Thursday, September 30, 2010

George Weakley Rhodes Tried To Kill Before

George Weakley Rhodes, sometimes known as "Old School," is no stranger to violence against women. In 2002, he and Marsha Simpson worked together for the City of Florence Recycling Program. Friends said the two had dated, but quarrelled.

Rhodes waited outside Simpson's home in East Florence for her to return. No one can be sure of his plans, but we can be sure that when Rhodes saw his former girlfriend walking home in the company of another man, he drew his gun and shot several times. No one was injured, but Florence Police charged Rhodes with attempted murder. After a deliberation of only an hour, a jury found George Rhodes not guilty of the charges.

We can understand how they came to their verdict. After all, who doesn't take a gun to visit his old girlfriend? Who doesn't fire the gun in her direction because he's so elated to see her with a rival? Obviously, this verdict falls under the category of "What Were They Thinking?"

Rhodes had previously led a less than perfect life. Among his many previous charges were a 1971 armed robbery of a grocery store on West Mobile Street and a 1999 armed home invasion style robbery of an East Florence residence. We will assume Rhodes' record of violence was not allowed into testimony at his 2002 trial.

Neither did Rhodes remain a stranger to law enforcement after his acquittal. In January 2006, he was arrested in Florence for forgery. In March 2007, Rhodes was arrested in a drug bust targeting dealers who waited for children at a school bus stop on the corner of Cedar and West Mobile Streets. At this time, Rhodes was charged only with possession.

Drugs seemed to play a large role in "Old School's" life, but so did violence--probably each fueling the other. This week the 61 year-old Rhodes agreed to a plea bargain in the death of Deborah Elaine Paulk. The south-central Florence woman was murdered either during or after an ongoing New Year's party in January of 2005. Paulk may not have had the best taste in recreational activities or friends, but murder is murder.

George Weakley Rhodes will serve only five years in prison; however, we understand the family felt there was no choice if they wanted a 100% guarantee Rhodes would serve any time at all. Perhaps George, now in his seventh decade and with a body damaged by years of drug abuse, will not find prison so easy. Ms. Paulk deserved more.


We've taken quite a few blasts concerning our commentary on Holland Noah Elkins, a young man whose life seems to resemble George Rhode's early years. The difference is Elkins has an education and an honest family on his side. Was the public shocked at Rhode's life of crime? Probably not. Yet, the public is shocked at Holland Elkins' continued forays into life's seamier side.

Make no mistake, we will support whatever justice Lauderdale and Colbert Counties mete out to Holland. No matter the dispositions of these cases, Holland still needs help, and we hope he gets it.


According to sources at Florence City Hall, the State Fire Marshal has denied Sweetwater Mansion a permit for inside tours unless the edifice is brought up to code by Friday. We will have more on this later. It's quite a story...


Connecting October 7th. This time we mean it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let's Revisit the City Dump Cum Country Club

This is not about Florence purchasing the land--it already has. It's not about creating a dump from pristine and landscaped acreage--that will obviously come later. It's about money, land, the university, and is the current plan of the Florence City Council some slight of hand designed to fleece the citizens of Florence.

Previously on As the Dump Turns:

* Florence Golf & Country Club decides to sell its entire facilities--a club house and 157 acres (sometimes described as 154 acres), including golf course.

*. City of Florence, University of North Alabama, and Lawrenceburg developer William Keelon all express an interest in the property.

* Only Florence and Keelon offer actual bids.

* Florence wins property with a bid of $2,030,400.00.

* UNA offers Florence $1,200,000.00 for 60.5 of the acres--presumably the acreage on which the club house, golf course, and other amenities now sit.

* Assuming the sale if finalized, the City of Florence will be left with approximately 95 acres of land in which it has $830,400.00 invested.

Now the question seems to be: Did Mayor Bobby Irons or anyone else orchestrate the purchase of the entire country club acreage in order to give UNA a "sweetheart" deal on just the land the university wanted, leaving the city holding 95 acres which would never be of use to Florence or its citizens?

Those who read us regularly know how we feel about a dump being placed so closely to Cypress Creek. Just because Florence has always had its own dump doesn't mean it should continue to have one in the 21st Century. That is, of course, a subject for another day.

The second salient question now seems to be: Just what will Florence do with the remaining 95 acres if not use it for a dump?

We appreciate all our city council and mayor, even when we don't agree with them. We do wish they would provide a monthly, or even quarterly, question and answer session for the public. It might clear up some great and long-held misconceptions about our local government.


This October, First Friday in Florence falls on the first day of the month. What more fitting a way to celebrate this magical fall month than an excursion to downtown Florence. After looking at the array of artists and craftsmen set up on Court Street, you still have time for the season's first Ghost Walk.

The walk will begin at 7:30 p.m. Meet Shoals historian Debra Glass, BA, MA, at the Handy statue in Wilson Park. The trek is about one mile and lasts approximately 90 minutes, so wear some walking shoes and enjoy. The tour is $10.00 for adults or $8.00 for children under 12. You may bring along the family ghost for free.

More info here: Link


Above is the Jefferson Hotel--sorry this post card isn't available on eBay, but is in the UNA collection. The Jefferson was succeeded by the Negley Hotel, which was razed to make room for the current Florence Municipal Building.

We understand once The Connection is finally launched, it will be publishing several articles on the Negley family in Florence. Translation: We can't wait to see it!


Connecting October 7th. This time we mean it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mercy?/Deshler High 1990 Football Team!

Holland Noah Elkins and Mercy

A Guest Commentary By

J. J. Ray

With great interest, I read the comment from the individual who had judged and sentenced Mr. Elkins. Does he wish to be the executioner also? Mercy is a strange concept for many because justice and mercy are at odds with each other. On one hand, society demands justice for the offended and yet the accused begs for mercy.

