50 years after the devastating plane crash that killed 75 people, including over 30 Marshall football players, crew members, supporters, and several university employees, Marshall University gathers to remember the victims of Southern Airway Flight 932.
At 9 a.m. silence will overtake the plaza of the Memorial Student Center as the school conducts the Memorial Fountain Ceremony. The ceremony includes the traditional laying of the wreath and the fountain’s water will be turned off until next spring.
Lucianne Kautz Call, daughter of Charlie E. Kautz, the director of athletics who died in the crash, will be featured in the ceremony.
Call was only 21 years old- and a student at Marshall- when her father died. Over the years, she has dedicated her time to becoming an unofficial historian for the events that unfolded on November 14, 1970, when Flight 932 crashed into a hillside two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia.
Jerome Gilbert, President of Marshall University, wrote a message to the Marshall Community regarding the ceremony.
“Every November 14, Marshall University’s Memorial Fountain becomes sacred ground, as we come together to pay our respects. It is where every member of the Marshall family wants to be…on that date each year—gathered around that graceful monument with friends and our university community. This yearly ritual, in part, defines our university. The ceremony reminds us, strengthens us and binds us together in love—the love of our lost family members, friends and colleagues; the love of each other; and the love of Marshall University.”
The Fountain Ceremony will conclude with the singing of Marshall’s Alma Mater.
Bob Pruett, former Marshall University football coach, recalls the day of the crash. A Marshall football player himself, he graduated in 1965-only five years before the accident.
Pruett was coaching in Virginia when he heard the news.
“I can remember the day it happened. My former colleagues were on that plane. Coaches, people that I knew. I remember that day exactly.”
Pruett returned to Marshal as assistant football coach in 1979 and remembers the university’s struggle to repair the football program.
“We had so many straight losing seasons and we were trying to turn that around, but the cloud of the crash loomed over us. We were trying to piece our team back together.”
The former coach stayed at Marshall for a few years but eventually left to coach elsewhere. He returned to Marshall in 1996 to fulfill his dream of being head coach, a position he held until 2004.
Pruett says that through the years, the Marshall football team has finally overcome its past. A team that was once known for its multiple season losing streak now ranks no. 16 in the nation and is currently in the midst of one of its top seasons in the school’s history.
“We feel like we are on the other side,” Pruett said. “We were under the clouds of the crash and we weren’t able to win anything, but this program has gone through a journey. It has come back from the ashes of the plane crash.
Marshall will go up against Middle Tennessee on their home field following the Fountain Ceremony. This anniversary game is the biggest game on the team’s schedule, according to current coach Doc Holliday.
In rememberance of the 75 plane crash victims, the players will sport the number 75 on their gear and uniforms. A banner will also be presented in honor of the victims at halftime.