Wednesday, June 08, 2005

FROM THE PUBLISHER>> B.B. King: World’s greatest entertainer

Riverfest rivals Memphis in May, while Handys honors artists


When it came to musical variety, last weekend’s Riverfest rivaled the much bigger Memphis in May a month ago. The crowds are much better behaved here — the overpriced Memphis in May attracts mostly adolescents drawn to adolescent music — and when you have B.B. King as your headliner, Riverfest was bound to succeed, even with some rain.

King, voted blues entertainer of the year at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards ceremony in Memphis, performed his hits for an hour and paid tribute to his favorite president. Instead of “Every Day I have the Blues,” usually his first song, he opened with “Why I Sing the Blues,” continued with “Bad Case of Love,” “Early in the Morning,” “Rock Me, Baby,” “Key to the Highway,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” and even included the politically incorrect “Ain’t It Just Like a Woman” (popularized by Brinkley’s Louis Jordan, one of B.B.’s favorites) and we even heard U-2’s “When Love Comes to Town.”

Backed by a rousing band, the king of the blues was in fine form, although he’s showing his age: King, who is a diabetic, will be 80 in September and performs sitting down. Even so, he’s still the world’s greatest entertainer.

As for Memphis in May, it was muddy and claustrophobic, as usual, but it was nice to see Ike Turner, who is in his 70s, is still putting on a good show, although he’ll never find another Tina, although many have auditioned for the job.

The Handy awards ceremony in downtown Memphis, a few days after Memphis in May, saw many of our favorites make an appearance, although not all of them performed, often because the show ran too long and the artists left.

Kenny Neal and Billy Branch, who won best acoustic album for their Alligator CD “Double Take,” came onstage around 1 a.m. and were soon told to stop, which upset Branch, who went into a tirade. Who can blame him?

The great Sam Lay, drummer for Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, waited backstage, but he never got the call to perform. Lay, who is from Alabama, stormed off with his wife and drove to Augusta (Woodruff County) to visit his in-laws.

A Handy nominee, Lay has a new CD out called “I Get Evil” (Random Chance Records), and he sings and play drums, too.

Several winners and nominees did perform, including Mavis Staples, who won for best blues and soul album (“Have a Little Faith”) was named best soul blues artist; Charlie Musselwhite, who won for best contemporary blues album (“Sanctuary”) and was named best contemporary blues artist and blues harmonica player; Pinetop Perkins, who won for best traditional blues album (“Ladies Man”) and was named best traditional blues artist.

Perkins, who is 92, played a little piano, while Honeyboy Edwards, who’ll be 90 this month and was named best acoustic blues artist, played a few minutes onstage before he had his portrait taken backstage and headed back to Chicago that night in his manager’s car.

Amiri Baraka, aka Leroi Jones, the firebrand poet and critic, seemed lost at the proceedings. Baraka, who had written an anti-Semitic poem about 9/11, was supposed to receive an award for his book “Blues People,” but apparently no one recognized him except for this reporter.

Still wearing winter tweeds, Baraka, who must be in his 70s, seemed much smaller since his black power days in the 60s and was largely forgotten until his appalling poem on 9/11. He should have received his award the night before, but he didn’t know that, so he may have left Memphis empty-handed.

The great soul-blues singer Little Milton Campbell has his own take on 9/11. Standing back stage, he told us, “When 9/11 happened, that was the only time we were one. There was no black and white. We were all Ameri-cans. Then we went right back to where we were.”

Koko Taylor, who won for best traditional blues artist, wasn’t well enough to perform. But after accepting her award, she defined blues for us.

“The blues is having a hard time,” she said. “I know what I’m singing about. I experienced everything I sing about.”

Other winners and their categories: John Lee Hooker, Jr., new artist debut for “Blues with a Vengeance;” Holmes Brothers, blues band; Willie Kent, bass; Willie (Big Eyes) Smith, drums; Bob Margolin, guitar; Roomful of Blues, blues horns; Robert Randolph (who played at Riverfest and Memphis in May) blues instrument; Jim Tullio and Jim Welder, “Have a Little Faith,” blues song; Gary U.S. Bonds, “Back in 20,” comeback blues album; Shemeika Copeland, contemporary blues artist; Hound Dog Taylor, “Release the Hound,” historical blues album, and Bobby Rush, soul blues artist.

