Friday, August 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> From cotton fields to Pacific in WWII

Leader staff writer

Cabot resident Logan Hutson recently reflected on his time in the military at the end of the Second World War as a gunner’s mate on the battleship USS Iowa, a tank commander during the Korean War and a bit about life in rural Arkansas. He served 29 years in the military.

Hutson, 88, was born in Morrilton on Oct. 1, 1927. He grew up in Center Ridge in Conway County. His father was a cotton farmer and his mother was a homemaker. Hutson had three brothers and one sister.

“I started school when I was 5 years old in a little two-story building in the country. We had no electricity. It was a Masonic lodge, a public school and a church east of Center Ridge,” Hutson said.

During the Great Depression, Hutson started working as a farmhand in the cotton fields when he was 7 years old. He worked 10 hours a day for five years and earned 75 cents a day.

Hutson, a retired minister, recalled when he first heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“I was 14 in Cleveland in Conway County visiting an aunt and uncle. They had electricity on the main highway then, that was only place that had it, a little country store had a radio and we got news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was,” he said.

His family moved to England in 1942 and he graduated from Humnoke High School in 1945.

“I worked until I reached 17 and joined the Navy in 1945. I told Dad I was tired of working in the cotton fields. ‘If you sign the papers I’ll join the Navy.’ I was going to be drafted, and I didn’t want to be in the Army, so I volunteered for the Navy,” he said.

As World War II was ending, Hutson was sent to San Diego, Calif., for basic training. It was the first time he had been out of the state.

“The first night they played ‘Taps,’ I was all alone and thought I made a big mistake,” he said.

Hutson was a turret gunner on the USS Iowa battleship. The ship would fire at surface and anti-aircraft targets.

“We were scheduled to invade the Japanese homeland in November 1945. President Harry Truman had ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6 on Hiroshima and on Aug. 9 on Nagasaki,” Hutson said.

“That’s when it convinced the Japanese to surrender. They were preparing for a million casualties if we had to invade the mainland. They had guns stored in caves along the coastline, and we got Japanese guns by the thousands out of the caves. Truman was highly criticized for using a nuclear weapon, but there is no telling how many million lives he saved, both Japanese and American. I think he did the right thing,” Hutson said.

Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay near Yokosuka, Japan. The ship came home and the USS New Jersey took over as flagship of the occupation. The USS Iowa was later assigned to relieve the USS New Jersey in January 1946.

“We were training after the war ended because we had to be ready at all times. We practiced anti-aircraft with planes pulling sleeves through the air, and we would fire at the sleeve,” Hutson said.

“I went to Tokyo one time and the B-29s had just obliterated it. They were just repairing the train station. In Yokohama there wasn’t a building standing. There was just one single smoke stack, and how it survived all the B-29 bombings I don’t know,” Hutson said.

He later became a gunner mount captain. He was in charge of 10 men inside the gun mount.

He spoke of a typhoon the USS Iowa encountered near Okinawa, Japan.

“We rode it out for three days and three nights. The winds clocked at 148 mph. It twisted our wind instruments off. It tore all our lifeboats up. The gun shields around the anti-aircraft guns were battered around it. It took them six months to repair the damage,” Hutson said.

Hutson was discharged from the Navy in September 1948 after three years of service.

Hutson joined the Army Reserve in 1950. He liked the Navy, but the Army unit held drills locally in England and retained his rank.

His unit was called up to active duty five months into the Korean War. But Hutson’s prior service in World War II prevented him from going to Korea. Hutson spent his time stateside.

He was transferred from a gunner’s mate to an electronic technician. Hutson maintained all the electronic equipment, intercoms and shortwave radios in the trucks, tanks and Jeeps.

Hutson moved up in rank from sergeant to sergeant first class. His job as an electronics technician did not qualify to be sergeant first class. The Army made him a tank commander. He had a crew of five. They were at the Mojave Desert for live-fire training of 75 mm, 50-caliber and 30-caliber guns. They had night and day firings.

“We didn’t have computers back then. I had estimated the range to my target visually and give the gunner the range,” Hutson said.

The Army was using his unit for replacements in the Korean War. Hutson got out of the Army two years later in 1952.

Hutson went to work on electronics after he left the military and worked for Young’s Department Store in Carlisle from 1952 to 1954.

“I was in charge of television repair and installation, radios and appliances,” he said.

In 1954, he went to work for Orgill Brothers wholesale in Little Rock for three years. They were a hardware store chain based in Memphis that carried Admiral appliances. He completed his television repair training and became a television technician with Orgill until 1957.

Hutson said ministry was on his mind for many years.

“I loved electronics, but I was not satisfied with it. I answered the call,” he said.

Hutson went into ministry full-time entering a Baptist seminary in Little Rock in 1957 and finishing five years later in 1962. He has been a minister for 60 years. His first church was North Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church, where he had been a member.

He then led the Macedonia Baptist Church in Humnoke from 1965 to 1978. Hutson moved to Cabot in July 1978 and was pastor of Faith Baptist Church when it was a small mission on Pin Oak Street for 13 years to 1991. The last church Huston led was at Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Springfield in Faulkner County from 2002 to his retirement in July 2013. Hutson oversees weddings and funerals and will fill in at the pulpit when a church pastor is on vacation.

Hutson returned to serving in the military in 1963 joining the Navy Reserve to finish his military retirement. He was in charge of a nuclear submarine repair unit. Drill was held at Camp Robinson in Little Rock. He retired in 1987.

Hutson met his wife, Mary, when he came back to England in 1948. They met at Landmark Baptist Church. They married on Dec. 23, 1950. They have been together for 66 years. They have one daughter, Barbara, and two sons, Ronnie and Daniel. Their son Edward passed away. They have seven grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

TOP STORY >> New district is looking to Monday start

Leader senior staff writer

More than 30 years after Jacksonville-area residents first began working toward a school district of their own, the fledgling Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District doors will open for the first time Monday morning for an estimated 3,840 students, according to Bryan Duffie, assistant superintendent for support services.

