Saturday, February 28, 2009

Travis Hardison

Most of us who grew up in the Shoals area have funny, if not fond, memories of Channel 15, WOWL television in Florence. Often it was their newscasts that provided much of the humor associated with the small local station, but occasionally the NBC affiliate hired quality talent, usually students from the local university.

One such newscaster was Travis Hardison. I never met Travis, but I have fond memories of his newscasts. His mother had been a substitute teacher in the Florence system for many years, so I was of course acquainted with his name. Mothers like to talk about their wonderful sons, and Mrs. Hardison frequently mentioned Travis and his younger brother Richard.

Travis managed to deliver the news without falling out of his chair, getting lost reading the script, or egregiously mispronouncing words above the sixth grade level. In short, he was a natural. Travis also performed in several UNA and Zodiac theatrical productions, making him something of a local celebrity.

While I had not thought of Travis in years, I was saddened to learn of his death while doing research on another story. For those of you who loved and admired Travis, all is not lost; Travis still lives here:

I sincerely hope this brings back fond memories for those of you who knew Travis personally.

Reminder: Tomorrow is the first day of March. Original Bama at the Shoals Forum Trivia Contest would like to remind everyone that a new contest is starting. So, what are you waiting for? The link is to the left of this blog.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The UNAbombers Four - Part II

Continued from yesterday...

The third athlete charged is Collins Montgomery. A graduate of Lawrence County High School, Montgomery lists Moulton as his home town. The 18 year-old was winner of the Decatur Daily Runner-of-the-Year in both 2007 and 2008. The son of John and Stefanie Montgomery, Collins also lettered in baseball while in high school and was majoring in pre-engineering. Montgomery is pictured on the left.

On the right is Dusty Talley, aged 18. He graduated from Ripley High School and lists Tupelo, Mississippi, as his home town. No other biographical data was available for Talley.

As of today, Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly temporarily dismissed the explosive charges against the four while preparing a case to present to the grand jury. Sources say that William Dill is still charged with giving false information to the police, a misdemeanor.

These four young men are extremely lucky that they were were not injured in this so-called prank. The UNA track team is not so fortunate since Coach Trimble has lost most of his cross-country team and the Spring season is fast approaching. We wish him the best of luck.

(Bios courtesy of Scott Trimble/Photographs courtesy of Shannon Wills)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The UNAbombers Four - Part I

We here at Shoalanda have always been extremely proud of the University of North Alabama. One of our staff earned a Bachelor's degree from UNA, while two others also earned a Master's Degree from that venerable institution.

Recently, many UNA students have made the news, and not in a favorable way. This is no light matter, and it is surprising that any rational person would fail to be alarmed by these events.

Scott Trimble coaches cross-country running at UNA. Cross-country is a demanding sport, involving rugged terrain that may include areas of mud, water, and underbrush. Certainly this isn't a sport to which every runner is suited, but in 2008 Coach Trimble signed six new cross-country runners for the school. Now four of these signees have been arrested and expelled.

Over the weekend, these four athletes exploded a Drano bomb on Collier Avenue adjacent to a fraternity house, an area where many UNA staff also reside. Drano, a common household drain cleaner, contains lye and is extremely caustic. There are several videos on the Internet that provide detailed instructions for producing this explosive, some of them also depicting the injuries resulting from such explosions.

Now these four young men have not only been expelled from the university, but face the possibility of a felony conviction that can carry a sentence of up to ten years. These four student athletes have no criminal records and, up until this time, have led exemplary lives.

Aaron Bush, pictured at left, Is the son of Kevin Bush. The 19 year-old is a graduate of Wilsonville High School in Shelby County and was majoring in secondary education.

Pictured at right is William Daniel Dill of Muscle Shoals. Dill , the oldest at 22, is the son of Danny and Connie Dill. While at Muscle Shoals High School he lettered in track and was named a top freshman athlete. Dill later attended Northwest Shoals Community College before transferring to UNA where he too was majoring in secondary education. Besides the charge of possessing explosives, Dill is also charged with providing false information to the authorities.

Tomorrow: Part II (Bios courtesy of Scott Trimble/Photographs courtesy of Shannon Wills)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's a WAWA?

What's a WAWA? Apparently in Canada it's a goose for which a town is named. Here in North Alabama, it's something similar, but completely different. If you smiled at the previous sentence, you're a prime candidate to purchase a copy of this movie.

