Thursday, April 30, 2009

Christopher A. Smith, Attorney for Lauderdale County

Dewey Mitchell has not yet announced that he will retire at the end of his current term, yet many are already speculating on his replacement. Current Lauderdale County Commission Attorney Christopher A. Smith is a close friend of Mitchell and one of the names most often mentioned as his successor.

Smith was born in Florence on November 8, 1962, and graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1985. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama in 1989 and returned to Florence where he began his practice with the law firm of O'Bannon and O'Bannon. Smith is currently affiliated with the firm of Self, Smith, & Burdine where he practices as a personal injury attorney.

The Lauderdale County Commission retained Smith in 1997, a short time after Dewey Mitchell became Probate Judge. In 1998, Smith led a lawsuit against the State of Alabama prison system that led to more stringent enforcement of existing laws concerning the housing of state prisoners by the county.

Martindale-Hubbell currently ranks Smith 26th in visibility out of 111 local attorneys, perhaps in part due to his reported plans to run for Probate Judge. If Smith does choose to run, he will be assured of competition on the Democratic front, and quite possibly from the Republican as well. This is an office that many have speculated will attract James E. Hall II, current municipal judge in Florence.

Assuming Chris Smith runs and loses, he would assuredly forfeit his position as County Attorney. Smith would do well to consider his formidable competition before declaring for this race.

What's up with this: T. Wayne Mitchell, former editor of the TimesDaily has been seen around town pressing the flesh--perhaps he also has political aspirations.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Lauderdale Probate Judge?

Since 1996, Dewey Mitchell has served as Lauderdale County's Probate Judge. According to local records, "Originally the duties of the Probate Judge were administrative duties and responsibilities relating to the control of roads, ferries, bridges, and the management of public buildings. The Probate Judge was also responsible for custody of land records and protected chattels by registration of brands." Obviously these duties have changed over the passing decades.

Mr. Mitchell was elected by a small majority, defeating the incumbent Bill Hanbery, a former Florence attorney. Due to a schism in courthouse personnel, Mitchell did not assume the office of Probate Judge under the best of circumstances and has done an admirable job in learning the ins and outs of the office, an office that also entails leadership of the County Commission.

Yet, Mr. Mitchell is lacking in one important area--he is not a juris doctor. Yes, in the great state of Alabama, one does not have to be an attorney in order to be elected probate judge. The legislature has attempted to remedy this situation at various times, but such bills have always been relegated to the back burner.

Sources close to Mitchell have indicated he is eager to leave his office at the end of this term. We wish Mr. Mitchell well. We also wish the current voting population of Lauderdale County will choose wisely when they mark their ballots. Glad-handing is never a proper substitute for education, but all too often Alabama voters have not recognized the need for such. Perhaps this time they will...

What's up with this: Sources say the current County Attorney may be the fair-haired candidate for Probate Judge, just not for any critical pending lawsuits?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hooray for Waterloo!

So, you wanna be in the movies? Well, this could be your lucky day. It seems that an indy film company has announced a casting call for a new movie to be shot in Alabama.

The independent motion picture will be filmed in Florence and Waterloo by Applied Art Productions. It's a low-budget, adventure-mystery that producers say will spotlight the area as well as local talent.

Think you might be the next Susan Boyle? Then hurry and contact Applied Art Productions at:


or email:

Good luck, and if you get the gig, my fee is 15% off the top.

Reminder: Morris Lentz Day is May 9th in Rogersville. Make your plans to be there--how often do you get to see a real live hero?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Judy Says; Troy Remains Silent

Few Shoals area residents with functioning sight and hearing are unfamiliar with the Tommy Arthur case. While serving a murder sentence in a Decatur work release facility, Arthur met Judy Wicker, an unhappy Muscle Shoals housewife who wanted to be rid of her husband without losing any of the financial perks of her marriage. The Wicker/Arthur tale of love and lust has never remained out of the limelight for long periods, and has again reared its horn-rimmed head.

While testifying yet again against her former lover, Judy Wicker has told the TimesDaily of her fears while in Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Elmore County. She relates that her life was threatened while there, due to the connections Arthur had in the women's prison. Whether Tommy Arthur actually had connections at Tutwiler is beside the point; however, we doubt his low-life tough guy image projected that far south. Wicker does speak the truth when she says she served the majority of her sentence not in the facility designated for Alabama's female prisoners, but in a nearby county jail.

Sources with unimpeachable information in this case tell us that Judy Wicker met a nearby county sheriff while on a work detail outside the prison and insinuated herself into his company. It was not long before the two were a romantic item, and the sheriff used his influence to have her transferred to his jail.

It's sad that Judy's murdered husband Troy Wicker is unable to speak from beyond the grave. We would love to interview him.

What's up with this: It seems the city of Sheffield has declared war on storefront churches. Whether one agrees with this decision or not, we salute Sheffield in attempting to bring its finances under control and to move the city forward.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

May Day and First Fridays Converge

Few of the lesser holidays bespeak our British heritage like May Day. Children in the South still make May baskets for their mothers and dance around May Poles (even if every year there's one ne'er-do-well who insists upon dancing in the opposite direction from his schoolmates). We wouldn't even be surprised to see the appearance of Hawthorne wreaths upon local doors. After all, on May 1st, many of us proclaim our Druid ancestry as vocally an an Irishman on March 17th.

