Montgomery, AL Restaurant Fire, Feb 1967
26 LOSE LIVES IN MONTGOMERY FIRE
Teamster Aide, Pepper Included
By REX THOMAS
MONTGOMERY (AP) -A fire which began as tiny flickers in a cloakroom raced through a fashionable rooftop dining room in downtown Montgomery Tuesday night, leaving at least 26 persons dead, including a former state official who was indicted Tuesday.
Pepper, Wife Listed
A spokesman at one funeral home said positive identification had been made of the bodies of former Public Service Commissioner ED PEPPER and his wife ANN. The PEPPERS were dining with friends at the plush cafe when the fire started about 11 p. m.
PEPPER was indicted on two counts of extortion Tuesday by a federal grand jury at Birmingham. The indictments charged he "obstructed and delayed the transportation of goods and commodities in interstate commerce" while a PSC member. A third indictment was brought against PEPPER last November by the grand jury.
Another victim was identified as SIDNEY ZAGRI of Washington, D. C., chief lobbyist for James R. Hoffa's Teamsters Union.
Editor's Wife Killed.
Another body was identified today as that of MRS. JACK DOANE, wife of the sports editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. MRS. DOANE was a hostess at the fashionable restaurant.
Identification was difficult because of the condition of the bodies, which were taken to four funeral homes. A police identification team assisted by FBI experts was set up to help establish the identification.
Hours after the fire has been brought under control, Fire Chief W. T. Mallory said the cause was still undetermined. "We're trying to arrive at that by process of elimination," Mallory added.
Water pouring from the blackened ruins of Dale's Penthouse restaurant atop the 11-story Walter Bragg Smith apartment hotel froze on the sidewalks and streets in the wintry 28 degree night, making it treacherous for firemen and police to move about. A city maintenance truck spread sand over the icy coating.
PEPPER, a onetime cabinet member during former Gov. James E. Folsom's second administration was elected to the Public Service Commission in 1962.
He gave up his place on the utility regulating body to run for Congress last spring, but was defeated in the Democratic Primary by former State Sen. Bill Nichols, who subsequently was elected last November.
Cloakroom Is Scene
In private life, he was an automobile dealer at Ashland, Ala.
Gov. Lurleen Wallace expressed sympathy for the families of the victims "of this terrible tragedy." She and her husband, former Gov. George C. Wallace, stayed up past midnight at the executive mansion half a dozen blocks away, getting telephoned reports from an aide.
JOHN ENGLISH, assistant manager of the restaurant and one of its owners, said the fire began in a cloakroom off the cocktail lounge adjoining the main dining room.
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