Tifton holds memorial for 1959 school bus tragedy

On March 3, 2021, City of Tifton leaders and community members held a ceremony of remembrance on the historical 62nd anniversary of a tragic event in which nine school children lost their lives on the way to school.

It happened around 8 am on March 3, 1959, when a school bus driver accidentally lost control of the bus and it ran off the road and into a pond. The children on the bus, who mostly lived in and around Brookfield, attended school at Matt Wilson and the Industrial High School. Accounts of the day tell of how some of the older boys went back into the water to save the children on board.

This is a story that has almost faded into history, but the recent work in and around south Tifton has brought new interest in remembering and telling the story to younger generations.

“Cultural heritage can be a part of Urban Redevelopment and here is a remarkable example of it. What better story to share with the children as well as serve as inspiration for today’s youth? Imagine as they learn that on that day ordinary children became extraordinary heroes when they went back in the water to save their schoolmates. It is a poignant story of their own heritage and selfless courage.”, said Bruce Green, urban redevelopment director for the City of Tifton.

Mayor Julie Smith placed a Wreath of Remembrance on a monument that was erected at Matt Wilson School in 1959 following the tragedy. Mrs. Joan Howard, a survivor of the accident, spoke about her experience that fateful day, and Pastor Bernard Collier of Living Word of True Faith Church gave the benediction.