Lunch is MaxStix with marinara sauce, Romaine salad with veggies and ranch dressing, peaches and milk for students big and small.

Before selling the buildings to JNPSD for about $10.8 million, the Pulaski County Special School District stripped and waxed floors as needed and sanded and refinished gymnasium floors.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess has supported the Jacksonville detachment and has helped many residents realize the dream.


“I believe we’re in really good shape,” Duffie said Thursday. “There are always things to do—small repairs.” But he said he doesn’t know of any major repairs.

“Teachers, custodians, principals and maintenance staff, are tending to last minute, final touches,” he said.

There are still a few final hires needed, Duffie said, but Superintendent Tony Wood has hired some as substitutes who are likely to be confirmed at the September board meeting.


The district also has an arrangement with Kelly Enterprises to supply substitute teachers, custodians and other workers as needed.

Duffie said staff members, including teachers, community volunteers and volunteers from Little Rock Air Force Base and local churches chipped in to help ready the buildings.

Duffie said some rooms or areas may still need painting, but most painting is done.

Teachers have been coming in since early July to work on their rooms.

“I’m not aware of any major plumbing problems,” Duffie said Thursday. “We replaced a water heater today.”

The cafeterias are ready to go and Sysco foods has already made deliveries.

“Cafeterias are ready to go. Sysco did deliveries today and some food service employees will be working this weekend,” he said.


Principals did walk-throughs at their schools Friday, making sure everything is ready.

The bus drivers met Thursday morning, discussing safety procedures and were due to have run their routes.

Duffie said the routes might have to be fine-tuned.

“For the most part, teachers have books and computers in the right rooms.

The drivers are excited, and see an opportunity for something new for Jacksonville.


Technology director Kevin Martin has been working on laptops and desktop computers for teachers, working on the computer networks and making sure Wi-Fi is up and running.

“Not every building is fully functional on that,” Duffie said.

“That’s through the state network,” he said. A fiber network needs to be expanded.

“The bus fleet’s in good shape and the mechanics have been working. Every bus passed state inspection.”

There are still some business accounts that need to be set up and the principals have begun building their budgets.

Duffie said it would be a while until all students are enrolled, noting that the 3,840 enrollment number was from around Aug. 1.

On the individual school pages on the JNPSD website, the principals spoke about the upcoming year.


“We are creating an academic climate for young minds to do great things,” said Jacksonville High School Principal LaGail Biggs. “We are providing opportunities for all students to prepare for their future.”

Middle school Principal Mike Hudgeons said, “It is our mission to provide the students entrusted to us with the best effort we can give and the best educational opportunities we can provide.”

The middle school is in academic distress and will work to improve, he said.


The theme this year at Arnold Drive Elementary is “Be a Superhero,” according to Principal Janice Walker. “We will encourage students to be H—Helpers of a school and community, E—Enthusiastic about learning, R—Respectful of others and O—On-Task learning and modeling good citizenship.”

“Active participation by parents, grandparents and other family members is the number one indicator of a child’s school success,” according to Bayou Meto Elementary Principal Gary Beck.

He encouraged families to become involved in the PTO, to become a tutor or a volunteer and to work with the child’s teacher.


“The enthusiasm around the building is energizing, and we look forward to this educational journey with you and your child,” said Warren Dupree Principal Jamie Reed.

Pinewood Elementary Principal Karen Norton said her team is “dedicated to building strong, positive relationships with all members of our school community to ensure that all of our students reach their full potential.”

Taylor Principal Myeisha Haywood said her team “is committed to providing all students an equitable and quality instructional program focused on reading, language arts, math, science and social studies while infusing the arts into daily instruction.”

Tolleson Principal Angela Steward said her teachers and staff are excited about beginning a new journey with our families and students as part of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

TOP STORY >> Couple’s largesse is worth $634,000

Trustees of the Ethel Hope (Kirk) Carter Trust announced this week the final distribution of the trust worth more than $633,000, which will benefit a Beebe church and cemetery, a church in Cleburne County and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

Carter was a Beebe High School graduate, attended Williams College in Walnut Ridge and received her degree from Eastern Michigan College.

Carter, along with her husband, Emitt, taught in Michigan public schools. When they retired, they moved to Heber Springs, and after her husband’s death, Mrs. Carter moved back to the Beebe area.

Her love for children and her desire for all children to receive a good education prompted Mrs. Carter to bequeath several gifts to local charities, according to Norma Kirk and Kathy Roe, the trustees.

The trust recipients are:

   $211, 553 to Union Valley Church in Beebe. Her wishes were that these funds be used in the children’s program of the church and for scholarships for deserving graduating seniors entering the education field.

   $211,553 to Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church. She and her husband helped establish this church, and the funds will be used for mission work. An equipped and fenced playground, dedicated to the Carters, has been built adjacent to the church to help keep its children safe along the busy highway.

   $211,553 to Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation. The Carters’ only child, Jimmy, was a patient there during his childhood.

These funds will be used to help keep children at grade-level while they are in the hospital.

   A gift was made to Stoney Point Cemetery Trust Perpetual Care Fund for upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery where Mrs. Carter’s parents and other family members are buried.
   The remainder of the trust was bequeathed to designated members of both the Kirk and Carter families.

EDITORIAL >> Judge says no to transfer

It didn’t take long for U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. to rule against the state Board of Education, which last month approved the transfer of a Jacksonville High School student to Cabot in violation of the existing desegregation agreement.

The Board of Education, for no stated purpose, suddenly changed from its practice of turning down school transfer appeals to suddenly granting one for the Dulaney family, saying they wanted to do what was best for the family.

We don’t dispute that, but suspect what they wanted to do was to challenge the Jacksonville district’s independence as it begins the new school year after a 30-year struggle to break from the Pulaski County Special School District.