William Shakespeare wrote: The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. Matthew 5:7 teaches, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

A. W. Pink asks and answers. What is mercifulness? It is a gracious disposition toward my fellow creatures and fellow Christians. It is that kindness and benevolence that feels the miseries of others. It is a spirit that regards with compassion the sufferings of the afflicted. It is the grace that causes one to deal leniently with an offender and to scorn the taking of re­venge.

There is an enormous difference between revenge and justice Those who seek to revenge themselves often regret the effort. Can we temper justice with mercy? The answer is simple. For those that choose to continue a way of life that affects society in a negative and harmful manner, justice appears to be the only answer. In order to receive mercy one must show mercy. Robbing banks and inflicting pain and suffering on society on a consistent basis is not showing mercy.

Yet, it is not up to us as individuals to decide innocence or guilt, justice or mercy; it is reserved for the court system. We are a nation of laws and must depend on those elected to mete out justice sometimes tempered with mercy. This question of mercy versus justice has been argued since the time of Plato and Aristotle but there does not seem to be a solution.

All we can do as a society is to depend on our laws. True, there will be mistakes but our system of justice is far better than anywhere else in the world. If Sharia law were used, he could have his hands cut off, be hanged or stoned to death. That would be justice but where is the mercy?

Would justice be served if Mr. Elkins were once more turned loose on society? Is he a sociopath that cannot be cured? We do not have these answers. After all he was granted mercy once, is twice too much. Only our creator knows for sure.


Did you attend Deshler High School? Did you graduate in 1991? Were you a member of the 1990 State Championship football team? If you answered yes to all these questions, you are indeed a prize-winner.

According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society (and who even knew we had one of those?), Deshler fielded its first team in 1923. The 1990 4-A State Champions were the first team in school history to go 15-0. How about that?

Deshler's homecoming will be October 15th, at which time the entire 1990 team will be honored. Honorees are asked to meet at the Chappell Stadium Field House at 6:30 p.m. If you have any questions, please contact The Geddon Report. Geddon has asked that I remind everyone that streaking is optional.

We'll be having a followup report on the homecoming activities before the big day. At that time, we will also be publishing Geddon's Tiger Beat photo. You don't want to miss it.


Can't wait for The Connection to finally publish its premiere issue? According to the publishers, the launch was a definite go for September 30; however, we all know how life's surprises can set us back, even the good ones. The debut of the Shoals Internet magazine is now set for October 7th. We're told it will be a work in progress for the first few weeks, then prepare to be amazed and amused.


For the 1990 Deshler Football team:


Connecting October 7th. This time we mean it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Need a Job? Here It Is...

For those who find the Alabama Employment Service JobLink hard to navigate, you may wish to check out this Twitter site. MyAlabamaJob posts new jobs in the state on an hourly basis...and, no, we didn't see any for the Barton rail car plant.



Did the Wilson Dam Road landowners refusing to sell their land for the widening of Hwy 133 cause a fatal accident? The TimesDaily recently broached this subject, but failed to mention which property owners are still holding out. We've heard the State has managed to purchase the Gene Crump estate property at a price agreeable to both sides. With apologies to Lewis Grizzard, if the Alabama Department of Transportation had been in charge of World War II, Germany and Japan would still be in the running.


Only in Alabama: As if the November elections aren't bizarre (or bizaree as they say on the Sweetwater Mansion Facebook page) enough, this year we have Drama, Strange, and Young Boozer on the ballot.


Food for thought on immigration: Among Hispanic Indian/Latino immigrants, the high school graduation rate in Alabama is only 33%. We assume this includes those immigrants from south of the border who speak a native language other than Spanish. It would be interesting to see these stats broken out before Roger Bedford buys the bi-lingual JumboTron scoreboard.


Remember the Sheffield Centennial in 1965? Catch these items on eBay: Link


Connecting on Friday!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Skippy Musket, Susan Leigh Smithson, & the Missing Jewels

Skippy Musket--doesn't that moniker conjure up images? The name has been used in romance novels and in appellation dropping conversations, but perhaps many in the Shoals have never heard of the Atlanta jewelry store. Yet, for years Skippy Musket, Inc., was a fixture in the Buckhead area where it sold antique and vintage jewels--very expensive jewels.

In 1997, Susan Leigh Smithson's store Miz Scarletts occupied the same Phipps Plaza shopping center as Skippy Musket. We're unsure how well Ms. Smithson knew the owners of Skippy Musket, but in December of that year she requested a loan of over one million dollars in jewelry to adorn her models in a private fashion show to be held at her Rivers Road home in northeast Atlanta.

The December 14th fashion show featured a live band along with the jewel bedecked models, including Smithson, who mingled with the guests. By December 19th, all the jewels had been returned to Skippy Musket with the exception of the four items worn by Smithson, who informed the upscale jeweler that the high-end pieces were missing.

Gone were:

One diamond necklace valued at 175K
One diamond/platinum ring valued at 57K
One diamond/gold ring valued at 165K
One pair of diamond earrings valued at 27.5K

A December 20th police raid of Smithson's home uncovered the missing jewels secreted in a closet. Susan Leigh Smithson was promptly arrested for theft by conversion in connection with the 424.5K of missing Skippy Musket inventory.

The jewel theft occurred over 12 years ago; is it relevant to the Susan Smithson of today? If there had been no other brushes with the law, we would say no. We hope that each of us is a wiser and better person than we were 12 years ago--that's the way life is supposed to work.

However, in 2000, Smithson was again involved in a civil lawsuit over the disposition of sample dresses used in her store. A quick Google of Miz Scarletts turns up more recent suits over bad checks in payment for inventory. In other words, there seems to be a lifelong pattern here.

That brings us to today and her ongoing renovation of Sweetwater Mansion, a property that she for many years attempted to sell for much more than it was worth. We hope Ms. Smithson remembers that her home is still private property and subject to income tax on all funds the property produces from tours. Ideally, Sweetwater should become a public trust, but we're not holding our breaths.


A Lauderdale based attorney tells us that the July 2009 robbery charges against Holland Noah Elkins have apparently been settled--either dropped or plead down to a youthful offender charge. Since other sources indicate his December 2008 home invasion charge has not yet come to trial, his arrest last week in Florence may be treated as a first offense.

We've received many e-mails concerning Holland, most hoping he will receive leniency and the help he obviously needs. Tomorrow we'll feature J. J. Ray's take on the most recent events.


Coffee High School is technically gone and F. T. Appleby Junior High School is literally no more, but you can buy a piece of their history on eBay: Link


Connecting on Friday!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sweetwater & G.H.O.S.T. Non-Profit?

Let's utter a collective sigh for Sweetwater Mansion; we're sure if she could speak she would elect to bemoan her fate with stronger words than we choose to publish here. After a forty year period of neglect, the Weeden Home is beginning to show signs of new life, but at what cost?

The above advertisement invites us to tour the home this year, but according to sources in Bob Leyde's office, the Florence City Clerk has refused to issue a business license for these interior tours. Sweetwater has yet to be certified as a tax-exempt non-profit entity due to a lack of bookkeeping--that and the fact Sweetwater remains a private home owned by Susan Leigh Smithson of Atlanta.

We may assume that the organization Ghost Hunters of Southern Territories (G.H.O.S.T.) does possess a business license for the paranormal investigations it proposes to lead within the mansion. G.H.O.S.T. is the brainchild of Robert Simone who calls himself "investigator, supervisor, founder" of the organization. His Facebook page also references a non-profit group called Alabama Ghost, but a click on that link brings us back to the homepage for G.H.O.S.T.

Simone charges a $35.00 minimum for a one-person tour of the haunted domiciles he represents. His organization may be non-profit due to lack of customers, but we doubt it's for lack of trying.

What will happen if those currently in charge of Sweetwater Mansion attempt to open next Friday without a business license? If the psychic from last year returns, perhaps she can tell us. Otherwise, we're sure the ensuing brouhaha will be covered by local television stations.


Humor is where you find it (or how to make Tomlinson-Sims cringe). From the above ad:

All money raised goes to renivation of Sweetwater Mansion.

We will except professional paranormal investigations at Sweetwater also.


Tomorrow: Susan Leigh Smithson and Skippy Musket


The quality of mercy, from our e-mail bag:

Your an idiot wrapped in a moron! This THUG, Holland Noah Elkins needs to be sent to prison for a long long time. He IS a violent criminal who has committed armed robbery on several occasions including armed bank robbery. How can you even dare to ask for mercy for someone like this?... Now you plead for mercy and forgiveness for someone who has went on a crime spree with at least three armed robberies in less than two years.....that we know about! Innocent people could have been killed by Elkins just so he could obtain drug money. I only hope I end up on the jury for his trial.....My verdict....hang that bastard, TWICE!

What an interesting comment from someone who represents himself as an acquaintance of Holland Elkins. We find nowhere in yesterday's blog did we suggest Holland not receive the appropriate punishment; we did state that the young man needs help. Perhaps it is too late for that now...and that is something we should regret rather than rejoice in.


Connecting on Friday!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holland Noah Elkins Needs Help

Early in the morning of December 3, 2008, Holland Noah Elkins and two other Florence youths broke into a Colbert County home. During the failed robbery attempt, Elkins and one of his confederates were shot multiple times with a nine millimetre handgun. Sources at Huntsville Hospital predicted that Elkins' companion would never walk again, but Holland was luckier--he soon recovered and was dismissed from ECM hospital.

Our blog was less than two months old when the home invasion occurred, and the Elkinses had been family friends for years. We briefly touched on the incident and asked for prayers for the family. When Holland was arrested in July 2009 after a second burglary, we were more than shocked. How could someone who had almost lost his life during the commission of a crime return to a life of theft?

When Holland's grandfather Stanley died in January of this year, we heard many reports that the young man had at last turned his life around. Holland Noah Elkins was going to live up to the promise he had shown early in life. Now Holland, who turned 21 on September 16th, has again been arrested for armed robbery.

Holland, along with two others, attempted to rob Bank Independent Wednesday as late night tellers left the Darby Drive location. All three have been charged with first degree robbery and sources say the charges could be upgraded from state to federal. If this should prove the case, the trio will be rearrested and held in Huntsville.

We know that Holland has a grandmother and an aunt and uncle who love him. We know many in Florence and the entire Shoals area are willing to do whatever it takes to help Holland. We're just not sure what that is at this point. This is the third strike for a young man who has only just reached his majority. Unless he was given youthful offender status in the home invasion, and we would find that highly unlikely, he could now face a sentence of life in prison as a habitual offender. Considering that at least two of these crimes could be classified as violent, he may be left without even the chance of parole. For what?

Holland's Facebook page lists his favorite things as "money, clothes, and girls." Certainly, we may assume drugs are also on this list, but how does an upper middle class youth fall so far so quickly? Our thoughts turn back to John Forrest Parker; at least if Holland Elkins looses his freedom, no one has lost his or her life because of him. Let's continue to pray that God will give Holland what he needs.

Quote of the day from Sam Pendleton: Open public discussion on all issues involving the public and its resources must be like bleach, may not smell good…but makes you clean.


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Colbert County Commission Feels Betrayed by Helen Keller Board?

Commissioner Troy Woodis stated yesterday he felt betrayed by the actions of Helen Keller Hospital's 12 member board. Imagine that. The board met only briefly before voting to "give" the medical facility to the powers that be at Huntsville Hospital. Why did the board not see the need to consult with the Colbert County Commission first?

Possibly because the commission previously had nothing but praise for the board even when it refused to meet with representatives from RegionalCare. You remember RegionalCare, don't you? That was the entity that actually offered Keller cash money for the hospital. Why would the Helen Keller Board turn down such a huge sum, a sum that would have paid off its debts and left it with 30 million in change? Can we say the river runs wide and spite runs deep.

Can the Colbert County Commission legally negate the deal? We're told the commission's attorney has a conflict of interest. Reports are still coming in. Stay tuned...


