue and dehydration the night of the fire and would not have been able to do body recovery.  He seemed to regret being tall, strong and broad shouldered. 

Now, here is my question.  I know there is a plaque at the Ellis because I took a trip and asked to see it a few years ago.  But, are there any other notable areas of the hotel I might show my husband?  Any other artifacts anywhere?
Thank you so much for keeping this story alive and relevant. 


Dear Peggy,

Thank you for writing to me. The plaque is now on the South side of the hotel.

The 2007 renovation was very thorough. So, the interior is all modernized, although the hallway configurations remain largely the same. The exterior remains mostly the same as it was when the hotel was first opened in 1913.

Thank you for sharing your story with me today, Peggy. May your father's soul rest in peace. As a hero's soul should.

All best,
Allen Goodwin

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marietta Firefighters Remembered

This Marietta, Georgia  fire engine saw service at the Winecoff Hotel fire
Hello Allen,
I've got the names of the firefighters from Marietta who fought the Winecoff fire: Verlin Wilson, who drove, Louis Nix, Gene Hughes, Captain Fred Addison and Chief Howard Schaffer. They were requested at 5:00 a.m. that morning. When they arrived they assisted with aerial operations and search and rescue and were there for five hours according to newspaper accounts. No official documents exist.
Chet Wallace

Dear Chet,
Thanks for these names. The Atlanta Fire Department issued the maximum, four alarms, "all men and equipment to the Winecoff Hotel," then called for help from other Georgia cities. Years later the arrangement was formalized into Mutual Aid agreements between the area's fire departments. Descendants of the brave Marietta men are urged to submit photos of them to be included in this space.
Be safe,

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Reader in Atlanta Writes

Good afternoon,

I've been reading about the Winecoff Hotel Fire for a couple of weeks now. I've been living in Atlanta for 5 years and never heard of this event. I stumbled upon your website and the facts about the Winecoff fire after hearing about it at the Ellis Hotel. I was visiting a friend from Tennessee who was staying there and we were both floored. I work at a law firm and have read about similar fires at The Station Nightclub and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and could not believe something this scale happened here in Atlanta. I stopped to look up at the building as I left the hotel and shivered.

I will be purchasing your book from Amazon this week. Thank you for your detailed and respectful website. I wish more Atlantans knew about this sad, pivotal chapter in our history.

Take care,

Dear Ash,

Thank you for your kind e-mail. Please write again as you learn more about the incredible tragedy that occurred right on Atlanta's most famous thoroughfare. For books click here.

All best,

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Reader in Philadelphia Writes:

Dear Mr. Goodwin,
I received my book yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to note that you were thoughtful enough to sign it for me.
(Always nice to have an autograph.)
I started the book last evening and was immediately engrossed - you're not one for preliminaries.
I've been a Casualty Claims Representative for various insurance carriers for the past 35 years and take an interest in these type of accounts.
I've noted that in most cases of horrific loss of life from the Coconut Grove fire to the Station nightclub (would direct you to John Barylick's"Killer Show") the root cause is usually greed.
Again, I thank you for your courtesy and wish you all the best in the future.
Paul Bidus

Thank you for your kind e-mail and useful observations, Paul.
All best, Allen

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Salvation Army's Role Remembered

This photo page from The War Cry
was recently discovered by Jeff Jellets
(Click to Enlarge)
Dear Mr. Goodwin,

First, let me just congratulate you on a superbly researched and grippingly told history of the Winecoff Hotel fire. As an emergency manager and disaster responder, historical disaster events have always fascinated me and your book was one of the very best in terms of documenting what happened, the aftermath, and the investigation as to whether the fire was intentional.

Reading those chapters sent a bit of a chill up my spine -- as I live in Fayette County -- and am familiar with many of the place names. I also work for The Salvation Army and was intrigued by your mention of them in the book.

Thank you very much for shedding light on an event that should never be forgotten.

Jeff Jellets

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for your kind words. The Salvation Army played a crucial role in the emergency response to the Winecoff Hotel fire.

