Award of Excellence

The Independent Insurance Companies of Memphis pooled their money and support to award the bravery and the life-saving skills of Memphis Firemen, who went beyond the call of duty to rescue and save citizens even at extreme risk to themselves.

Each Fireman received a $50.00 savings bond and a nice plaque commemorating the event. The Fire Company got a nice flag to show for their efforts.

May 25, 1968,   The Lakeland Sky Ride Incident May 26, 1968, Lakeland Sky Ride Incident this Company rescued 80 trapped victims.

Lakeland Amusement Park, at 4 pm, the $250,000 “ Brussell’s World Fair Skyride “ broke down just as a line of thunderstorms rumbled across Lakeland Park. A sudden gust of wind caused 17 overhead gondola cars to slip off their cables and stop in midair. Eighty riders were trapped; 50 of them were over the lake. All had to be rescued. Emergency Equipment from the Bartlett Fire Dept, The Raleigh Rescue Squad, The American Red Cross Disaster Unit, The Sheriff’s Department, a Snorkel, and an Aerial Ladder Truck 12 from the Memphis Fire Department responded. It took more than 10 hours to rescue all of the riders. The Snorkel truck sunk in the dirt and was unable to be used, but the 100 ft. aerial ladder was used on land, and a 50 ft. three-section extension ladder was placed on the top deck of the paddle wheel boat the “Roberta Lee” and the top rungs attached with a ladder belt to the overhead cables. MFD Lieutenant W.L. Leach climbed the rickety ladder on the boat to reach the first victim, 16-year-old Jane Walsh, with a group of picnickers from St Mary’s Catholic Church. The Commercial Appeal quoted him as saying to her, “Everything is fine, don’t look down, just look up,” he coached her on where to put her feet, and he was close to her the entire time. As she reached the boat, she was met by Mrs. Leona Lisle, a Methodist Hospital nurse member of the Raleigh Rescue Squad. Her job was to calm and comfort the young ones. There was no panic, and everything was orderly. Sheriff’s Captain Phil Cottam and Deputy Louis Cooper also climbed ladders or rescued trapped victims.

Truck 12-A

Captain G. W. Bishop

Lieutenant W. L. Leach

Private C. D. Anderson

Private R. L. Storment

Private R. W. Hudnall


September 10, 1969, at 3 am, Truck 1 B shift responded to a fire at the Rex Hotel at 200 Union Avenue. While fighting the fire on the 3rd floor, Lieutenant A. F. Wilson and Private M.T. Richardson were burned on the face and hands. Fire Chief Edward Hamilton and District Chief George Hall had to be physically rescued when they got turned around and became trapped. Truck 1 was one of 8 other companies that worked the fire. The cause of the fire was a patron smoking in bed.

The Crew

Captain Claude Latham

Lieutenant W. T. Phillips

Driver L.D. Lackey

Private Carlton Medlin

Private T.T. McKay

Private J.C. May

Private R. G. Russell

Drainage Ditch Rescue By Lt Wilburn Leach Truck 12

Honorable Mention this year was to Truck 12, Lieutenant Wilburn Leach, who, on August 18, 1969,  secured himself to a lifeline held by the members of Truck 12 as he entered the Black Bayou underneath Cherry Road to rescue a child who was swept away by rushing waters.



On May 27, 1970,   House Fire was reported at 1620 Apartment B   at 11:28 Pm at 1620  Oakwood, and four children were killed.

Engine 19, with other companies including Truck 6, arrived at a 2-story apartment, fought their way into a smoke-filled apartment, and rescued four children who died later. According to Fire Chief Edward Hamilton, children playing with matches was the cause.

The men from both companies,

Captain Wayne Horton

Lieutenant Jeff Caraway

Lt. Billy Burross took three children out in his arms. He passed them to Fireman John Tindle, who used the Resuscitator on them.

Driver J.P. Carter

Private Clifford Williams

Private Charles Caldwell

Private Thomas Beasley

Private Franklin Mask


February 14, 1971, House Fire, 4:10 am, 3228 Highland Park Place

Fire Chief Hamilton said this rescue required a miraculous job and the crew of Truck 4 and District Chief Fred Maddox’s aide.  