This year May Day falls on Friday, making it even more special. This will be the second First Friday of the year (the events are not held in January, February, or March) and what better way to start the month than with food, art, and song. If you're looking for pottery (pictured above), paintings, or just some delicious food and entertainment, meet us next Friday at 5:00 p.m. on Court Street. If it should be your first time, we can promise you it won't be your last.

What's up with this: While downtown, check out the UNA-themed TimesDaily vending machines. Why is the rest of the area deprived of this purple and gold artistic touch?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do You Tweet?

Even if you don't tweet, perhaps you'd like to learn more about Twitter, the latest in social networking sites. Now, I'm sure many of you are asking what this has to do with the Shoals.

It seems there are a multitude of sub-groups in Twitter, and Corey O'Conner has formed the Shoals Area Twitter group. For all that's up to date with the Shoals or UNA, simply visit the SA here:

Perhaps you'd like to take it one step farther and create your own account. The more the merrier, but when you post any Shoals or UNA info, be sure to precede those two identifiers with a hash mark (#) to be included in the Shoals Area site. There you'll find updates from the TimesDaily, mugdotcom, and...oh, yes, Shoalanda.

See you there!

What's up with this: If you do start your own Twitter group, be sure to let us know. Another recent local addition is shoalsbiz.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Notes, Quotes, & Questions


* Jack's Hamburgers has moved the opening of their new Florence Boulevard store to May 20th. Management wants to inform the public that the side entrance on Glendale Avenue is now closed and lighting in the parking lot has been temporarily disconnected. They regret any inconvenience.

* Rick's Barbecue and Country Store at Elgin Crossroads is now open. Management invites everyone to visit their first Alabama Country Store location.

* Tammy McGuire has contacted us concerning our article on Keith McGuire. Mrs. McGuire is a native of Waynesboro, Tennessee, and not Greenhill as we stated. The McGuire rape trial will be held July 20th.


Winston County political humorist and pundit King A. Cockfight on Roger Bedford -
Roger is a white candidate, and that doesn’t scare people as much.

* Possible gubernatorial candidate Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb on what made her consider the race - “things that make Roger Bedford, for God’s sake, think he has a chance to win.”


* "Who is the artist that did the Shoals artwork?"
We ourselves would love to know the answer to that in order to give him or her proper credit. We downloaded the work from an eBay auction site that described the piece only as album art for the Drive-By Truckers. If anyone does know the name of the artist, please contact us.

* "Why are some links direct and some copy & paste?"
We originally used Internet Explorer as our browser of choice; IE creates direct or clickable links. Later we changed to Firefox which creates copy & paste links. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

What's up with this: If you aren't familiar with the King Cockfight blog, you've been missing a great deal of regional humor. Here's a link to the blog, but please be advised it carries an "R" rating.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tammy (Irons), Tell Us True

We recently published a column on the discrepancy in Mike Curtis' and Tammy Irons' recent statements concerning their 2006 vote on the 62% legislative pay raise. At that time we asked both Curtis and Irons to comment, as well as to do a guest column on any subject they felt important to Shoals area voters.

Since that time we have not heard from either representative; however, one of our associates reports that Rep. Irons has again been speaking from both sides of her mouth. Irons is one of 23 co-sponsors of HB714, a bill that proposes to offer parole to certain felons convicted of Capital Murder and currently serving a sentence of Life Without Parole.

For those who are unfamiliar with Alabama legal jargon, Capital Murder in Alabama is the equivalent of First Degree Murder in most other states. Those convicted of Capital Murder are sentenced to either Life Without or Death. The jury and judge have spoken, and unless new evidence is introduced, the sentence should stand.

Apparently some elected officials in Montgomery feel that "warehousing" these individuals is costing the state a great deal of money. That may be, but Alabama being only one of seven states that sentence white collar criminals to prison is also costing the state a tidy sum and should certainly be addressed before the sentences of those convicted of murder.

Yes, the bill has 24 sponsors in all, including Sue Schmitz who was recently stripped of her office after a felony conviction. If we simply disagreed with Rep. Irons on this subject, it would be one thing, but according to at least one TimesDaily forum member, Rep. Irons has personally written to him stating she opposes HB714.

We doubt that Irons actually opposes a bill she helped introduce. We don't doubt that Tammy Irons is a politician and will say whatever she thinks her constituency wishes to hear.

What's up with this: Lynn Greer has privately stated he may run for Bobby Denton's State Senate Seat should Denton retire. Sen. Denton would serve his constituency best by announcing his intentions one way or the other.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The name of the teen club is High-Class, but in this case it may be an egregious misnomer. Open just 14 days, the club located in the old Down-the-Hatch location adjoining Webster Inns & Suites was the site of a shooting Friday night. Police say youths from Sheffield, Tuscumbia, and Town Creek were involved in the altercation that left two wounded.

Webster Inn, located at the intersection of Hatch Boulevard and Jackson Highway (Nathan Boulevard), is adjacent to one of the most well-traveled intersections in the Shoals. Yet visibility apparently failed to deter a group of about 20 club-goers, all under the age of 19, from "taking their discussion outside" where the shootings occurred.

