Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jeremy Britten Communicates

Our April 25th blog incorrectly identified Corey O'Connor as the founder of the Shoals Area Twitter group. The man behind the group is actually Jeremy Britten (pictured), a Seattle native and web designer who currently works as Web Communications Manager at the University of North Alabama.

Britten is an extremely talented designer whose work and photographs may be viewed on Flickr. You can learn more about Jeremy and his humorous insights on the world of professional art at:

We hope Britten and his family will choose to remain in the Shoals where artistic pursuits are often underrated. If you Tweet, be sure to send a thankful twitter to Jeremy for his efforts on behalf of the Shoals.


Our March 25th article on Shoals Suzuki contained some incorrect information concerning Kevin Self. We incorrectly listed Kevin's middle name as Dwight; this was taken from the June 8, 2008, TimesDaily online concerning Classic Rock 105. Further, Kevin was not married at the time of his father's death, did not inherit any of his father's estate, and therefore was not a partner to his brother Michael Self. Also, we listed the date of the sale of WLAY as 2000. Self Broadcasting actually sold the radio station in 1998 to Cumulus; Cumulus sold the station to Clear Channel Communications in 2000.

Mr. Self had further asked us to state that no such organization as Self Broadcasting exists. Although our article did not mention the status of the company, we are happy to add that Alabama records show this company is now dissolved. Our apologies to Mr. Self for any inconvenience these errata have caused him.

What's up with this: It seems the recently terminated Sheffield police officer (whose name has not yet been made public) was also fired from the Russellville Police Department. Perhaps education is not the only occupation in which trash is passed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Matthew D. Conley - He Never Saw His Daughter

Part VI in our Memorial Week series:

Matthew D. Conley grew up in the small unincorporated town of Greenhill, home of the Rogers High School Pirates. His funeral was held in the school gym.

Conley was killed in Iraq on February 18, 2006, the first Shoals area native to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Besides his parents and two sisters, Conley was survived by his pregnant wife Nicole. He was two weeks short of his 22nd birthday.

Matthew Conley's daughter Catherine was born on March 16, 2006, 25 days after his death. While Catherine will never have the opportunity to know her father, she will certainly learn about his life and death from those who knew and loved him.

There have been many tributes to Corp. Conley, here is one of them:

Let us hope that this war is soon over and all who are serving our country will be honored on Veterans Day--not Memorial Day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives

Part V in our Memorial Week series:

Alabama is a big state; most of us have seen only a small portion of what it has to offer. We in the Shoals are fortunate that we live only 45 miles from the home of the official state veterans' museum.

Located in Athens, the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives is located at 100 Pryor Street in a refurbished L&N Depot. Exhibits from every U.S. military era dot the inside of the museum, while memorial bricks pave the patio outside.

The museum held its Memorial Day program Monday (pictured above), but it offers area residents more than just the occasional holiday fete. The museum has two important functions in the near future and everyone is invited:

May 31st, "Meet and Greet the Director" Stop by the Museum on Sunday after 2:PM, meet Sandy Thompson and take a tour of the museum.

June 20th "Call to Veterans" Inviting veterans from all surrounding counties to the Alabama Veterans' Museum and Archives.

In the near future, we will be reporting more on the activities featured at the Veterans Museum and Archives. Until then, we hope you take advantage of those mentioned above. We've been to the museum many times, and we can assure you that the staff will make your experience both enjoyable and memorable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lionel Terry - He Died to Protect an H-Bomb

Part IV in our Memorial Week series:

Lionel A. Terry grew up in the small North Alabama town of Athens in Limestone County. Terry's ancestors had arrived in the area in 1813; his great-great grandfather had fought in the War Between the States; a great uncle had fought in World War I, with a second joining the military a few years later. It seemed prudent for Lionel to enter military service before embarking on his college career at what was then Athens College.

Rising in the ranks of non-commissioned officers, Terry decided to re-enlist for a second term before leaving the service. He was nearing the end of his second enlistment when he took part in a fateful training exercise on January 19, 1961. Called a Round Robin Flight, Felon 22 left Biggs Air Force Base in Texas, destined for North Dakota. A flight engineer, Terry was a last minute replacement and not originally scheduled to fly that day.

Somewhere near the Four Corners area of Utah, the B-52 encountered turbulence and began to descend. Whatever the plane encountered had compromised its structural integrity, and the bomber began to disintegrate. Of the crew of seven, three ejected, the others perishing in the crash.

The flaming wreckage streaking across the night sky attracted onlookers from miles around, but accounts differed as to the number who had parachuted to supposed safety--while some witnesses mentioned three survivors, others saw only two, a circumstance the Air Force initially blamed for the lack of searchers for Terry who had landed miles away from his crew mates.

Locals offered a different story. Search parties for Terry were already under way when Air Force personnel arrived four hours later. Refusing any help, the military authorities announced they would handle the search for the staff sergeant, as well as for the plane's wreckage. Even Terry's maternal uncle, an Army colonel, was refused information concerning the search. Two days later a local man breached the secured area on horseback and found Terry's body, still warm.

The Air Force listed Terry's cause of death as head trauma, yet he had lived almost 48 hours after the crash, huddling in a ravine and covering himself with his parachute. Why had the Air Force refused any help from local searchers?

That question was answered in 1992 when declassified military documents indicated the "chaff" listed as Felon 22's cargo was an H-Bomb. Those familiar with cold war military operations have speculated that the training flight may have carried as many as four hydrogen bombs. The Air Force has still not officially spoken of the possibility of such bombs on the training flight.

As Lionel Terry lay dying, President John F. Kennedy was giving his inaugural address. Staff Sergeant Terry did indeed ask what he could do for his country and gave all. Remember the flight of Felon 22.

Special thanks to Jim Styles of The Zephyr who refused to let this story die.

The Don Michael-Audie Murphy Bridge?

Part III in our Memorial Week series:

A new bridge spans the Tennessee River between Florence and Sheffield. Actually, the bridge isn't even that new; and if we consider the decades of planning and politicking that went into the span, it has already reached middle age in this era of planned obsolescence. Yet, the bridge still has no name.

