50 Years Ago
Aircraft Had Buzzed Courthouse
Lt. Jack Jenkins, a 25-year-old Air Force pilot, was one of four killed when the flying boxcar plane he was piloting crashed after swooping low over the Huntingdon courthouse. The twin-engine C-119 grazed an outlying house and sheared off the flag pole before it burst into flames and hurtled wreckage for a mile along Main Street. Gasoline spewing from the flaming, box-like fuselage burned two persons on the ground, one of them critically before the main wreckage crashed on the outskirts of town. Mayor Robert Murray and Justice of the Peace J. Herman Williams said the pilot, 1st. Lt. Jenkins "buzzed low" over the county seat of 3500 population. Officials of Lawson Air Force Base at Ft. Benning would say only that the plane crashed on a routine training mission.
"The plane buzzed low over the courthouse and made a second turn over the square when it happened," Williams said. Mayor Murray said the tail of the plane struck the home of Eddie Jones a half-mile from the Carroll County Courthouse on its first low pass over town. "The plane turned and came back over town and was headed right for the courthouse trailing smoke when the pilot pulled it up. It probably would have crashed into the east end of the courthouse if he hadn't." He said he saw the plane then "exploded and began disintegrating right over the courthouse." Other officials said one wing piece fell on the courthouse square and another piece fell about 200 yards beyond it. The spray of flaming gasoline burned several small sheds, but there was no damage to the courthouse or other major buildings. Jenkins was the son of Mrs. Mabel Jenkins. The Air Force identified the other dead as 2nd Lt. John C. Peachey, 26 of Prescott, Arkansas, A.2-c David A. Probus, 24, of Hammond, Ind; and A.2-c Franklin D. Levy, 24 of Lake Arthur, La.
The civilians hurt on the ground were Freeman Taylor, 22, who was seriously burned, and Homer Demoss, 72, carpenter, who doused flames by jumping into a water-filled ditch. Force of the explosion and flying debris broke windows in the courthouse, a plate-glass window in Priest Auto Agency and windows in other downtown buildings. Ray Cole, operator of the Court Square Service Station just opposite on the south side of the courthouse, said the plane made its first pass at the courthouse at 2:50 p.m., going from south to north. "It completed its pattern, and came back in from the east about 2:55 p.m,," he said. Carroll County Sheriff Roy Butler said 50 to 75 persons in the second-floor Circuit Court were alarmed when the plane roared over in its first pass. Judge John Kizer was hearing a child custody case. "I was looking out the east window when the plane came back," Sheriff Butler said. "It looked like it was coming right in the courtroom window.
We saw a flash as it went over, and at first, we thought it had hit the roof of the courthouse. Everybody rushed out." Chief Deputy Charlie Fields rushed to the roof and saw a piece of the plane had fallen there. One attorney in the court case was Huntingdon Mayor Bob Murray. He and the sheriff were among those who rushed to the crash field and helped pull bodies from the wreckage. "We were lucky it wasn't Saturday," the Mayor said, referencing the crowds that come to town on that day. "Some people would probably have been killed. Two mules also were victims of the blazing plane. Taylor was using them to plow at the home of Homer Demoss. Flaming fuel spread over them and the mules had to be killed to relieve them of their suffering. Lt. Jenkins was a graduate of Huntingdon High School and graduated from Bethel College in 1951.