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Man Honored For Rescue 50 Years Ago

By: Denny Trease
By: Denny Trease

A classic case of better late than never Saturday in Lawrenceburg.
88-year-old John Burchett was honored for an act of heroism he performed 50 years ago.

In October of 1956 during a fire at Hanks Motor Company, Burchett who is white, ran into the burning building to rescue a co-worker, Sylvester Johnson, who was black.

"I didn't even think about that. I heard him hollering, and I just went in and got him," said Burchett.

Saturday, in special ceremonies at First Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceburg, the family of Sylvester Johnson paid tribute to Burchett and presented him with a plaque expressing their gratitude.

"I was happy about it. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid I couldn't thank em, that I'd tear up," said Burchett.

Kurk Johnson wasn't aware of Burchett's heroic act until his name came up at Kurk's last birthday party. He was just a toddler when his father, then 49, died in the hospital a few days after the fire.

"My brother mentioned he was the guy who saved my dad from the fire. I just had a strong sense of something I had to do to honor him," said Johnson.

John Burchett reluctantly talked about his own injuries that day 50 years ago when his hands and ears were burned while trying to get Johnson out of the building and then put out the flames coming from his clothing.

"I couldn't get hold of him. He was a bigger man that I was I just got up under his arm pits and drug him," said Burchett.

The mayor issued a proclamation declaring this John Burchett Day in Lawrenceburg which has seen enormous change in half a century.

"If a person like this man does what he does, race is not an issue. I think he did what he felt in his heart to do," said Johnson.


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