Our December 16, 2008, blog suggested that Gov. Bob Riley name this edifice in honor of Lauderdale native Don Leslie Michael, and several others in North Alabama have made similar requests over the last half-decade--so far with no results. The following is the citation accompanying Michael's Congressional Medal of Honor:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Specialist Four Michael, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving with Company C. Spec. Michael was part of a platoon which was moving through an area of suspected enemy activity. While the rest of the platoon stopped to provide security, the squad to which Spec. Michael was assigned moved forward to investigate signs of recent enemy activity. After moving approximately 125 meters, the squad encountered a single Viet Cong soldier. When he was fired upon by the squad's machine gunner, other Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons from a well-concealed bunker to the squad's right front. The volume of enemy fire was so withering as to pin down the entire squad and halt all forward movement. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Spec. Michael exposed himself to throw 2 grenades, but failed to eliminate the enemy position. From his position on the left flank, Spec. Michael maneuvered forward with 2 more grenades until he was within 20 meters of the enemy bunkers, when he again exposed himself to throw 2 grenades, which failed to detonate. Undaunted, Spec. Michael made his way back to the friendly positions to obtain more grenades. With 2 grenades in hand, he again started his perilous move towards the enemy bunker, which by this time was under intense artillery fire from friendly positions. As he neared the bunker, an enemy soldier attacked him from a concealed position. Spec. Michael killed him with his rifle and, in spite of the enemy fire and the exploding artillery rounds, was successful in destroying the enemy positions. Spec. Michael took up pursuit of the remnants of the retreating enemy. When his comrades reached Spec. Michael, he had been mortally wounded. His inspiring display of determination and courage saved the lives of many of his comrades and successfully eliminated a destructive enemy force. Spec. Michael's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

Historically, most who were awarded the Medal of Honor have received it posthumously; one notable exception was Audie Murphy, who later gained fame in Hollywood. Perhaps we should attach Murphy's name to the project in order to bring our request to the forefront. After all, the Alabama State Legislature already spends more time discussing Miss California than the welfare of the average Alabamian.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sammy Coker - He Died Twice for His Country

Part II in our Memorial Week series:

Samuel Earl Coker died for his country in the jungles of Viet Nam in 1965. Thirty-seven years later he died again in the 2002 HBO production
Path to War, a docudrama depicting the wartime struggles of President Lyndon Johnson, "warts and all." During one pivotal scene, the camera pans away from Michael Gambon's Johnson to focus on a document the chief executive has just signed. Prominently displayed is a letter of condolence to Coker's parents who then lived on Reeder Street in East-Central Florence.

Even in 2002, Coker's death in an unpopular war caused controversy. Was he simply a forgotten casualty, as Florence's TimesDaily chose to depict him, or did he represent something more? Several individuals disabused this idea in letters to the local paper; here are excerpts from two of them:

"I’m not going to college. I’m going to join the army," he told me. He would, he said, learn a trade and get paid while he was learning. When he got out, he’d go to work for Reynolds or TVA. He’d make more money than anyone in his family ever had, he said. He’d buy a car, then a house.

But Sammy’s dreams died with him in South Vietnam in 1965. By the time I read in the newspaper of his death, I had already formed the beginnings of strong opposition to the war, opposition that would grow in the years that followed, even though others I had known were also dying in Vietnam: Joel Forrester, a fourth-grade classmate; Robert Lee McCaig, another classmate at Appleby; Bob LeCates, who lived down the street; Chad Barber, whose family’s home overlooked the creek where I swam as a child. I had to separate the warriors, whom I had known and cared about, from the war that I could not understand.

Linda Quigley


I did not know Sammy, and I am fairly sure he did not know me. But I have been aware of and reminded of his sacrifice all of my life - how he left Florence, Alabama, and died 10,000 miles from home; how his death affected his family and friends for the rest of their lives; of the terrible cost of war.

Sammy Coker, therefore, affected the lives of people he didn’t know, and far from being forgotten, he left a legacy of service and sacrifice for us to remember.

Tony Riley

I think Mr. Riley summed it up pretty well...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Some Gay Ball?

While driving in the early autumn of 2001, I heard a radio announcer mention a ten year-old Billy Ray Cyrus song that had again become popular--"Some Gay Ball." It wasn't until weeks later while watching a country video that I realized the song was actually Some Gave All. The song has become a Memorial Day classic, and we offer it here for all our readers on the day our country officially celebrates this holiday of remembrance.

This is the first in a series of columns that will continue through May 30th, traditional Memorial Day.


NCAA sources tell us Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, Georgia, is seriously being considered as the new home of the Division II National Football Championships.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You Said What on MySpace?

You may remember our January 17, 2009, blog featuring North Alabama photographer Mark Davis. Davis has been campaigning for his custodial rights in Lauderdale Circuit Judge Mike Suttle's court for some time. Suttle recently retired, succeeded by Gilbert P. Self; however, Davis still maintains his website, Why, Judge Suttle?, linked at the left of this column.

Mark frequently forwards items of interest to us, and this one is sure to strike a cord with many. Has your ex dissed you in his/her social networking site? If so, now you can have your say. It seems that Time Magazine wants to hear your horror stories:

"I need to talk to anyone who had been burned by something they wrote or their spouse put on a social networking site by Wednesday. (May 27) Or, if they worked out a social networking policy with their exes in advance that would also be interesting. Have them email me at"

Should Time not use your war stories for its article, send them to us. What's romance if not politics with more than a touch of emotion added?

Reminder: Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Fly your flag. Remember those who have paid the supreme price for our freedom.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jack's Hamburgers & the Birmingham Police Department

Like scores of others, I witnessed an unusual scene Thursday night: Bulldozers and other heavy equipment worked rapidly and repetitively to remove the old Jack's restaurant on Florence Boulevard. When I stopped to buy gasoline, on-lookers told me the process had begun around six o'clock; now at almost nine, nothing was left but rubble and waste. It was destroyed in less than three hours.