The family’s attorney and the state argued that they were not bound by a provision in the desegregation settlement agreement that Judge Marshall signed off on previously. Interestingly, the board felt bound by that agreement through lunch at the July board meeting, but without comment reversed itself after lunch.

Marshall made his decision Monday after hearing arguments for about three hours, and Tuesday Marshall issued a written order overturning the state board’s action and thus putting aside that board’s action that allowed “K. Dulaney,” as the student was identified in court, to attend the Cabot Freshman Academy, outside her school district of residence, putting an end to the state board’s effort to make an end run around that 2014 settlement agreement.

That agreement allows JNPSD and the Pulaski County Special School District to waive the otherwise applicable school choice transfer provisions.

Under Marshall’s order, it appears that those two districts may claim exemption to school choice transfers at least through the 2018-2019 school year.

The PCSSD brief noted that both districts were among those listed on the Arkansas Department of Education’s website as claiming an exemption from participating in school choice.

Districts under court supervision for desegregation purposes are exempt. This gives the new district a little breathing room as it works toward meeting the needs of its students rather than lawyers who are trying to sock it to the burgeoning district.

PCSSD, JNPSD and the Joshua Intervenors argued that the state board exceeded its authority; Marshall’s order validated that interpretation.

Lawyers for the state and for the Dulaneys also argued that state court, not Marshall’s court, was the proper venue for the school districts’ appeal.

Scott Richardson, who was a chief deputy attorney general who helped craft the desegregation settlement in 2014, is now an attorney for JNPSD.

He and attorney Patrick Wilson filed suit against the Board of Education on July 28, seeking an injunction against the board granting such student appeals.

Richardson argued that the new district would lose badly needed revenue if students from the new, untested district could transfer at will to white flight districts like Cabot.

The state and Dulaney also sought intervenor status in the matter, but in refusing, Marshall ruled that the family’s interests were represented by the state’s lawyers.

The state board argued that the operative factor should be what’s best for the student. Let us praise Judge Marshall for allowing Jacksonville- North Pulaski to move forward without interference from the state board.

After at least 30 years, with supporters steadfastly pushing through, over and around obstacles, their efforts will be rewarded Monday when the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District welcomes students to its first day of classroom instruction.

Starting with nothing but permission to detach from PCSSD, a deal to buy the buildings within the boundaries and great dedication, expertise and leadership, the new district has jumped through an amazing number of hoops, and without a roadmap.

With former interim Superintendent Bobby Lester, an appointed school board and then an elected school board and Superintendent Tony Wood, the district has met every challenge.

Wood was commissioner of the state Board of Education until a new governor replaced him with Johnny Key, the inexperienced and perhaps unqualified former legislator, but that made the highly qualified Wood free to help guide JNPSD toward independence.

This bunch and many others have brought us to the brink of a new district.

The future’s so bright, we’re gonna need shades.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys win tourney

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School boys’ golf team played its first match of the season on Aug. 4, and won the North Little Rock Charging Wildcat Invitational with a low score of 301, outpointing second-place NLR by three strokes at The Greens at North Hills golf course in Sherwood.

Sophomore Logan Stephens was the Panthers’ and the match’s lowest scorer, finishing with a 72. Brendon Morton of Bryant finished two strikes behind the Cabot medalist, finishing with a score of 74.

Six different other competitors finished with a score of 75, and two of those scores belonged to Cabot players. Senior Jordan Lott and freshman Caleb Miller each shot a 75 and sophomore teammate Blaine Calhoon also finished with an under-80 score, shooting a 79.

Cabot does have three seniors on its boys’ team, but the bulk of the team is underclassmen, including one junior, six sophomores and one ninth grader.
Lott, Trey Tonnessen and Hayes Barger are the three seniors for the Panthers. Lott returns the most varsity experience of those three, and Tonnessen and Barger will be among those competing for one of the five spots on the varsity team.

Despite the youth on the Panthers, Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett expects this group to be highly competitive this season.

“Our boys will be very competitive,” said Tollett. “If they continue to improve and put it all together they’ll be very competitive.”

Eight schools were represented in boys’ play at the NLR Invitational, with seven of those schools having enough players to qualify for the team scores. Bryant finished third behind Cabot and North Little Rock with 306 team points. Benton was fourth with a score of 308, and Little Rock Catholic rounded out the top five with a score of 321.

Sylvan Hills also competed in the event, and although the Bears didn’t finish in the top five of the team scores, they had two players finish in the low 80s. Nathan Martin shot an 81 to lead the SHHS boys, and teammate Ethan Williamson finished two strikes behind him with a score of 83.

Nine different schools were represented in the girls’ competition at the NLR Invitational, but only two of those schools had enough players to qualify for team scores, one of which was Cabot. Little Rock Christian won the girls’ competition with a low score of 297, while the Lady Panthers finished with a team score of 340.

Lauren Loeb of Mount St. Mary Academy was the only player representing her school, but she won the match with a low score of 80. She finished three strokes ahead of second-place Alexis Montgomery of Maumelle, who finished with a score of 83.

Freshman Hannah Heflin was Cabot’s lowest scorer at the match, finishing with a score of 108.

Lady Panther sophomore Ashley DeSalvo had the second-lowest score for CHS, finishing with a 112 score, and junior Cloe Ann Doyle rounded out the top three for the Cabot girls, finishing with a score of 120.

Like the Cabot boys, the Cabot girls’ team mostly consists of underclassmen with one senior and one junior, seven sophomores and three freshmen.

The Lady Panthers may be inexperienced, but Tollett says the CHS girls continue to improve and will only get better with the experience they gain through the course of the season.

“It was their first tournament, and most of them it was the first time they’d ever played in a tournament,” Tollett said. “We’re only optimistic that they’re going to get a lot better, because a lot of them are just starting out. They’re very young and we’re optimistic that they’re going to improve a lot as the year goes on.”