The Connection? The new Internet magazine is still set to launch--just a few days later than planned. Be sure to become a fan:


Looking for something positive about Cherokee? Here it is--the Cherokee Community News. Like The Connection, this site is just getting started, and we predict it will become an important asset to the small West Colbert town: Link


Notice the nip in the air these recent mornings? You know what that means...Christmas decorations at Wal-Mart. Actually, to many of us it announces our favorite season and one of our favorite holidays. For those who may have missed it last year, we're linking the Halloween short story A Limestone Haunting by Shoals author "Mystery." Enjoy.

What's up with this: Ads for Sweetwater Mansion's 2010 ghost tour taut over 200 years of ghost stories generated by the 1828 home. Did someone say math was hard?


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's Visit Helen Keller Hospital...

We'll start with a quick visit to their website. The site is professionally done and offers many links; unfortunately none of them lists the names of the Board of Directors. Besides Board President Larry Collum, we have determined Steve Hargrove of Sheffield City Schools is also a member. We'll continue to publish names as we discover them in case any Colbert County citizens wish to call them and, oh, I dunno, perhaps complain about giving away their hospital.

If your interest in the hospital should extend beyond the board, you may look at several previous advertisements that have recently appeared in the TimesDaily. We're not sure why anyone would wish to, but the site offers them nonetheless.

There's also a link to a page entitled "Recipes." There the reader may peruse a few heart healthy recipes as well as learn what the cafeteria is serving during the upcoming week. We were enchanted to know the Keller Cafe is serving baked ziti. Unfortunately, we have no idea what ziti is, baked or otherwise.

The link to a site entitled "Physicians" is more helpful. We find that Dr. William Roddy is still on staff, while Dr. Christopher Gay is not. A quick visit to the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners shows that:

On September 9, (2010), the Commission entered an Order placing on indefinite probation the license to practice medicine in Alabama of Christopher P. Gay, D. O., license number DO.687, Sheffield AL, with certain restrictions.

So, what have we learned from our visit to Oz, er, Helen Keller Hospital? Not anything of great import. In fact, their website offers no clue that they've just sold out to Huntsville Hospital. Of course, we're using the term "sold" loosely since HKH received no actual money form Huntsville Hospital.

RegionalCare was offering HKH sixty million--sixty million and the board would not even return RegionalCare's phone calls. When Joe Roach called the Keller Board dumb he wasn't just humming La Cucaracha.


Political Courage Test? Project Vote Smart offers a Political Courage Test for all state and national candidates. So far, none running in the Northwest Alabama area has taken and returned the test. You may see a PDF version of the 11 part test here: Link

***** is a site advocating "gay marriage" in Alabama. Lonnie Walker drafted a petition on this site that "demands" gay marriage be "aloud" in our state.

We have absolutely no idea how Mr. Walker arrived at this conclusion, but according to his website, the pols who will make this happen are:

Don Young, Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Mike Rogers, Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, Bob Riley, Mike Curtis, Micky Hammon, Marcel Black, Henry White, Robert Aderholt, Bobby Bright, Parker Griffith, and Tammy Irons.

If they refuse to take the Political Courage test, we doubt they will openly lobby for gay marriage. We would love to hear from Mr. Walker on what basis he created this eclectic list.


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Florence, Shoals Scene, & More

The Shoals area is growing--finally! We've never understood why anyone (except teenagers) complains there's nothing to do in the Shoals. We do understand that with so much to do, much of it gets lost in the small print of various local publications, and we miss some first class entertainment or fun.

Here's a brief list of some websites that will make sure your dance card is filled:

My Florence - A community page with news as well as events.

Shoals Scene - Entertainment events from around the entire Shoals area.

North Florence - This is a new Facebook page that's looking for volunteers. How about you?

The Connection - This new Internet mag is about to launch within days. Send in your events now.


Don't know Kyle Brown?; you should. Kyle is the Republican candidate for Colbert County District Judge. Here's your chance to meet him:

Shoals Republican Club Hosts Kyle Brown Candidate For Colbert County District Court Judge Candidate September 21st The Shoals Republican Club will host Colbert County Assistant District Attorney and Republican Colbert County District Court Judge candidate Kyle Brown on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 from 5:30 p.m. until ...6:30 p.m. at Stanfield’s Steak House, 5745 River Road in Muscle Shoals.All meetings of the Shoals Republican Club are open to the public. For more information, contact Shoals Republican Club President William Smith at (256) 767-4529, or


We have a real bone to pick with Dr. Gerald Freeman, Republican candidate for Alabama Senate District 1. Goodness, what is it? He spells his nickname with a "J" instead of a "G." That's really hard on all of us OCD bloggers.

If you aren't familiar with Dr. Freeman, please visit his site to learn more about him. We'll certainly be bringing you more on him in the near future. Link


Trapp Town near Russellville? Is this actually Tharptown? No matter, here's a great pic of its natural bridge. Available on eBay: Link


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Monday, September 20, 2010

J. J. Tells It Like It Is/Paige McWilliams Oversentenced

Big Government: Cure or Cause

A Guest Commentary By

J.J. Ray

Few things that happen in life shock me anymore, until today. I watched with shock and wonder as former president Bill Clinton aka Slick Willie called the Tea Party folks insurrectionists. The dictionary describes an insurrection as, an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government. Mr. Clinton was not only a president but also a Rhodes Scholar and should have known what the definition of an insurrectionist was before opening his mouth. There is a vast sea between insurrection and repugnance.

Most Tea Partiers and most of the nation are sickened with a government that continues to grow at a rate unparalleled in history with a deficit to match. Since the Tea Party has no apparent leader, it hardly qualifies as an insurgent revolution. Further, I have not seen a rebel action with armed commandos storming anything in D.C... Slick Willie needs to stick to young women as he appears more suited to charming unsuspecting interns than commenting on what is revulsion of the voters, to the new massive government.

Government’s purpose is just what the word implies, to implement the laws as the constitution stipulates. Not to enforce the constitution, as they perceive it, dictating to the voters whom they believe don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain. This however is the progressive elitist response.