The Jack's on the corner of Glendale Avenue and the boulevard had stood for almost 30 years, experiencing add-ons, remodeling, and customer growth on a regular basis. Ironically, the old building had replaced an obsolete "George Wallace for Governor" headquarters.

Why ironically? As I left the other on-lookers and drove home, I thought of George Wallace and Bull Connor. Both had done much to bring a reputation of bigotry and violence to the state, and it had taken 30 years to eradicate this view of Alabama, Birmingham in particular. Now, in just 30 seconds, all the good had been undone, at least in the eyes of the world.

When the old Jack's fell, it revealed a sparking new edifice, the jewel in Jack's crown, at least for the next few weeks or months until an even more modern facility is built elsewhere. When the Birmingham Police Department's reputation fell, it left nothing but a bad taste in our mouths. The four officers responsible owe everyone in the state an explanation, but I'm not expecting one.

Reminder: Petco on Cox Creek Parkway is holding a Pet Adoption Day today from Noon until 4:00 p.m. Don't you need a new Frisbe partner or personal masseuse?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hank Sherrod - He's Got Game

Henry Floyd Sherrod III, better known as Hank, is a Florence attorney specializing in civil rights cases and he's about to take on the Decatur Police Department. Like we said, he's got game.

A 1982 graduate of Tuscumbia's Deshler High School, Sherrod graduated from Birmingham Southern in 1986 and received his juris doctorate from Vanderbilt in 1989. Since 1990, he has practiced law in Florence. Sherrod describes himself as "a small town civil rights lawyer, runner, paddler, and non-conformist."

A member of the Alabama ACLU Board of Directors, Sherrod has previously taken on some interesting cases. He once represented Tony Lee Smith in his bid to practice Odinism while incarcerated in the Alabama Prison System. More recently, he won a well-deserved victory over Lauderdale County as attorney for Kevin Danley. As a result of that win, the Florence-Lauderdale Detention Center has revised its pepper spray policy. In other words, Sherrod gets results.

Now Sherrod is representing Daniel Wade Moore in a civil suit against the Decatur Police Department. Moore, accused of murdering Karen Tipton, has just been found not guilty after his third trial. The lawsuit involves Moore's initial trial, in which the judge declared a mistrial. At that time prosecutors received immunity from any charges of misconduct, but that immunity did not extend to the police, now charged with withholding and destroying evidence in the case.

Did Moore murder Tipton and escape with only the loss of a few years of his freedom and an extremely tarnished reputation? If so, that point is unfortunately moot. Did the Decatur Police conspire against Moore? The trial is set for November 20th; perhaps we'll have the answer then.

In the interim, kudos to Hank Sherrod for his work in the civil rights arena. If he isn't careful, he might give lawyers a good name.

Note: For more info on Cherokee librarian Paige McWilliams, check out WAFF's website.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We Want Our Trailer Park!

"Help us keep our trailer park." Only in Alabama would one be likely to hear that call to arms. It seems a group of residents in extreme North Florence is concerned that a property developer who purchased the Ponderosa Trailer Park four years ago is planning to remove these lovely metal sculptures and replace them with (gasp) patio homes.

Currently, only 11 older trailers (not manufactured homes) dot the old Ponderosa Park, a landmark left from days when this area was still a part of the rural county landscape. Developer Eugene Sak has no plans to bring in more trailers to fill the 15 empty pads that also lie within the park. What Sak does plan to do is remove the trailers from the current R-3 zone, have the property upgraded to R-2, and build presumably nice patio homes. So, what's to object to?

Some residents feel the unsightly trailers are preferable to the 61 proposed patio homes due to possible drainage problems, as well as issues with entrance and egress. Pictured above is opponent William Phillips, a resident of nearby Old Hickory subdivision, as he speaks to a planning commission meeting in April. (Will someone please tell Mr. Phillips that wearing a hat indoors is uncalled for, uncouth, uncool, and just says his mama didn't raise him right in general? Yes, that was a little harsh; perhaps Mr. Phillips was on his way to an audition for the Kentucky Headhunters.)

Florence Assistant Planning Director Robert Muse has assured concerned residents that these issues will be addressed. We have it on good authority that traffic can be controlled with proper design. We have also heard that drainage problems can be mended, even if the neighboring town of Muscle Shoals has always done its best to disprove that.

A second Old Hickory resident, Judy Bullington, objected at the May 19th meeting to plans for some patio homes to include only one garage, "Which is almost unheard of!" Ms. Bullington either doesn't realize that patio homes are favored by singles who find it hard to drive more than one vehicle at a time or is a staunch supporter of the automotive industry. In fact, as I finish typing this, I think I'll go buy a second car; I've really been needing a new bird bath.

What's up with this: Mike Goens' monthly column in the TimesDaily on new local businesses seems to have vanished; or is it just the new businesses?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bright Lights, Small City - The Star Theatre

The second in a series on historic North Alabama motion picture houses:

Travel south on Highway 157 and you will pass the historic town of Moulton, but should you choose to follow the signs to the downtown area, you will do more than simply pass the small North Alabama municipality, you'll be treated to an old-fashioned town square bordered on the east by Market Street and the Star Theatre.

Like many small towns in the months and years immediately following World War II, Moulton experienced unprecedented growth, a boom to which city fathers could see no end. When the Star Theatre was completed in 1948, it seated 650--quite an ambitious project for a town that even now boasts a population of just under 3,500.

Some records indicate the last film screened at the Star was in 1969; other sources report the theatre remained open until 1975. The building sat idle and decadent until early in 2006 when the city of Moulton purchased the theatre for $12,500.00, planning to restore it to its former glitz and glamour.

The project organizers knew restoration would be a long and winding road, but still weren't prepared for their first challenge. Just two weeks after the purchase, thieves entered the theatre, destroying much of its garniture and absconding with two marble-topped antique tables. It wasn't until March 2007 that the restoration began in earnest after benefiting from a $50,000.00 state grant. In January 2008, Moulton businessman Thomas Harlon Joiner, a staunch supporter of the theatre's restoration, passed away. Donations in his memory added to the funding, and by the end of the year Moulton cultural and civic events had the home they had been promised.