Sources say the night spot caters to what could be termed an inner city crowd and has featured such promotions as "Swimsuit Night" and the "Put On 4 My City" party that opened the club. The City promotion was hosted by Mix-Boy Entertainment, the brainchild of a 24 year-old Decatur hip-hop singer. Mix-Boy's MySpace page lists his heroes as Jesus, P. Diddy, and Master P. Well, at least he has eclectic taste.

While Sheffield needs all the new business it can get. it does seem that every new club in the river city quickly becomes the setting for violence. That's one thing Sheffield does not need more of.

What's up with this: The Lauderdale County Commission recently hired a Birmingham attorney to defend the county in a lawsuit against the Detention Center. Perhaps they should remember that a Birmingham practice does not automatically instill more legal expertise than one in the Quad-Cities.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority

After our columns on Allen Wilson (Lauderdale County teacher indicted for assault) and James Michael Self (General Manager of the now closed Shoals Suzuki dealership/former partner in Tom Jones Insurance), we had several question their involvement with the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport. We may not be able to answer all questions at this time, but this should shed some light on a few nebulous areas.

One reader questioned the ownership of the airport, mentioning reports that the facility belonged to the estate of the late Elton H. Darby Sr. While Darby Aviation has business interests based at the airport, records indicate the facility itself is the property of Lauderdale and Colbert Counties. The two counties have vested control in the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority.

James Michael (Mike) Self currently holds a three year term that will expire in March 2010. Muscle Shoals City Council minutes for March 2007 indicate that although the position was listed in the newspaper, only Self applied.

Allen Wilson is listed as an officer in the Authority. One reader questioned the legality of his position on the Board should he be convicted of the assault with which he's charged. Since this is not an elected position, the attorney for the Lauderdale County Commission would in all probability rule on whether he would be relieved of his seat on the Board.

It's interesting that until recently, Florence real estate developer Jimmy Neese also served on the Board. Perhaps aviation, like the entertainment industry, draws a particular personality type. We, as do many in Lauderdale County, anxiously await Mr. Wilson's trial.

The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport is owned by Colbert and Lauderdale Counties. The counties established the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority, Inc., which operates, maintains, and administers the airport through a seven-member Board of Directors:

Ed Borden -- Chairman
Rick Elliot - Vice Chairman

Allen Wilson -- Secretary/Treasurer

Braxton Ashe -- Member

Wayne Lash -- Member
Hank Robbins -- Member
Mike Self - Member

Matthew Hea - Airport Director

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Message from a Veteran

We recently published a column on retired U.S. Army Major Euell T. White. Maj. White has been kind enough to write a guest blog for us, and while not strictly about the Shoals, we hope you will enjoy it. We live in a wonderful country, the greatest country in the world. Yet our country does not always support its veterans, either in the way it should or even in the manner it has promised. Think about it.


After serving my country faithfully as a soldier for 21 years, and shedding some of my blood in the process, I have just learned that because of my service in the military, I am considered by the department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, a potential threat to our national security. Their recent report warns that veterans who oppose government restrictions on the constitutional right to bear arms are potentially right-wing extremists, and I am opposed to such restrictions. The report also warns that those who are against illegal immigration are potential threats. I believe that all of our laws should be based on the constitution and should be enforced, including the immigration laws. Since my retirement from the army, I have been active in Christian service, but that doesn’t redeem me. In fact, it only increases the level of the potential threat that I am considered to be. According to The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), those of us who oppose abortion are potential threats to national security. I have been an outspoken advocate for the right to life and consider the killing of unborn children murder. I suppose the veterans who are now engaged in combat will be monitored closely when they return home. It is amazing that President Obama’s mentor, William Ayers, the unrepentant leader of the Weathermen underground organization that promoted armed violence against our government, and carried out bombings that resulted in the deaths of innocent citizens, is not considered a threat to our national security, but our veterans returning home from war are.

Euell T. White. Major, Army Retired

419 West Lakeside Drive

Florence, AL 35630


Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Word from Morris Lentz

The following is a letter we received from Morris Lentz, recently injured Rogersville firefighter. We are publishing it in its entirety, but we do take exception to one statement; Mr. Lentz is a hero whether he wishes to claim the title or not. Also, we have not previously mentioned those who saved Morris on that calamitous night. They also are true heroes.

I want to thank you so much for the kind words in your blog. Although I am flattered that I was referred to as a "Hero", the true Hero's are the many volunteer firefighters that risk their lives each and every day here in Lauderdale County. If it were not for my fellow hero's, I would not be alive today. My brothers rescued me from under the wall and immediately began advanced life support including getting me on a helicopter to Huntsville Hospital. I cannot express how lucky we are in this county to have Lauderdale EMS on duty. They sent THREE paramedics to the scene within minutes to start working on me. So my hero's are the paramedics and firefighters that saved my life. I can honestly say I have saved several lives in my firefighting career but this time I was on the "other side" and saw first hand what we (or may I say "I") do on a daily basis.