An elitist is one with the belief that some people or things are inherently superior to others and deserve preeminence, preferential treatment, or higher rewards because of their superiority. The people who have been charged with governing actually believe that they are superior and the rest of us are merely serfs that are to do their bidding without question. Anyone can watch the arrogance that radiates from Mr. O. There is a big difference between arrogance and confidence as demonstrated by Ronald Regan. He generated hope and confidence, rather than, “hear me now”.

We elect our representatives to pass laws and legislation that are good for the country as a whole, not as a handful of elitists would have you believe. Cap and Trade, Obama Healthcare, the job killing regulations to stop drilling in the gulf is another. Let us not forget the bailout, and a stimulus bill that did not stimulate anything but added deficit and more big government.

Slick Willie was right about one thing yesterday, his effectiveness did not happen until the republicans took power in “94”. Then there were people in congress to “Just Say No” to more big government. Prosperity grew and the budget balanced because we had a stability of power instead of “let me be clear” and “hear me now” arrogance.

Therefore, we should be clear in November, and then and only then will the elitists understand, “Do you hear us now”.


We'll add our own two cents to J. J.'s commentary--Slick Willie obviously knows the meaning of the word insurrection; he's betting most products of current U.S. education do not.


Tuscumiba has contracted with the Florence firm of Hill and Jangaard to design the new Tuscumbia Depot roundhouse. We wonder how many other firms applied for this contract? (Hill and Jangaard is the firm of choice for most plumb Florence contracts.)


Colbert County has denied convicted Cherokee librarian Paige Hite McWilliams probation for her theft conviction. McWilliams admitted misappropriating library funds during her tenure as library administrator for that beleaguered town.

She was sentenced to 15 years, a sentence that will be completed in under five years. She could see freedom in a matter of months if paroled. Did this serve any purpose? McWilliams has already been humiliated and faces a future of manual labor if she can find any work at all. Was her crime any worse than those occurring regularly within Cherokee City government?

Now the citizens of Alabama will have to support McWilliams for the duration of her sentence. Prison should be reserved for the violent offender. Alabama certainly has plenty of those.


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Follow the Money with Curtis and Greer

Follow the Money is a national website enumeratinng campaign contributions across the country. Before voting, everyone should look at these contributions carefully; are they a true reflection of the candidate? Many times they are. As mentioned earlier, Doc's Political Parlor calls the Alabama District 2 House race a toss-up at this point. Perhaps Follow the Money will sway some otherwise undecided voters.

Here's the report for the Democratic incumbent Mike Curtis: Contributions

Here's the report for the Republican challenger Lynn Greer: Contributions

Who had out of state contributions? That would be Curtis. Who had tobacco lobby contributions? That would also be Curtis? Who had beer and wine lobby contributions? That would again be Curtis. Beginning to see a picture here?

We are pleased to endorse Republican Lynn Greer for House District 2. You may visit Lynn's website here: Link


Republican congressional nominee Mo Brooks has received the endorsement of the Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police. In a letter to Brooks informing him of the endorsement, FOP President Bill Davis said the "endorsement was made after careful consideration and qualifications and experience of all of the candidates." Davis told Brooks, "the membership felt that you are the best person to serve in the office." The Alabama FOP has approximately 8,600 members.

Upon learning of the endorsement, Brooks said, "I am deeply honored to have the endorsement of such a well-respected organization of law enforcement professionals. Public safety is one the core functions of our government, and I stand second to no one in my strong support of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our families and our homes. I look forward to working closely with the FOP in the years ahead to provide them the support they need to accomplish their mission as effectively as possible."

Brooks, a Madison County Commissioner and former Alabama State Legislator, is the Republican nominee for Congress in Alabama's 5th Congressional District. The election is November 2nd.


We wholeheartedly agree with the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police and endorse Mo Brooks for Alabama's 5th Congressional seat.

September 17th was the 223rd anniversary of our constitution. If you like the sentiments on this silk handkerchief/banner, you can purchase it on eBay: Link


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

We Endorse Mo Brooks

Republican congressional nominee Mo Brooks has received the endorsement of the Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police. In a letter to Brooks informing him of the endorsement, FOP President Bill Davis said the "endorsement was made after careful consideration and qualifications and experience of all of the candidates." Davis told Brooks, "the membership felt that you are the best person to serve in the office." The Alabama FOP has approximately 8,600 members.

Upon learning of the endorsement, Brooks said, "I am deeply honored to have the endorsement of such a well-respected organization of law enforcement professionals. Public safety is one the core functions of our government, and I stand second to no one in my strong support of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our families and our homes. I look forward to working closely with the FOP in the years ahead to provide them the support they need to accomplish their mission as effectively as possible."

Brooks, a Madison County Commissioner and former Alabama State Legislator, is the Republican nominee for Congress in Alabama's 5th Congressional District. The election is November 2nd.


We wholeheartedly agree with the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police and endorse Mo Brooks for Alabama's 5th Congressional seat.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweetwater, Miz Scarletts, & Sprinklers Are More Than Methodists

In less than a week it will officially be autumn, a season that brings football, harvest decor, and the growing business of haunted houses, cornfields, chicken coops, and even once-forsaken mansions. Sweetwater Mansion, once commonly known in the Shoals as the Weeden Home, will again be offering tours of the grounds. Adverts are stating the property belonging to Susan Leigh Smithson of Atlanta will this year also feature tours of the mansion's interior. According to Gary Williamson of the Florence Building Department, inside tours will not be allowed unless the building is brought up to code.

The Sweetwater blog on Blogspot is still advertising such tours in conjunction with G.H.O.S.T. The G.H.O.S.T. site lists the following disclaimers:

Restrictions apply, be aware that there is walking, stepping over and stairs climbing involved, along with outside natural and manmade grounds hazards, note your health conditions added with the heat tolerance to make sure you are fit for this investigation before signing on. G.H.O.S.T organization Members, owners of investigation properties and all those in charge of any and all sites shall be exempt from lawsuits involved due to injuries happening anywhere around inside or outside of properties on our investigation list. A waiver shall be signed by each person and all money shall be paid in full before being allowed to proceed with the investigation. There are no REFUNDS.