Hotel secretary, Nell McDuffie, having barely survived the fire herself, quickly became overwhelmed by the hundreds of inquiries from frantic family members concerned about their loved ones. She asked that all phone calls be routed to the Salvation Army headquarters. There, comparing lists of the guests, the injured and the dead, the Salvationists provided information, often grim, to hundreds of callers.

As concerned people flooded into Atlanta, other Salvationists worked in pairs to assist grieving relatives in locating their loved ones. Salvation Army officers were stationed at Grady Hospital. As the hours wore on, the Salvation Army helped identify many of the most badly burned victims using tiny clues like jewelry and bits of clothing. Sue Mitchum was among them.

As the days passed the Salvationists helped with funeral arrangements and even conducted several themselves for those with no other options.

The vital work of the Red Cross on the fire scene and the Salvation Army rounded out an impressive and compassionate response to Atlanta's biggest disaster since the Civil War.

All best,

Monday, September 30, 2013

Legend of Courage

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I am beginning to read your book about the Winecoff fire for a second time. My great aunt, Nell McDuffie, was one of the survivors who was originally interviewed for the book, and her brother, my Great Uncle Walt McDuffie was one of the fire-fighters who responded that night.

I do remember visits with my Aunt Nell and I remember her telling us about wrapping her head in wet towels and climbing across a ladder to be rescued from the great fire. Aunt Nell was such an interesting person. She died before I was truly old enough to ask the right questions and appreciate the stories.

Thank you, also, for having such an interest in this important event and for sharing the stories with us all.

Most Sincerely,
Lynn Dunklin 
Dear Lynn,
How nice to hear from you. Nell McDuffie was a tremendous help to us during our book research. Since she had worked at the hotel, she helped us picture the day-to-day operations there. She was well placed in the hospitality industry because she was such a likable person! I visited her in her apartment home on Ponce de Leon Ave. in the late 1980s. She was very gracious. My co-author, Sam Heys, got to know her through many follow-up phone calls.
We could tell she enjoyed working at the hotel, especially during the era when the Winecoff was one of the Robert Meyer Hotels. She admired the man and his approach to the hotel business. She told me he modeled his hotels after the Statler (now Hilton) hotel chain.
Her telling of her miraculous rescue was completely spellbinding to me. The courage of Walt McDuffie and the other fire fighters remains an example to the world.

All best,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Survivor's Son Writes

Hello, Mr. Goodwin:

I wonder if you have any Winecoff Hotel fire photographs of my father, Andrew (Andy) Babb of Winchester, Virginia.

He was injured in the fire, but survived.

He was in Atlanta on behalf of the National Fruit Product Co. of Winchester, VA. He was chief chemical engineer with the firm and looking at plans for a National Fruit plant being built somewhere in Georgia. 

Years ago I saw a photo of Andy taken just after the Winecoff fire He was recovering in a hospital. There was a patch over his eye. Ironically, he was smoking a cigarette. Next to him was my aunt Roasalie Oakes of Atlanta. Rosalie and Andy had had dinner that night. She taught at Agnes Scott and rushed to the scene from her apartment after she hear the sirens.

Any information about this photo would be greatly appreciated. 

Yours truly,
Drew Babb


Dear Mr. Babb,

Yes, I have a photo of Andrew Babb. But not the exact one you've described. It's a newspaper photo published shortly after the fire. It was republished December 6, 1993 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the occasion of a gathering of the fire's survivors. (Click to enlarge).
All best,

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guided by God, Gregory Vojae Escapes

Mr. Goodwin,

I have a copy of your book and enjoyed reading it. It is an excellent account of the fire. My dad was not in the fire, however it occurred on his 37th birthday. He and mom lived in Dahlonega at the time and had to go to Atlanta the next week on an appointment. They passed the hotel "remains" at that time and were overwhelmed by the scene.
I found out about the Winecoff fire when I was in the 5th or 6th grade from an article in Guideposts magazine in 1965 or 1966. One of the survivors wrote an article about surviving the fire for the magazine. Are you aware of that article and do you know if I could find a copy of it any where? I would love to have a copy of the article. I appreciate anything you can share on this and thank you for writing a great book on the fire.