While trapped under the wall I could not breath or scream............only pray. I prayed very hard. a couple of seconds before I was about to give up I heard my brothers (firefighters) talking to me and taking care of me. These were my hero's.

I suffered a broken left leg (tib-fib) fracture, fracture of the right foot, broken pelvis (both left and right), 11 broken ribs, broken back, collapsed lung and a concussion. As I am speaking to you my leg is healing (I have a permanent rod and screws in my left leg). I also had a complete spinal fusion including two rods and 8 screws permanently inserted in my back. I am currently in therapy and just learning to walk again.

Make no mistake. I will be back proudly serving my community as a volunteer firefighter as soon as I recover. This year will mark 26 years in the fire service for me of which I am very proud. I plan on serving many more as soon as I am released from the doctors for duty.

Again...........THANK YOU for your blog and posts. And a big thanks to the hundreds of well wishers who have flooded my mailbox with cards and those who have brought food and monetary funds for my benefit. Lauderdale County is the best place to live and raise a family. Lauderdale County and Rogersville will be my home forever.

Thank you so much - I attached a pic taken by one of my friends shortly after I was placed in a room.

Morris T. Lentz
Rogersville Volunteer Fire Department, Lt.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kudos to Lauderdale County Work Release

Community Corrections and Punishment Authority, commonly called Work Release, has made a tremendous impact in Lauderdale County and other areas in which it has been implemented. Recently a Florence police officer called the Lauderdale work release program a joke. Is it?

Not from our point of view. The work release center is located within the Florence-Lauderdale Detention Center and is currently headed by Willie Lyons, pictured at left. Lyons previously worked at Riverbend and replaced Elizabeth Berry as the program's director.

No one convicted of murder, kidnapping, arson, rape, trafficking, or first degree assault is eligible for the local work release program begun in 2004. Those who are sentenced to community corrections are closely monitored.

However, as with all such corrections programs, there have been escapes. The most problematic was that of Christopher Wade Hall, who in October 2007 escaped, attacking and seriously injuring a Rhodesville woman with a shovel. In September 2008, Jason Lynn Turbyfill escaped, and most recently, Jamie Edward Hayes walked away from the center on April 9th. Hayes was captured within a few hours, but not before he robbed a local convenience store.

Is there a way to prevent these "escapes?" Considering the nature of the program, in all probability, the answer is no. If that's the case, is the program worth it or is it really a joke?

Beyond a doubt, this program offers those convicted of lesser offences in Lauderdale County a chance at rehabilitation and employment. It also means that such inmates pay their way--something that many state inmates do not.

Many in the area take issue with some of the problems that have surrounded Judge Michael Jones in the past, but his support of the Community Corrections and Punishment Authority should not be one of them. We wish Mr. Lyons the best in his new position and look forward to the positive changes that he will be implementing.

What's up with this: A source informs us that none of the Florence C.I.T.Y. employees is an active participant in the class action suit against the State. Does that mean that they will refuse the salary if offered?

Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 Watermelon Festival T-Shirts Are Here!

It may have been Easter only last Sunday, but our neighbors in Russellville are looking ahead to next Summer's Watermelon Festival. Whether you go for the street entertainment or the watermelon tasting, you wouldn't want to attend without official attire.

The 2009 shirt features the ubiquitous ant who can never get enough of the delicious pink melon. The shirts arrived Monday and are now on sale. These shirts sold out quickly in 2008, so you might want to purchase yours early this year.

Call the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at 332-1760 or stop by their office at 103 South Jackson Avenue in downtown Russellville. After all, it's not every day that you get to see an ant on a Harley.

Note: We understand there's still a limited amount of vendor space at this year's Watermelon Festival, so don't put off reserving your booth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

C.I.T.Y. and the Fair Dismissal Act

The Fair Dismissal Act--now there's a name that fairly screams George Orwell's 1984. Now, 60 soon-to-be former employees of the Community Intensive Training for Youth program are invoking this law in a quest to retain their jobs. The problem is that by demanding to be paid while their dispute is in arbitration, they have forced their one-time employer to close its doors, resulting in the loss of 30 more positions.

According to system Chancellor Bradley Byrne, the financial burden of providing salaries for these employees past their official dismissal date of May 1 will deplete C.I.T.Y. funds by the end of June, when the highly controversial organization will cease to exist. C.I.T.Y runs programs in both Florence and Russellville; the one in Florence having been the personal pet of Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Sandlin.

While the original intent of the C.I.T.Y. program was admirable, it unfortunately became associated with State Rep. Sue Schmitz, good ol' boy politics, and unfettered spending. Those who believe in financial accountability for government can rejoice at the demise of this tax dollar vortex; however, one has to wonder how such a well-intentioned program morphed into oinking pork. Yes, pork, and we understand that in at least one location it did wear lipstick.

What's up with this: What Shoals county government employee was recently referred to as Loni Anderson in the Courthouse Forum? Well, there is some resemblance to WKRP in most county offices.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Major Euell T. White

We hope you're familiar with retired U.S. Army Major Euell T. White, but if you aren't, we would like to introduce you. Maj. White is a Florence native, and a brief synopsis of his life may be found at:

White is a frequent contributor to the TimesDaily editorial page and writes a blog that may be of interest to many:

Now White has written a book based on his experiences as a Green Beret advisor in Viet Nam. The Life of a Soldier is a must read for either military or local history buffs. It's for sale at several local outlets, or you may order it at:


Euell White
419 Lakeside Drive
Florence, Alabama 35630

The price of $25.00 includes shipping and handling.

