Tornado of 1974

An old issue of the Livingston Enterprise dated April 11, 1974 saved over the years by Kenneth Carr of Livingston was loaned to me by Kenneth’s son, Sid. The headlines printed in large red lettering on that issue read: Tornadoes Rip Overton County. A story in that issue was titled Three Dead in Walk of Worst Tornado Since 1933. Here is the story:

"Three Overton Countians lost their lives in the savage storm which spawned tornadoes here last Wednesday night, April 3. Mrs. Birth Janitte Dailey, 32, of Route 1, Monroe, and Wilbur Rodger Nolen, 39, of Route 4, Livingston, were killed with a twister touched down here at approximately 11:30 p.m. Mr. Nolen’s wife, Pricilla Brown Nolen, 33, survived the tempest when it struck her home only to die a short time later.

"Mrs. Dailey and her husband, Edward, had been unable to reach their home following the tornadoes which touched down in the Monroe area around 7:30 p.m. During the early evening storm they took shelter in a friends’ home and later found the road to their home blocked by fallen trees. They returned to Livingston, en route to a sister’s home, and decided to stop and spend the night with a friend, Mrs. Margaret Letner, with whom Mrs. Dailey worked. The Letner home, a house trailer located immediately north of the U.C.E.M.C. sub-station on Celina highway, was completely demolished when the storm struck and it was blown across the road by the tornado. Mrs. Dailey died when she was blown out of the trailer. The other persons in the home, Mrs. Letner, her two children and Mr. Dailey, survived. Dwayne Letner, about two years of age, received a broken collar bone, a hip out of joint and one leg was broken in two places. Mr. Dailey was bruised extensively and suffered multiple abrasions. Mrs. Letner and her daughter, Tonya, about nine years of age, escaped with minor cuts and bruises.

"According to reports, Mr. and Mrs. Nolen, their children and his sister, Vesta Nolen, spent the early part of the evening in the basement of their home. The double-wide house trailer home was located on the Monroe highway approximately one mile from the Livingston city limits. It is understood that at 10 p.m. the Nolens thought the tornado watch for the area had been lifted and they went upstairs to bed. When the storm struck about 11:30, the home was blown completely to pieces. The Nolen’s 13-year-old daughter, Anita, was blown across the highway where she landed near a born which was also splintered by the tornadic winds. The child is reported in satisfactory condition in a Nashville hospital where she is receiving treatment for at least four straight pins found driven into her body. She has also undergone plastic surgery for cuts on her face and neck."

Owner and editor of the Livingston Enterprise Richard Knight, wrote this in his regular column Knight Line following that disaster:

"Last Wednesday night’s tornadoes truly played havoc with the lives of the large segment of Overton County residents. Those not immediately involved in the disaster find it beyond their power of comprehension to imagine the emergencies which arise when everything one possesses has been swept away in a mere matter of seconds. With no electricity, no means of communication, and no place for shelter out of the furious wind and pelting rain. The first few bleak hours following the disaster certainly test the strength of the human mind to cope with the situation. There are countless stories that could and should be told of neighbors, law enforcement officials, members of the rescue squad, doctors, nurses, emergency personnel from every organization, civilian volunteers and just plain ordinary people going to the aid of the stricken people.

"The loss of electricity during the fury of the storm seemed to effect everyone the greatest and create the most concern. Our hates are off to the linemen with UCEMC and even member of the co-op who worked the long, tiring hours to restore electricity. Electricity was essential to doctors as they treated victims of the storm; emergency vehicles needed gasoline, pumped by electricity, and the list is endless. It would appear, with all of our skill and knowledge, with the use of all or our modern appliances, both at work and at home, our survival today depends on electricity.

"The UCEMC sub-station which feeds electricity all across Overton County was directly in the path of the killer tornado which struck here shortly before midnight. It suffered slight damage around 7:30 when tornadoes skipped across town, but the destruction at the station and to the service lines during the final blow was of a magnitude that without a concerted effort, trained, competent personnel and an obvious plan for such emergencies the county could have been paralyzed for weeks. From a grateful county, the people say, "Thank You."


Joe Dillon's home on Airport Road was crushed during the April 3, 1974 tornado that struck Overton County.

Former Overton County Sheriff Terry Mitchell along with Constable Jess Greenwood were photographed as they examined baseball size hail stones that fell in the Hilham community prior to the 1974 tornado that swept across the area.

The reinforced steel girders that were to be a part of the Livingston Shirt Factory's new shipping department on Airport Road were completely flattened by the 1974 tornado.  Estimated damage at that time was estimated in excess of $50,000.00.