Produced by Sheffield's Steve Wiggins and directed by Wiggins' wife Sherri, Birth of a Legend: The Story of the WAWA is a hilarious sci-fi movie set in the fictional Alabama town of Sweet Tee. Visualize radioactive plastic fishing worms injected with DNA from a catfish and you'll have a good idea where this movie is going.

If this all sounds like a 1950s B-movie, we may infer that was the intention of the producer and director, but if you're still not sure what a WAWA is, we'll reveal that it stands for West Alabama Whoop Ass. Now, knowing that, we're sure you'll want to purchase a copy of this cinematic triumph starring locals Juliana Martin, Matt Osborne, and Donnie Fritts.

If you hurry, they'll include a copy of the movie's soundtrack absolutely free:

I'm so sure that you'll love this movie, I'll pop for a pair of tickets to the Marbro Drive-In if you don't. Can't beat that with a WAWA.

Laugh of the day: We hear that John Crowder is giving up Florence City Council meetings for lent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The NEW Voice of the Shoals Forum

Some weeks ago, we polled our readers on their local favorite forum. Overwhelmingly, the Voice of the Shoals Forum proved to be the Shoals' choice.

Unfortunately, the two who created and administered the forum became involved in other activities, and one by one many of the members fell away. If you left the VOS at this time, or if you've never visited, you will be pleasantly surprised at the renovated forum.

The Voice of the Shoals has a new Administrator, as well as a new Senior Moderator. They've added some useful categories: Frugal Living and Science. I understand that they're still in need of some moderators for several categories, so here's your chance to really participate in a meaningful exchange of ideas. A link is provided to the left of this blog.

Good luck Voice of the Shoals in your new incarnation!

What's up with this: I see rumors floating around several Florence web sites that Judge Jimmy Sandlin is retiring. I would sincerely doubt that tidbit, but the return of Judge Larry Mack Smith would be extremely welcome.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bogey's Sports Grill

We recently did a column on the popular local restaurant Pizza Marina. For those who can't get enough of this great food, but also enjoy entertainment with their meal, Pizza Marina owner Timm Glass invites you to Bogey's Sports Grill.

Bogey's is located on River Road in the former home of Somthin' Fishy. Each week the restaurant will offer different local bands as well as other activities geared toward Shoals interests. For those who complain of a lack of music venues in this area, this is a step in the right direction.

Here's the current line-up at Bogey's:

Go, enjoy, report back to us. Thanks, Shoalanda

What's New? Shoalanda has recently added a correspondent to report on local court proceedings. We'll have more on this later. If you would like to review new Shoals restaurants, please contact us.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Morris Lentz Fund

Many of our readers have contacted us concerning the condition of injured Rogersville firefighter Morris Lentz. Morris remains in Huntsville Hospital where his condition is improving; however, it will be some time before he is released. At his release, Morris will in all probability go into rehab for a few weeks. In short, he still has a long road to a complete recovery.

The year 2008 was not an easy one for Lentz. Now, even with insurance, the bank vice president's hospital bills will place further strain on his resources. With that in mind, a fund has been set up at Bank Independent to accept contributions from those who would like to help Morris.

Over the years, Morris has assisted many in the eastern part of the county, as well as aiding with hurricane refugees and others in need. Now we have an opportunity to repay him in a small way. Donations may be left at any location of Bank Independent across the valley.

Get well, Morris. The Shoals area needs you.

What's up with this: The Voice of the Shoals Forum has made some changes. Check it out--we think you'll like it.

No More Bartlett Pear Trees?

Is there anything more beautiful than snow in mid-Spring? Of course the snow to which I'm referring is the deluge of falling blossoms from the abundance of Bartlett pear trees in the Shoals area. Let's enjoy it while we can--it may not be part of the area's future landscaping plans.

The City of Florence recently hosted its 14th Urban Forestry and Horticulture Conference. Speaking at the conference was Fred Kapp, education liaison with the Alabama Green Industry Training Center. While Kapp touched on many topics relating to urban landscaping, his warnings concerning Bartlett pear trees were certainly eye-openers.

It seems these beautiful natives of Southeast Asia were introduced to the United States officially in 1963. At that time, little was known concerning the trees, but they became an instant hit with landscapers. As time has passed they have also become an instant hit with personal injury lawyers.