What's up with this: It seems the State Director of the C.I.T.Y. program has announced it will be closing due to former staff filing employment appeals with the cash strapped agency. We're not sure if this is reflection on the education system in Alabama or the agency itself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just Tell the Truth, Mike Curtis & Tammy Irons

Apparently being a state legislator is comparable to owning an airplane--it's expensive. Our advice in either case: If you can't afford it, don't do it.

Mike Curtis of Greenhill, a former shoe salesman at Castner-Knott, previously served on the Lauderdale County Commission. In years past, the commission has been a mixed-bag, much in need of honest and industrious members, and from all reports Mr. Curtis served his district well while on the commission.

However, Curtis either felt he could better serve the citizens of Lauderdale as a state legislator or he sought the glory that is Montgomery. In either case, such campaigns cost money, as does the travel and lodging required to fill the role of state representative. Both Curtis and Rep. Tammy Irons recently lamented these expenses when commenting on their October 1, 2008, 3.5% cost-of-living raise.

We may infer that both attorney Irons and insurance salesman Curtis welcomed the raise, but both were also quick to mention that any excess is donated to charities and fundraisers. They were also eager to make certain other statements of a dubious nature.

From the Saturday, April 4, 2009, TimesDaily:

Curtis is a commission only insurance agent who said he's now a full-time legislator and part-time insurance agent. He said he voted no on the pay raise two years ago.
Irons said she was unaware the automatic pay raise was part of the resolution two years ago. "I voted against the pay raise," she said.

Seemingly both Curtis and Irons hope the voters have short memories. According to the March 22, 2007, TimesDaily:

The Shoals' two newest legislators faced their first big test this week, and they failed it miserably. State Reps. Mike Curtis, D-Greenhill, and Tammy Irons, D-Florence, had the opportunity to tell voters whether they agreed or disagreed with a 62-percent pay hike for themselves and other legislators in a recorded vote Tuesday. What did they do? Nothing. They dodged the issue by abstaining.

That's right--both Mike Curtis and Tammy Irons abstained. Why are they now saying they voted against the 62% raise?

Obviously Curtis and Irons are either mistaken, delusional, or...what's that other word that comes to mind? When asked about the raise, Rep. Marcel Black stated he merited it. The merit of the raise is only Mr. Black's opinion, but at least it wasn't an outright lie. We suggest both Rep. Mike Curtis and Rep. Tammy Irons owe Shoals voters both an explanation and an apology for their blatant falsehood.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some Recent Feedback

Two recent columns brought a great deal of feedback, both positive and negative. We hope we can address the negative responses and clear up any misconceptions.

While most of the e-mails we received concerning our Roger Bedford blogs was positive, some asked why we opposed having a governor from North Alabama. Let us assure our readers that, human nature being what it is, we would love to have a governor from this area; however, we would prefer an honest politician from Dothan to a less than honest candidate from Russellville.

Similarly, while most contacting us were appreciative of our column on Bank Independent's new debit card promotion, one reader expressed two concerns. He especially took umbrage to the use of the word "scam" concerning overdraft fees. As we stated in the original blog, this was a word used in several sites concerning the check payment order reversal that is widely taking place in today's banking institutions. Here is a link to one site that is especially informative:

This reader also asked if we quoted actual Bank Independent rates for debit and credit card purchases. As stated, the amounts mentioned were current average banking charges. It should also be noted that banks may charge different customers varying rates.

For instance, a small bookstore taking in $100.00 in daily charges might be billed 3.25% on its transactions, while the mini-mart next door would be charged 3.00% on receipts of $1,000.00. The jewelry store a few blocks away would receive a rate of 2.75% for its $10,000.00 in daily credit purchases.

We hope this clears up any misconceptions on these two columns and, as always, appreciate your feedback.

What's up with this: Some students at Rogers High School in Greenhill have contacted us about promoting a memorial for slain classmate Chelsie Garner; we will have more on this later and welcome reader suggestions.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Thoughts

Pictured above is a traditional Easter Sunday at the Governor's mansion in Montgomery. Gov. Jim Folsom Sr. certainly had one of the largest and most colorful families in the last century. Times change, but some things are forever.

While Easter is not mentioned in the Bible, and we hope all remember Christ's death, burial, and resurrection each Lord's Day, this Sunday is universally reserved for such a purpose.

He is risen! All glory and praise to Him who gave His life that we might avail ourselves of His salvation. I pray that we all do.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Author Debra Glass

Besides being a sometime contributor to this column, Debra Glass is an accomplished author and novelist. We had the opportunity to interview her on the release of two print books from noted e-publisher Ellora's Cave.

SS: You frequently use this area as a backdrop in your novels; are you a Shoals native?

I was born in Florence and have lived here all my life. I attended both Wilson and Bradshaw and graduated from UNA with an MAed with emphasis in history.