While the theatre is again usable, the Star Foundation's work is far from complete. This year has seen a new stage, and other projects are in the works. If you would like to donate to the restoration of this Moulton landmark, please send your contributions to:

Friends of the Star Theatre
Post Office Box 148
Moulton, Alabama 35650

For information about Sheffield's Ritz Theatre, please see our April 7, 2009, blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TaTa, Alice; Hello, Joyce?

On January 15, we (along with a myriad of others) speculated that Barack Obama would soon seek a replacement for Florence's Alice Martin (pictured), the Federal Prosecutor in the Northern District of Alabama, an area consisting of 31 counties. Now, the names of two individuals have been placed into consideration for the position.

Leading the list is Joyce Vance, currently a US attorney from Birmingham. Should Vance receive the appointment, we should all be interested in how this would affect the ongoing investigation of Troy King, as well as Florence's Roger Lovelace, the subject of an FBI investigation that has dragged on for years.

Vance is the daughter-in-law of the late Federal Judge Robert Smith Vance Sr who was murdered in 1989. While at his Mt. Brook home, Vance opened a package containing a nail-bomb disguised as a Christmas present. He died immediately and his wife Helen was seriously injured.

However, the most intriguing family connection is Joyce's husband, Robert Smith Vance Jr. While a Circuit Judge in Jefferson County, Vance became so exasperated with Alabama felon voting laws that on August 23, 2006, he ordered voting rights restored to all former felons. Vance later did not contest the order being overruled--on the condition the Alabama Legislature defined the term moral turpitude. We're still waiting.

Alabama is now only one of four states that do not automatically restore political rights after a first time felon has completed his sentence. Unfortunately, Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who was seeking his first elected term at that time, has increased the definition of moral turpitude crimes to a proverbial laundry list. After the 2006 election, King instructed each county registrar to purge the voting lists of any former felons who had registered during this period.

We're hoping Joyce Vance becomes the next Federal Prosecutor for Northern Alabama. We're hoping Mrs. Vance restores honor and dignity, not only to the office she will hold, but to all Alabamians who deserve it. We're hoping for a better Alabama. Join us in this hope; help us make it a reality.

How do you count success: Do you count it by the number of pieces of paper and plaques that hang on your walls or do you count it by the difference you have made in this life? We try for the latter.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Prosecutorial Misconduct - Even in the Shoals

Most of us have heard the term prosecutorial misconduct even if we tend to consider it just typical defense attorney rhetoric; however, this past week the term has been featured in almost any newspaper we peruse. From former Governor Don Siegelman's accusations of misconduct leading to his felony conviction to accounts of the first murder trial of Decatur's Daniel Wade Moore, we've seen how pervasive such accusations have become. Perhaps like sexual child molestation, the term has not become more ubiquitous, but only the reporting of such.

Currently we have Siegelman and Huntsville businessman Alex Latifi hurling charges of prosecutorial misconduct against Florence's Alice Martin, while Martin investigates Alabama Attorney General Troy King for similar charges, while King investigates county family court judges including Lauderdale's Jimmy Sandlin (or not--depending on whom answers the phone in Montgomery). Is there an honest individual still out there or is our anthem now victory at any price?

Before we say such things only happen in other places, let's take a look at the Shoals. Our March 10, 2009, column concerned Lauderdale County's Judge Mike Jones. Jones recently recused himself in the Keith McGuire rape case on the grounds that he had worked in civic projects with the defendant's father, Lexington Mayor Bobby McGuire. Yet, only weeks later, Jones refused to recuse himself in the Allen Wilson assault trial. Wilson's attorney had twice asked for the jurist's recusal on the grounds that his client had been an avid supporter of former judicial candidate Alice Martin.

Jones has been no stranger to such controversy, once failing to declare a mistrial in the capital murder trial of Nathan Boyd. In October 2000, Boyd faced a possible death sentence for the murder of restaurant owner Danny Sledge. During his trial, Assistant District Attorney Doug Evans (pictured above) withheld information concerning the testimony of a prosecution witness. Both Boyd defense attorneys, Tim Case and Jean Darby, immediately requested a mistrial, but Judge Jones refused to consider that option and immediately ruled against them.

Three years later, Evans was again accused of prosecutorial misconduct, this time causing a mistrial in the capital murder trial of Donald Wayne Darling. Darling's story is the stuff of pulp fiction and deserving of a movie of the week. Here we will just say that at the time of Darling's first trial, now District Attorney Christopher Connolly called Evan's actions "outrageous prosecutorial conduct." Needless to say, Connolly refused to retain the assistant district attorney during his administration, but Doug Evans now works for District Attorney Joey Rushing in Franklin County.

After reading this, will any of us sleep more securely tonight. I somehow doubt it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rhea Tays Fulmer Finally Speaks - Unfortunately

Rhea Tays Fulmer, current Lauderdale County commissioner from District 1, has finally spoken out on an issue. Unfortunately, this has not been a county issue before Mrs. Fulmer spoke out. Now it has the potential to divide the county.

Mrs. Fulmer has recently questioned the makeup of the Florence-Lauderdale Library Board, currently consisting of five individuals who reside within the city limits of Florence. The Lauderdale County Commission prorates library funding among all the libraries located within the county; however, it does provide an extra stipend for the Florence library since over 30% of its documented patrons reside outside the city limits.

Should the Florence Library Board add a member from the county? In case the answer should prove to be yes, just how would a member be chosen? Would the member reside in Mrs. Fulmer's District I which has a larger population base than District II in the western portion of the county?

Perhaps more importantly, should this criterion apply with all Lauderdale County library boards? Rogersville, the second largest Lauderdale city, currently has a five-member board with all members residing within that city. Yet this library remains open late two nights a week, serving citizens of Florence who are returning from work in Athens, Madison, and Huntsville. Logically, shouldn't a Florentine serve on Rogersville's board?