So, why will Williamson shut down any inside tours? Sources in his office state the main point of contention is the lack of a sprinkler system. The Sweetwater site doesn't state a specific opening date for the tours, so sprinklers could conceivably be installed before any public tours begin. If this and other code violations are remedied, those running the tours for Smithson will be taking in $25.00 per guest. That would make for a sizable gate each day the house and grounds are open to tours. On October 21st last year a ticket-taker was robbed of an undisclosed amount while manning the gate alone. The robber has never been caught.

That brings us to the next serious issue with Sweetwater Mansion tours. The home is still privately owned and was listed for sale as recently as mid-2009. Reportedly Smithson, a former resident of Tuscumbia, paid 400K for the property some years ago and was asking six million for the estate when it was first listed. After a major hotel chain located adjacent to the home, the asking price was raised to nine million.

We are very glad that the old home is finally being restored, but we still have no assurances the property will not be sold, the home razed, and a McDonald's or other ubiquitous restaurant erected in its place. Smithson has no desire to reside in the once stately mansion--she currently lives in Atlanta where she owns a boutique called Miz Scarletts of Piedmont.

That brings us to Smithson's previous lack of interest in restoring the ante bellum home. After graduation from a local high school, Smithson attended fashion school, did some modeling, and eventually wound up in Atlanta where she opened her own dress shop. One has only to Google the name of the shop in order to find multiple complaints lodged about Smithson's business, some of which have resulted in lawsuits over unpaid bills.

However, the most telling item concerning Susan Leigh Smithson's business practices is featured in a screen shot below.

Unless a legally organized entity takes over the renovation of Sweetwater, we choose not to support it. We'll send our dollars to Deep Fat--we get a better return.


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kidnapping & Foot Abuse

Rickey Alan Hale of Killen briefly kidnapped his wife Ranate (pictured) early Thursday. All ended well for Renate who was released, but not so well for Lauderdale Deputy Tracy Vanderford.

Hale had made it to Center Star before he was pulled over by two deputies; however, in an attempt to avoid arrest, Hale ran over Vanderford's foot. Sheriff Ronnie Willis said all ended well, but we doubt if Vanderford feels the same. There was no immediate word on the condition of the deputy's foot, but Rickey Hale is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center.


We're still receiving e-mail concerning Henry J. Searcy, the Leighton Police Chief who was gunned down in 1957. Retired Judge Pride Tompkins tells us that he and his father were friends of Searcy and remembered that the chief was shot in the back.

One would think that Searcy's killer would have received the death sentence for such a crime, but a list of those executed after that date fails to enumerate any from Colbert County. The State of Alabama provides a log of inmates executed since 1927; it can be viewed at this link: Alabama Inmates Executed.


Doc's Political Parlor is listing the Alabama House District 2 race between Lynn Greer (R) and Mike Curtis (D) as a toss-up. Curtis has previously complained that he loses money by serving in the state legislature. Perhaps he will no longer have to worry about that come 2011.


Collect milk bottle caps? It seems many do--this example from the Waco Dairy outside Russellville currently has five bids: Link


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Your Town Has Class or All Cities Aren't Equal

A reader recently contacted us concerning C. R.'s statement that recall of elected officials was not an option in Class 8 Municipalities (Cherokee). The question gave us pause on many levels. Just how many classes of towns/cities are there in Alabama? Per BallotPedia, all Alabama municipalities have been relegated to one of these classes since 1970:

  • Class 1: All cities with a population of 300,000 inhabitants or more;
  • Class 2: All cities with a population of not less than 175,000 and not more than 299,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 3: All cities with a population of not less than 100,000 and not more than 174,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 4: All cities with a population of not less than 50,000 and not more than 99,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 5: All cities with a population of not less than 25,000 and not more than 49,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 6: All cities with a population of not less than 12,000 and not more than 24,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 7: All cities with a population of not less than 6,000 and not more than 11,999 inhabitants;
  • Class 8: All cities and towns with a population of 5,999 inhabitants or less.

This listing is pretty straight forward; too bad the laws governing these classes aren't. We would suggest that anyone attempting to determine state law for their home town use the above classifications to initiate their search.

We also discovered a bill was introduced in the Alabama Legislature last year that would have legalized recall of elected officials for all incorporated towns. For whatever reason, the bill did not become law. Are there truly any out there who don't see the need for a new Alabama Constitution?

An interesting side note is the fact Florence and Muscle Shoals are the only two cities listed in Alabama's top 50 population wise. There seems to be no new developments in municipality consolidation in Colbert County, and we can't say we blame Muscle Shoals for their stance on the subject.


We know that several local citizens are members of various groups calling for a new Constitutional Convention. We would be delighted to publish a guest commentary from you on this subject.


Update on UNA robbery: We reported Tuesday that our source at the Florence Police Department stated the robbers used the victims' cell phones to contact other would be victims. According to WAFF, their source at the FPD stated all those contacted were female. Apparently robbery wasn't the only intent of these three miscreants. There's no word on any reward as of yet, but one seems in order.


One Trip Pass comments on Florence, Alabama: Link


Need a ride in Sheffield? Or know what year this service ended?: Link


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Hen House Prowler Strikes for Last Time?

Timothy Ron White is no stranger to Colbert law enforcement. Three years ago, the Spring Valley resident was arrested for third degree burglary. Yesterday he was shot after breaking into a hen house--ostensibly to steal copper. Authorities aren't releasing the name of the property owner, but public records indicate Billy W. Mills is the owner of the farm located at 3900 Ricks Lane in Leighton.