They rescued Miss Marie Hudson 67. As Truck 4 entered through the front, the Chief’s Aide,  R.T. Durham broke the window where she was sleeping, passed out, and rescued her with Truck 4. She was not breathing. According to Deputy Chief Pete Leach, the Resuscitator was used and brought her back—a great team effort.

Truck 4 Crew:

Captain Gene C Morris

Lieutenant William C Owen

Tillerman Arthur “ Smiley” Foreman

Driver George Puckett

Private Jimmy Harmon

Private Burt Brock

Private Thomas Boillot

Chiefs Aid Robert T Durham


June 19, 1972, At 7:45 am, Truck 2 A rescued James E Carter of 388 Carrol Avenue. 9 Firemen got the awards.

Robert Carter was a retired Illinois Central Railroad Engineer. Firefighter W.C. Jenkins and Lieutenant F. L. Higgins broke down the back door and entered as Mr. Carter screamed for help. His home was heavily cluttered, and the explosive fuel load was very high. He weighed over 400 pounds. As they removed him, he passed out in the yard and was treated by EMS personnel. District Chief Thomas B Sullivan said the firemen did “one hell of a job” reaching Mr. Carter. Firefighter M.H. Williams was slightly injured in the fire.

 Crew Truck 2 A

Captain J. H. Cooper

Lieutenant F.L. Higgins

J.D. Campbell

P.L. Dagastino,

Pvt. Clinton L Buchanan,

Pvt W.C. Jenkins

J.P. Phillips

Tillerman James McClure

D.L. Gibbs

On July 14, 1973, a fire was reported in a duplex at 782 North Montgomery. Heavy fire editions were discovered. The Crew of Engine 15 A entered the structure and was able to rescue Mrs. Peggy Jones. 4 others died in this fire. 
The crew received an ” Award of Excellence on October 4, 1973
Captain W. J. Wheeler
Driver W. J. Fortune
Private D. A. Crider
Private M. C. Barkley
Private A. B. Smith 

June 10, 1974, at 4:pm, the MFD responded to an Apartment fire at 565 Leath Apartment 2. Engine 6, 7, and Truck 2 Snorkel. Captain Blackwell and Pvt. Robert Steward entered the heavily involved house, searching for the victims. Firefighters removed an 8-month-old baby girl and her 22-month-old sister; both were unconscious. The 8-month-old baby died; the other child was slightly injured. Two unattended candles started the fire. Their parents were not home at the time. Pvt William P. Reinhardt administers Mouth to Mouth resuscitation to the 8-month-old girl.

The crew of Engine 6 B

Captain John T Blackwell

Driver James H Murray Jr.

Private Robert L Stewart

Private James E Mallett

Private K. O. Ellis

Engine 7 B

Private William P. Reinhardt    

Private Kenneth Buckingham. Off duty fireman, was there when it happened and rode in on the ambulance to the hospital, helping with the resuscitation of the children.


June 22, 1975, Seven Memphis Firemen were honored for saving the life of Reese Rosamond of 783 Chestnut Ave.

Truck 3 B

Captain Paul D Waddell

Lt. Carl A Davis

Driver Jessie L West

Tillerman Donny M Gibbs

Private Steven A Raney

Private Kenneth W Riggs

Private Edward Duane “Nick” Nichols, Detailed from Engine 8 B


February 7, 1976, As the members of Truck 23 arrived at 4174 Raleigh Wood, they found heavy fire conditions. They threw a 24’ ladder to the second floor and went to rescue two females while Engine 47 attacked the fire.

Truck 23 Crew

Lieutenant Paul Smith

Driver Marshall T Patterson

Private Harry Greer

Private Raymond Ray

Private Don Stevens


January 14, 1977. At 1 Am, a fire was reported at 2455 Pecan Circle. Upon arrival, firefighters found the home heavily involved in the fire. Neighbors reported that the family was still inside. Engine 22 C rescued the three children; Tillerman Lloyd T Barlow of Truck 19 C   entered the home searching for Barbara Joann Reyes, 29: Christopher, 5, Nicholas, 4, and Kimberly, 2, were lying in the front yard when Truck 19 arrived. In the process, Tillerman Barlow was critically burned over 15% of his body when the ceiling fell in and blocked his egress. He had to break a window to escape. The entire family died from superheated gasses and smoke inhalation.