Should Mrs. Fulmer's suggestion come to fruition, you can count on Shoalanda applying for a position on Rogersville's board. I know both library director Teresa Garner and board member Joan Sokol and I'm quite sure sure they don't have enough humor in their lives.

What's up with this: Russellville has begun their streetscaping project--nothing like dismantled sidewalks and road graders to enhance the Watermelon Festival next month.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paige McWilliams - Over the Budget?

Until last week, Paige McWilliams was the librarian in the small Colbert County town of Cherokee. (McWilliams is pictured second from left during a Christmas party given by Cherokee City Schools.) Now McWilliams has been relieved of her duties while the town council initiates a forensic audit of the library's books.

The small library's annual budget is only $19,000.00, and now almost $17,000.00 of that is missing. McWilliams failed to appear at two due process hearings, and sources indicate that Mayor Chuck Lansdell has already filed an initial complaint with Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr.

Paige McWilliams had held the position of Librarian in the small town for the past two years. Last year she was quoted in the TimesDaily:

With wireless Internet access, she says technology is a vital part of her facility. But nothing takes the place of books and reading.

"There's not a lot to do in Cherokee, so we have a lot of readers," McWilliams said.

With approximately 13,000 books in the library, McWilliams said many of them come from donations from the town's residents.

As with many small rural libraries, fundraisers are important in Cherokee.

"We have a yard sale once a year that helps bring in money," McWilliams said.

Perhaps McWilliams will not need to hold a yard sale in order to reimburse the town; sources also reported her family has come forward with an offer to make restitution for the missing funds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Bill for Five Cents?

Have you ever received a bill for five cents? In this era of computer generated invoices, perhaps many of us have received bills for amounts less than the postage required to post the invoice. Ideally, someone in billing catches these invoices and writes off the small amounts, but that's not always a given.

Apparently the Lauderdale County Commission either received an invoice for a few pennies or underpaid a previous bill by five cents. For whatever reason, in April the Commission cut a check from the General Fund for five cents--and then presumably mailed it. What's wrong with this picture?

We may not be able to count on large companies vetting their bills in search of such piddling amounts; however, we should be able to assume our Commission and its staff are on the lookout for such items. The official minutes of the meeting do not list the vendor to whom the check was cut, so of course the invoice may have been from a company thousands of miles away. If not, a simple local phone call would have been in order. We're sure the vendor would have been happy to have written off the small amount, and the Lauderdale County Commission would not have appeared so inept.

What's up with this: State Rep. Roger Bedford recently commented on Gov. Riley, "He's got misplaced priorities." Hmmm, obviously correct grammar isn't one of Bedford's.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blognet News and Beyond

Blogs, blogs, everywhere a blog. The majority of political blogs are national in scope. This in itself is not bad, but how much influence does the average citizen have over national politics?

Just as charity begins at home, so does influence. By improving the conditions of the Shoals, we set in motion trends that influence the state. While Alabama will never be New York or California, we can hope Alabama will lead the nation in specialized areas.

Yes, it starts here. Remember that the next time you write a letter to a U.S. legislator or other national political figure. Take time to address local issues as well; you'll have a much larger chance of succeeding in your goals. Also take the time to learn what others in the state are doing. We've recommended several blogs to our readers before and we hope you have utilized them to learn more about our regional political arena.

Today we have the honor of being added to Blognet News. This site will offer you a gateway to the best political blogs in Alabama. Read them, learn from them, and act on your knowledge. Together, you and I can change the Shoals for the better.

Add to your bookmarks:

Thanks, Shoalanda

Dale Jackson on Les Phillip

For those of you who are not familiar with Dale Jackson, he is an ultra-conservative talk-radio show host. In the past he has taken on various liberal icons and won a tremendous following in the Tennessee Valley. One recent liberal leaning opponent has been Florence's Matt Osborne.

While if required to use a one word description of my political beliefs, I do use the adjective "conservative." Yet I don't believe that any or us can be fitted into a precise box. No two individuals will ever be completely alike in their political beliefs or even definitions. I sometimes agree with Jackson, while at other times my alliances are with Osborne.

However, today we are reprinting a blog from Dale Jackson's Attack Machine. The subject is political newcomer Les Phillip, a man who will become familiar to all of us in the immediate future, and a man about whom Jackson has some pithy and relevant remarks:

Les Phillip who has made it clear he will challenge Rep. Parker Griffith in 2010 for his Congressional seat, has also been named Head of Minority Outreach for the Alabama Republican Party.

No, that's not the amazing part...

That amazing part is that because he is a BLACK REPUBLICAN (MY GOD!) and an IMMIGRANT (AH MY EYES!) there is a thought that he must clearly be some sort of token being brought into the master house to do the "mastas bidding".

This isn't identity politics, it's stupidity politics.

My favorite blogger of all time is a crotchety old relic known as "Redeye" over at "Left in 1969's Alabama" and he is offering Phillips some free horrible advice...

The advice, to some it up neatly, GET BACK ON THE DEMOCRAT PLANTATION!

Despite popular GOP opinion, African Americans are not stoopid. They are not "dependent" on the democratic party. They are not "looking for someone to take care of them" or "lift their boats". If your plan is to "win their favor" you are not going to do by looking down on them.

It's just mind boggling to me that Redeye and others can't see that being 95% connected to one party is detrimental to their issues. They can't see that the GOP has no incentive to work on "black issues" (I hate that phrase) if they haven't had a chance to get their votes.

Guys like Les Philip and Michael Steele are not tokens, they represent an attempt by the GOP to engage the minority community and ask for their votes.

But not Redeye...

And you might want to check out this blog for some advice, or not.

I call it as I see it. Ol’ boy is letting these dudes symbolically whip his back like a slave. As chairman, he has the power to hire and fire but yet he’s required to re-hire someone whom he let go? Every other chairman has controlled the purse strings, but Steele cannot do so?