The lifespan of a Bartlett pear tree is 25 years. After that length of time, branches become fragile, and entire trees may split. If that does not present danger enough, the tree's root system is extremely shallow, meaning that as they become top heavy they may dislodge from the ground completely. In short, Kapp suggests that towns immediately remove all these miscreant trees from public property. Considering their potential for damage and outright harm, it might be wise for individual property owners also to remove the Bartlett pear tree from their home landscaping scheme as well.

Sic transit gloria.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jack-O-Lantern Farms

How many times have you heard the lament, "There's just no place to buy gourmet foods in the Shoals."? Certainly, the Quad-Cities area is not touted as a center for fine food shopping. It's well known that the city of Florence has been trying for five years to recruit a grocery store to the downtown area, but what about those who are willing to drive a few miles for what they want?

If you fall into the latter category, you're in luck with Jack-O-Lantern Farms, a small and exclusive business run by Steve and Connie Carpenter. In 1996, the Carpenters decided to enter the wonderful world of farming, but not just any farming. The Carpenters resolved to grow natural hydroponic fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about their history at their web site:

So, what does hydroponic gardening have to do with gourmet foods? It seems that Steve and Connie became so successful with their produce that they opened a small retail outlet six years ago. Now they've added a line of gourmet products including pear paste and champagne vinegar. It might not be the next Publix, but it's a start.

Located on Garage Road in Muscle Shoals, Jack-O-Lantern Farms is open year round. Visit the Carpenters on Thursdays from 3:00 pm until 7:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm. Tell them Shoalanda sent you--you won't be sorry.

New Blog: The most successful elements of Shoalanda Speaks are our true crime reports. Now you can find our past columns plus new stories on crimes of the recent and not-so-recent past at Shoals Crime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Zip City: Tourist Attraction

For those who complain that city fathers wish to turn Florence into a retirement community, you may now rejoice that the under thirty crowd has a new tourist mecca in Lauderdale County--Zip City. Yes, you read that correctly; the small unincorporated community just north of Florence has become a tourist destination in its own right.

Zip City, located at the intersection of Lauderdale 8 and Alabama 17, earned its name in the 1920s during the era of the noble experiment. A national ban on alcohol apparently meant less to our neighbors in Tennessee than it did to us more sedate Alabamians, but for those who did imbibe, a quick trip to the state-line bootlegger via what was then known as Chisholm Highway was in order.

According to Florence historian Bill McDonald, Alonzo Parker owned Parker's General Store during this era and became disgusted by the speeding traffic regularly passing his store. He began calling the community Zip City, and the moniker stuck.

For years Zip City was known for its western wear store, weekly antique auctions, and small out-of-the-way airport. Then in 2001, longtime resident Mike Cooley wrote the song "Zip City," and the Drive-By Truckers recorded it in 2002 for their Southern Rock Opera. The following lyrics have become something of a mantra for the group's many fans:

Zip City, it's a good thing that they built a wall around you.
Zip up to Tennessee, then back down to Alabama.

In a town that doesn't even boast a golf course, what more could you ask for?

For those who have asked, yes, our "Shoals" artwork is from a Drive-By Truckers' album.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hospice Wars: Good Samaritan

Randy Gist opened Good Samaritan Hospice USA, Inc., in October 2003. Since that time the home health agency, for which Gist serves as President and Chief Executive Officer, has grown to be one of the largest hospice endeavors in the Tennessee Valley, opening satellite offices in Russellville, Haleyville, and Madison. It is also the agency with the highest reported employee turnover.

On Monday, Gist filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Decatur Federal Court. His attorney, Stuart M. Maples of Maples & Ray PC, is asking that Good Samaritan's payments to Medicare be reduced from $84,000.00 to $25,000.00 per month. Gist claims an average monthly income of $212,000.00, making the currently scheduled payment almost 40% of the agency's gross receipts. If Gist is allowed to restructure his business, will it be able to survive in today's economic climate? Perhaps more importantly, how did Good Samaritan come to find itself owing Medicare such a massive debt totalling over five million dollars?