The Cabot boys’ and girls’ teams will play their next match Thursday at the Red Apple Inn and Country Club in Heber Springs and start time is scheduled for 1 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans cross country buys in

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School cross country coach Hank Hawk hasn’t had very much time to work with his runners that’ll be competing this fall, but one thing that Hawk said has been a big positive in the time he’s had with them is that the Titan runners have bought in to what the program’s hoping to accomplish this year.

A lot of soccer players have joined the cross country team this year, which has helped boost the numbers up some.

“I’ve got four or five boys and I will probably have a girls’ team for the very first time this year,” said Hawk, “thanks to coach (Donny) Lantrip; the soccer coach. We are teaming up and kind of using this as an offseason soccer/cross country team, and for right now it’s working out pretty good.

“It’s nice to have girls out there running. There are some volleyball girls – they’re so busy with volleyball, but I know they’re distance runners for track, and I know that if I can get them to run on their own and then compete with us on the weekends in the meets, that’ll just help us even more.”

As for the boys, Hawk said he thinks the soccer players he’s had running this summer have even surprised themselves with how well they’re handling the distances and workouts, and added that they’re starting to look at the program as more than just an offseason for soccer.

“Right now the soccer guys that are coming out running, I think they’ve surprised themselves as far as how well they’re handling the distances and the workouts,” Hawk said. “They’re buying into it. They’re asking questions about how a meet runs, and they’ve gone out and talked to friends that have done it in the past.

“I can see their interests are not just getting in better shape for soccer, but wanting to compete as a team and personally in a cross country meet.”

Hawk added, though, that the success his runners have will be based on the work they put in prior to races, meaning they need to continue to work at it on their own time in addition to their routine team workouts.

“You’ve got to run,” Hawk said. “On the weekend, get up and go run. You get out of it what you put in. Unfortunately, the words cross country scare a lot of people off. When you say cross country people think, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to run across the world,’ when it’s only a 3.1 mile race. It’s a 5K.

“If I can ever get them to a cross country meet – they’re just a neat atmosphere; all the teams around there, the comradery between the teams, the competition between you and the guy next to you, the competition between you and yourself, trying to get a better time – the parents and fans lining the course to cheer everybody on.

“As a coach, it’s neat to see the lightbulb go on when they get there, and you’re riding in the back of the bus (after) and they’re talking about passing this one guy and I wasn’t going to let him pass me, you know, going on and on about what happened during the race. They’re worn out, but they’re not thinking about that. They’re thinking about the next race.”

Another reason Hawk would like to see more runners in the cross country program is the fact that college scholarships are available for cross country runners, and many girls’ cross country scholarships are going unused because of the lack of participation.

“I tell these girls, there are actual scholarships that universities are not using for girls’ cross country,” Hawk said. “There’s money out there for these girls if they’ll come out and run this sport.” The first cross country meet of the season for Jacksonville will be early next month.

SPORTS STORY >> Lexi Weeks enjoying the Rio Games

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – From what he’s heard, Arkansas head women’s coach Lance Harter in Fayetteville reports that Razorback freshman pole vaulter Lexi Weeks of Cabot enjoys the Olympic Games locale in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil more than her vault coach does.

Razorbacks women’s vault coach Bryan Compton, coaching both Weeks and UA graduate vaulter Sandi Morris at the Games, though not as part of the U.S. staff, and Razorbacks women’s sprints coach Chris Johnson, also not officially on the U.S. staff but there to coach just graduated sprinter Taylor Ellis-Watson, 4x400 relay, and UA graduate Chrishuna Williams (800-meters), apparently are lodged in a hotel not even up to fleabag standards.

“Chris said, ‘We are in a hotel you wouldn’t have your dog stay in, but they wouldn’t give us our money back,’” Harter, staying put with his reigning SEC champion cross country team reporting for training, said Wednesday night.

As for the 15 current and former Razorbacks men and women athletes representing six countries in the Olympic Games and housed in their countries’ various Olympic Games, “everybody is fine,” Harter said.

Asked specifically about Weeks, Harter said, “She’s in great spirits. She’s there and her sister (Tori Weeks, Lexi’s twin and also a UA freshman All-American vaulter) and mom and dad fly out Saturday and get there Sunday. Her prelim trial is Tuesday and as far as I know she had a fantastic experience on the opening ceremonies.”

Regardless how Lexi (the 2016 NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor champion qualifying third, clearing a personal record 15-5 at the U.S. Olympic Trials) and current world leader Morris (an American outdoor record 16-2) fare in the Games they start competing in Tuesday trying to advance to the Friday, Aug. 19 final, they already have an Olympic memory to frame for life.

“All the U.S., Jamaican and Trinidad athletes that are Arkansas alums got together on the floor of the opening ceremonies and took a picture,” Harter said. “The only one that didn’t get to go was Dom (Dominique Scott represents her native South Africa in the 10,000 meters after graduating the UA with NCAA Outdoor 5,000- and 10,000-meter titles in June for Harter’s first-ever NCAA Outdoor championship team) because she was on the other side of the presentation. She was stuck over there and she said they were yelling at me but she had to stay on her side and was bummed by that.”

Until the U.S. Olympic Trials, Lexi had never vaulted without Tori competing, too, but said she’s gained a big sister with Morris, the 2015 UA grad and 2016 USA Indoor champion and World Indoor runner-up, there to guide her while competing with her.

“The first time I go to the Olympics will be the first time I am out of the country,” Lexi said while training in Fayetteville after the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. “It’s surreal to me. It’s crazy, this whole thing. I am thankful that Sandi is going to be there to do it with me because she has been overseas and competed in big meets, Diamond League (the international professional league) meets and World Championships. So she kind of knows the ropes. I am so thankful that she is going to be there to help me through it.”

Lexi said she constantly tells Morris of her appreciation.