Steele is clearly politically weak, and not HNIC but in a Tobyesque situation.

If Redeye was not a blind political hack who only sees color and is owned by the Democrat Party he would see value in both parties considering minorities as potential voters and candidates.

Thanks, Dale, for allowing us to use your column. SS

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meet Les Phillip

Les Phillip is black. Les Phillip is a Republican. Les Phillip is conservative. Les Phillip wants to unseat Dr. Parker Griffith in the next election.

We make no secret of our conservative views here. We have also make no secret that we have supported Dr. Griffith in the past and are pleased with his representation so far. Yet, there is a new force to be reckoned with, a very unusual force.

Here is Mr. Phillip's website:

Tomorrow: What The Attack Machine says about Les Phillip.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Please Contact Us If...

...You know of a veteran who died in service to his country or died at a later time due to injuries received while he was in military service. We will be honoring them on Memorial Day.

...You have specific questions you would like answered by local candidates. As expected, State Representative Tammy Irons has announced she will run for the District 1 Senate seat now held by Bobby Denton. She is the first of what is assumed to be many who will announce for several local races. We will present your questions to the various candidates and publish their answers early next year. Yes, that is well in the future, but we must now start to consider who and what are needed in this area in order for it to progress.



Sunday, May 10, 2009

Donate to Safeplace

Did you buy too many face masks for a swine flu epidemic that didn't materialize, of are you just doing your annual Spring house cleaning? Either way, if you have a surplus of cleaning or medical supplies or anything on the following list, Safeplace of Northwest Alabama would love to have it.

Wish List:
(Safeplace families need the following items on a continuing basis)

• Umbrellas/Raingear
• Gloves/Mittens
• Disinfectant Spray
• Hand Sanitizer
• Paper Towels, Toilet Paper
• Laundry Detergent
• Cold/Sinus Medication (Children & Adults)
• Diapers (**Sizes 4, 5, & 6; Pull-Ups for Toddlers size 3T & 4T)
• Wipes-travel packs
• Chapstick
• Batteries (AA, AA Lithium, AAA, 9V)
• Personal Care Items-Tampons, Deodorant
• Garbage Bags (**13 gallon & 55 gallon outside)
• Hair Brushes
• Disposable Gloves
• Bathroom Cleaner
• Children’s Rewards (McDonald’s ArchCards, movie passes, hand-held activities/games)
• Gift Cards (gas, phone, groceries)
• Multi-Colored Copy Paper (light blue)

You can contact your local Safeplace via their website:

Happy Mothers' Day to all Shoals area mothers. You gave your children life in whatever manner, now remember to bring them up in the strength and admonition of the Lord.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Byron Wilkes - Artist & Poet

Some weeks ago we asked readers to help us in finding the artist responsible for our "Shoals" artwork, an incredible melange of iconic state and local figures mixed with humor. Two readers responded that the brilliant mind behind the image belongs to Bryon Wilkes.

Wilkes lives in Florence and is noted for not only his artwork, but also his poetry. Besides Drive-By Truckers, Wilkes has done album covers for Sleepy Hollow and Patterson Hood.

Byron has a store on e-Bay that I insist everyone check out. Aptly called Make Room for dA dA, it's sure to have that certain something you've been searching for. Don't forget to tell him Shoalanda sent you.

Note: Today's Morris Lentz Day in Rogersville has been postponed due to inclement weather. We'll post the new date as soon as it's scheduled.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Water, Waste, & Wastewater - Part III

The Lexington Water Department knew that leaks claimed a large percentage of the water purchased from Tim Shelton, but had few means to seek out and repair the damaged forty year-old pipe. It was also apparent that such leaks weakened the system's water pressure, most noticeably on its outer edges.

Rascaltown, Tennessee, first noticed a dramatic decrease in water pressure early in 2005, and by June 2006 the water had ceased to flow altogether. Tim Shelton trucked in water to the remote community, while the town of Lexington initially noticed little difference.

When the main pump malfunctioned early in July, the water department activated its back-up, only to discover it was clogged with mud and small gravel. Now Rascaltown wasn't the only community without water. Mayor Herman Jaggers ordered bottled water purchased for Lexington residents--something he hadn't bothered to do for those in Tennessee who could not vote in Lexington elections. City employees handed out the Wal-Mart water by the case, while fielding the questions of irritated residents.

The arrival of a third pump restored water to the entire Lexington system, but did nothing to lessen the 1.3 million dollar USDA loan. After four years in office, Jaggers decided not to seek re-election, and only former Mayor Bobby McGuire qualified, winning the position by default.

In January of this year, the Lexington Water Department added a $5.00 charge to each of the 940 households subscribing to city water, whether in reach of the sewer system or not. The town's yearly payment on the government loan is just under $84,000.00, and was not up to date at that time.

In February, McGuire requested a $500,000.00 grant from NACOLG to install a new well filtration system, as well as an additional $300,000.00 for an upgrade to the wastewater lagoon, an expense that had not been calculated when the initial sewer budget was established. This month McGuire has requested a third grant from NACOLG in the amount of $271,000.00 to purchase an additional well in Greenhill for supplementary water.

Assuming all three grants are secured, this would afford the Lexington Water Department an additional $1,071,000.00 in funding for its seemingly bottomless water pit. One local attorney who has worked with the town has been quoted as saying the small town would be better off to revoke its charter and revert to an unincorporated community. The same source has indicated that Mayor Bobby McGuire may resign in July due to personal issues.

Whatever direction the town may take, a decade has passed, millions of dollars have been spent, and a faulty sewer has been installed. So far, no new national chains have established themselves in Lexington. The town's citizens have a right to know what went wrong.

What's up with this: Area judges appear to be handing down more severe penalties for sex crimes. Let's hope Lauderdale County jurists follow their example.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Water, Waste, & Wastewater - Part II

While Lexington, Alabama, has been chartered as a municipality and later disbanded several times over its existence, the 1950s saw the last and current charter. By the 1960s, the town saw the need for a central water system to replace a myriad of small wells that were often the breeding ground for various diseases.

