Fallen Ind. firefighter receives headstone 90 years later

Firefighter Andrew Gordon was on the back of a truck responding to a fire when the engine overturned and knocked him unconscious


By Richard Gootee
Evansville Courier & Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The final resting place of an Evansville firefighter who died just before Christmas 1927 in an on-duty crash will finally be marked with a headstone.

Firefighter Andrew Gordon was on the back of a truck responding to a fire a few days before Christmas when the engine overturned and knocked him unconscious. Gordon's new headstone will be dedicated on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., in Oak Hill Cemetery, 1400 E. Virginia St.

The public is invited to the ceremony. The group will meet near the cemetery's office and then proceed to where Gordon is buried.

The work to get Gordon a marker is part of the ongoing project undertaken by the firefighter's union Local 357's honor guard to recognize in-the-line-of-duty deaths that have occurred throughout the Evansville Fire Department's history. Last November, the honor guard unveiled a new memorial plaque that included 15 names of firefighters who hadn't before been recognized. The new memorial has a total of 34 names on it.

Two honor guard members in particular, Lt. Chris Wagener and Capt. Mike Bacon, have garnered individual praise for their work on the project, and both were recently recognized as nominees for the department's Firefighter of the Year award because of the project. It was during this work that it was discovered Gordon's burial plot was not marked.

Not much is known about Gordon's life. He was believed to be 40 years old at the time of his death, Wagener said. Gordon, who was black, lived with his wife, Josie, on Brower Street. Wagener has been unsuccessful in tracking down any family members, he said. The firefighters union bought the marker.

The crash that fatally injured Gordon happened while his unit was en route to a house with its roof on fire on Dec. 22. The crash injured another firefighter, Floyd Butler, as well.

"(Gordon) was on the back of the truck on the tailboard. They were running to a fire on Huston Avenue, which is modern day Grand Avenue when they turned the corner from Walnut onto Huston or Grand, the truck overturned and he was thrown," Wagener said about the crash. "He was found unconscious and died a few days later."

Wagner sad that Gordon's headstone unveiling is just the next step of the honor's guard's effort to ensure that the city's fallen firefighters are not forgotten, no matter how long ago they died.

"I just felt like there was something missing. They deserve the recognition," Wagener said. "They gave their life and they served, he said. "... The project is ongoing; this is just one more step."

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