While the average Shoals citizen may look askance at the ubiquitous check cashing businesses dotting every major thoroughfare in the Valley, those involved in the medical/health care professions look at hospices with the same bemusement. Even with the demise of A&E Hospice last fall, the Shoals area has more hospices per capita than are found in most metropolitan areas; in other words, it is a war and the losers have more to lose than just their shirts. Those who are unable to repay Medicare and Medicaid over payments may be subject to criminal charges.

Certainly Good Samaritan has attempted to live up to its name. In the past, the hospice has hosted blood drives, collected blankets for the indigent, and sponsored concerts to benefit AIDS research. Randy Gist even met his wife Katina at the 2007 "Cupid for a Cure" his company sponsored. Such good corporate citizens are not usually portrayed in a negative light, but apparently bookkeeping skills have been lacking at Good Samaritan, something Gist blames on the Federal Government.

No one knows how long a hospice patient may live, yet other companies have managed to balance their patient load, ensuring compliance with Federal regulations. Interestingly, Good Samaritan's website requests donations for patient care. If Good Samaritan and Randy Gist plan to stay afloat, it will take a better game plan than that.

What's up with this: Those opposed to the sale of ECM Hospital to a private Texas company should immediately contact Mayor Bobby Irons and their local city and county representatives. Surely this hospital can be saved without such a drastic measure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Chef at Pizza Marina

Just when you thought the food at Pizza Marina couldn't get any better, it does! As of yesterday, the fabulous eatery on River Road in Muscle Shoals has a new chef.

Patricia Richardson, former personal chef to a US Senator, invites everyone to try her new offerings. Patricia, who once toured with Taste of Home magazine, is a connoisseur of fine wines as well as being a fantastic cook.

Obviously once Miss Richardson becomes acclimated, she will be adding to the already diverse menu, but here's a sample of what to expect:

When you go, be sure to tell them Shoalanda sent you. Good luck Timm, Deb, and Patricia!

What's up with this: Construction at Rick's in Elgin remains at a virtual standstill. It may not be Pizza Marina, but we're sure Elgin residents are eager for the restaurant/country store's completion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Judge Jimmy Sandlin

Judge Jimmy Sandlin presides over what is commonly called family court. As we observed yesterday, no judge is popular with every facet of his or her constituency, and this is especially true when judgments concern the disposition of children.

Sandlin succeeded Judge Larry Mack Smith. It takes effort to overthrow a seated judge, and Sandlin did so based on his own community popularity and his promises of programs designed to preserve marriage. While court-ordered counseling has indeed derailed a small percentage of divorces, its effect is unknown in the long run. Also, these same programs are available through churches and mental health facilities and are not deemed by many to fall under the providence of local government.

Sandlin's personality lends itself to campaigning, something that Larry Smith's did not. This is indeed unfortunate, since Lauderdale County is the worse for losing someone of Smith's erudition and character; however, we believe there is more to Sandlin's character than the proverbial glad handing found in a few politicians who tend to practice their bi-facial antics in various small Shoals communities.

We have recently been encouraging all voters to refer to the Courthouse Forum for information concerning the local elected judiciary. More comments and surveys have been recorded here for Judge Sandlin than any other local judge:

Again, we stress the volatility of opinions related to family court judgments, but remarks by members of the bar are always interesting and should be taken seriously. Judge Sandlin's private life should be just that--private, while remarks concerning his professional conduct should be of interest to all Lauderdale voters.

We encourage anyone having dealings with Judge Jimmy Sandlin to complete a survey on this site and relate any appropriate comments. If you don't tell us, who will?

What's up with this: No comments have yet been made at the Courthouse Forum site concerning Colbert or Franklin courts. This site has been created for us to leave our opinion of these jurists--let's use it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Judge Michael T. Jones

With the retirement of Judge Mike Suttle, Judge Mike Jones has become the presiding jurist in the Lauderdale County court system. One would expect any judge to be criticized no matter the nature of his rulings; however, Judge Jones has recently been raked over the legal coals for accepting a plea bargain in the Shaun Shapley case.

Shapley, a resident of the small town of Lexington, murdered his 17 year-old stepdaughter in 2008. The murder ostensibly occurred during an attempted rape. DNA testing proved Shapley to be the father of two children belonging to the victim's older sister. Previously, Shapley had been charged with violence against women in his home state of Florida and his former residence of Huntsville, Alabama.