OBITUARIES>> June 8, 2005

Specialist Phillip Nicholas “Nick” Sayles, 26, of Jacksonville, died May 28 in Iraq. He was born May 2, 1979, in Little Rock, to Charles and Pearl Sayles, who survive him.

Nick was the oldest of three children. He was the grandson of the late Earl and Lois Sayles and J. P. and Lucille Lentz.
He was preceded in death by his uncles, Tom Sayles, Jim Sayles, and Tom Barnes.

Nick is also survived by his brothers, Joseph Aaron Sayles of Crocker, Mo., and Wesley Patrick Sayles of Jacksonville; aunts, Don-na Lentz of Cabot, Helen Barnes of Crocker, Mo., Carol Sayles and Teri Sayles, both of Little Rock, and Mildred Sayles of Hensley; uncles, John Lentz and Joe Lentz, both of Cabot, and Don Sayles of Hensley; great aunts, Mildred Hammons of Jacksonville, Emma Jean Purtle, and Ruby Finch of North Little Rock. Nicholas had many loving cousins, including Tyler and Travis Barnes of Crocker, Mo., Joshua Lentz of Cabot, Gabe and Israel Lentz of Beebe, Tracy Slobig of Cabot, Dana Wiggins of Danville, and Tammy Rees of Jonesboro.

Nick attended North Pulaski High School and was enrolled in ROTC classes at Jacksonville High School for three years where he excelled in leadership, which he brought to the program.

He was known by his superiors and comrades for his dependability. Nick earned several awards while serving in ROTC and graduated in 1997 from Cabot High School.

Nick began his military career in May 2002, as an infantryman and earned the rank of specialist. Nick was assigned to 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade 25th Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, Wash., where he took computer training and then taught others.

He trained and became a sniper before his deployment to Mosul, Iraq. While in Mosul, Nick worked in the operations section of the 1st Battalion 24th Infantry Headquarters, drove, and operated computers for the battalion commander. He then moved to a job out on the line with Bravo Company.

Nick was a member of First Assembly of God in Jacksonville. Nick was an exceptional person.

He demonstrated outstanding performance as a soldier and as an individual while employed in numerous capacities in the military and civilian life, earning the confidence of his leadership and peers. He was the epitome of an infantryman, earning numerous awards and badges, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart awarded posthumously, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal (Iraq), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (Iraq), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge and Sniper Distinction.

Funeral services were held Monday at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot with Rev. Terry Fortner, Pastor Royce Lowe and Nick’s former youth pastor Dale Dahl officiating. Interment will be in Sumner Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, make memorials to the Nick Sayles R.O.T.C. Scholarship Fund at Twin City Bank or Community Bank.

Ruth Nixon Wilson, 86, of Jacksonville passed away Sunday, June 5 at her home.

She was born Feb. 25, 1919 in Little Rock to Hugh and Cora Mae McNair Nixon.

After graduating from Little Rock High School in 1937, she attended Southwestern (now Rhodes) College in Memphis.
She transferred to the Univer-sity of Arkansas where she graduated in 1941 with a degree in romance languages.

She was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She was elected to the honorary academic fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa.
In February of 1942, she married Pat Wilson and soon began her career as a loving housewife and mother.

Mrs. Wilson was a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville where she served over 30 years as the church organist. Over the years, she contributed her time and talents to the school PTA’s, various church committees and “circle” groups and Little Rock Air Force Base Officers Wives Club. Mrs. Wilson was a charter member of the Rebsamen Hospital Auxiliary.

During the 1960’s, Mrs. Wilson and several of her friends began an informal needlepoint and cross stitch group referred to as the “Needlenuts.”

They traveled nationally and internationally together, met for lunch, swapped recipes, and created many beautiful cross stitch pieces that they shared with family and friends. Mrs. Wilson was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth Pat Wilson, on January 2, 2002; her parents; a brother, Dr. Ewing Nixon and a sister, Mae Kathryn Nixon.

She is survived by her three children, Mike Wilson of Jacksonville, Kathy Roberts of Little Rock, Larry Wilson of Jacksonville; nine grandchildren, Kenneth Wilson, Jan Williams, Liza Wilson, Mary Kathryn Williams, Scott Williams, Patrick Wilson, Matt Wilson, Corrie Gladstein and Mark Wilson; five great-grandchildren, Sullivan Williams, Jack and Emily Wilson, Caroline and Joe Gladstein.
Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church with Dr. David Dyer officiating. Interment will follow at Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville.

