Jones, Casey

Jones, Casey, 1864–1900, American locomotive engineer celebrated in ballad and song, probably b. Jordan, Fulton co., Ky. His real name was John Luther Jones, but at the age of 17 he went to Cayce, Ky., and there he was employed as a telegraph operator; from the name of the town he was given the nickname “Casey.” In 1888 he entered the service of the Illinois Central RR as a locomotive fireman and soon (1890) was promoted to engineer. He was famous among railroad men for his boast that he always brought his train in on schedule and for his peculiar skill with a locomotive whistle. Given the “crack” assignment of driving the Cannon Ball express from Memphis, Tenn., to Canton, Miss.—a particularly dangerous run on which several accidents had occurred—Casey Jones was determined to bring the overdue train in on time but met with disaster. On the morning of Apr. 30, 1900, confronted with a stationary freight train ahead of his speeding locomotive at Vaughan, Miss., he ordered his fireman to jump. He applied the brakes, and although the Cannon Ball crashed and Jones was killed, the passengers were saved. A fellow railroad worker, Wallace Saunders, soon composed a popular ballad about him; one version of it, Casey Jones, was published by T. Lawrence Siebert and Eddie Newton. Monuments commemorating Jones stand at Cayce, Ky., and Jackson, Tenn. He was buried at Jackson, Tenn.

See biography by F. J. Lee (1939).

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