“I told her the Trials was my first big meet like that,” Weeks said. “And I told her I would be a lost puppy without her because I am so new to it all, especially something like the Olympics. She hasn’t done that but she has been to huge World Championship meets before and I am sure she knows what’s going on and I am so thankful I will have her there with me to help me go through it all.”

Though training under Compton with the Weeks sisters and other UA vaulters, Morris said she really didn’t know Lexi well until training just with each for the U.S. Trials and becoming U.S. teammates.

“Over the last few weeks Lexi and I have really gotten a lot stronger bond,” Morris said while training in Fayetteville between the U.S. Trials and the Olympic Games. “During the year we trained with a bunch of girls. And we’re really far apart in age (24 and 19). I’ve graduated and she was just a freshman. So I didn’t really know her on a personal level. But over the last few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time together, just me and her training out here with coach Compton and traveling together. We’ve developed a bond and I think it’s really good for both of us.”

Morris explained the mutual benefits.

“We push each other,” Morris said. “I think it’s good for me to be there with her, because she hasn’t competed overseas yet. So I think me being a seasoned athlete overseas will help her a lot when we get to Rio. But then also her being there for me is going to help me a lot. Because even after having experience competing overseas a few times, it can be daunting being out there all by yourself. But this time around I’ll have Lexi there for me and coach Compton’s going to be there. So it’ll be great.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Base impact is still strong

Little Rock Air Force Base’s economic impact was down $300 million last year, according to a just-released military report.

The report showed 2015 economic impact at $631 million, $121 million indirectly. In 2014, it was $959 million, $146 million indirectly.

Last year, the base directly spent $510 million on payroll and expenditures in central Arkansas, according to numbers provided by the 19th Comptroller Squadron. An additional $121 million was credited to the base indirectly. Economists call the effect a multiplier: Every dollar spent in the community keeps recirculating to everyone’s benefit. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman reminds us, one person’s spending is another’s income.

The air base is the fourth largest employer in the state.

Why the drop in the base’s economic impact? Last year, we saw the effect of the so-called sequester trickling down to every base community: People were temporarily laid off and many activities were suspended. As a belt-tightening measure, the Air Force has eliminated most air shows, including the one in Jacksonville, although there will be a military expo Sept. 17 at the air base with displays of airplanes and military hardware.

Well, 2014 was a bit unusual as the budget included one big-ticket item: The new runway, valued at about $108 million, was budgeted in 2014 but construction continues till next year, benefiting local contractors and their suppliers. “Money will be spent in the local area throughout the construction,” Mayor Gary Fletcher told us last week.

With dozens of construction projects, close to 70 planes and more than 4,300 military members assigned to the base, the drop baffled the mayor. In 2014, 5,225 active military jobs were listed in the report. In 2015, it fell to 4,338. Part of the reason is smaller crews are needed as the base transitions to more automated C-130Js. A decade ago, the base’s 5,919 active duty personnel collected $274 million in pay.

According to the 2015 report, the base has a total annual payroll of $287 million and spent $174 million on health, construction and supplies. Add in $49.9 million in salaries and expenditures for the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, and the direct impact is $510 million.

The comptrollers estimated that in 2015 the base was also indirectly responsible for 2,835 jobs with a total payroll of $121 million. Add that in and the base was responsible for infusing $631 million into the local communities in 2015.

That figure is still higher than it was a decade ago, when it stood at $600 million. But the drop in military personnel inevitably will reduce the economic impact on our communities.

Here’s hoping the next administration will continue to invest in our magnificent air base. Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration directed $100 million worth of improvement projects to our air base — new headquarter buildings, air-traffic-control tower, fitness center, new fiber-optic cables and so much more, including the new generation of C-130Js worth billions of dollars.

The C-130Js have changed the way our military delivers cargo and personnel. They’re faster and leaner and more dependable in hot spots, requiring smaller runaways and allowing for quick landings and departures.

Only a handful of C-130s were being made in the 1990s, and their future was in doubt. There were those who wanted to kill the program. Then, in 1996, the Clinton administration announced at the old officers club that production would proceed after all.

We were present at their creation and watched them grow on our flightline. The 19th Airlift Wing now has a full complement of 28 C-130Js, and the 314th Airlift Wing has received 13 with two more on the way. Those new planes are worth $3.4 billion. Talk about a lasting economic impact.

We would be remiss if we did not mention former Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who not only helped shepherd through the C-130Js a generation ago, but also arranged to fund an air-traffic-control tower and the new runway now under construction.

President Clinton did not forget his home state when he was in the White House. The next administration should only do so well. Another $100 million investment in Little Rock Air Force Base will go a long way — from Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood, Ward, Austin, Beebe and Lonoke and halfway around the world and back.

TOP STORY >> Beebe student goes abroad

Shawna Smith of Beebe spent three weeks in Thailand this summer helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

Traveling with the Boston-based Loop Abroad, the 21-year-old, was part of a small team that volunteered at a dog shelter and then spent a week working at wan elephant sanctuary.

Smith is a senior at Lyon College majoring in biology.

“The knowledge and experience I have learned and gained have been life changing. The chance to spend time with elephants up close and personal has given me a deeper respect for these majestic beasts,” she said.

The veterinary-service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside a staff veterinarian. For one week, students volunteer at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The shelter is home to over 100 dogs that have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten or abused. Any dogs that aren’t adopted will be cared for by the shelter for their whole lives.

While they learned what it’s like to be a veterinarian, students made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing checkups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.

The group also spent one week at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale. The Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 40 elephants that have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced-breeding programs. Many of them have been abused and suffer from chronic injuries.

At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Students were able to feed, bathe and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses, alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to more than 400 dogs and 100 cats, as well as rabbits and water buffalo, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Smith.

Loop Abroad has programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help to make their trips accessible to the greatest number of students.

TOP STORY >> New minister eager to serve

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville First United Methodist Church has a new pastor. Rev. Nathan Kilbourne has been at the church for three weeks listening to the needs of the congregation and the community.