Her grandsons will serve as pallbearers.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to the First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, the Esther DeWitt Nixon Library in Jacksonville or a charity of the choice of the donor.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Thurman L. “Dub” Garner, 77, of Jacksonville passed away on Sunday, June 5. He was a cowboy and a Mason.

He is survived by three sons, Bobby L. Garner and his wife Cheryl of North Little Rock, Michael T. Garner of Jacksonville, and Joel C. Garner of Cabot; one brother, Bobby R. Garner of Jacksonville; one sister, Fae Jones of Jacksonville; four grandchildren, Jason C., Zeblin, and Justin Garner and Jodi Haggard; and two great-grandchildren, Bry-son and Zoe Garner. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, A.O. Garner, and his wife, Rachel Garner.

Funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at North Little Rock Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will be in Rest Hills Memorial Park.
Family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at North Little Rock Funeral Home.
Lawrence Henry

Lawrence Gerald Henry, 17, of Romance, passed away May 26.

He was born April 11, 1988 in Little Rock to Glen and Brenda Carol Morgan Honey. He attended Cabot schools where he played baseball and football in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. He loved to hunt, fish and cook.

He was preceded in death by his great-grandparents, Joseph and Jewell Higgins and Charles and Ethel Morgan. Lawrence is survived by his parents, a sister, Brittany Henry of Ward and a half-brother, Aaron Henry of Cabot.

His grandparents, Diana and Billy Ray Ashley of Jacksonville and Roy and Velta Morgan of Quitman survive him as well as an aunt, Patricia Lockridge; cousins Erica McDermont of Kansas, Monica Jenson of Jacksonville and J.J. Lockridge of Jacksonville and a special friend, Rachael Herrin.

Funeral services were held May 31 at Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home chapel with interment in H&H Family Cemetery in Romance.
Arrangements by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

James Curtis Rambo, 54, of Lonoke, died Saturday, June 4.

Survivors are his children, Curtis Edward Rambo and Tiffany Nicole Rambo of Pine Bluff, Cristi Dulaney of Florida; sisters, Janice and husband Grant Goff of Beebe, Diane Williamson and Mary and husband Chris Vines of Lonoke. He was preceded in death by parents, Mary V. and Curtis L. Rambo and grandparents, Ollie L. and J.D. Shackael. Cremation arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.

Arrangements were made through Huson Funeral Home in Sherwood.

EDITORIAL>> The Jayhawker remedy

Pssst. Pass it on, but don’t tell the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court lest they get ideas about the prerogatives of an appellate court. Friday, in a case breathtakingly similar to Arkansas’ Lake View case, the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the legislature had failed to provide the funding for Kansas schools that the state Constitution required.

It gave the governor and the legislature until July 1 to provide another $143 million for the schools next year.

Otherwise, the state will be in default and Kansas schools may have to be closed in the fall.

Within hours, the governor and legislative leaders were huddling about how they might meet the deadline.

The court observed that the legislature had hired Colorado consultants to determine what an adequate school program for all children, which was required by the Constitution, would entail and what it would cost.

The legislature must at least provide what its own unrebutted study showed was necessary, the justices said.

Conditions could hardly be more similar, except the Arkansas legislature hired not one but two sets of experts to enumerate the essential needs of Arkansas schools, one for programs and another for school facilities.

The Arkansas legislature met neither standard, but it fell glaringly short on school facilities. Its own study, celebrated by legislative leaders themselves, said Arkansas needed to spend more than $2 billion to provide safe and modern schools for children. Then the legislature allocated $104 million to meet that need. It could have provided $250 million without raising a dime of new revenue and created a mechanism for raising future capital for schools through general-obligation bonds, but it didn’t.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is deliberating whether to hold the lawmakers and Gov. Huckabee responsible now or let their failures percolate through the judicial system for another three years by forcing a fresh lawsuit.

Arkansas has never taken cues from the Jayhawks, but they may have it right this time.

EDITORIAL>> Pillsbury dough boy sells out again

When friendly economic interests or pastoral connections do not interfere, Gov. Mike Huckabee can be a whale of a leader.

Free of the beseeching of commercial benefactors, he will insist on the consolidation of tiny inefficient school administrations, demand absolute adherence to school standards like music and art classes, fight his party’s conservatives to gain government-paid health services for hundreds of thousands of needy children and educational benefits for the children of undocumented aliens and even, this last week, put a thoughtful and energetic man in charge of public health programs.