We're surprised that ten thousand dollars worth of copper was located in the chicken house, especially without an alarm system. Should the owner have shot White? We'll leave that up to a grand jury, but we do think White is lucky he wasn't removed from the Ricks Lane property in a body bag. Now the least White may expect is a first degree theft charge--probably as a habitual offender. Was it worth it?


From our e-mail bag...

On the historic Florence home at 502 Walnut Street:

She (Delana Blake) lives there with her children. He (Jimmy Neese) lives with his mother in another house on Walnut Street. She (requested he move) a long time ago - Anonymous. (That must make for some interesting neighborhood association meetings.)

On Henry J. Searcy:

When I was 16 years old, I worked for Gene Crump at his first car Lot in Sheffield. Searcy, as he was called, went to the auctions in Mayfield, Ky. with us every week that he could. He taught me to drive very fast and very carefully. He also spent a lot of time just showing me things that every young boy did not have the opportunity to experience. He took me through the jail and showed me around the court house and police station. We both drove too fast and at times probably on the edge of danger. I was devastated when he was killed. He was one of those people in your past that you will never forget!!! To me he was a good man and special friend to me as a young boy. I think because of him; I grew up with a lot of respect for policemen. - Jim Smith

Thank you for writing about Chief Searcy. He was a wonderful man who I believe still has some family in the area that will appreciate it. Your blog has written about many people that would otherwise be forgotten. Thank you for caring. - Anonymous


Many remember Glenn Shadix (Scott) from his days in the Theatre Department at UNA. Here's a brief clip featuring Glenn:


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More on UNA Robbery/Friday Night Lights

According to sources at the Florence Police Department, there's been little headway made in the investigation of a robbery involving three or more UNA students last Tuesday night. You may read the basic story at this TimesDaily link; however, there was one aspect of the crime that has yet to be reported.

It seems the three robbers, one of whom reportedly carried a Glock, used the three stolen cell phones to text the individuals listed in the phones' address book. The miscreants' plan apparently was to lure other victims to a secluded location where they would also be robbed. We're hearing that some UNA students felt the university's automated warning system was too little too late concerning this would-be crime wave.


Those Friday Night Lights

A Guest Commentary By

J. J. Ray

Recently I found the America no one hears about any more. I got to experience high school football. Many years have passed since I had been to a game. The crowds were cheering on both sides. Neighbors were visiting--some had not seen each other since last year. The cheerleaders were hollering "defense, defense" and the air was electric with excitement. Best of all this is America at her finest. The American flags were gathered about, they even played “The Star Spangled Banner” as all stood, and some even placed their hands over their hearts out of respect. A woman whom I had never seen before sang “God Bless America” without a lawsuit being filed to stop her and the game began.

The great part of this whole scenario is that it happens all across this great land from sea to shining sea in towns small and large.

Those that are in Washington now and their ACLU pals cannot destroy this America. From those green fields comes our next breed of leaders and patriots though they do not know it yet. The teams are a mix of races all playing with a common goal. Where else can the moms and dads, grandparents and friends from all races and religions come together and be just Americans. They just are enjoying the children playing a game chasing a small brown ball.

The smells from the concession stands with the kids working so hard and the girls giggling about this or that player and the fight songs from the high school band, it is one of our finest hours. These towns are the true backbone of this nation.

This had such a wakening effect one me I had to pass it on. Perhaps those that want to destroy this country with their socialist agendas have not been to a Friday night game lately. Perchance, this is what is missing in their lives--true red, white and blue America at its finest. When the game ended there was no somberness, each bade one another so long until next week and the stadium went dark. Thank God for “Those Friday Night Lights.” Have you been lately?


Did you hear about the mysterious white powder that caused the closing of Decatur City Hall yesterday? It seems the substance was only baby forumula.

Some years ago at a courthouse in South Alabama, several employees arriving at work one Monday were immediately struck by the stench of decomposition coming from the ladies room. A quick peek in the trash can caused one employee to call police to report a fetus or stillbirth had been discarded...or perhaps worse.

After police and a forensics team arrived, along with the coroner, a cow's tongue was safely removed from the courthouse. Gingerly carrying the bovine body part out of the building, one detective was said to have looked more than slightly irritated when he answered reporters' questions--yes, it was definitely "full term."


Connecting in ten, nine, eight...

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Few Words About National Alabama

In a previous blog, we suggested the TimesDaily should have asked employees how they felt about National Alabama severing ties with its parent company in Hamilton, Ontario. As far as we know, no employees have yet been interviewed, but here are some comments collected from

My husband was to interview and hire, was told by another NAC employee that he cannot hire someone with tatoos or facial hair, regardless of their qualifications. I don't think this is right, they should employ the best person for the position. I realize that the company wants to look good, but in my personal opinion, not hiring someone because of a beard or tatoo is being prejudiced.

They changed my husband's payday on us, causing problems for us, he didn't get his first check when he was supposed to. When he asked if he would be paid on the new date, their response was "You'll just have to wait and see."

I realize I sound disgruntled, but I am a college educated professional whose family has lost everything because of this company. It wasn't right, but they got away with it. I wish we had never gotten involved with them.


The starting salaries were good (as far as my husband went), travel was there... in Canada a lot. Benefits weren't too good. NAC has good ideas, state of the art facility is awesome but they make too many changes too often. This will hurt them eventually (I believe it already has). No perks or treats for employees.


My husband went to NAC, left the same company I suppose you work for, in 3 weeks they eliminated him without reason. They said "In Alabama they don't have to have a reason." We have lost everything and are financially ruined. They didn't stick to anything they had him sign, i.e. job offer letter, paying for certain things, etc. They changed everything on us once we moved our family there. Now we've lost our home, auto, credit, everything and they didn't blink an eye at it. We also heard that they've done this to about 3 other people in the AL location. Maybe it wont happen to you, but just be careful, I'd hate to see anyone else in the situation we are in.

NAC isn't all it's cracked up to be. They do have great ideas but they haven't worked all the "bugs" out yet like the competition has.


