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Most people have heard of the brave locomotive engineer named Casey Jones through popular culture. But not everyone knows that he was, in fact, a member of our union. John Luther “Casey” Jones was a member of BLET Division 99 in Water Valley, Mississippi. He was one of the most alert and able engineers working out of the Memphis terminal of the Illinois Central Railroad. Piloting the “Cannonball Express” on April 30, 1900, Brother Jones stayed at the throttle and sacrificed his life in order to save his passengers as his train plowed into a stalled freight near Vaughan, Mississippi. In making the ultimate sacrifice, Casey Jones became the nation’s eternal symbol of the bravery and dedication of locomotive engineers.

Almost immediately after the accident, stories began to spring up throughout the country about the “brave engineer” who died at the throttle to save his passengers. His sacrifice reached legendary proportions when his roundhouse friend Wallace Saunders, an engine wiper, strung together “The Ballad of Casey Jones.” The ballad was picked up by a professional songwriter who polished the lyrics and gave the world an all-time hit song that is recognized to this day.

John Luther “Casey” Jones, a member of BLE Division 99 in
Water Valley, Mississippi at the helm of the “Cannonball Express”