Having taken out a low-interest, long-term government loan, the town began the arduous task of running cast iron pipe to every home and business (pictured at right is the Lexington Post Office of the 1950s). Due to the small number of businesses located within the town limits, revenue collections were sparse, resulting in small payments on the water system loan. Apparently because of the low interest rate, the city fathers worried little over the loan balance, an amount that was periodically renegotiated.

By the 1990s, Gerald McGee was both mayor of the small town and head of the local water board. McGee realized Lexington was growing at a much slower rate than the nearby communities of Killen and Rogersville and theorized the lack of a sewer system held the community back. The mayor began to campaign for a sanitary sewer system, placing advertisements in the local newspaper promoting the project. McGee, who held several public meetings concerning the proposed project, was met with nothing but positive feedback; however, apparently many of the town's residents were not fully aware of the system's cost or how the project would be financed.

Once the project was underway, many Lexington residents noticed the workers were mainly Hispanic, but their fears were allayed by construction company managers who promised quality work for a low price. Once the sewer system was completed, the residents soon realized what the town had actually purchased was inferior work resulting in sewer lines that would run only downhill and back up during heavy rains.

However, for some residents shoddy construction was only a minor worry. While the sewer didn't reach all incorporated areas, any homes it did reach were charged for sewer usage whether attached to the system or not. Lexington already had the highest water rates in Northwest Alabama, and now many residents were not financially able to pay their monthly bills. Residents contacted various media outlets to express their rage, and, according to Wilsey Mashburn of The Suburban News, some town council members engaged in fist fights after the heated monthly meetings.

The town council eventually relented, accepting only water bill payments from local citizens, while falling behind on both the USDA sewer loan and payments to Tim Shelton's company that provided the town's water.
Rumors of missing water department funds of at least $40,000.00 did nothing to quell the anger of Lexington residents, but sewer board chairman James W. Truitt failed to push for a forensic audit. No yearly audits of either entity had been completed since McGee had left the water department, and the town's accounting firm stated requests for paperwork went unanswered.

During this period, the town sold its medical clinic to Dr. Diana McCutcheon, a move that angered many of the residents. The town also initiated a municipal court and garbage collections in an attempt to increase revenue. Using these funds, Lexington paid the tens of thousands owed to Springfield Premium Water, but failed to bring payments up to date with the USDA. Faced with the possible Federal takeover of the town, many citizens blamed Gerald McGee. McGee had already stepped down from his position as head of the Lexington Water Board and subsequently lost his bid for re-election to Herman Jaggers who campaigned on a platform of water and sewer reform.

Upon his election, accountant Herman Jaggers immediately raised the minimum water bill by $10.00, announcing that it was only the beginning. Jaggers also reinstated the monthly sewer charges and retained a collection agency to assist with all past due bills. Herman Jaggers was said to have announced he might not be the best liked mayor in the history of Lexington, but he would be the one who would put the water and sewer departments in the black. Then came the summer of 2006.

Next: Wal-Mart water

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Water, Waste, & Wastewater - Part I

"Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink." - Lexington, Alabama, Summer of 2006

It was late June in 2006, and the citizens of Rascaltown had been without water for over four weeks; to be more exact they had been without water pressure in the pipes that connected their homes to the Lexington, Alabama, water lines that served them. Residents toted buckets three miles to Blue Water Creek to secure water to flush their toilets and bathed their children with moist baby wipes. Temperatures soared, but there was no end in sight.

Tad Cole, Lexington Water Department Manager, assured the 50 affected families that the situation was only temporary, but as weeks dragged on and temperatures continued to rise, the citizens of Rascaltown approached members of the media for help. That was when Tim Shelton became aware of the community's plight.

The owner of Springfield Premium Water, Shelton provided Lexington with wholesale water, as well as distributing bottles of his product to retail outlets. The Springfield businessman immediately loaded a truck with five-gallon bottles of water (pictured above) and sent them to Rascaltown free of charge. Thereafter, he continued to send a tanker of water twice a week until the situation was resolved.

Unfortunately, resolution didn't come until the town of Lexington itself was plunged into the same waterless plight as the dog days of summer took hold. Only then did Mayor Herman Jaggers and members of the water and sewer boards take action. That was almost three years ago, and judging by current Mayor Bobby McGuire's recent public statements concerning continuing water problems in Lexington, Tim Shelton is still not being credited with his unprecedented altruism in an almost untenable situation.

However, McGuire's mindset isn't that rare in a town where water problems date back to the 1960s. Lexington, Alabama's water woes have been 50 years in the making, and for the past decade have focused on the blame game. Like a beleagured CEO addressing stockholders, Bobby McGuire again this week spoke of improvement and the good times that are just around the corner, but are they really?

Tomorrow: The genesis of the white elephant known as Lexington Water & Sewer

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Giglio, Fleur de Lis, or Just a Lily?

A Lily by any other name would smell as sweet, or would it? Perhaps it depends on whom one asks? In the past, former Florence police captain Pete Williford, as well as others, have waged a campaign to eradicate the words "Fleur de Lis" from the vocabulary of local residents, especially Florentines. Yet, is there really anything wrong with referring to the Florence, Alabama, logo as such? In fact, why not call it a "Lily" and be done with it?

It's true that "Giglio" is the Italian word for Lily, but does that mean we should limit ourselves to this appellation? Using that logic, the Lauderdale County seat would not be called by the French word "Florence," but by the Italian name "Firenze."

Ah, but critics are quick to point out that the flower's stamen are always depicted on the Italian version, whereas they are usually absent on the French. Well, you do have us there, but if we're going to argue over the inclusion of two stamen in the logo, then we insist upon the name change to Firenze. No one would mistake us for a town in North Carolina then.

What's up with this: It seems the town of Lexington's website,, is no longer functioning. We can hear the conspiracy theories now.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Et Tu, Steve Pierce?

