December 31, 2014 Edition

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Train wreck, weather
among top stories

Rubble and a burned out engine remained in the aftermath of the Aug. 17 head-on crash between two Union Pacific freight trains in Hoxie. The collision occurred approximately one-half mile south of the intersection of U.S. Hwys. 67 and 63, just inside the Hoxie city limits.

Lesa Walter (right) passes some garbage she picked up along the Rails-to-Trails walking and biking trail to Diane Midkiff during a Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Community Revitalization and Beautification Day of Service on March 1. The CRB Committee, which was formed in February, has been busy this year with multiple projects.

Wells Creek Road, located near Ravenden, was impassable after floodwaters washed out the roadbed in April. Heavy rains proved to be the most damaging part of the storm system for Lawrence County, while others in Arkansas saw tornados.

Drifts of sleet created unique formations alongside Lawrence County Road 706, off Highway 91 South, when a March winter storm dumped several inches of sleet in Lawrence County.

Gretchen Hunt

The following is a compilation of some of Lawrence County's headlines from 2014.


Pam Kopp has taken office as the new Walnut Ridge city clerk. She was appointed to the position after Carolyn Hayes retired after 15 years of service to the city.

The city of Lynn received a $28,000 General Improvement Funds grant to assist with the purchase of land and construction expenses for a new library.

KAIT chief meteorologist Ryan Vaughan raised money and awareness for The Children's Shelter in Walnut Ridge when he was named America's Favorite Weather Forecaster by The shelter received a $500 prize as Vaughan's charity of choice, as well as more than $4,000 in donations from individuals.


Lawrence County experienced heavy ice and snowfall the first week in February causing school and business closings.

Under the leadership of Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Fran Cavenaugh, a new Community Revitalization and Beautification Committee has been formed.

USA Today listed Walnut Ridge among the 10 best places to visit for Beatles history in its online edition.


Another winter storm hit Lawrence County the first week of March as unseasonably cold temperatures led to a significant accumulation of sleet and freezing rain. Schools and businesses were closed, and there were multiple reports of structural damage.

After a year of negotiations and planning, Peco Foods announced it would be providing 1,000 jobs in Northeast Arkansas with new facilities, including a processing plant to be located on Highway 67 between Walnut Ridge and Pocahontas.

The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial was dedicated with several in attendance from Lawrence County. Walnut Ridge firefighters played an integral role in establishing the memorial, and Paula Haskins of Walnut Ridge created the drawings that were used to design the statue.


Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House announced that he would not seek a second term as mayor due to his wife's health.

Sloan-Hendrix Supt. Mitch Walton announced plans to retire after 30 years with the school district. Clifford Rorex was approved as his replacement.

Lawrence County applied for disaster assistance after a storm system dumped heavy rain causing extensive flooding and road damage. Other parts of the state, including Mayflower and Vilonia, were affected by tornadoes in the storm. Items from those two towns were found in Lawrence County after the storm passed through.


Charles Snapp of Walnut Ridge was awarded the Tom Biggs Award for outstanding service to tourism by the Ozark Gateway Region.

Vandals caused more than $57,000 worth of damage to the Walnut Ridge Airport's lighting system and taxiway signage.

The Walnut Ridge Bobcat baseball team defeated Marked Tree 6-1 to claim the 2A North Regional title. The team advanced to the state finals, where they ended the season as state runners-up with a loss to Junction City.

County Judge Dale Freeman was re-elected and Jeff Yates won election as sheriff in the primary election. Sheriff Jody Dotson did not seek re-election.

Sloan-Hendrix's Syd Humes captured the title in the shot put during the 2A State Track meet in Gurdon with a throw of 47' 2.5”.

Family, friends and Black Rock graduates gathered for the final graduation ceremony of BRHS. The 119th commencement saw 22 receive their diplomas.


Taylor's Greenhouse and Nursery in Hoxie announced it would close its doors after 40 years of business in Lawrence County. The business suffered a devastating loss when six greenhouses collapsed under the weight of sleet in March.

Fierce wind and heavy rain hit Lawrence County downing many trees and power lines, damaging multiple homes and claiming the life of Clara Clark, 81, of Black Rock, who was killed when a tree fell on her vehicle.

Michael “Button” Wallin, seated alderman and candidate for Walnut Ridge mayor, died after fighting a battle with cancer which became a serious threat in the days before his death. His wife, Natalie Wallin, was appointed to complete his term.


Hoxie School Board Chair Jeff Worlow announced that former Valley View Supt. Radius Baker is serving as interim Hoxie superintendent until a permanent replacement for Dennis Truxler, who recently resigned, is found.

Fran Cavenaugh, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce chair and CFO of Cavenaugh Auto Group, is working to turn a dilapidated property at 123 West Main Street in Walnut Ridge into a new event center, to be called The Studio.


Two Union Pacific freight trains collided head on in Hoxie resulting in a major derailment and the death of two Union Pacific employees. The area was evacuated temporarily due to concerns about possible hazardous materials.

The Lawrence County Quorum Court voted to apply for the county to be a prospective site for a new state prison. After discussion and more information was gathered, the application was not filed.


A huge collection of Beatles photographs and images, known as The Argenta Collection, has been donated to Downtown Walnut Ridge by the Argenta Arts Foundation in North Little Rock. After being displayed at the Beatles at the Ridge Festival, the collection will be on rotating display at the Lawrence County Library.

After a recent review of the Lawrence County Jail, the Arkansas Jail Standards Committee voted to close the facility. Working with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, the county was able to get a six-month extension, which will provide some time to determine a course of action.

The fourth annual Beatles at the Ridge Festival was a success with thousands attending and multiple new events offering a variety of activities to the attendees.


Former President Bill Clinton visited Lawrence County and attended the Tri-County Democratic Dinner at the Hoxie Service Center.

Construction workers began the framework for an addition to the Wings of Honor Museum to increase exhibit space for several World War II displays.

The Hoxie junior high volleyball team won the 3A Northeast Junior District Tournament held at Walnut Ridge on Saturday. The Lady Mustangs also won the regular season championship with a perfect 11-0 record and finished 20-1 overall.


Charles Snapp was elected as the new mayor of Walnut Ridge. Other mayoral races decided were Kelly Duckworth, Portia mayor, and Stanley Debow, Sedgwick mayor.

Robert and Fern Shelton announced the closing of Robert's Service Center in Portia after 36 years of service to the area.

Sheriff Jody Dotson resigned to take a position with Arkansas Tobacco Control as he neared the completion of his term. Tony Waldrupe was named as interim sheriff until sheriff-elect Jeff Yates is sworn in.

Lawrence County was well represented on the Arkansas State University All-Centennial Football team, which included Walnut Ridge High School graduates Sam “Sammy” Weir and Dan Mullen and Hoxie graduate Randy Barnhill among the 100 players honored.

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce named John Bland of Walnut Ridge and Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale as Man and Woman of the Year at its annual banquet.

Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker was elected to a second term during the General Election runoff.


The Hoxie Mustangs ended a successful football season in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A State Playoffs.

Lawrence Memorial Health Foundation named Dr. Ted Lancaster as the LMHF Special Advocate for his years of service to Lawrence Health Services.

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