A murder committed during the commission of another crime is categorized as a capital offense--in other words, Shapley at the very least should have been subject to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Instead, Judge Mike Jones sentenced the convicted felon to a term of 25 years. A Class A felony, this conviction will allow Shapley to be eligible for parole after 15 years. Obviously many in Lauderdale County and the entire Shoals area have been outraged by this sentence.

Several, both in the legal and private communities, have made their displeasure known in the Courthouse Fourm:

Jones' overall grade as a jurist is a C, but perhaps even more telling are the related comments. There is a strong thread of alleged racism in the criticism of Jones, as well as other enlightening remarks from the legal community concerning his performance. This forum is relatively new and has not become well-known in the Shoals area until now. I encourage anyone having contact with any courts in our area to rate the local judiciary. It will then be up to the voters to weigh the merits of those comments.

Tomorrow: Judge Jimmy Sandlin

Contacting Gov. Bob Riley

For the past three days we have profiled the attorneys being considered as a successor to Judge Mike Suttle. All three are graduates of the Cumberland School of Law and practice civil law in Florence. From their online bios and similar information available concerning these attorneys, we may infer that each is thoroughly qualified to serve in the capacity of Circuit Court Judge.

Therefore, I will leave it up to you, the reader, to select the applicant you consider the most suited to the position, a position he may hold for the next twenty years or more. Obviously, since there is to be no election at this time, our opinions may not make or break any one candidate; however, Gov. Bob Riley does listen to his constituents and will certainly take our recommendations into consideration.

One may reach the state's chief executive by mail at:

Gov. Bob Riley
State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130

or by fax at:


or e-mail at:

Remember, if we don't make our voices known, we have no basis for complaint. Gov. Riley's pick will become the incumbent and wield a large advantage as such in the next election. Good luck to all three candidates.

Tomorrow: Rating Judge Mike Jones

Friday, February 13, 2009

James Edwards Hall II

This is the last of a three part series on the nominees to succeed Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle.

James E. Hall is, like the other two nominees, primarily a personal injury attorney. Unlike the other two, he has judicial experience, albeit in municipal courts.

Hall is a graduate of the Cumberland School of Law at Sanford University and was admitted to the Alabama Bar in 1987. He resides in Lauderdale County and practices in downtown Florence. Martindale ranks James Hall 35th in visibility among 113 practicing Florence attorneys.

Hall has been municipal judge for the city of Florence since 1999, having assumed that role at the nadir of the court's existence. He and the attorneys who work in this court are to be commended for bringing that venue to its current level of function. For those who have never sat in on a Florence Municipal Court session, we would suggest that you do so--it's quite an eye opener. Hall is also municipal judge for the municipality of Killen and the provincial town of Lexington, also having taken on that appointment under less than ideal circumstances.

In the early part of this decade, Hall was sidelined due to a heart attack, but has rebounded with seemingly no permanent ill effects; however, Gov. Riley may consider this of more importance than we. It should also be remembered that, if Hall is selected for the position of Circuit Court Judge, the City of Florence would immediately need to pick his successor. At least one, and perhaps more, highly qualified Florence attorneys currently work in city court on a regular basis.

Gov. Riley will in no way have an easy job when he chooses among the three.

Note: An informant tells us the four attorneys not making the selection committee's short list were: Billy Jackon, Jamy Poss, Janice Keeton, and Ricky South.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gilbert Porterfield Self

This is part two of a three part series on the nominees to succeed Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle.

Gilbert P. Self is a Florence attorney and senior partner in the firm of Self, Smith, and Burdine. Born in Florence on January 25, 1963, Self is the younger brother of Florence attorney Henry Self Jr. and the son of the late Henry Harold Self, former UNA athletic director and one-time member of the Florence City Commission, and his wife Shirley.

Self graduated from Auburn with a B.S. in 1985 and obtained his Juris Doctorate in 1988 from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham. Self specializes in personal injury and other civil cases and is noted as a long distance runner. He and his wife Cheri live in Florence.

It's been reported that Gil Self was the first attorney to actively seek this appointment. Martindale ranks him 18 out of 113 in its visibility rankings.

Correction: Willson Jenkins represented Ann P. Varner, not Keith, in their 1994 divorce trial.

Addendum: We have received an extremely cordial e-mail from Mr. Jenkins. He would like for us to add that he did not actually represent Jimmy Neese in a law suit concerning the non-payment of loans to the City of Florence, since these loans were non-recourse in type and a lawsuit could not have been filed legally. I will also inject that Mr. Jenkins both lives and practices within the city limits of Florence, so he is also a victim of this default.