SS: I know you started your career with a series of books on local ghosts; how many do you currently have in print?

DG: Currently, I have four regional ghost story collections.

SS: Any plans for another one?

DG: Not at this time. I am writing for two publishers and courting a third, but my romance novels deal with ghostly heroes.

SS: I know your romances have become your bread and butter. Where can we find your books, particularly Ellora's Cave?

DG: and K's Cove in Elgin. You can also check with Books-A-Million and Cold Water Books; if they don't have them in stock, they can order them.

SS: How many do you have with Ellora's Cave, both electronic and print, and how many are scheduled for release?

DG: I have eight books with Ellora's Cave. Currently, two are print and all are available as E-books. I also have a print book with EC's sister publisher, The Lotus Circle, in their metaphysical line. You can take a look at

SS: Now that you've joined the ranks of the famous, do people recognize you when they meet you in public?

DG: I get recognized a lot, mostly by people who have either been on my autumn ghost tours or have read my books.

SS: I understand your husband is a restauranteur. Tell us about your husband's eatery.

DG: Timm owns Pizza Marina on River Road. They have the best pizza, salads, and desserts in the Shoals area!

SS: Besides being a writer, you're also something of a scholar, right?

DG: I have a master's degree in education with an emphasis in history. My degree qualifies me to teach German and history in high school.

SS: I'm sure a lot of our readers would love to meet you--when and where is your next autograph party?

DG: I will be at the Romantic Times conference in Orlando April 22 - 26 and will be a panelist speaking about writing paranormal characters. I will also be signing my print books and downloads of my e books. I will be hosting an author's table at the Reader Appreciation Luncheon on May 2, in Huntsville. Also attending are Linda Howard, Beverly Barton, Rhonda Nelson, Vicki Lewis Thompson, and others. Check my website for details at

SS: That's certainly a full schedule. I know you're constantly striving to grow as an author and as a person; where do you see yourself ten or twenty years down the road?

DG: While I love writing for EC and plan to stay with them, I would also like to write in the young adult genre for a New York publishing house.

I want to personally thank Debra for being so gracious. If you've never experienced her writing, I would suggest you start your collection of her works today. The Shoals is truly fortunate to have someone of her calibre calling it home.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jeff Dowdy - Local Hero

Did you know Jeff Dowdy at Waterloo High School? Perhaps you knew him at UNA? No, then how about working in men's wear at Rogers' Department Store downtown? Or maybe in the accounting department at the old Martin Industries on Tennessee Street? Or was it Wood Avenue Church of Christ?

If you did know Jeff any of those places, we're pretty sure you were surprised when he actually did join the FBI. You were also probably surprised when he made it through Quantico. Why? Well, Jeff was always...just a little bit...crazy. Yes, that's the word. Jeff was a wild and crazy guy.

Now, Jeff Dowdy is a genuine hero. Maturity sneaks up on all of us, and judging by the grey in Jeff's hair, he is no exception. Congratulations, Jeff. We're proud to have known you way back when.

What's up with this: It seems an inmate escaped from the Lauderdale Work Release Center early Thursday morning--no "joking" matter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fabulous Finds - Spring 2009

Going green? On a budget? Just like to shop? Then you're in luck--tomorrow is the first day of the Fabulous Finds sale for Spring 2009. Located in the old Wilson Foods building directly across from the North Florence Post Office, this semi-annual sale features everything imaginable for the home, with the possible exception of the kitchen sink.

All merchandise is gently used and priced to sell. For more information, check out the sale's website at:

Be sure to arrive early. The sale starts at 8:00 a.m., and we'll see you there.

What's up with this: Check out "Lauderdale Family Court Feedback" to the left of this blog for some intriguing new posts.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Old Railroad Bridge

In 1839, the first local span across the Tennessee River was opened for traffic. Originally the bridge served wagons and livestock, as well as trains. Much of the bridge's history is lost to time, but we do know that in 1864 Union Gen. John Thomas Croxton placed his men at each end of the edifice in order to prevent Confederate soldiers and supplies from crossing the river.

A streetcar line opened in 1904 and crossed the bridge until 1933 when Wilson Dam siphoned most of the traffic from the older structure. L&N Railroad continued to use the bridge for the larger part of the 20th century, but abandoned the structure over 20 years ago.

At that time, local residents banded together to form the Old Railroad Bridge Company, an organization dedicated to saving the historic span. Among the members over the years have been Ray and Charlotte Lawson, their daughter Annette Faulkner, Billy Don Anderson, Kevin Bardon, James Bedsole, and current president Rilly Winkle. Despite the money and effort put into the project, L&N decided to remove the rotating span that reached from Patton Island to Florence, leaving only the Sheffield-Patton Island link standing.

In 2005, the City of Sheffield officially leased the bridge from the organization; now the Old Railroad Bridge Company is asking the town to purchase the structure and add it to their stable of parks. Sheffield is the most financially strapped city in the Shoals, but the purchase of the bridge is not an offer the town should refuse. Once Sheffield takes total control of the edifice, the state Historical Commission has promised a grant to build an observation platform at the Patton Island terminus.

