Atlanta, GA Terminal Hotel Fire, May 1938

Terminal Hotel Terminal Hotel and Station


Early Morning Blaze Claims Victims in Sleep - Scores Missing or Injured.

ATLANTA. (AP). A pre-dawn fire that turned the 30 year old Terminal hotel into a flaming horror in ten minutes killed 27 persons and left a score more missing or injured. Engineers estimated it might be two days before the wreckage was cleared and the full toll determined. The hotel register was lost.

The blaze broke out in the basement of the five story brick and frame building about 3 a. m., when most of its guests were asleep. Flames and smoke shot skyward and in a moment every floor was ablaze. Home to many railroad men, the $1 and up a day hotel was situated opposite the terminal station on Spring st., in downtown Atlanta. Traffic for blocks around was jammed as police roped off the area against danger of falling walls. Thousands, some of them relatives, pressed against the fire lines, thruout [sic] the day.

Bellhop Charlie Labon, a veteran of 20 years service, was in the lobby when the blaze caught. He said he heard a kitchen messboy scream: "Oh lawdy, fire" then there was a muffled blast below and flamed puffed upward.

Labon dived for the elevator and Ben L. Berry, 78 year old clerk turned to the switchboard to warn the guests. But the blaze burned out the connections.

Flames Spread Rapidly.
"The flames spread so quickly I had to jump from the elevator cage on the second floor and run," said Labon. "Berry got burned trying to ring the phones. There wasn't anyone got out except those that jumped or got down the fire escape."

Several were killed leaping from the flaming building. The fire choked off fire escapes and stairs a few seconds after it caught.

WILLIAM OSCAR WEBSTER, a Columbus, Ga., railroad engineer, jumped from a fourth floor window. His body tumbled across the street. He was dead when rescuers reached him. One victim was found dead on a second floor ledge of the hotel court, where he had struck in a leap for safety. Some were burned to death and others suffocated. Many of the bodies were horribly mangles in the collapse of floors and steel work.

Firemen told of finding one group, apparently a family. A woman dead in a rocking chair, a little girl knelt by the bead and a man and a little boy lay stretched across it.

One couple, awakened by the smell of smoke, escaped by climbing thru a second floor window and walking a narrow ledge 200 feet to a corner where a ladder was placed.

George P. Jones, hotel manager, said at a hospital he was "too sick to talk." but estimated at least 75 persons were in the structure.

The Identified Dead.

A revised list of identified dead in the fire:

JAMES C BONDS, 31 Knoxville, Tenn a truck driver
L A BUNN McBean Ga
D D WILSON Muscadine, Ala Western Union employe [sic]
A YOUTH of about 15 listed as the son of William Howard Snider of High Point N. C.
W J MORRIS, Fitzgerald, Ga , railroad engineer
R B SUTTLEWORTH, Nashville Tenn
JIMMY OVERSTREET 10, Knoxville Tenn
MRS. JOSEPHINE BACON OVERSTREET mother of the children
MR O F COLLAR High Springs Fla
W O WEBSTER Columbus Ga
MARK WICKER clerk at hotel
W R RUSSELL 41 Birmingham Ala
GEORGE C PARKER Atlanta jeweler
A WOMAN tentatively listed as Mrs. Parker
KENNETH HENRY, Knoxville store manager
A C. WITHERS, Anderson S C

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 17 May 1938