Thank You,
Dale Lowman

Hello Dale,
Thanks for writing. The Guideposts Magazine article you read appeared in the June 1965 issue. It was written by survivor Gregory Vojae. His room, 1014, was on the Ellis Street side of the building. His article he tells of his struggle against panic when he realized he was trapped by the fire.

Click To Enlarge
Reciting the 91st psalm he prayed for Devinne guidance. In his article he argues convincingly that it came to him, granting him a sense of calm, and commanding that he not rush his escape. When his moment for survival arrived he was ready and empowered to seize it. Outside his window and ten floors above Ellis Street he swung from a his sheet rope to a manila rope and then to a fireman's ladder.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Winecoff Furniture Restored

Dresser Recovered From The Winecoff Hotel
Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I have a bedroom suite that I believe my father purchased from an auction of furniture from the Winecoff Hotel. It is the only bedroom suite I remember my parents ever using. The suite consists of a double bed, a dresser with mirror and a chest of drawers. Both chests have marble tops.

I remember when my father got the pieces. We lived in College Park, Georgia. He refinished them in the late fifties or early sixties. As a young girl, I would "help" him from time to time.

To my knowledge, the bedroom suite was refinished only once. The mirror is somewhat wavy, I feel certain that it is original. The hardware is original. The middle drawer still has its lock but the locks are missing from the other drawers. I don't believe there are any scorch marks on the furniture.

Thank you for helping me to learn more about this important event and its significance for my family. It is so sad that so many high school students attending the Youth Assembly were lost in the fire. Coincidentally, as a senior in high school in College Park, I too was a delegate to the YMCA Youth Assembly.

Thanks again,
Canton, Georgia

Dear Beth,

Thanks so much for the photo. Not every room in the hotel was burned and a variety of furnishings were recovered. It's great to know a complete bedroom suite from The Winecoff Hotel is still intact. I also know of a Winecoff Hotel table, now in Roswell, Georgia and a grand piano in Pine Lake, Georgia.

After the 1948 civil trial, the hotel's furnishings were sold at auction to help satisfy the judgement of the court. It's likely your father bought the furniture at that auction. Please know, his dollars went to those who deserved them - the injured survivors and the victims' families.

All best,
Allen B. Goodwin

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lucky Honeymoon

This Winecoff Hotel Room Is
Believed To Be The Bridal Suite
Dear Mr. Goodwin,

Congratulations on an excellent book. Though obviously a tragic subject, I still found it to be well written and captivating.

Just recently I learned, much to my surprise, that I have connections that go back to the hotel and 1946. I discovered that my parents - from Birmingham - spent their honeymoon in Atlanta and at the Winecoff in September of 1946 and were horrified by the news of the fire in December - apparently so much so that they never discussed it with me. I only discovered this in the last few years.
I'm told they felt they were among the "lucky ones" - those who were not in the wrong place at the wrong time later that year.
Again, thank you for an excellent book.

Very best wishes,
Dave Robertson
Lexington, Kentucky

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Georgia Reader Writes

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I just finished your book this weekend. I plan to reread it. It is REAL! It breaks your heart on one hand but makes you marvel at the human spirit on the other. I love the fact that the little boy whose father threw him to safety became a doctor like his dad had been. Thanks again for your book.

Belinda Seaman
Canton, Ga.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

California Transit Reader

Dear Mr. Goodwin:
The book arrived today and is FABULOUS! Thank you so much for signing
it. It's a present for my brother and I know he's going to love it.
Thank you again.
Sheryl Aumack

Ms. Aumack,
Thanks for the kind words and all best to you and your brother.

Mr. Goodwin,
I gave the book to my brother last night and he was over the moon, and your signing it made it so much more special. Lately, due to rising gasoline costs he has to take two buses and a train to get to work in another county and uses the time to catch up on his reading. He does enjoy non-fiction, and in particular, books on "disasters" (poor term, I know) especially when they are as thorough a work as yours (really cover the history of the "situation" as well the the event itself and the aftermath). I often read these after he does (he never tells me anything that would spoil the reading) and I find I am enjoying these tomes as well as I feel I learn many things as well, historically and on a personal level with those that were involved.