Kilbourne, 31, was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and grew up in Johnson City, Tenn.

He went to Emory in Atlanta and Henry College in Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology. He earned a master’s of divinity degree at Duke University in North Carolina in 2009.

Kilbourne’s father, grandfather, brother and an uncle are members of the United Methodist Church clergy. He said God called him into ministry while a college student.

While at Duke, he met his wife, Lynn. She is a pastor at North Little Rock First United Methodist Church. They have been married for seven years. They have a 20-month-old daughter, Eleanor.

Kilbourne moved to Arkansas in 2009. He served churches in west Little Rock and most recently was minister at the Vilonia United Methodist Church for three years. He was there when the city was hit by a second tornado in three years in 2014.

“I learned there are really good people in the world. When the tornado was on the ground there were people already waiting to come into the community and help. It restored a lot of faith in humanity. We were inundated for months with people willing to lend a hand. I learned how strong a community can be. People never gave up hope. The church building was destroyed, but the church’s hope was not. Center Point Freewill Baptist Church opened their doors for us. We then met in a little trailer on the site until the building was rebuilt. It was amazing to watch people come together to care for one other,” Kilbourne said.

Kilbourne is still learning about the Jacksonville community and the church.

“My hopes and dreams are for our church to become a vital part of the community’s continued growth. We want to be a church that helps the new school system. We’ve been talking about ways to do that. Last weekend we were at (former) North Pulaski High School weed-eating, trying to get it cleaned up for the middle school students. This church believes this is our community, and they want to see it thrive. As people of faith, we believe that we are called to love our neighbor and for our community to do its best,” Kilbourne said.

“For those on the edge of the community who don’t have a lot, that struggle, we want to help build them up. For those who don’t know that God loves them, we want to share that message. For those who don’t have a place, we want to be a home where they can come, grow their faith and know they are cared for and loved. God wants to make even this community a sign of goodness in our world,” he said.

Kilbourne said a dream for the congregation is for it to be known for the good things it does in God’s name. The church has a feeding ministry on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

He wants Jacksonville known for the good things that are happening with the school district and its growth and that the church plays a part in helping to make that happen.

TOP STORY >> Trump seen as quitting

Leader executive editor

Prominent Republicans are pressing Donald Trump to abandon his run for the presidency and let Michael Pence, his running mate, take over the top spot as the GOP standard bearer falls further behind Hillary Clinton with just 90 days to go till the election.

Trump has dropped at least 10 points in the polls since the party conventions as most Americans, including 50 Republican national-security experts, question his qualifications to lead our nation.

On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced she will not endorse Trump. She joins dozens of other Republican leaders, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who oppose their party’s nominee.

Trump has fallen so far behind, the authoritative 538 polling website gives Hillary Clinton an 83 percent chance of victory — and he is seen as dragging down Senate and House candidates in the fall.

But beyond the disastrous polling for Trump, knowledgeable Republicans realize he is unfit to serve because of his temperament, ignorance of the issues, questionable business dealings, not to mention his close ties to the Kremlin and the Russian criminal underworld.

Some 50 prominent former national security experts who served under both Presidents Bush issued a warning Monday that electing Trump would put our nation at risk. They said “he would be the most reckless president in American history.”

The signers, who include Michael V. Hayden, former director of the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, and John D. Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence and deputy secretary of state, said Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president. Their letter said he “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Other signatories include Robert B. Zoellick, another former deputy secretary of state, United States trade representative and president of the World Bank. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, two former secretaries of Homeland Security, also signed the statement.

The signatories say Trump has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of the nation’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values….Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”

They said they could not vote for Trump, although some of them now support Clinton. One of the signers told The New York Times they all “agree Trump is not qualified and would be dangerous.”

These national-security experts, who know Trump is the most pro-Russian candidate since the Second World War, were alarmed when he asked the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails. Trump’s close ties to Vladimir Putin raises suspicions not only among these experts but all Americans who remember the Cold War.

“He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood,” the letter continued. “He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be president and commander in chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

Talk about out of control: On Tuesday, Trump told his followers that if Clinton wins and picks her own judges, “Nothing you can do, folks.”

The crowd booed. “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is,” the presidential candidate said, hinting that sometimes you have to choose between ballots and bullets. It’s the kind of threat Putin would understand.

Former CIA Director Michael Morell, who last week endorsed Clinton, calls Trump an “unwitting agent” of Russia, not only because Trump and Putin have formed a mutual-admiration society, but also because Trump’s advisers are close to the Kremlin and have made millions off business investments and consulting in eastern Europe.

This Russian connection may be why Trump won’t release his tax returns.

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a national-security adviser to Trump, sat with Putin at an anniversary dinner for Russia Today, a crude propaganda TV channel run by the Kremlin.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, has been a paid adviser to tyrants around the world, including former Ukrainian dictator Victor Yanukovich, who fled to Russia after he was overthrown in 2002; Carter Page, Trump’s foreign-policy adviser, is a major investor in Gazprom, the Russian energy giant. Frank Mermoud is another adviser with business interests in Ukraine and Russia.

Trump’s advisers deleted a reference in the Republican platform that called for arming Ukraine against Russian aggression. Trump thinks Putin has no ambitions toward Ukraine, unaware that Russia grabbed Crimea that was once part of Ukraine.

Trump can read the polls and could drop out at any time, unless the Kremlin tells their unwitting agent to stay the course.

TOP STORY >> Kickoff for new district

Leader staff writer

“If we can build children now, we won’t have to repair them as adults,” motivational speaker Keith Brown told teachers, staff and administrators of the new Jacksonville school district in a two-hour high-energy pump-you-up session Monday morning to kick off the birth of the district.

“Here at JNPSD we want to set high standards. We want young people to come in as students and leave as scholars. We don’t want them to shout ‘Pig Sooie’ as a fan, we want them to shout it because they are attending that university,” a pumped up Brown declared.

