Lawyer Donates Papers from Infamous Nightclub Fire to University

April 7, 2009

Nearly a dozen boxes donated to Northern Kentucky University’s library help tell the story of one of the nation’s deadliest nightclub fires.

The boxes contain Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley’s papers from the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that killed 165 people.

Litigation stemming from the fire resulted in nearly $50 million in judgments and settlements for the families of victims who died at the Southgate club.

Chesley donated the papers to the W. Frank Steely Library Beverly Hills Supper Club Special Collection.

“I felt that a university of the caliber of NKU should have these for students and anybody that wants to study it,” Chesley told The Kentucky Enquirer. “I felt it should be archived and kept for young people to understand that litigation can make a difference.”

The state fire code was overhauled after the fire, and national fire safety experts cite the fire as a turning point for public fire safety.

Chesley, 72, donated the material at NKU’s request, he said. The material includes hundreds of photographs, transcripts of testimony, reports and pieces of wire and electrical outlets.

University archivist Lois Hamill said the material still has to be processed, so it’s not known when it will be available to the public. The Beverly Hills collection also includes materials from an NKU professor who taught about the fire for several years.

The library started the collection last year. The library has received several items including a program from the club, a spoon and other small items.

The collection will eventually be put on a Web site that will also serve as a memorial to the victims, Hamill said. A memorial has not been built at the site, the newspaper reported.

“I thought a virtual memorial would be better than nothing at all,” she said. “I thought let’s try to bring everything together in focus, particularly because we’ve got the collection that we’re building.”

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