Thank you again and wishing you all the very best in the future.
Sheryl Aumack
Westchester, CA

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Volunteer's Role Recalled

I was living in Atlanta at the time of the Winecoff fire. My Grandfather, Paul Fleming, heard about it on the radio and went to volunteer.

You see, he had only retired shortly before from being an Assistant Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department and thought he could be a volunteer that knew how to help.

Although he liked to reminisce about his past in the fire department, he never talked about that day. Apparently, it was all too much even for an experienced man like him.

My mother was rather protective and I was only 6 years old so she wouldn’t have talked about it to me at the time.

At one time, my grandfather’s assignment had been inspecting buildings for fire violations. Mom said he once commented about the central staircase in that hotel. He said he worried about it because, if a fire ever got started, it would act like a chimney to carry the fire upwards and also block the escape route for about everyone.

Unfortunately, there was little that he could do about it except point out the problem because it was an existing building. Apparently, his concern was born out when the actual event occurred.

Paul Bowen
Manassas, Virginia

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Childhood Memories

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I was in the first grade living on Georgia Avenue, in what is today the parking lot of Turner Field at the time of the fire. I was 10 days short of my 8th birthday. There was a fire station about two blocks away on Central Avenue and fire sirens at night was not unusual. I recall how they went on for hours and the next morning we learned of the fire. My parents and I, like most of Atlanta, went to downtown to see the hotel. I recall we took the trolley to town and there were thousands of people staring up at the building and the sheets were still hanging out of the windows. The smell was bad.

One thing I will never forget, is in the alley behind the hotel and the Mortgage Guarantee Building were trash cans filled with bloody sheets. That I remember vividly.

I was living in Washington State when your book came out and immediately made a purchase. I have read it many times and still find the fire fascinating. Thank you and your co-author for this work.

Michael Dunn

Dear Mr. Dunn,

Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your eyewitness account of the fire's aftermath.

Be safe,

Friday, December 30, 2011

Heart of Wonder

Lingering questions can lurk in the heart, un-answered. We've often found touching stories of teenage friends or even sweethearts left behind by the Winecoff fire.

Now, sixty-five years on, Charles Valentine writes to remember his high school sweetheart, his Bainbridge, Ga. classmates and the search that ended sadly.

During her sixteen years Winecoff fire victim Maxine Willis touched many hearts.

"Maxine Willis was - had been - my girl friend in High School in Bainbridge, GA. I graduated in 1946. I was a freshman at North Georgia College when I heard about the Winecoff Hotel fire. I hitch hiked to Atlanta and searched the morgues until I found her. It was heart breaking.

I knew all the boys and girls and had been a student of Miss Davis. I returned to Bainbridge with (Maxine's father) Mr. Willis and (her sister) Sarah Willis. It was a bad, sad time. I remained in Bainbridge until after Maxine's funeral.
Fire victims Ruth Powell and Sue Broome

"Ruth Powell was Maxine's best friend and I had dated Sue Broome a few times while I was still a senior in Bainbridge High School." --Charles Valentine, October 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Family Research

Mr. Goodwin,

I've just learned of a distant relative's surviving this fire, which I knew nothing of. His name was Langdon Thrash. A photo of him in the hospital in Atlanta went out on the Associated Press wire and was subsequently published in several newspapers.

Survivor Langdon Thrash and nurse Gloria Horton were pictured on December 9, 1946 in the Atlanta Constitution and other newspapers.

Thrash said he survived by putting his head out the window and shutting the window so he could not remove it. He was found unconscious--I never knew this story growing up but you can bet it will become a part of my own family records. Langdon died in 1970 in San Antonio according to Texas records.

I look forward to reading your book.

Best regards,
Debra Osborn Spindle
Oklahoma City

Dr. Spindle,

Langdon C. Thrash's room was on the alley side of the building. It's a miracle he survived!

Good luck with your family research. I hope you come across someone who knew Mr. Thrash. Please let me know if you should learn what became of him and how the fire affected him later in life.

Thanks for writing,
Allen Goodwin

Friday, August 26, 2011

Granddaughter Remarks on "A Mother's Poem Discovered"


Just a quick thank you for working with my brother Mike on the newest addition to winecoff.org: A Mother's Poem Discovered. It's truly a beautiful memorial to Mary Lou Murphy and our Grandmother Pearl Cason Murphy. I sincerely appreciate it.