Ownership of the bridge will also give Sheffield the legal footing to arrest and prosecute those responsible for recent graffiti and other vandalism to the structure. Currently, only video cameras donated by Tim Zuelke offer any protection against those who have repeatedly vandalized the Ashe Boulevard entrance.

It speaks well of Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford that he is willing to work to make this purchase possible. With the coming of the new river walk, the 170 year-old Railroad Bridge will be another jewel in the crown.

Our sympathies to the family of Doyle Truitt.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Ritz Theatre--A Sheffield Treasure

We hope many of you were able to attend the latest Ritz presentation, Rejoice, Dear Hearts. If you did, you saw that the theatre's facade and adjacent sidewalks are in the middle of a massive renovation. Much of the funding for these improvements comes from the semi-annual Ritz yard sale.

The sale will again be open the first Saturday in June, with merchandise featured at half-price. Located in the Foodland Shopping Center, the sale will be open from 9:00 until 1:00.

While in Sheffield, be sure to detour past the theatre itself, located on West 3rd Street just off Montgomery Avenue. With the exception of the marquee, the building again looks much as it did in the above 1939 photo.

During its grand days, the theatre was owned by Louis Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum's grandson Jonathan showcased many of the Shoals' early movie houses in his book Moving Places, now available to read online at:

Now, if we could just bring Sparky back to the Shoals Theatre, we'd be in business...

What's up with this: Anyone know what happened to the new twin theatres announced two years ago for Sheffield's Hatch Boulevard?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Songwriters in the Round

Did you remember that April is Earth Month? That's right--it's not just a day any more, now each day in April is set aside to consider the wonder that is our planet, not to mention ways to improve and save our environment.

There are several events scheduled for the Shoals area, and luckily for us, most of them feature music. Be sure to reserve Saturday, April 11, for Songwriters in the Round. The event features several well-known Shoals songwriters and entertainers plus a silent auction. Proceeds from the event will benefit Shoals area environmental causes.

Performances are at 5:00 and 8:00 at the Dish Gourmet Cafe in downtown Florence. Tickets are $40.00 each, a small price to pay for an evening with Walt Aldridge and several rising local music stars. For more information, call Shoals Tourism at 740-4141.

What's up with this: Supposedly, several Florence residents know the location of the missing third tier of the Wilson Park fountain. We can understand their reticence in the matter, but can you say "anonymous tip?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roger Bedford and the Law

Attorney and State Representative Roger H. Bedford Jr. is familiar with Alabama courts in more ways than one. On December 22, 2001, Bedford was indicted in Marion County on charges of extortion. Specifically, he was accused of withholding two million dollars in state grants earmarked for an agricultural center in the rural county. Allegedly, the "Prince of Pork" refused to give county commissioners the funds unless they purchased 33 acres of land from his friend, Marion County industrialist Blue Harbor. When only one of the five commissioners agreed to testify in court, the charges were dropped.

In 2007, Bedford was one of four Alabama legislators accused of failing to file a report on campaign contributions. Again, a judge dismissed the charges.

Not all controversy surrounding Bedford has been legal in nature. After securing a large grant for the Bureau of Tourism and Travel, Bedford, along with Bureau lobbyists Jeff and Deb Miller, used $25,000.00 to attend a Paris air show. He later returned the entire amount of his expenses, $3,395.00, to the State.

In 1998, Bedford campaigned on the promise to fund the Children First program, but later supported legislation that removed the earmarked funds for this program, allowing the money to be diverted to causes with greater effect on his district.

During the Siegelman administration, the governor awarded a prime contract to Trillion Industries, a company whose submission was five million dollars over the lowest bidder. Siegelman friend Bedford was the attorney representing Trillion, a widely reported fact that did nothing to enhance Bedford's reputation.

Bedford's political ploys have also included his family. Both his wife and son have campaigned for positions as delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Political analyst Lawrence Kestenbaum has commented on the practice:

"Nonetheless, there are now so many related suggest either a shortage in the pool of potential delegates, or a delegate selection process so open to manipulation by insiders that it's easy for a politico to get...credentials for family members."

Now, with the withdrawal of Jim Folsom Jr. from the ranks of potential Democratic candidates, Roger Bedford is seeking his party's nomination. He certainly has the funding and the tenacity to make it an interesting race. Not that Alabama politics are ever less than fascinating.

What's up with this: Apparently at least one Florence police officer thinks the Florence-Lauderdale work release program is "a joke." Perhaps it's something Troy King's office should place on its list to investigate.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Roger Bedford Runs for Governor--Yes, Really

Virginia native Roger H. Bedford Jr. has announced his plans to run for governor of the State of Alabama. Bedford, dubbed the "Prince of Pork" by the Tuscaloosa News, currently serves as Democratic State Senator for the 6th Congressional District consisting of parts of Colbert, Fayette, Franklin, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, and Winston Counties. The 2000 U.S. Census found that 18% of this district is functionally illiterate.

Bedford himself is hardly uneducated. An undergraduate of the University of Alabama, he received his juris doctorate from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Bedford is married to heiress Maudie Darby, daughter of the late Southern Sash founder Elton H. Darby Sr., a man Sports Illustrated called a "multi-zillionaire."