Tomorrow: James Hall II

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Robert Willson Jenkins Jr.

Today begins a three part series on the nominees to succeed Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle.

Robert Willson Jenkins Jr. is a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Florence. A partner in the firm of Jester & Jenkins P.C., Jenkins resides with his wife Bonnie in the Wildwood Park area of North Florence. Jenkins was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 31, 1962, and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Birmingham Southern College in 1985. In 1988, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama.

Besides his law practice, Jenkins is an adjunct at the University of North Alabama where he works with the Paralegal Program. The local attorney is also an avid sailor, serving as the Commodore of the Muscle Shoals Sailing Club and Secretary of the Dixie Inland Yacht Racing Association.

Martindale ranks Jenkins with a visibility factor of 13 out of 113 practicing attorneys in the city of Florence, making him no stranger to high profile cases. In 1994, Jenkins represented local businessman Keith Varner in his divorce from wife and business partner Ann P. Varner (for those interested in this case, it can be easily Googled for more information). In 2007, Jenkins represented real estate developer Jimmy Neese in his effort to secure forgiveness for over $600,000.00 in loans from the city of Florence.

Willson Jenkins is one of three candidates to be chosen from an initial field of seven. Retired Judge Leslie Johnson has assured the public that the vetting process was both strenuous and bipartisan. Every citizen concerned with the future of the court system in Lauderdale County needs to familiarize themselves with these candidates and make their opinions known to Gov. Bob Riley as soon as possible.

Tomorrow: Gilbert Self

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who Were the Other Four?

Retired judge Leslie Johnson has announced his selection committee's choice of three applicants to replace retiring Judge Ned Suttle. The three whose names will be forwarded to Gov. Bob Riley are James Hall II, Willson Jenkins, and Gilbert Self.

The missing pieces of the puzzle are the names of the four applicants that were cast aside. It had been rumored that Billy Jackson, a former Lauderdale District Attorney and a member of the Republican Party, had offered his name for consideration. While Johnson's remarks concerning the bi-partisan selection of the applicants sound noble on the surface, we must remember that party affiliation is hardly a secret here in the Shoals.

Hall is the only one of the three finalists to have judicial experience, something he was quick to point out in a TimesDaily interview. Should Hall be selected over the other two applicants, both known for their work in civil litigation, he will not be the first to use the Florence Municipal judgeship as a stepping stone to Lauderdale Circuit Court.

Obviously one must wonder why the names of the four also-rans are shrouded in secrecy. After all, it was a fair and unbiased decision, wasn't it?

What's up with this: For those who might not remember, Willson Jenkins was one of the attorneys who represented Jimmy Neese in his quest to avoid repayment of loans owed the City of Florence.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Jim Fisher in the Courier Journal

For those who've been missing Jim Fisher's witty computer columns, you can now find him every other week in the Courier Journal. Most households in the Shoals receive the CJ in their regular mail, but for those that don't, a link is provided to the left of this blog.

Our regular readers remember that, due to TimesDaily regulations, Jim was forced to give up his long-time column when he was elected to the Florence School Board. Kudos to Tom Magazzu and his staff for adding Jim to their stable of columnists.

While we're sure Jim is happy to give free advice via his columns, if you have any serious problems requiring immediate attention, we suggest you visit Jim and his staff at Excel Computers on Florence Boulevard. If you're traveling west, they're located on the right directly across from Hobby Lobby.

Now...if the Courier Journal could just find a great attorney to write an erudite legal column for them, they'd be in business!

Update: We understand that Morris Lentz remains in the Surgical-Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital where his condition is stable. Please continue to pray for Morris.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Morris Taff Lentz - Hero

Morris Taff Lentz has already done more in his 43 years than most people do in 80. Lentz, a Bank Indpendent Vice-President, is also a Rogersville volunteer firefighter and member of the small town's Chamber of Commerce.

It was in his capacity of firefighter that Lentz was injured early this morning. While fighting a fire just off Highway 101 in the Elgin community, Lentz was seriously injured when trapped by a falling wall.

