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Memorial to be placed remembering 5 killed in 1968 train-car collision
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Friends, classmates and families will gather to observe the placement of a permanent memorial to five students whose died in a train-car accident adjacent to the Gainesville Junior College (now UNG) campus in January 1968. The placement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the event. - photo by For The Times

A memorial remembering five Gainesville Junior College students killed in a 1968 train-car wreck will be placed next month at the University of North Georgia.

Ricky Boleman, Mike Gillespie, Lanny Sewell, Don Cooper, all of Gainesville, and Juliann Whitney, of Athens, died after a train collided with their car Jan. 25, 1968, at the Mundy Mill Road railroad crossing.

Hall County commissioners Richard Higgins and Kathy Cooper as well as Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith have worked on a memorial for the students.

Higgins said last week the dedication has been set for 2 p.m. Nov. 18.

Law officers told The Times in 1968 the train was “unable to stop for a mile and a half after the collision because the impact of the crash apparently damaged air lines to the diesel’s brakes.”

“If you had to pick and choose the nicest people in your class, you couldn’t have handpicked a nicer group of boys. Loved everybody, friendly, kind, big-hearted,” classmate Jean Brannon previously told The Times.

The marble memorial is in the shape of a podium and has an inscription on a plate.

It reads:

“On January 25, 1968, five college students perished in a tragic train car accident adjacent to the campus. The tragedy stunned the college and the community and left gaping holes in the lives of their families and friends.

The editor of the Gainesville Daily Times penned ‘They were splendid youngsters who held the promise of meaningful participation in community life.’

Ricky Boleman, Donn Cooper, Mike Gillespie and Lanny Sewell, all of Gainesville, died along with Juliann Whitney of Athens — five members of the college’s freshman class.

This memorial is placed in remembrance of the lives lost and memories still cherished today.”

The inscription ends with a quote from Isaiah: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the rock eternal.”

Smith wrote in an email that UNG officials will oversee the placement adjacent to the student center.

Memorial Placement

What: Monument placed to remember five Gainesville Junior College students

When: 2 p.m. Nov. 18

Where: Near the University of North Georgia student center, Mathis Drive, Oakwood

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