Thursday, July 21, 2005

FROM THE PUBLISHER>> Death of a tenor giant

Stubblefield passes after long illness; Big George Brock on CD


John Stubblefield, a great tenor saxophone player who was born in Little Rock and worked as a jazz musician in New York with some of the most talented people in the business, died on the Fourth of July at the age of 60 after battling prostate cancer.

Stubblefield’s death has hardly been noted in Arkansas — the Little Rock paper published only a small paid obituary announcing his passing — although former Presi-dent Bill Clinton and comedian Bill Cosby visited him a few weeks ago at the hospital. Clinton told him he hadn’t played his saxophone in three years because he’d been busy writing his autobiography, and then his heart surgery made it difficult to play. Clinton also visited other patients before he left the hospital.

Stories about Stubble-field and his music appeared on the Internet as soon as his death was announced.

The New York Times ran an article that was placed prominently on the top left-hand corner of its obituary page, and deservedly so.

Stubblefield played and composed for the Charles Mingus Big Band and also played with Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Mary Lou Williams and other stellar musicians. He was among a small group of brilliant saxophone players who grew up in the Little Rock area — the others are Pharoah Sanders and Sam Rivers (both still going strong) — and all three are admired by both fans and fellow musicians for their powerful sound and sweetness of spirit.

It figures that Arkansas would produce three first-class musicians who could play ferocious jazz and still sound lyrical when they wanted to, and be as down-to-earth once they put their instruments down.

Stubblefield appeared with Rivers a couple of years ago at UALR when Rivers returned here for the first time in more than 50 years. Sanders, who was known as “Little Rock” when he lived in New York, also made a rare appearance here last fall when he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

“Family Portrait” (Audioquest) is one of Stubblefield’s best CDs and includes Eduardo Simon on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and Victor Lewis on drums. Stubblefield dominates the CD with his rich, full-throttle sound.

He is also heard on McCoy Tyner’s Big Band CD, “Journey” (Verve) with an all-star cast: Tyner on piano, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Steve Turre and Frank Lacy on trombones and others.

Friends and family held a celebration of Stubblefield’s life on Thursday in Little Rock. Funeral services were held Friday. He’s gone, but his music lives on.

Roger Stolle, who owns Cat Head music shop down in Clarksdale, Miss., has started a record label so the whole world can hear the Mississippi-born harp player Big George Brock, a 73-year-old bluesman with a sound as big as a freight train hurtling through the cotton fields in the Delta.

Cat Head has just released Brock’s “Club Caravan,” featuring the Houserockers for 50 raucous minutes of classic blues that will take you back to 1950s Chicago, although Brock, a former boxer who was born in Grenada, Miss., has lived in St. