Huntington attorney John Proctor, whose parents were among the 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash, will be the featured speaker at this year’s annual memorial service honoring those who died in the tragedy.
The service, conducted by Marshall’s Student Government Association, will be at noon Thursday at the Memorial Student Center plaza on the Huntington campus.
The crash on Nov. 14, 1970, occurred at 7:47 p.m. when a DC-9 jetliner, returning Marshall home from its football game at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., clipped some treetops just short of Tri-State Airport and went down. Victims included Marshall football players, coaches, staff and supporters, along with the crew of five.
Proctor, who was 5 when the plane crashed, was the youngest of five sons and daughters of H.D. “Pete” Proctor and his wife, Courtney Josephine Proctor, both of whom died in the crash. The other surviving children were John’s sister, Courtney, who was 6; his sister, Patricia, who was 8; his brother, Jim, who was 17, and his sister, Kim, who was 19.
“I don’t remember a whole lot about it,” Proctor said of the crash. “Not until I was about 8 years old when other kids talked about it did I even realize it. The first distinctive memories I have are from the third grade on. The brain is a wonderful thing. I’m not sure if I was too young or what.”
Proctor said he is uncertain what he will talk about in his speech. He said he is thankful to have grown up under the guidance of many.
“In a way, I’m blessed,” Proctor said. “I was raised by my family and my friends, and my parents’ friends and people who loved them.”
H.D. “Pete” Proctor graduated from Marshall University and received a medical degree from the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. A Navy veteran of World War II, he was one of the team’s physicians. He was 43 when he died.
E.J. Hassan, president of Marshall’s student body, spoke about the importance of the ceremony 43 years after the crash.
“The memorial ceremony is the pinnacle of our university in terms of honoring our history as well as remembering the lives that were taken from our university community in 1970,” Hassan said. “It is an absolute honor for me personally to help in the planning of this ceremony, and it is my hope that we can bring as many students as possible so that not only can they take part in remembrance, but so that we can educate them on the rich history that makes Marshall University the community and family that it is today.”
In addition to Proctor and Hassan, other speakers who will take part in the service include Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Marshall President Dr. Stephen J. Kopp and Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.
The service will conclude with the placing of the memorial wreath at Memorial Fountain. The fountain will be silenced after the laying of the wreath, and remain silent until spring.
For those who can’t attend, the service will be streamed live at marshall.edu/it/livestream. The Marshall football team will be watching from Tulsa, Okla., where it will play the University of Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. that day. At 6:30 p.m., the SGA will conduct the first Memorial Service Site Visit. A bus will take participants to the crash site near the airport.