remembering Thiokol

Rob Hicks looks at old documents about the Feb. 3, 1971, Thiokol plant explosion in Woodbine that claimed 29 lives.

Gordon Jackson/The Brunswick News

KINGSLAND — The Georgia General Assembly will commemorate the 45th anniversary of the worst disaster in Camden County history with a moment of silence at precisely 10:53 a.m. on Feb. 3.

At the same time, a crowd as large as 10,000 will stand in silence in Chris Gilman Stadium in Kingsland for the same reason — to pay tribute to 29 Thiokol plant workers killed and 50 others seriously injured in an explosion while manufacturing trip flares for the military during the Vietnam War.

It’s a recognition long overdue, said Jannie Everett, director of the Thiokol Memorial Project.

“For the first time in Georgia history, they will recognize the workers and their service to their nation,” she said. “The Thiokol workers were patriots.”

The effort to organize the tribute has been time consuming and costly.

The upcoming ceremony has also attracted the attention of organizations that want to ensure the story is told in the best possible way.

Plum Creek Foundation presented a $1,000 check Wednesday to the Thiokol Memorial Project to help pay expenses for the displays, sound equipment, entertainment and posters at the ceremony.

Rob Hicks, a Plum Creek board member, said Plum Creek Timber Co. owns a tract of timberland adjacent to the site where the explosion occurred. It is also the location of a proposed spaceport.

Hicks said it was an easy decision to award a grant to help support the memorial ceremony.

After he presented the check to Everett, she was surprised with another $1,000 check, this one from the Woodbine Woman’s Club.

Dolores Magoon, the Woman’s Club treasurer, said her organization sold more than 100 dinners to help raise the money.

“People threw in extra money when they paid for their meals,” she said.

Everett said she is encouraged by the support she is receiving for the upcoming ceremony from the governor’s office, where a proclamation will be issued to commemorate the anniversary and the contribution the workers made to the military.

She said the ceremony will have a patriotic theme, with inspirational music. Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey will be among the guest speakers, Everett said.

The big challenge has been trying to locate the 500 employees who worked at the plant before the explosion. There is the belief that many of them still live in the region and may not be aware of the upcoming ceremony.

“We don’t know how to reach them,” she said. “We want all the workers and their families to come.”

Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com or at 464-7655.

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