But Huckabee’s sturdy backbone turns to jelly any time political benefactors evince an interest in public policy.

The governor’s weakness was plainly in evidence again over the weekend when he told his appointees on the state Board of Education (all are his men and women) that he did not want them to require Arkansas’ 254 school districts to meet a new set of health and fitness standards. The board will do his bidding.

Oh, he likes the standards very much, Huckabee said, but when it comes to these particular rules local school boards and administrators should decide for themselves whether they want to do more to save their children from poor health and early death.
Huckabee will insist, as he has maintained on other such occasions, that his libertarian instincts guide him. He is against nosy, intrusive government.

That is why he stopped his own Board of Health from cracking down on smoking in public places, why he has on other occasions guided his government away from forcing high-fat snack foods and soft drinks out of the schools and why, very early in his political career, he sided with the bottling industry in fighting a tax on soft drinks to pay for nursing-home care and medical services for poor children.

It is just a coincidence, we are supposed to believe, that the unifying factor in all of those fights was that the stakeholding commercial interests were reliable Huckabee financial supporters.

That the governor would go so far out of the way to stop the Board of Education from following the clear purpose of a law that he signed seems particularly perverse and self-defeating. Huckabee is criss-crossing the country promoting his new diet book and fitness crusade.

Junk food can ruin your life and ultimately kill you, he says. The crusade is aimed at children, and with good reason. American youngsters on average have become about the fattest and least healthy in the developed world, and Arkansas kids are about the unhealthiest in the land. Obesity is epidemic.

Act 1220 of 2003 addressed it and Gov. Huckabee proudly signed the legislation. The law is loaded with imperatives. It created a child-health advisory committee comprising health professionals, which was directed to prepare diet and exercise standards for the state Board of Education, which in turn was to use the committee’s recommendations to formulate new standards for Arkansas schools.

The act directed the committee to look at the impact of “competitive” snack foods — the commercial vending-machine foods and drinks that have become pervasive in Arkansas schools. The vending foods have become addictive not only to kids but to school administrators, who count on a cut from the machines to pay for school programs.

Huckabee began to cavil at the law’s purposes even before the advisory committee perfected its recommendations. He wasn’t so sure that the state should try to limit the sugary and fatty foods that children get from the machines. Contrary to his own experience and preaching, Huckabee found that there was no hard evidence of the impact of the vending machines on kids’ health.

Now that the advisory committee has given its findings to the Board of Education, Huckabee does not want the state to mandate the programs. Here’s a shocker: He said the soft-drink industry joined him in not wanting the state to require school administrators to follow the rules.

Among the professionals’ proposals: require at least half the commercial beverage sales in schools to be 100 percent fruit juice, low-fat or fat-free milk and water; ban foods with more than 23 fat grams per serving; limit the size of fat-food packages; ban vending-machine snacks from elementary schools and ban them from other schools until 30 minutes after the last lunch is served.

State Rep. Jay Bradford of White Hall, who has often been a key Huckabee ally in the legislature, was too generous when he was told of the governor’s stance on the fruits of his legislation.

“That's leadership, isn’t it?” Bradford said. “Somehow, I’m not surprised. The governor has always talked a good game, but sometimes when it comes to being proactive, he doesn’t always get there. He has wasted a great opportunity to improve the health of Arkansans who put him in the governor’s office.”

We thought the governor’s lame-duck status would free him of the leg-irons of private emoluments and campaign gifts. Apparently, we erred, or else he has other ambitions.

NEIGHBORS>> Model Citizens

IN SHORT: Charles and Mary Garner named Beebe’s top residents

By Sara Greene
Leader staff writer

Normally an outstanding individual gets the Beebe Citizen of the Year award, but this year, the award went to an outstanding volunteer team of two. Charles and Mary Garner were presented with the 2005 Beebe Citizens of the Year Award at the annual Beebe Chamber of Commerce banquet.

“We don’t see why anybody needs an award for doing what they’re supposed to,” said Charles Garner, 84.

“We felt honored. We feel good about what we do,” he said modestly.

The Garners have been married 63 years. They met during high school in Jonesboro. Charles joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and retired after more than 31 years of service.

They moved to Beebe from Jacksonville more than 20 years ago and got involved helping to run a food bank ministry at their church.

Now the couple volunteers with the non-denominational Beebe Community Outreach program helping deliver food to 38 families in the area.

They stop and visit with the families they serve, and the deliveries usually take up an entire day.

