AKA John Luther Jones
Birthplace: Jackson, TN
Location of death: Vaughan, MS
Cause of death: Accident - Misc
Remains: Buried, Mount Calvary Cemetery, East Jackson, TN
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Railroad hero, sort of
John Luther "Casey" Jones was an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad. By all accounts he prided himself on bringing the trains in on schedule, and thus earned a reputation as a speed demon and risk taker. He was cited nine times for safety violations in a career that ended, as did his life, in the pre-dawn hours of 30 April 1900. In death he became famous as the hero of a popular folk song, written by Wallace Saunders, who is usually described in history texts as "a Negro roundhouse worker" and friend of Jones.
Jones was working a double shift, filling in for an absent conductor after making his own assigned run, and driving his train at speeds up to seventy-five miles an hour past a freight train parked on a side track. The freighter, though, was longer than Jones expected, and where the two sets of rails converged its last few cars were still on the track. Jones hit the brakes, threw the engine into reverse, and knowing that a slower speed at impact would help save passengers' lives, he died holding the brakes. He was the wreck's only fatality, and according to legend his mangled body was found with one hand still gripping the whistle cord, and his other hand on the air-brake lever.
Some suspect that Jones had fallen asleep before the accident. The official report noted that he would have had an "unobstructed view for 1½ miles" of the parked train's flagman, who was frantically waving red and while lights, signaling for Jones to stop. Jones, though, did not slow the train until it rolled over a torpedo -- a safety device strapped to the track, designed to signal danger with a bang so loud it can be heard over the noise of the engine -- which had been placed by the other train's crew. Jones' name is now synonymous with railroad heroism, but the investigation found him "solely responsible for the collision."
Father: Frank Jones (teacher)
Mother: Anne Jones
Wife: Mary Joanna Brady Jones ("Janie", b. 1868, dated 1884-86, m. 25-Nov-1886, d. 1959)
Son: Charles Jones (pipefitter)
Daughter: Ellen Jones McKenzie
Son: John Lloyd Jones Jr. (killed in action, WWI)
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen
Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #993 (3 cents, depicting Jones between two trains, issued 29-Apr-1950)
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