Currently the firefighter is a patient at Huntsville Hospital where he has undergone the first of many surgeries to repair injuries to his leg and back. Lentz's condition remains serious, but when he improves there won't be a shortage of well-wishers. Morris Lentz is president of the Lauderdale County Volunteer Firefighters' Association and active in a multitude of community projects, including Rogersville's annual blue grass festival in which he frequently performs.

We urge everyone to pray for Morris and his family.

Thanks to our correspondent E.T. for much of the information used in this report.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Will You Marry Me? (Sign of the Times)

I doubt any who have driven north on Woodward Avenue the past few months have missed the electronic billboard next to the empty Camper Country building. When it was first erected, some complained that the sign's high visibility would increase driver inattention. If it hasn't already, it certainly will next week.

It seems the sign company is encouraging electronic marriage proposals. That's right, for a fee, a lovesick Lothario may publicly propose to his ideal woman. One young swain has already proclaimed his love without actually mentioning marriage, but it's early yet.

Of course, there's a second problem; just how are we to know the young lady's answer? Perhaps the sign's owners will sell space for those the week after.

New Shoals Pool: Which Lauderdale County teacher will be the next to be indicted?

Friday, February 6, 2009

What Helen Keller Didn't See

This was to be a column about signs, but research for the article has proved unsettling. Most of us here in the Tennessee Valley take for granted the admiration and amazement for the accomplishments of Helen Keller, but apparently that is not true everywhere, even in other parts of her home state.

Several have objected to recent signs referring to Keller in an attempt to promote tourism. We are invited to "come see what she couldn't see," and this has offended many. I found the ad campaign refreshing and unique and believe that Miss Keller would have also. If local residents find the Chamber of Commerce signs offensive, they will undoubtedly cringe at recent comments concerning her new statue destined for the U.S. Capitol.

Each state is allowed to place two statues in the Capitol building, and until the law was amended in 2002, the placements were irreversible. Things change--a theme we need to hold onto for this article. Immediately after the regulations were amended, the State of Alabama initiated plans for a statue of Tuscumbia native Helen Keller to stand in the visitors' area of our nation's capitol building. Late last year the bronze statue was finished at a cost of $325,000.00. No state funds were used in this endeavor; total funding came from the private sector. Yet, Alabama being what it is, there was bound to be controversy.

Did some object to the removal of the statue of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a fixture in the National Statuary Hall since 1908? Apparently not; remember, things change. Did someone object on the basis of a rumor it would be the likeness of Gen. Joseph Wheeler that would be replaced? No, and for the record, the Wheeler statue that has been in place in the Hall of Columns since 1925 will remain.

Apparently there have been objections to the Keller statue. Some have felt the State should have replaced Curry with an even more contemporary figure, while others have objected to representing Keller as a child rather than the elderly woman she was at her death. The most distressing comments have been directed at Keller personally, calling both her and the statue unattractive.

TideLaw343 was quoted in the Birmingham News online as stating: So, it's a statue of something that she couldn't see or hear. Do they even need to carve the rock? Stack the rough slab of stone up. It's as alert as she was.

Remember, the above statement was ostensibly from a student or alumnus of the University of Alabama's school of law. Things do change. Schools in most areas have not required Miss Keller's autobiography to be read in almost 30 years. It's been noted that we now have a generation of teachers who are not familiar with Miss Keller except via sick schoolyard humor.

Perhaps instead of a slick, professional campaign to advertise her birthplace to tourists, it's time to organize a grassroots campaign to re-introduce Helen Keller to the American educational system. Her memory deserves more respect than it currently commands. Things change.

Tomorrow: Some surprising signs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Community Soup Kitchen

First Presbyterian Church of Florence, located at 224 East Mobile Street, will offer a Community Soup Kitchen at Noon Friday February 6th. This will begin a six month ministry for the downtown congregation.

Anyone desiring a free meal is invited. Also, the church will offer referrals to various local agencies for those who currently need assistance with utility bills or child care.

It's unfortunate that such a need exists in this area, but kudos to the church for stepping forward to fill it. Our best wishes in this endeavor.

What's up with this: The town of Red Bay is losing several physicians due to budget cuts in state agencies--highly unusual for an area in Roger Bedford's district.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Billy Jackson

Much has already been written about the selection of Lauderdale Circuit Judge Mike Suttle‘s successor. While the ShoalsInsider reported six attorneys have applied in the initial selection process, another source has e-mailed us that in fact seven contacted selection committee head Leslie Johnson before the January 29th deadline. First reports on any news item are usually subject to change; therefore, the discrepancy is not surprising.