“We stay busy seven days a week,” Charles Garner said.

The Garners have been involved with The Shepherd’s Center of Beebe since its inception five years ago. Both are now board members. They are still actively involved in the classes and activities at the center.

Charles teaches a class on organic gardening, and Mary helps with organizational duties. She pitches in with other volunteers at the center with creating a theme each week and decorating.

Charles laughs when remembering the lesson he got when he taught his first class.

“My first organic gardening class had 11 people, nine ladies, and those ladies were all master gardeners, and there I was, not knowing nothing,” he said.

Charles Garner is chairman of the Wheels That Care program at the center which has about 15 volunteers who drive the elderly to their doctor appointments.

Since January, the program has helped 120 people get to their medical appointments in Searcy and Little Rock.

“The Garners are very handy,” said Paul Ramsey, executive director of The Shepherd’s Center of Beebe. “Anytime they see a need, they just do it. They are most deserving.”

When they aren’t busy volunteering, the Garners enjoy collecting antique bottles and Civil War relics, fishing and gardening.

SPORTS>> Lookouts split with Stuttgart Sunday

IN SHORT: Legion teams trade blowout victories

By Ray Benton
Leader sports editor

The Lookouts AA team didn’t have a great day Saturday afternoon against Stuttgart, losing 11-4 in seven innings, and giving up seven unearned runs.

“This was the worst we’ve played all season,” Lookout coach Bob Thornton said. He included a 12-1 loss to Searcy in the team’s first week of play.

“Searcy’s a really good team. We just gave this one away.”

Stuttgart scored three earned runs in the first inning, and just one more of its last eight the remainder of the game, including an unearned run in the first that gave the visitors a 4-0 lead after one-half inning.

The Lookouts answered with two runs in the top of the first.

Leadoff hitter Todd Watson singled and two-hole hitter John Mooney doubled him in on the next at bat.

Dusty Thornton and Tyler Thornton walked to load the bases, and Trey Watson singled to score Mooney from third.

Stuttgart scored a run in the second, but the host team scored two in the bottom of the same inning to cut Stuttgart’s margin to one run.

Shawn Robertson singled to lead off and Jared Mathis walked to put two runners on. Two batters later Mooney bounced his second shot off the wall in left-center for a two-RBI double to cut Stuttgart’s lead to 5-4.

It would be the last run the Lookouts would score, while handing over several more runs.

Stuttgart scored once in the third, three times in the fifth and two more in the sixth inning to set the final margin.

Tyler Thornton started and took the loss.

The Lookouts didn’t get a single base hit in the final three innings of the game after picking up seven in the first four innings.

Mooney went 2 for 2 with two doubles and two RBIs, one run scored and one walk.
Robertson went 2 for 3 with a run batter in.

The Lookouts rebounded with a blowout win in the second game against Stuttgart’s A team.

Dusty Thornton pitched the first inning and got the win in just that one inning of work.

Shawn Robertson and Jared Mathis pitched two innings each in relief duty.

Josh Thornton got a home run in the third inning to highlight the game-two victory.

The split makes the Lookouts’ record 4-6 overall. They’ll likely take the rest of the week off after two teams cancelled. Bob Thornton isn’t too upset about the cancellations.

“We’ll get three practices in and we need that right now,” the head coach said. “We looked a lot better in that second game but there’s some things we need to work on.”

SPORT>> Gwatney wins A tourney crown

By Ray Benton
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwateny Chevrolet class A American Legion team became the first Gwatney A team to win its annual preseason tournament, beating Benton 10-1 Sunday night to secure the tournament title.

Jacksonville had lost earlier in the tournament to Benton on Friday. They went on to beat North Little Rock on Saturday and Sylvan Hills early Sunday to secure a spot in the championship game on the tiebreaker format.

NLR and Sylvan Hills also went 2-1 in the tournament, but lost the tiebreaker due to head-to-head competition with Jacksonville.

In Sunday night’s championship game, Benton helped Jacksonville early and often throughout the evening. The Sports Shop team committed nine errors and gave up eight unearned runs, playing nothing like the most dominant team of the first tournament through the first three games.

While Benton was kicking the ball around in the field, Jacksonville’s Brian Thurman was making quick work of Benton’s batting order.

Thurman went the five innings and gave up just two hits and no earned runs.

Adam Ussery walked in the second at bat of the first inning. He stole second base and moved to third on an error at shortstop. He then scored on a wild pitch during Zach James’ at bat to give Gwatney a 1-0 lead.

