December 30, 2015 Edition

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Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer (from left) speaks about the importance of the new Black River Bridge at Black Rock during the dedication ceremony Thursday. Also speaking at the dedication were, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett, State Senator Blake Johnson and Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Voters pass jail tax, BR buys
buildings among top stories

During the 60th anniversary celebration of the desegregation of Hoxie School on July 11, members of the Hoxie School Board vote unanimously in favor of a resolution showing support of the 1955 school board's actions, as well as support of current efforts to construct a museum to preserve the history of the desegregation of Hoxie School.
Submitted Photo ~ Brett Cooper

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The following is a compilation of some of Lawrence County's top stories of 2015.

January

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp and incumbent Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker, along with many other elected officials, were sworn in by County Clerk Tina Stowers on Jan. 1.

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives and the Arkansas History Commission hosted a symposium in honor of Lawrence County's 200th anniversary on Jan. 15 at Powhatan Historic State Park. The event featured several keynote speakers who shared about "the Mother of Counties." A resolution honoring the late Evelyn Flippo was presented to her daughter, Darlene Moore, and husband, Tom, by AHC vice chair Ruth Hawkins.

Walnut Ridge Police Chief Richey Thatcher resigned from his position on Jan. 20. Glendal Floyd was named interim chief.

On Jan. 20, Walnut Ridge Regional Airport Manager Michelle Anthony received word that the airport would be allowed to keep its military contract. The contract application was originally rejected due to insufficient military fuel sales. The airport was allowed to retain its contract due to it serving as an emergency staging area. It had already been serving the military for 12 years, and Anthony said she couldn't imagine the airport without the military stopping there to refuel.

February

Madison Cox, a junior at Walnut Ridge High School, was named co-chairman of the 2015 March of Dimes Prom fashion show held Feb. 7 at Brookland High School.

All Lawrence County Schools, including Williams Baptist College, were closed for more than a week after multiple inches of sleet and snow fell on Feb. 15.

WRPD officer Chris Kirksey was named the new Walnut Ridge Police Chief on Feb. 19. Fellow chief candidate Bubba Blackwood was named to head the newly formed drug interdiction department.

March

The RJYLP committee screened the premiere of a documentary about the Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program in Lawrence County on March 1. Bob Hager of Tiny Seed Films produced the documentary that reflects on the impact of Dr. Joseph's dream for a youth leadership council.

WBC's Isaiha Johnson finished fourth in his division at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes National Championships March 7-8. In doing so, the freshman became the first All-American wrestler in school history.

During the March 10 city council meeting, the city of Hoxie announced that the former Save-A-Lot property was undergoing foreclosure and later came into the city's possession on April 8 when it went for public auction.

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp was presented the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award at the Henry Awards Reception and Ceremony at the 2015 Governor's Conference on Tourism on March 10.

Amtrak, in conjunction with the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management, held a specialized training for area emergency response agencies on March 30 at the Lawrence County Meeting Room. The training had 60 in attendance, which represented more than 20 local emergency response agencies.

Walnut Ridge Street Superintendent Rick Ditto resigned in late March due to some health concerns. He said that while it was a hard decision to leave, it was the best thing for him and the city. He has remained a volunteer since his resignation.

April

The Driftwood Library, a branch of the Lawrence County Library located in Lynn, moved into a new building. The new library, built right next door to where the library had previously been, was financed through a combination of grants, library funds and assistance from the city of Lynn.

Effective April 6, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services center in Walnut Ridge closed, consolidating with the Jonesboro branch.

Baseball-sized hail fell in Portia on April 9 causing minor damage to vehicles and homes. Mayor Kelly Duckworth said it was very fortunate no one was hurt during the storm as there was very little warning when the hail began to fall.

Angie Gallaher coached her team to victory at the Arkansas State University spring football game on April 17. Gallaher won the title of "head coach" for the game after winning an auction offered through Ebay.

May

Walnut Ridge banker and community leader Keith Brand died May 4 after battling an illness for many months. Upon his death, many community members shared memories of Brand valuing his leadership, commitment and friendship.

The Lawrence County School Board accepted the city of Black Rock and Black Rock Fire Department's counter offer of $28,000 to purchase the cafeteria, the old gymnasium and the high school building at the Black Rock campus during the May 11 meeting. The buildings are being converted into a museum, community center and sports complex.

After a meeting called on May 12, the local National Guard Armory faced possible consolidation. However, due to the reaction of those in attendance and the letters and calls made in the weeks to follow, it was announced that the armory would stay open within a month of the first meeting.

The new Black River Bridge at Black Rock opened for traffic May 15. County Judge Dale Freeman, Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale and Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp led the first crossing of the new bridge.

Over 2,700 homes were without power after the local Entergy plant substation lost its feed of electricity during a severe storm with high winds on May 24. Power was restored to most of the homes within a few hours.

June

James' Beauty Salon closed its doors after 48 years of service on May 30. Norma Taylor retired from the business she and her husband, the late James Taylor, opened on April 6, 1967.