Want to know what it was like to grow up in Cherokee before it became a war zone? This book by Jimmie McWilliams will tell you: Link


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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Muslems Are Coming, The Muslems Are Coming

The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming

A Guest Commentary By

J. J. Ray

Everyone find cover, we are being invaded. The one thing in life that truly amazes me is our predisposition for fear. Truly, that what we do not understand we fear, “When all we have to fear is fear itself”. Watching with great interest the battle over the proposed Mosque at ground zero, I am still stunned. Not that I want it built on the spot where so many lives were lost at the hands of radicals. Rather, that the some in the Muslim community that want to be part of this country would prefer to inflict more pain and suffering on those that lost so much. Once again, that is only a few.

The question was asked by the talking heads if this were a Jewish temple or a Christian church would we object. No, it was Islamic jihadists that murdered and maimed all those people, not to mention the cost, which is in the billions. I do not think I can remember when we had a Jew or real Christian attack this country. This country forgave the Axis of Evil that started the Second World War, though it did take time. Remember time heals all wounds and wounds all heels.

Aside from their lack of respect by some regarding this issue most Muslims that I know are really very decent people. They are citizens of this great country but have a different religious belief than most of the Christians or Jews. In no way do I profess to understand the Koran, yet they however know a great deal about our Bible. Now that is interesting.

Make no mistake they live among us. Some are doctors, engineers, business owners etc. They cause no problems here in North Alabama. However, they are an additional asset for our community. Why then do we fear them so much? Because most of us get our information from the talking heads on the tube. Those jihadists Muslims that are discussed so much make up only a fraction of the Muslim population. Just as we have our problem people like the Skinheads and the KKK, they also have theirs.

Years ago, I had a Hindu doctor save my life. The doctor did not care what my beliefs were before she saved my life. Thank the Lord; she just saved my mangy hide.

Still I do not believe that ground zero is an appropriate place for a mosque. After all, is not it time we began to heal and forgive? The mosque would be a constant reminder of the pain and suffering. That does not mean they cannot build elsewhere. Perhaps we need to take the time and learn about our neighbors whether they are Muslin, Hindu, Sikh, Hebrew or Buddhist. You can never tell, they might just be normal folks.

If, I am not mistaken, did some folks that were searching for a place to practice their religion without reprisal not found this country?


Time Out: A New Blog - J. J. Ray will be writing a blog for the new Shoals Internet magazine The Connection. Each week J. J. will place a local person or entity in "Time Out" over less than civic minded behavior. J. J. tells us it will all be in fun and no literal harm will come to those he incarcerates. You can also continue to find J. J. and his unique blend of politics and humor here with frequent guest commentaries.


Our local hero today is Morris T. Lentz. Yesterday Morris and his fellow firefighters helped Rogersville remember 9/11. Besides his role of volunteer firefighter, Morris also participates in several activities geared toward promoting Rogersville and all of Northwest Alabama. We can think of no one who is truly more of a hero than Morris.


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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Special Report: National Alabama Sued for 354K

Last time I was in the plant it was pretty much idle. Very clean place, though. Great security team, it takes forever to get checked in the gate. Don't want any of those rail cars stolen I would guess.
- From the TimesDaily Forum

Apparently security is a top priority for the National Alabama Corporation. In fact, security is so important that the rail car company contracted with Open Options for a security system costing at least $354,009.00. We say at least that much since Open Options has filed a claim for that amount. Due to the size of the claim, the suit will be held in Colbert County Circuit Court.

Open Options is located in Carrollton, Texas, and serves companies across the Southeast. Calling their innovative security line DNA Fusion, the company courts customers who use open architecture. You can read more about Open Options at this link.

Security is needed at any manufacturing entity. The price of scrap metal alone would attract the unscrupulous to the Barton plant; however, we have to ask what is so top secret that this much high tech security is required. We also have to ask why National Alabama doesn't have the money to pay Open Options.

Chief Henry J. Searcy--Shot Down on Streets of Leighton

In 1910, the majority of men, especially those living in rural areas or small towns, carried a gun. In 2010, few of us carry a firearm, at least on our person. It's easy to forget how close we remain to an era of frontier justice. It was just fifty-three years ago that the police chief of Leighton was shot down on a main street of that small Colbert County town. Perhaps few now remember him.

Henry J. Searcy was born June 1, 1919. The son of John H. and Nancy L. Searcy, Henry came from a large family. He joined the Army during WWII and served honorably as a member of the 1304th Engineer Construction Battalion. This unit departed Camp Sutton in North Carolina on February 1, 1944. By September 1945, they had served in campaigns in India-Burma, Burma, and China. We may assume by this time Henry Searcy wanted little more than to return to his home in semi-rural Northwest Alabama.

Searcy joined the Colbert County Sheriff's Department around 1947 and worked there almost eight years before joining the Leighton Police as Chief. From the Officer Down Page:

Chief Searcy was shot and killed from ambush at approximately 0500 hours. He had taken off his gun belt to adjust some equipment on it when a suspect opened fire on him with a .44 caliber rifle. Chief Searcy was struck ten times and killed almost instantly.

The suspect, who had earlier been charged by Chief Searcy for killing an animal without cause, turned himself in approximately 30 minutes later. He was charged with Chief Searcy's murder.

Chief Searcy was a WWII veteran and had served as chief of the 2-person Leighton Police Department for 2.5 years. He had previously served with the Colbert County Sheriff's Department for 7.5 years. He was survived by his parents, three brothers, and five sisters.

Henry J. Searcy is buried in Gravel Hill Cemetery off LaGrange Road in Franklin County. Henry rests here with his parents and some of his siblings. We know they would be glad that Lecia Ford remembered him.

Note: Yesterday we published Leighton Memories in which we failed to change the name of the police chief from Grissom to Henry J. Searcy. We have now corrected that. Thanks to Lecia for all her research.


Thought for the day, 9/11: Remember the Alamo, Remember the Maine, Remember Pearl Harbor...But do we?


Did you miss the Judi Letters by William Lindsey McDonald the first time around? We found one copy on eBay: Link


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