Matt Crane led off the second inning by reaching on an error at third base. Matt Williams singled two batters later and another E5 off the bat of Thurman scored Crane easily.

In the third, Zach Thomas and Zach James were hit in consecutive at bats to start the inning.

Matt Crane got another error at third that scored one run, while Beau Flynn hit a sacrifice grounder to second to score James for Jacksonville’s first earned run of the game.

Benton committed three straight errors on Jacksonville’s first three at bats of the fourth inning. Thurman hit a grounder to short that was bobbled and thrown wildly to first. Leadoff hitter Jake Ussery hit a grounder to first that was kicked and Adam Ussery’s grounder to second was simply missed.

One run scored on Adam Ussery’s at bat, another came in two batters later when James hit a fly ball deep to left field.

That made it 6-0, but Benton finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth after holding Jacksonville score less in the top of the fifth for the first time in the game.
After cutting Gwatney’s lead to 6-1, Jacksonville put together its best inning of the game in the sixth.

The two Ussery’s walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Thomas then singled to left field for one RBI.

Adam Ussery scored two batters later on a wild pitch. James came in on Benton’s fourth error at third base, this time off the bat of Blake Mattison. Another error at second base scored Mattison to set the final margin.

Jacksonville got just three base hits. Benton picked up five.

The A squad played the first game of a class A and AAA doubleheader against Vilonia Tuesday night, and will be back in action at home on Thursday evening.

TOP STORY>> Farewell to soldier killed in Iraq

IN SHORT: Funeral services here on Monday and last week at Fort Lewis, Wash., honor a fallen young fighter who gave his life for his country.

By Brian Rodriguez
Leader staff writer

A highly decorated 26-year-old Jacksonville soldier was buried Monday in Cabot after memorial services were held at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot and before that at Evergreen Chapel in Fort Lewis, Wash., on Friday.

Army Spec. Phillip Nicholas Sayles, 26, was killed May 28 in Mosul, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his security post. Thirteen other soldiers were wounded, as were numerous Iraqi adults and children.

“I watched him develop as a very special young man who has a special love for God and for his country,” said Royce Lowe, pastor of First Assembly of God in Jacksonville.

“Physically, he was of average size, but he had a big heart and spirit.”

“Nicholas was a caring person. He was a responsible person,” Lowe said. “We will never understand why Nick was taken from us so young. We prayed every week for him in our church services and asked God to protect him.”

Sayles earned numerous awards and badges in the Army, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart awarded posthumously. He also earned the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for Iraq, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal for Iraq, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge and Sniper Distinction.
Sayles joined the Army as an infantryman and trained to become a sniper before his deployment to Mosul. He worked in the operations section of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Headquarters, drove and operated computers for the battalion commander in Mosul.

He had pleaded for the chance to get out with an infantry squad, said his former commander, Capt. Bryan Carroll, and he was moved to a job on the line with Bravo Company.

“Nick lived up to every one of my expectations,” Carroll told soldiers and family members at Evergreen Chapel. “Not only was he extremely intelligent, he was a natural leader and a brave soldier. He led from the front, taught, coached, mentored – he looked out for everyone around him.”

Spec. Donald Bergren met Sayles the day they arrived at Fort Lewis to report for duty in September 2002. They were standing in front of the wrong building, trying to find their way.

Bergren, still recovering from the Dec. 21 suicide bombing at a Mosul chow hall that killed 22 people and wounded dozens more, stood with a cane in Ft. Lewis and said Sayles had a sense of humor that could brighten even the worst circumstances.

“It was hard to have a bad day with Nick working next to you,” he said. “Nick always had a smile for a friend, and he was loved by many for it.”

Sayles spent many weekends and holidays with Bergren and his wife and children. Bergren said his friend often said how much he admired their family, and said he hoped to have one of his own some day.

Sayles attended North Pulaski High School and was enrolled in ROTC classes at Jacksonville High School for three years before he graduated from Cabot High School in 1997.

His former youth pastor, Dale Dahl, said Sayles was known for his dependability, excelled in leadership and earned several awards while he was in the ROTC at Jacksonville High School. He was a member of the honor guard and a member of the Elite Saber Team.

“Lowe said he performed the marriage ceremony for Sayles’ parents and had known him all his life.

