Dotson Runway Graves
Two flush headstones mark the only known graves to be embedded in an airport runway.
Should you be arriving at or departing from Georgia’s Savannah Airport via Runway 10, keep an eye on the tarmac and you might catch sight of a pair of concrete rectangles that mark the final burial place of Richard and Catherine Dotson, whose bodies refused to move as the airport expanded.
When the Savannah Airport built an extension to Runway 10 during WWII, they found a bit of a snag in their plans for this new path. Like many airports across the country, the Savannah airfield was built on former farmland, taking advantage of all the wide-open space for lengthy runways and sprawling terminal hubs. A necessary component of using this type of land has always been dealing with the small family cemetery plots that most of them have. Generally this is not a problem, with the airport usually footing the bill to move the graves into a modern cemetery with the family’s consent. In the case of the graves in the way of the Runway 10 extension, the family, after initial disagreement, consented to the move of the cemetery, containing close to 100 graves (including those of slaves). That is, all the graves except for four.
Citing their belief that their ancestors who had owned the farmland would have wanted to stay on the land they worked so hard to cultivate and purchase, the surviving Dotson relatives refused to allow Richard and Catherine to be moved. Since it is illegal in America to transfer buried remains without the consent of next of kin, the airport did the only thing they could and simply paved over them. However, far from a heartless steamrolling, two headstones were placed over the graves, laid flat with the runway.
The other four graves, which sit in the brush near the airport’s most active runway, belong to Dotson relatives, Daniel Hueston and John Dotson.
Today the Dotson graves look more like patches of concrete repair work amidst the winding asphalt runway system. However pilots and flight crew know what they really are and ghost stories have even begun to spring up among those that take off and land on top of the graves.
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