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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

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