He remembered Sayles and his brother, Joey, enjoyed playing soldier together when they were young, and that he was a good second-baseman in baseball.

Lowe also remembered a time when Sayles worried several people on a camping trip to Greer Ferry. He got separated from his group and they searched everywhere. He was eventually found rolled up in a quilt, sleeping in their tent.

Funeral services at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot were conducted Monday with Rev. Terry Fortner, Lowe and Dahl officiating. Sayles was buried afterward in Sumner Cemetery in Cabot.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Lowe said. “His love and compassion were big enough to help those who hurt. Nicholas, today we all salute you. We sadly say, Thank you. We are proud of you, and we love you. We do not say goodbye, but we say we’ll see you in a little while.”

His family asked in lieu of flowers that memorials be made to the Nick Sayles ROTC Scholarship Fund at Twin City Bank or Community Bank.

TOP STORY>> Matriarch of family is praised

IN SHORT: Funeral today for Ruth Wilson, who touched the lives of many who knew her.

By Sara Greene
Leader staff writer

Funeral services for Ruth Nixon Wilson of Jacksonville will be conducted at 10 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church. She passed away in her home Sunday.

She was a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville and served as the church or-ganist for more than 30 years.

“She was a kind, thoughtful and very gracious lady,” said Alton Johnson, a fellow church member. “She was very dependable. She was always right there and totally committed to her church and family.”

The matriarch of a family prominent in banking and politics, she was born Feb. 25, 1919, in Little Rock to Hugh and Cora Mae McNair Nixon. After graduating from Little Rock High School in 1937, she attended Southwestern College, now Rhodes College, in Memphis.

She transferred to the University of Arkansas, where she graduated in 1941 with a degree in Romance languages. She was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She was elected to the honorary academic fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa.

In February 1942, she married Kenneth Pat Wilson. They lived much of their live on land owned by the Nixon family off Military Road.

The Wilsons’ family life revolved around scholastics, church and athletics, according to the 1996 memoir “At Work in the Fields of Commerce and Industry: The Life and Accomplishments of Kenneth Patrick Wilson” by Elizabeth Shores.

Ruth Wilson taught their children Latin during summertime sessions in the living room, and the family rarely missed high school football or basketball games.

“She would drive five miles out to the country and let her boys Mike and Larry play with my younger son Tommy,” said Johnson. “She was really a special person.”

Her relatives remembered her as someone who loved and cared about her family. Her daughter Kathy and grandson Patrick recalled those summertime Latin lessons for the three children when they were just 8, 10 and 12.

Patrick also recalled how she taught her children and grandchildren the importance of reading and learning.

TOP STORY>> Schools to get single-gender classes in fall

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer

Adopted last winter with great fanfare, plans to separate Jacksonville’s sixth, seventh and eighth graders by gender for core classes languished in recent months, but the plan is back on track for an August launch, Bishop James Bolden III said Monday.

“For a period of time, the ball had been dropped,” Bolden told Jacksonville Rotary Club members. He represents Jacksonville on the Pulaski County Special School District Board. “I went down and raised heaven,” he told club members.

Jacksonville also will house an alternative school for students who are suspended for several days or expelled. Robert Clowers, interim superintendent, said Mike Nellums will be principal of the alternative school for students north of the Arkansas River, and he may also serve as principal of the boys’ school. That alternative school is likely to be housed in a wing of the boys’ school. Clowers said the alternative school also would help students who were short on credits get back on course.

The single-gender public schools will be the first in the state, according to Bolden, but he said he was unimpressed.

“If I feel it’s flakey, I’ll put it right back on the agenda,” he said.

Among the advertised benefits of the single-gender education are better test scores, fewer discipline problems and—an unexpected consequence—a break from the academic distress designation that the junior high had been on for two years. Clowers said the new configuration of grades and genders would retire the junior high school’s numbers and create a brand new one with a clean academic slate.


Bolden said the plan to assign themes to the high schools—aeronautics to Jacksonville and hospitality to North Pulaski—would not be implemented this fall.

Several questions—including one by former school board member Pat O’Brien, now Pulaski County/Circuit Clerk—were asked about the current school desegregation status and its consequences as far as Jacksonville getting its own school district.

“I do want Jacksonville to have our own district,” said Bolden, who was a leader of the movement to detach Jacksonville-area schools from Pulaski County a year ago. “I’m starting to get more involved in the desegregation (aspects).”