The dancing, singing, standing, cheering event ended with Brown getting 10 district members, including deputy superintendents Jeremy Owohand Bryan Duffie lifting Superintendent Tony Wood high in the sky as a metaphor for how the district will rise above all the other districts in the area and state.

Brown, from Atlanta, Ga., was a special education student growing up and now calls himself a specialty speaker and one who believes you can move from the impossible to the possible. Brown told the audience that 30, 20, 10 years ago that many thought the day of a new district was impossible “but here we are showing how it is possible.”

Brown told the crowd that all students are at various levels of at-risk and that every one of them are also gifted and talented in their own way.

He said the district team was there at McArthur Assembly of God Church to celebrate their independence after more than 30 years of effort. “Moses carried a staff — you are a team, not a staff, remember that.”

“We want our scholars to keep their face in books and not on Facebook, we want them to choose reading over ringtones, textbooks over texting and instead of bling, bring focus on that graduation ring.”

Each school was introduced to cheers, as was central office and all other departments such as transportation, nutrition, security, maintenance, technology and nurses.

Teachers were told that Jacksonville will be one of about 70 school districts in the state to offer free breakfast and lunch to every student.

“Kids are going to benefit like never before,” Brown exclaimed, “We are going to be so good that parents are going to want to be with their kids to be in your classroom.”

“We will no longer have students looking at a sentence before they can write one. We are going to cultivate, motivate and nurture,” Brown shouted out as one of his many upbeat phrases.

“We will go from remedial to remarkable.”

Admitting that he might be stepping on a few toes, he made some strong points. First he said that poverty was not a disability. “If you are in poverty you have two options: Either make it better or make it better.”

Brown also said teachers needed to look at color. “I’m not a proud man who is black, I’m a proud black man,” and pointing to a female teacher, “and you are a proud white woman.”

“Seeing color is not racist,” Brown said. “Love the skin you are in.” He added that teachers needed to see students as they are. Brown also emphasized there was no such thing as black English or white English only standard American English, which everyone needed to know to communicate effectively.”

Before having the district members lift the superintendent, he told the teachers to “laugh with math, have an alliance with science, be a buddy with social studies and have a heart.”

School board member Jim Moore said this is the first time a gathering like this has been held for all teachers in Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Defense dominant in Bear scrimmage

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills football went full tilt scrimmage in a 6 a.m. practice Tuesday, and the defense was impressive. The offense was without starting quarterback Jordan Washington, just as a safety precaution, so that played into the defense’s dominance. Bears’ head coach and offensive coordinator Jim Withrow mixed praise for his defense with disappointment in his offense.

“That was probably the best scrimmage our defense has had since I’ve been here,” said Withrow after practice. “As far as enthusiasm and aggressiveness, and hitting somebody, that’s probably the best I’ve ever seen it.

“Jordan wasn’t out there and that was part of it, but we made some mistakes on offense we shouldn’t be making. That was disappointing. We got better at the end when we went goal line, but we have to be better than that. We have to be.”

One key problem for the offense was getting the snap. There were some bad snaps, dropped snaps, and miscues on the snap count. The defense forced several fumbles and covered some of the snap fumbles.

Inside linebacker Eric Givens was all over the field. He broke through the line of scrimmage on a running play and knocked the handoff out of quarterback Ryan Lumpkin’s hand before he could make the exchange with running back Jamar Porter. On another occasion, Givens dropped back into coverage and picked off an out pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

Safeties Darius Wadell and Cameron Flippo were solid in coverage as well.

Lumpkin completed one long pass to Jamar Lane, who added another 20 yards after the carry. From the 10-yard line, he hit Peyton Terry for a touchdown on a fade to the back left corner of the end zone.

The Bears did goal line drills at the end of the scrimmage, and the offense found some success running the ball up the middle. Porter and Deion Youngblood each scored touchdowns breaking tackles between the hash marks.

The junior varsity squads took a third of the snaps in scrimmage, and running back Malik Bean proved difficult to bring down on a couple of touchdown runs. Bean broke three tackles before breaking loose for a 50-yard scoring run. He later fought through a series of tacklers to turn a short yardage situation into about a 15-yard gain on another play.

After two more weeks of practice, Sylvan Hills’ annual Blue-White game will be Aug. 19, and the Bears will scrimmage at Greenbrier on Aug. 22.

SPORTS STORY >> Titan volleyball gets enthusiam from new coach

Leader sports editor

A lot has changed for Jacksonville athletics since the advent of the new school district. With change comes an adjustment period, but one group that is used to change may be finding some stability.

The Lady Titan volleyball team will have its fourth head coach in as many years, but Savannah Jacoby has designs on ending that, as she takes over in her first head-coaching position and leads the program in its first year of district independence.

Jacoby was previously the assistant coach at Mills for one year. Before that she was a club coach in Hot Springs and Little Rock. As a high school star in Texas, she went on to play two years of college volleyball at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia before suffering a career ending back injury her sophomore season.

She transferred her enthusiasm for the game to coaching, and is aiming to build a strong and competitive program at Jacksonville.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to become a head coach my second year of teaching,” said Jacoby. “I was told about the opening and encouraged to apply. I didn’t even expect to get an interview, but I got one. I didn’t expect to be offered the job, but I was offered. It happened so fast. I was hesitant, but I prayed about it. My family was so supportive, telling me, ‘this is what you’ve always wanted, so why not do it’. And I’m so thankful that I did. I really think I have a very special group of girls.”

Jacoby held tryouts two weeks before the end of last school year, and has implemented a rigorous offseason schedule that the players have embraced.

After the dead period, June was mostly voluntary workouts, but that changed in July.

“We really hit the ground running with two-a-days,” Jacoby said. “We had 10 practices in a week, morning and evening. Everyone was there, every single time, and they haven’t complained about it. They’re ready to go, ready to play. They are so hungry for success and want to build a program here. I was so hoping to have a group of girls that would want to learn and work hard, and I’m so thankful that I have that.”

