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Death By Elevator and other Close Calls in Mobile's Storied History

Mobile's Courthouse elevators are again in the news. This time 18 people crowded into a single elevator on courthouse side of Mobile Government Plaza's atrium. The elevator plummeted a floor from the ground floor to the basement. Luckily there were no fatalities.

These courthouse elevators have been in the news quite often, many in scenarios where elevator occupants become stranded. This time however, the overloaded elevator crashed. Both scenarios, those of stranded persons and the latest crash, seem to be related to the same cause- overcrowding. County officials have cited this overcrowding as a serious problem. After these elevators became stuck twice in two months in the fall of 2013, Dena Pollard, a spokeswoman for Mobile County, claimed the elevator was "overloaded" both times it became stuck.

Elevator crashes in a county owned building basement are not new in the storied history of Mobile County. Just ask the family of poor Mr. Barnes Kimball. And there others who have been killed and those who cheated death in near close calls with elevators.



Barnes Kimball was just 25 years old but by 1919 he found himself in the Mobile County jail sentenced to serve a year for a petit larceny. Kimball, along with fellow inmates George Britton (serving a six month sentence) and Theo Thurmond (serving 10 day sentence) were in the elevator at 5 o'clock in the afternoon on April 1, 1919 at the county jail. All three prisoners were in the elevator on the basement floor when suddenly the elevator cables snapped, sending a 1,505 pound weight plummeting to the ground, crashing through the elevator and killing poor Mr. Kimball. Newspapers described the weight striking the elevator with a "terrific crash." They said poor Kimball suffered a fractured skull and a broken leg after the weight pinned him to the floor. Thurman suffered a neck injury. Incredibly Kimball initially survived the crash and was transported to the City hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

And here's the kicker as reported by The Mobile Register on Wednesday April 2, 1919: "The elevator after being out of commission for several months, went back into service about three months ago." The Mobile Register reported in its April 3, 1919 edition that the jail elevator was recently inspected.


Other Mobile Elevator Deaths and Close Calls

Death at the Van Antwerp as reported in Saturday, Nov 09, 1907 Montgomery Advertiser.


Montgomery Advertiser Sunday, Sep 19, 1909


Montgomery Advertiser Sunday, Sep 14, 1902


Montgomery Advertiser, Sunday, Nov 28, 1915


Mobile Register, Thursday, Apr 20, 1989


Mobile Register Wednesday, May 30, 1984


The case of poor Will Tucker was chronicled in the Montgomery Advertiser on May 20, 1905.


Stories Chronicling Mobile County Courthouse Elevators

Matt Green and his associate Darrin Thompson represent personal injury and victims of DUI. Matt served as a municipal court traffic court judge in the City of Mobile and the City of Saraland for nearly a decade. Before that Matt prosecuted major felonies, traffic homicides, and violent crimes in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office. He teaches trial advocacy to Mobile Police Cadets and speaks to the Mobile County Court Referral Victim Impact Panel. Matt also fights for free speech, economic liberty, and due process. He may be reached at 251.434.8500 or by e-mail at

The Alabama State Bar, Rules of Professional conduct, Rule 7.2 (e), requires the following language in all attorney communications: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

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