The gender separation idea grew out of the board’s decision to move Jacksonville’s ninth graders from the junior high school to the high school—the way other schools in the district are configured. Marvin Jeter III, assistant superintendent for learning services, championed the single-gender school idea and presided over several public meetings leading to the decision. Bolden said Jeter now was seeking another job and would not be back to guide the program. “Keep on trucking,” Bolden said. “Everyone’s replaceable. The program still goes on.”

Jeter couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Jeter had said grant money would be available to train teachers to teach in single-gender environments, but interim superintendent Clowers, who joined Bolden at the Rotary meeting, said no grant money had been procured, but that the district would pay for it out of its existing teacher-training money.

The teacher training will begin Aug. 11, said Clowers, and would continue throughout the year.

“He’s jumped into this big bowl of gumbo,” said Bolden.

Teachers are now in place to teach at the single-gender schools, located close enough that they will be connected by a covered walkway.

Clowers said James Warren, assistant superintendent for facilities, had said there was money to construct the walkway. That’s good because students must move between the two schools to take electives, which will be coeducational.

TOP STORY>> District sees $3.5M drop for school year

IN SHORT: Miscalculated savings from cutting paid holidays and decline in state aid leave the Pulaski County Special School District short of expectations.

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer

Instead of the $11.5 million carryover the Pulaski County Special School District labored to have at the end of the approaching school year, interim Superintendent Robert Clowers now projects only an $8 million fund balance, he told members of the Jacksonville Rotary Club Monday.

The board and administration are attempting to stem the financial hemorrhaging that has increasingly drained district coffers over the past few years, because the district has been dipping into savings to pay its bills. Without a change, it would have been about $5 million in the red by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. As a result, the state Education Department in April designated the district as being in fiscal distress.

The possible consequences of financial distress include annexation with another district, or the possibility that the state could name its own superintendent and dissolve the board.

Led by then-Superintendent Donald Henderson, the board in April made dramatic cuts in spending aimed at reversing the trend and making a plan to rehabilitate its financial circumstances and appease the Education Department.

At that meeting, the board lopped $11.7 million from the proposed 2005-2006 budget of $143 million.

Of that, the board expected to save about $4 million by eliminating all paid holidays from all employees, but John Archetko, the district’s chief financial officer, has reworked the numbers to discover the savings would be closer to $2 million, Clowers said.

In addition, state aid is expected to be about $4 million less than projected earlier, Clowers said, but property tax revenues could be $1.5 million to $2 million greater than a year ago, offsetting some of the shortfall in state aid.

Two weeks ago, Clowers had said he hoped to restore some of the budget cuts, but those hopes were extinguished when the projected $11.7 million fund balance turned out to be closer to $8 million, he said.

“I was hoping we could bring back some holidays,” he said.

The district hand-delivered its plan to get off fiscal distress in April, but Clowers said Monday that the district would submit a revised plan, reflecting the new financial information, within about one week.

“We’re tweaking it,” he said.

The board saved $3.3 million by freezing teacher pay-step increases for experience and continuing education, although the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers is trying to get some or all of that reinstated in its current negotiations with the district.

Among other cuts slated for next year are 11 assistant principal positions, the paid holidays and $500,000 in textbook acquisitions.

The board had considered closing Homer Adkins Elementary School to save about $430,000 a year. Clowers said Monday that at least for the next school year, it would remain open as an elementary school.

“Is the union being cooperative?” asked one man.

“I’ll answer that,” said Bishop James Bolden III, Jacksonville’s representative on the school board. “Anytime they ask for money and we’re broke, that’s not cooperative,” he said, then called on state Rep. Will Bond for rebuttal.

“That’s what the union’s supposed to do,” said Bond. “It’s for the board and the superintendent to say no.”

In recent years, the district has spent millions more each year than it receives, depleting its savings to cover the difference. It even spends $10 million a year originally designated to retire school construction bonds and another $14 million dollars in desegregation money from the state.

Archetko has projected ending fund balance for the current fiscal year is $4.9 million, down from about $20 million three years ago according to one board member.

Without carrying the fund balance over and without making cuts, the year-end fund balance next year is projected to be $5.3 million in the red.

Clowers said that Archetko, the interim chief financial officer, had agreed to stay on until the budget process is completed, perhaps another four months.

Clowers himself has not applied for the vacant superintendent job, but said he’d stay on if asked by the board. The application deadline had passed when Clowers was appointed interim chief.

He is fully certified as a school superintendent, he said.