Kind Regards,
Pat Murphy

Dear Pat,

Heartbroken by the loss of her daughter, your grandmother used her own poetry to restrengthen herself and resume her life of giving. It could work for others. So...her giving continues.

Thanks for writing,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Reader in Adairsville Writes

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I just wanted to thank you for writing such a wonderful book. The fire took place almost 30 years before I was born, but you made me feel as if I was there. It's no longer 2011, but 1946 again and you can almost feel the fear, smell the smoke, hear the sirens and see the horror.

I suspect that is what you and your co-author intended when you wrote the book. I have had it for about 6 months now and I've read it twice.

I live in Adairsville, Georgia, which is about 15 miles east of Rome and really enjoy reading books on Georgia history.

So often in tragedies, people just become numbers but you made sure that each person was given a name and the enormity and pain of their loss is evident. So many wonderful people died that day. It is a sad story, but one that needed to be told and should not be forgotten. You did a great job!

Thank you so much for teaching me about a part of history that I had not known before.

Melissa Alred

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.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Fire Scene Witness Speaks

Allen, --- Just reviewed your stories of the Winecoff Hotel Fire in Atlanta Dec. 7, 1946. I was stationed that night at the Naval Air Station barracks (North Atlanta Airport) near Doraville, as an incoming Veteran student on the G.I. Bill.

The first time I saw the results of the fire was on the next day when some of us came to town to see what had happened. Most of the debris had been cleared and the building was a burned out shell. I was struck by the silent immobility of the city, like time stood still.

What impressed me was that there was so little motion and stark silence in the streets especially Peachtree Street the next day as eventually things slowly came back to life. I remember how the entire city of Atlanta was stricken with grief as a result of the horror of that disaster.

As a soldier in Europe, I'd been in cities all over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany where destruction was rampant, but this was so different. Atlanta was stunned by this tragedy and people just seemed dazed by the impact of the horrible happening in their innocent peacetime city.

I thought I would thank you for doing tribute to those people you cover in your articles. I checked out your website and am very much impressed with the coverage from all the different sources.

One thing as a side issue are the videos you present. I am an avid student of southern accents. Here preserved for posterity, in your website, are those who speak with an authentic Southern Accent!

Thanks so much, --- Vaughn Wagnon --- Charlottesville, VA.

Thank you, Vaughn.
That calm that befell the city after the fire was, I suspect, a mixture of shock and respect for the fire's victims.

On Southern accents: there surely are a variety of them. Here in the Atlanta area you'll hear the Appalachian twang as you travel north and the South Georgia drawl if you travel south! And then there are the sub-groups. For better or worse, the accents instantly reveal much about the backgrounds of the speakers. I know mine could use a little polish!

You are fortunate, Vaughn. To my ear, nothing beats a refined Charlottesville or Charleston, SC. accent. All best, Allen

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,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fire's Impact on Bainbridge Remembered

Mr. Goodwin,

Thank you so much! I have read your book several times and am very excited to give it as a Christmas gift this year.

Eight of the people killed in the fire were from my high school’s (Bainbridge High School) Y-Club - seven students and one teacher - who were in the town for the annual Tri-Y Youth Conference, the same conference I attended every year in junior high and high school. My Y-Club chapter was named after the teacher, Mary Davis. Bainbridge, Georgia is a very small town, and everyone in one way or another has a connection to one of the eight. In high school, I found your most fascinating book on my parents' bookshelf and have read it many times over the years.

My future father-in-law is an architect who works here in downtown Atlanta and loves Atlanta history. When I mentioned the fire recently, he didn't know many details about it, so your book is going to be a wonderful, enjoyable gift for him.

Thanks again for the quick response, I truly appreciate it. Happy Holidays!

Maggie Rentz
Atlanta, Georgia

Thanks so much for your e-mail. The Winecoff fire's impact on Bainbridge is legendary and worthy of further study. Look for more Bainbridge related stories on winecoff.org in the months ahead.
Be safe,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Blue Ridge Reverend Writes

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I recently ordered your book from Amazon and must tell you that I couldn't put it down. The signed copy arrived in the post on Saturday and by five o'clock the book was read. What prompted me to order it was being in Atlanta at a theological conference the week before and standing looking up at the Winecoff (Ellis) at night.

