John Luther "Casey" Jones (March 14, 1863 – April 30, 1900) was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). On April 30, 1900, he alone was killed when his passenger train collided with a stopped freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi on a foggy and rainy night. His dramatic death trying to stop his train and save lives made him a folk hero who became immortalized in a popular ballad sung by his friend Wallace Saunders, an African American engine wiper for the IC. Due to the enduring popularity of this classic song, he has been the world's most famous railroad engineer for over a century.
John Luther "Casey" Jones was born March 14, 1863, in southeast Missouri to country school teacher Frank Jones and his wife Anne. His exact place of birth is unknown. He was the first of five children. In 1876, his family moved to the small community of Cayce, Kentucky which is how he eventually got his nickname. As a boy, he developed a growing obsession with trains from hanging around the bustling train depot there. In 1878, at the age of 15, he went to work for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as a telegrapher in nearby Columbus, Kentucky. Jones grew to be quite tall for his day at 6’4 1/2" with dark hair, gray eyes, and a slim build. His size and strength made him a natural for the often brutal work of railroad life. In 1884 he moved to Jackson, Tennessee, still in the employ of the M&O to take a job as a flagman. There he stayed at a boarding house for railroad men run by the mother of his future wife who worked there as well.
It was at the dinner table in this boarding house that John Luther Jones became "Casey" Jones. Bose Lashley, a brakeman for the M&O, looked up from his plate one day and spoke to the gangly lad who had entered to be seated: