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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,

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