I first learned the story of the Winecoff fire in the '90s when an elderly woman in McCaysville (not far from Ducktown, the home of one of the victims) gave me a copy of the Atlanta Constitution featuring the now-famous picture of the woman falling.

I am writing to say you and your co-author did a masterful job in telling a story that needed to be told.

The Rev.) Victor H. Morgan
St. Luke's Church, Blue Ridge, Georgia

Dear Reverend Morgan,

Thanks so much for your kind words about our book! When you keep your ear to the ground it doesn't take long to find living links to the Winecoff fire. Remember, we are always on the lookout for photos of the fire's victims and survivors to further humanize the story.

Thanks for writing,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Reader Writes

Hi Mr. Goodwin,

My name is Chester Wallace and I just got done reading The Winecoff Fire and I must say this is one of the most interesting reads! I want to thank you for writing this very intriguing book and sparking my interest in this terrible tragedy.

Chet Wallace

Dear Chet,

I couldn't have done it alone! Without Sam Heys the book would still be a hundred pounds of research materials in cardboard boxes!

Be safe,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Eyewitness To The Fire Scene Writes

Dear Mr Goodwin:

I just wanted to let you know how interesting I found your book.

I was 12 years old and living in Cartersville, Georgia when the Winecoff burned. My father had just died and on that fateful day, his brother and wife came to take my mother and me Christmas shopping in Atlanta.

About half way there my mother opened the newspaper she had brought along and read about the fire. The adults debated about continuing but decided to do so. Our first stop was always Davison-Paxon's. We saw the Winecoff only hours after the fire had been extinguished.

I am 76 now but that sight has never left my mind. Over the years I have come in contact with people who had some connection to the fire. In my own church there is a lady who survived the fire and a man who was supposed to go to the Youth Assembly but could not due to illness. The boy who replaced him perished in the fire. I have not discussed the fire with them out of respect for their privacy.

Thanks so much.

Carol Lowery

Dear Carol,
Thanks for sharing your story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Lasting Impression

I ordered your Winecoff Fire book this past Tuesday night through Amazon.
I was born and grew up in Atlanta. I was only six when the fire occurred. That Saturday / Sunday afternoon (?), after the fire, Dad had to drop off some reports at his work place on Luckie Street. I rode down with him and, after dropping his reports, we went by the fire scene before heading home.

I can picture Dad and I stepping over rows of fire hoses as they lay running down hill to drain and dry out as we tried to get closer to the burn site. The building was still smoking and the firemen were gathering up their equipment. I remember it being eerily quiet while we were there.

As a six year old, I was more interested at the time in jumping the hoses than learning of the seriousness of what had happened earlier. It was many years later before I really became aware of what had happened that morning.

I bought a copy of your book some years ago and read it several times. Later I told former classmates about your book and; after they read it, some wrote back about members of their own families being on fire trucks who answered the call. I was just an observer that weekend; but I have found out over the years how this tragedy effected families throughout Georgia.

The recent death article of Clarence Luther Leathers, Sr. (96), who was a responding fireman that morning, spurred memories of the stories of the fire. I must have lost my earlier copy of your book during one of my moves; so I'm replacing it now.

The fire touched many lives in different ways. So many innocent lives lost.

Bill Stewart
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Mr. Stewart,

Thanks for sharing your story with me. You are, I think, the youngest eyewitness to the fire scene - with a living memory of it - that we've heard from.

Survivor Richard Hamil (room 1524) was nine years old. We've spoken with him many times. The two other child survivors that we know, Bob Cox (age 3, room 1002) and Connie Foster (age 1, room 508) were too young to have any memories of the fire today. We've spoken with many who were teens at the time.

Be safe,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clarence Leathers Remembered

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I recently purchased your book as a memento to read with my father. My father was Clarence Leathers and until recently, he was the oldest retiree from the City of Atlanta Fire Department. However, he passed away June 12, 2010 before I could give him the book. I know you interviewed Rick Roberts who also was a fireman at the Winecoff. There had been an article in the retiree newsletter asking if anyone else remembered working the Winecoff and that Rick Roberts would like to talk to them.