Among his affiliations, Bedford lists the Baptist Church, National Rifle Association, and Ducks Unlimited. He has also been closely linked to former Gov. Don Siegelman and Marion County industrialist Dennis "Blue" Harbor.

Having lost to Jeff Sessions in his 1996 bid for the U.S. Senate, it remains to be seen if Bedford has the name recognition to win the 2010 Democratic Party nomination. Perhaps more to the point, does Roger Bedford have the right kind of name recognition?

Tomorrow: The lawsuits.

Friday, April 3, 2009

When Is It Assault in Alabama?

Anyone familiar with the laws of the great State of Alabama know that our judicial code is capricious. Not only do we have the second longest state constitution, our capital murder statute has the most addenda of any state.

While most assaults involving only the body (hands, feet, elbows, etc.) are misdemeanors, some specific assaults are felonies. Pictured at right is Rosie Ingram, recently sentenced to serve three years in the State Prison System for inciting an attack on a police officer. We are certainly glad that Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly is on top of this; too bad he wasn't on top of things when murderers Duwon Jones and Shawn Shapley were sentenced.

Ingram and her son committed a felony because the assault occurred on school property and the victim was a police officer. Yes, this sounds good, but let us consider these scenarios:

1. A substitute teacher incurs the wrath of a male student. If he strikes her in class on Friday, he will be tried for a felony. If he encounters her downtown the next day and then strikes her, he will be charged with a misdemeanor.

2. A police officer and an army officer on leave are walking downtown when they see a man harassing his girlfriend; both attempt to intervene. If the boyfriend strikes the police officer in his rage, it is a felony. If he strikes the army officer, it is a misdemeanor.

3. A receptionist in a physician's office is attacked over a billing error. It is a felony. A receptionist in an insurance office is attacked over a mistake in a statement, and it is a misdemeanor.

Yes, in the State's zeal to protect certain individuals in our population, it has done a disservice to others. I would suggest that the law be changed so that each assault is judged on a case by case basis. I'm not holding my breath.

What's up with this: Tonight is First Friday in Florence. We understand there will be more live entertainment than usual. Don't miss it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Walk a Mile for a Child

Saturday, April 4, 2009, marks the seventh annual Safeplace Walk-a-Mile-for-a-Child. This year the walk will begin at the Webster Hotel in Sheffield at 10:30 and conclude at Wilson Park in Florence at Noon.

The 2009 walk is indeed special as it includes the Jennifer Hampton team composed of members of the TimesDaily forum. Jennifer, a former Waterloo homecoming queen, was brutally raped and murdered last year while on a business trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. It's especially fitting to honor her memory by contributing to an organization that has supported battered women and children in the Shoals since 1981.

For more information on how you can help support Safeplace during Child Abuse Prevention Month or in any other capacity, please call Heath Haddock at 256-767-3076. We sincerely hope none of our readers ever needs the services of this wonderful organization, but this walk will help make sure that Safeplace continues to be there for those who do.

Reminder: After the Safeplace Walk, be sue to visit the Ritz yard sale at Foodland Shopping Center in Sheffield. Everyone wants to live green, and supporting this wonderful organization is one of the best ways to do so.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Bank Independent Promotion

Like many in the Shoals area, I'm a Bank Independent customer by default. When the Colonial BancGroup sold its Northwest Alabama holdings, mine was one of many area branches purchased by the local Bank Independent.

At first, I was neither happy nor unhappy with my new bank. Then the time arrived when a direct deposit didn't make it into my account on the appointed day. I knew that I had uncharacteristically bounced a check, but was shocked to find that I had been charged with two. It seems that Bank Independent is among the growing number of banks that pay the largest draft first. I looked into the practice and found several financial pundits who called the procedure a scam, but since I usually keep my checking account sufficiently padded, I mentally reprimanded myself and thought little more about this particularly unfair money-making scheme.

That is until today when I retrieved a soaked advertising flyer from my city mailbox. I initially wondered why Bank Independent was sending me literature touting the virtues of its debit card when I already use mine an average of five times a day. Reading glasses are a wonderful invention, and when I gently placed mine atop my nose I began to read Bank Independent's latest spiel. Then I removed the readers, cleaned the lenses, and read the offer a second time. Apparently I hadn't misread it the first.

Yes, if I, or you, or perhaps any debit card toting simians out there, will just tell sales personnel to ring Bank Independent debit cards up as a credit, we can be the beneficiary of a $5.00 gift card from chez McDonald's--that is if we do it 15 times within the span of two weeks.

If some of you are scratching your heads and asking what difference it would make to Bank Independent, then you've obviously never looked closely into retail banking fees. For every $100.00 one spends using a debit card, the bank charges the merchant an average of $1.29; using a credit card, the bank charges retail establishments an average of $3.07. Assuming one's 15 purchases totalled $1,000.00, by using that little piece of plastic as a credit card, the card holder has just made Bank Independent $12.80 and taken an extra $17.80 from local merchants who will be sure to pass their loss on to the consumer in the very near future.

Yes, Bank Independent touts itself as the homegrown institution. It's really a shame that the Shoals has grown something so twisted.

What's up with this: I see we have a fan from the Monroeville area. Keep reading; it's only going to get better in July.