Several new displays were incorporated into the Wings of Honor Museum in June thanks to the efforts of 13 Williams Baptist College history students. A total of 10 exhibits were completed as part of their spring semester studies.

Chris Ditto was hired as the new full-time Hoxie Fire Chief. Rob Needham, who served as chief on a volunteer basis, turned in his resignation letter shortly after Ditto was hired.

Ronald and Kathy Cavenaugh were named Lawrence County's 2015 Farm Family of the Year.

July

Progress was being made on several projects at the ballpark in Stewart Park in late June and early July. The practice fields were built up in the infield to provide better drainage, and they were treated with a herbicide.

Viola Belle Callahan Meadows, age 89, died on July 4, Independence Day. She was crucial in getting all five buildings that made up the Clover Bend School restored and on the National Historic Register after the school was consolidated with Hoxie School in 1983. Her visitation and memorial service were held at the Clover Bend Auditorium.

Nearly 200 gathered on July 11 at Hoxie's Mustang Gymnasium to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1955 integration of Hoxie School. The theme throughout the event was the importance of preserving the history and recognizing the significance of what happened during the desegregation of Hoxie School.

Hoxie High School Counselor Donna Pinkston received the state Secondary Counselor of the Year honor at the Arkansas School Counselor Association's Summer Conference on July 13.

Members of the Hillcrest Middle School Archery Team competed in the NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) World Archery Tournament on July 23 held at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn. Hillcrest finished 17th in the competition out of 90 middle school teams that competed.

August

The 91st annual Lawrence County Fair and Livestock Shows were held Aug. 10-15. The new barn was open for its first year.

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan received a donation from the Sellers family of Barney Sellers' personal archive of photographs he shot in Arkansas.

September

Jake Hollister (#72) realized his dream of being a member of the football team thanks to his classmates and the WRHS football players and coaches.

Due to lack of qualified inmates and liability risks, Sheriff Jeff Yates announced that he would be cutting the work-release program for county inmates.

A special stamp-dedication ceremony was held Sept. 18 in Walnut Ridge to celebrate the release of the Elvis Presley Forever stamp. The ceremony, which kicked off the 2015 Beatles at the Ridge Festival, was the first dedication of the stamp in Arkansas.

The first of many historic plaques to be featured in a heritage trail in Walnut Ridge was presented during the Beatles at the Ridge music festival on Sept. 19. Sponsored by MEB Trailer Manufacturing, the plaque tells of Washboard Sam, his history and his significance to the community.

Williams Baptist College paid tribute Sept. 25 to Joy Ring, the institution's longest serving professor, with the dedication of the new Joy Ring Student Success Center. Ring, who is professor of business, has served on the Williams faculty since 1965.

October

A ground-breaking ceremony for the 43-bed Belle Hall was held Oct. 9 at Williams Baptist College. The new residence hall's expected completion date is fall 2016.

Holly Looney of Walnut Ridge was crowned as the 2015 Arkansas State Fair Queen on Oct. 17 in Little Rock.

During the Oct. 19 meeting, the Walnut Ridge City Council authorized Mayor Charles Snapp to enter into an agreement with Jumpstart to lease the former Gateway Animal Clinic building for use as a new animal shelter.

November

Powhatan Historic State Park was named the 2014-2015 Overall Park of the Year by the Arkansas State Parks. The park also received honors for Outstanding Special Event and Region 2 Park of the Year. The awards were announced at the annual business meeting of the park superintendents held Sept. 22-24, and the park was honored with a luncheon at Powhatan on Nov. 3.

WBC President Tom Jones announced Nov. 3 that Jonesboro resident and Williams alumnus Clifford Toney left the bulk of his estate to the college. The multi-million dollar estate will help fund several key strategic projects.

Lawrence County voters approved a request for a half-cent sales tax to fund the construction and maintenance of a new jail in Lawrence County in a special election on Nov. 10.

The Bobcats ended the football season with a loss against Des Arc on Nov. 13. The team had a 6-5 overall record and were 5-2 in 2A-3 Conference play.

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, held Nov. 12, paid tribute to the 200th anniversary of Lawrence County. Dr. Tom Jones, president of Williams Baptist College, and Kathy Bradley, administrative assistant with the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, were named as the Chamber's 2016 Man and Woman of the Year. The Community Service Award went to Ethel Tompkins.

Hoxie ended the 2015 football season with a 9-3 overall record when they lost 56-33 in the second round of the 3A State Football Playoffs Nov. 20 against Glen Rose.

December

Wilma Jones of Minturn was named the 2015 Special Advocate by the Lawrence Memorial Health Foundation. She was honored Dec. 4 during the foundation's Christmas Gala.

Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority Executive Director Wayne Gearhart announced his resignation from that position to the Intermodal Board of Directors on Dec. 10.

Arkansas Jail Standards lifted the probation held on the current jail so it may be used until the new facility is built.

Flooding and road closures became an issue at the end of the year as several storm systems hit Lawrence County with multiple inches of rain.

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