As soon as we published yesterday, we began receiving e-mails concerning Steven F. Pierce. Yes, Pierce may, or may not, run for Sen. Bobby Denton's seat. The Florence State Farm Insurance agent states that he has not made up his mind concerning running, or party affiliation should he run. The latter should not be hard for Pierce, since he has been a frequent contributor to Democratic causes for over a decade.

Pierce is no stranger to Shoals elections, having served as President of the Florence City Council under Mayor Eddie Frost and having run an unsuccessful campaign against the late State Rep. Nelson Starkey. Pierce is also known for his Board of Directors membership at the University of North Alabama and providing color commentary for many of their sporting events.

Perhaps Pierce is most remembered for his ongoing battle with Florence City Council critic Elizabeth Ernestine Romine. In 1999, Romine was 75 years old and a constant thorn in the side of Pierce due to her negative comments concerning Florence City government. During an April 6th, 1999, council meeting, Romine refused to vacate the floor after two requests from Pierce. Visibly angry, Pierce instructed Florence Police Chief Rick Singleton to arrest the septuagenarian and place her in custody.

Many Florence residents were outraged by Pierce's actions; but Municipal Judge James E. Hall II found Romine guilty of disturbing the peace, fining her $150.00. Romine appealed the verdict to Lauderdale Circuit Court, hiring Florence attorney Marshall Gardner to represent her. Gardner, along with an attorney from the ACLU, won the case for Romine, who has frequently flaunted her victory over Pierce.

It's been estimated the campaign for Denton's state senate seat could cost each candidate up to $180,000.00. Certainly Pierce has the funds to run, but does he have the fans?

Note: Thanks to Blogophilia for naming this column the best state newcomer in 2008, and thanks to all our readers who support us.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Who Will Replace Bobby Denton?

Bobby Denton, the current Alabama State Senator who serves all of Lauderdale and part of Colbert Counties, has announced his retirement. Called the "Dean of the Senate," Denton has accumulated both friends and influence in his ten terms and will be hard to replace.

Despite the size of the shoes they seek to fill, candidates seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Not only do we face a plethora of candidates, we may also face a fruit basket turnover of sorts, depending on who does replace Denton.

Both State Rep. Tammy Irons and Rep. Mike Curtis have indicated an interest in this seat; however, Curtis has also announced he will not run if Irons does seek the post. This fact is interesting at various levels and bespeaks the cronyism that is rampant among our state lawmakers.

Should Irons seek the position and win, her law partner Bob Hill has announced his interest in replacing her in the House of Representatives--nothing like keeping it in the same law firm. Hill has served in the House before and is currently considered a top behind-the-scenes mover and shaker. Logically, we assume Hill's interest is not in winning the seat himself, but in preventing someone else from winning.

Former Lauderdale Circuit Judge Mike Suttle, who only four months ago announced his retirement in order to enjoy a private law practice, has also announced his interest in the seat. Should it come to a Democratic showdown between Irons and Suttle, we predict Tammy Irons will prevail. Not only is her personality more bouncy, so is her hair.

On the Republican front, former State Representative and Public Service Commissioner Lynn Greer of Rogersville has announced his intention to run. Greer is known as a man of probity and strong moral fiber, something sorely lacking in many of our current state pols. We predict he will make a tough opponent for Irons.

While the above thoughts are just speculations and predictions, we can aver one thing. Sen. Bobby Denton was always a man of his word and a credit to those he represented. We will do well if his successor is only half the person he is.

What's up with this: New speculation on the demise of the Sheffield resort project has been making the rounds. Mayor Sanford, if it's at all possible, you need to quell these rumors now and make public the project's current status.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Charges Likely for Kenneth Dyar Wood

Kenneth Dyar Wood is a 70 year-old Pentecostal minister, the father of three daughters, and an accused child rapist. Currently, Wood is being held in the Morgan County Jail with bond set at $70,000.00. According to Morgan County Sheriff Gene Mitchell, the Speake resident has been the subject of a two-month investigation that culminated with his arrest for the rape of a child under the age of twelve.

Specifically, Wood is charged with raping an eleven year-old Colbert County girl at his home in December 2008. During the investigation, two other girls stated that Wood had sexually molested them. According to investigators, more girls and young women have indicated they will now come forward and further charges are likely.

The Barnett Chapel Pentecostal Church where the accused rapist had served as pulpit minister for several years has publicly announced that Wood resigned as of last Sunday. Officials there refused further comment.

Obviously, we will hope no one previously knew of this man's deviant behavior. Married to 68 year-old former Wanda Marie Gillespie, Wood is the father of 42 year-old Tracy Marie Wood HIcks, 38 year-old Wendy Scarlett Wood, and 34 year-old Shelly Kenya Wood. Certainly his church must have seen him as a God-fearing family man who could be trusted with the children of the congregation. Yet, over 13% of religious leaders have admitted to having sex with congregants, consensual and otherwise.

Sadly, the next few days and weeks will reveal the scope of Kenneth Dyar Wood's deviance. It won't be a pretty picture.

What's up with this: The Florence Police Department is being severely criticized for wasting taxpayer money in the UNA-bomber case. Some are also suggesting this case led to the resignation of the University's head of public safety. Interesting message to send.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Curtis Parts Ways with Black & Irons

On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill deregulating land line phone service in the state. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black of Tuscumbia and faced stiff opposition from groups who claimed such deregulation would dramatically increase phone rates in rural parts of the state.

Rep. Tammy Irons of Florence joined Black in supporting this bill, while Rep. Mike Curtis of Greenhill voted against it. Opponents of the bill have stated it will take as long as three years for the full effects of the deregulation to come to fruition.

The bill was also opposed by certain groups claiming to represent older citizens. These advocacy groups theorize such individuals are more likely to use land lines for their principal means of long distance communication.

Many observers feel such deregulation will lead to the demise of the Alabama Public Service Commission. It certainly led to a rare disjointure of ranks between Tammy Irons and Mike Curtis.

What's up with this: It seems Florence attorney Ralph Holt is now telling the University of Alabama how it should operate. We suggest he seek an appointment to the Board.