The ShoalsInsider has also published the names of five of the probable candidates, something the TimesDaily has so far not addressed. Whether the SI list is totally correct or not, one name stands out--that of Billy Jackson.

For a short time, Jackson was a Republican District Attorney for Lauderdale County and proved the office could be run efficiently and fairly. Let us hope that Mr. Jackson is indeed one of the applicants and will make the committee’s short list. The committee has previously stated that the application for the position did not inquire political affiliation. Certainly this is desirable; however, most of the members are long time associates of the local bar and know who belongs to which party. Whether that will make a difference in their vetting process remains to be seen.

No matter your political preference, don’t fail to make your wishes known to Gov. Bob Riley. We here in North Alabama are often treated as the proverbial step-child; we need to let Montgomery know we are here and we vote.

Reminder: There have been three fires in the Shoals area within the past 24 hours. Households with pets should remember to place decals in both front and back windows for the benefit of emergency personnel.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Florence-Lauderdale Government Building

When changes in the economic climate necessitated that First Southern Bank move to smaller headquarters, both Lauderdale County and the city of Florence viewed purchasing the multi-storied building then housing the bank. Situated immediately to the north of the courthouse and east of the Municipal complex, this building was a natural choice for an addition to either entity. Unfortunately, neither the county nor the city could afford to purchase the building on its own.

Combining funds to make the purchase seemed the ideal compromise. Cities and counties working together is not a new idea, but it has unfortunately been a rare occurrence in northwest Alabama. Now the building is ready for occupancy, but apparently not without some throwbacks to past rivalries.

It seems that in a effort to distribute space fairly, county and city governments will alternate floors. While this is an equitable settlement, one has to wonder how such an arrangement will look to outsiders seeking an area in which to locate new industry. As someone who visits the courthouse frequently, I can attest to the fact that this arrangement does not make it easier for citizens to conduct county business. Hopefully the rest of the transition will go smoothly, and all Lauderdale/Florence residents will be able to enjoy better services from these two entities.

What's up with this: Speaking of Florence public buildings, anyone conducting business in the Municipal Court offices on South Seminary Street will be met with some very disorganized and even filthy conditions. This building does not speak well of Florence.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Scope 310 Wants Volunteers

After our recent column on The Blue Door Thrift store, a member of the Scope 310 board contacted us concerning the need for volunteers. Scope 310, sometimes referred to as Shoals Cope for the Mentally Retarded, is seeking 10 volunteers via the RSVP program.

If you are over 55 and interested in becoming a permanent volunteer for this worthwhile organization, please visit the RSVP office in the Lauderdale County Courthouse to apply in person. The need for such local volunteers may increase as the thrift store grows its business.

If you're not sure that you want to volunteer for this particular agency, you may wish to inquire about other volunteer needs at RSVP. This wonderful organization works with several agencies in the tri-county area and is a blessing to the many residents who use its services.

What's up with this: The ShoalsInsider will be adding to its many offerings in the coming weeks. Be sure to check it out for the latest news, forum chat, or blog opinions.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

We Prosecute Incitement, But Not Murder?

A few weeks ago, a Lauderdale County jury declared it was unable to agree on a verdict in the Rosie Ingram trial. Mrs. Ingram was charged with inciting her son to attack a school enforcement officer by stating, "It will take more than you to get us out of here." The actual attacker, her son, has been convicted of assault and will face his punishment. So, is Mrs. Ingram free to return to her normal walks of life? Apparently not--District Attorney Chris Connolly has stated that he will retry Mrs. Ingram, using our taxpayer dollars to do so.

Certainly, Mr. Connolly is tough on crime as he promised in his election campaign. Or is he? Remember Shaun Shapley, the Lexington man who murdered his stepdaugher Jennifer Helen Bragg? Connolly agreed to a 25 year sentence for Shapley. After all, it saved the taxpayers all that money.

Perhaps Mr. Connolly needs to purchase a dictionary and look up the word "consistent." Jennifer Bragg deserved more.

What's up with this: Judge Leslie Johnson has received six applications for the position of Circuit Court Judge. Some have suggested that Deborah Bell Paseur's is among them. While we hope this isn't the case, how would it affect her retirement pay?