Well, my dad had a nice chat with him. Rick had thought that, at 93, he was the oldest retiree, but my dad had turned 96 in April. Last month, I was able to record less than a minute about what he did at the Winecoff and he stated that he carried hoses up to the other fireman and then they also tried to extinguish the fire. I wish that he could have spoken to you.

When I was growing up, I remember my mother, (who died in 1973) stating that this particular fire was traumatic to many of the firemen. She stated that so many people jumped from the burning hotel and that my dad would wake up sometimes to the sound (in his mind) of bones popping and to the smell of charred flesh. He never talked about the fire with me though other than when he mentioned being at it with the other firemen.

I am finishing your book now. My dad's obit should be in the Atlanta paper tomorrow. He will be buried at Westview Cemetery on Wednesday, June 16 and visitation will be at the Whitley-Garner at Rosehaven, Douglasville, GA on Tuesday between 6-9. I don't know how many firemen are still alive and will be able to attend the services. But I appreciate your writing the book so that I could get an idea of the fire that I only saw paper clippings about.
Thank you,
Vera Leathers Ankrum

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Reader in Florida Writes

I received the book I purchased from you about the Winecoff Hotel fire. It arrived in great shape, and I appreciate your signing it. I was glad to find it on eBay. I read a few pages last night, and I’m already hooked! Compiling the stories of so many people from a time gone by is not an easy feat, but you have done a fine job in structuring the tale.
My interest in the hotel’s history, incidentally, was sparked by a recent stay at the Ellis. Although I am an Atlanta native, I had no knowledge of the Winecoff fire. In fact, I managed to stay oblivious to the events of 1946 throughout my stay at the Ellis. It was not until I was later describing our hotel to my father and stepmother, who live in Ballground, Georgia, that I learned of the fire. They both made the connection to the Winecoff and did a pretty good job of recounting the history. For them to each have such good and independent memories of the fire is a testament to the significance of the event.
Thank you, again, for the excellent eBay service and for your detailed preservation of an important moment in Atlanta history. I look forward finishing the book!

Thanks, Ed.
The Winecoff fire story is unknown to many Atlantans. That's no accident. Big fires are bad for business. By 1947 Atlanta's business and political leaders felt that the sooner the whole thing was forgotten, the better. The mayor even ordered the Winecoff's large sign, still affixed to the side of the building, taken down, condemning it as a grim reminder of the fire. Plus, almost everyone who had any direct involvement with the sudden tragedy had reason to want to forget it. Everyone wanted to put it behind them. Still, they were all affected for the rest of their lives. It simply couldn't be forgotten but couldn't be discussed either! I expect your folks remember vividly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of the fire. Almost everyone we interviewed during our years of research recalled exactly where they were that day. Like the Kennedy assassination and the World Trade Center attacks, this was Atlanta's Titanic.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reader Visits Fire Scene

Mr Goodwin,

I read your book some time ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yesterday, I rode the elevator up to the top of the Ellis. Walking through the halls of the hotel--the same floor design as the Winecoff was eerie. I'm glad to finally see a successful hotel in its building. Every time I go to Atlanta I drive by the Winecoff.

Charles Newberry
Gray, GA

Mr. Newberry,

Thanks for your e-mail. Like you, I'm so pleased that the building is again being put to good use. I'm glad you got to look around inside the building.

I know that eerie feeling the halls can give but I think that's because we know so much about the day of the fire and not so much about the happier days there from 1914-1945.

We know from our interviews with long time Winecoff Hotel employee Nell McDuffie that there were many days of joy and grace within those walls. It was, after all, a first class hotel for most of those years hosting wedding events, honeymoons, business and charity luncheons, family reunions and all the things that give fulfillment to our lives.

It's sad that one act of cruelty can define a site for sixty-odd years and push aside in our minds everything else that happened there. But, by-in-large, that's what's happened.

Thankfully, more good days are underway and more pleasant memories are now being made at the Ellis Hotel.

Be safe,

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,