The Members of Engine 22C

Lieutenant Marvin Pickett

Driver Jimmy R Kennedy

Private Robert F “Pudge” Graham

Private Norman Cecil Greer

Private Leon Moore

On March 1, 1980, Seven Firemen from Engine 8-C were honored

At 5:17 pm, a fire was reported across the street from Station 8; smoke was coming from 632 Mississippi Blvd Apartment H, and three people were reported to be trapped. Engine 8’s crew went in under heavy smoke conditions and rescued two children and one adult.

The members of Engine 8 A

Lieutenant J. L. Newton

Lieutenant Donjullian Hulbert

Driver Larry Anthony

Private Charles J Pace

Private Dan Dooley III

Private Larry Kirby

Private Michael Gibbs


April 14, 1981, 16 Firemen honored Medic Ambulance Maintenance Shop, aka the South Station.

At 7:26 Am on April 14, 1981, a fire was reported at the Medic Ambulance Maintenance shop at 3364 Tchulahoma Rd. In the rear, but still under one roof, was a living quarters for the shop mechanics family. This was a heavily fortified, concrete, and metal structure with no windows and a solid steel door that was locked and obstructed. There were seven occupants asleep in the living quarters, which had only one way in and out: through the shop. Of the 7, 4 were children. 2 died three were severely injured. Truck 16B  had to cut through the steel door and try to make its way through highly packed furniture, blocking it.

The following firefighters were involved:

Engine 33 B

Lieutenant Nathaniel Partee                              

Driver R. B. Eldridge

Private Gary Byers

Private D. F. Dowdie

Engine 34 B

Lieutenant R. L. Cole

Driver F. L. Kennedy

Private C. D. Storment

Private E. G. Traylor

Private C. H. Vinson

Truck 16 B Snorkel

Lieutenant L. W. Davis

Driver A. D. Green

Tillerman G. R. Hooker

Private K. W. Davidson

Private Lloyd Delaney

Emergency Unit 8-B

Private Carlton Towles

Private C. T. Hudson

District Chief Carl Thompson


March 26, 1982,  Engine 6A  and  Snorkel 2 A rescue a 2 yr. Old from his burning apartment

At 8:Am, a fire was reported at 219 Bickford Avenue. When Engine 6 and Snorkel Truck 2 arrived, they started an immediate search and found 2-year-old Damian Matthews. Lt. Dan Winfrey, a 22-year veteran firefighter, found the little lad, and he was not breathing. He started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and was able to revive him.

The Members of the crew

Snorkle 2-A

Lieutenant Dan Winfrey

Driver D. L. Smith

Private Don B Kuhn

Private P. A. Campbell

Private J. T. Halfacre

Engine 6 A

Captain J. K. Bryant

Lieutenant Fred Steward

Driver James H Murray

Private C. W. Johnson

Private R C Braden

Private B. R. Hopper




January 9, 1984,   Engine 14 B Honored

Engine 14 responded to a residential house fire located at 997 Ford Place where they rescued an elderly couple. Both were transported to the Med. Callie Ball, 87, had 45% buns, Preston Knox, 86, died five days later from complications of smoke inhalation, caused by a shorted-out lamp cord.

The Crew

Lieutenant James B Repult

Driver J.J. Hazel

Private J. L. Price

Private Richard Thomas

Private R.L. Chapman

Private N. D. Tutor



In late April 2023, Bill Adelman posted the Insurers of Memphis Award of Excellence flags.

 The research team went to work researching and searching these stories. Several retired members have helped us: Ret. Larry Anthony, James Murray, Lloyd Barlow, K.O. Ellis, Clinton L Buchanan, Thomas Enochs, Steven Raney, and  E.D. “Nick” Nichols. Thanks also to Bill Adleman for his help. 

Trish McMillan Gully, Devin Greaney from Our Memphis History Team, and I worked on this for three-plus months. Our print sources were from the Commercial Appeal and the Press-Scimitar.




2 thoughts on “Award of Excellence

  1. Thank you Joe for compiling and offering this important history of the Memphis Fire Department. Without such work, these important events would be lost to our history. Now, they are preserved by YOUR hard, dedicated, and accurate research and work. May God bless you, sir, and those who have assisted you.

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