While players are adjusting to another new coach, Jacoby is adjusting as well. Club players are usually very experienced players with goals of playing in college. Jacksonville has a few that have played club volleyball, but most others didn’t start until middle school or later, and only play school ball.

“It’s definitely a different challenge, but it’s great to have these girls that are so eager to learn. I have a passion for this game, to share my knowledge and hopefully get some of these girls to fall in love with the game I fell in love with.”

While the team may be short on experience, it has its upside.

“I would definitely say it’s an athletic team,” Jacoby said. “There are some really good athletes out there. I don’t know how many of them have played together, but they are very talented and very coachable, and that’s also very important.”

Jacoby didn’t know much about what Jacksonville had coming back this year. She coached against them twice last season, but that team had several seniors. She decided not knowing was better.

“I didn’t look at a roster from last year because I didn’t want to know any of that,” Jacoby said. “I wanted to start with a clean slate and find the players I thought I could work with.”

The high school team has 23 players, with 10 on the varsity squad and 13 on JV.

“I’m especially excited about the athletes on the varsity team,” Jacoby said. “There’s a lot of potential there, and as hard as they are working, I think they can do something special and start laying the foundation for a successful program.”

The entire high school staff is new. Jacoby is joined on the varsity staff by assistant coach Jamie Briggs. Erica Harrod heads the ninth-grade team and Carmela Moore will help with that group.

“It’s also such a blessing to have the opportunity to hire my own assistants because I know it’s not usually that way,” Jacoby said. “This was a rare opportunity here with the new district. Coach (Jerry Wilson) let me be in on the interview process and have some say in that, and I’m very excited about our new staff as well.”

Jacksonville’s first match is Aug. 22 at Greenbrier. The first home game is Aug. 23 against Episcopal.

SPORTS STORY >> Henderson after history

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion and coach of U.S. long jump champion Jeff Henderson, is expecting greatness to emerge this weekend in the men’s long jump at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He also thinks his pupil, Henderson, a native of McAlmont, will be atop the podium when medals are handed out.

The preliminary round begins Friday morning, with finals set for Saturday afternoon.

Henderson already won an historic U.S. championship and Olympic trials last month, and is among the favorites in a very strong field to win Olympic Gold.

“Jeff has always been an extremely good worker with tremendous ability to focus,” Joyner told The Leader from his home in California on Monday. “But I’ve never seen him so focused. I go down there tomorrow, and I’ve been talking with him. It’s clear to me, he has not finished what he set out to do. That Olympic gold medal has been on his mind for three years, and he’s determined now to go get it.”

The American field of long jumpers is stronger than ever before, as evidenced by the results of this year’s trials in Eugene Ore. It was the first time three competitors cleared 28 feet in the same competition, with Henderson’s 28-2 1/4 topping them all. But that’s not all. The top seven finishers jumped distances that would’ve won the Olympic gold medal in 2012.

“That right there is the statistic that tells you how strong the American jumpers are right now,” Joyner said from his home in California on Monday. “That is an amazing stat. Seven guys jumped far enough to win gold four years ago, and four of them had to stay home. I think these guys are going to push each other into realms never before seen, and I think Jeff is the most talented one of the group.”

Greg Rutherford of Great Britain is the defending Olympic champion. He won as the hometown crowd favorite in London in 2012 with a jump of 27-feet, 2 3/4 inches.

The world record is one of the oldest at 25 years old, set by Mike Powell in the 1991 world championships at 29-feet, 4 1/4 inches that year in Tokyo.

Joyner not only believes that record is in danger, but thinks something previously unheard of could happen.

“I would not be surprised if we saw 30 feet,” Joyner said. “The British jumper is a great jumper and there are a few others around in other counties, but the American team is something special. I think they definitely have it in them to go 1-2-3.

Henderson has a connection with both teammates. He and trials runner up Jarrion Lawson will both be representing Arkansas. Lawson’s hometown is Texarkana, Texas, but he was the NCAA long jump champion for the Arkansas Razorbacks this year.

Joyner competed in college for Arkansas State, and is familiar with the strength of the Razorback program.

“Arkansas has a legendary track program and everybody wants to go to Arkansas to be among the best,” Joyner said. “But to be best, you got to be from there. Jeff is Arkansas. He’s the real deal.”

Mike Hartfield is a current teammate of Henderson with Joyner’s jump club. Hartfield finished fourth in the trials, but third-place finisher Marquise Dendy suffered an injury and will not compete in the Olympics.

Joyner says that’s going to be an advantage for Henderson and Hartfield.

“I think it will help them relax,” Joyner said. “They’ll be out there jumping with their training partner, so it’ll be like practice. I think it will definitely help take some of the pressure off.”

Like the week of the trials, Henderson declined to be interviewed so he could maintain focus on jumping only, but as an Olympic champion himself, Joyner shed some light on what Henderson experienced during opening ceremonies Friday evening.

“I tried to prepare him for that, told him to relax because he would be on his feet a long time,” Joyner said. “Beyond that, though, that opening ceremony is really the final thing that says, ‘this is not a dream anymore.’ This is it. It is here and now. It also brings home the point that you’re not just there for yourself anymore either. You have a deeper understanding of what that American flag means to you, and gives you a strong sense of that; I’m about to do something that’s bigger than myself. It really impacts you in that way, and I thank God I live in the USA.”

Joyner was not only a champion athlete, he also coached a champion in his late wife Florence Griffith-Joyner, who still holds the women’s 200-meter world record she set in 1988. Joyner has said before that Henderson is the same type of elite athlete that his wife was, and he reiterated that on Monday.

“I’m flying down there tomorrow and we’re going to start preparation,” Joyner said. “The last person I put on that podium was a legend. By the time it’s all said and done, the second one I put up there might have done something legendary, too.”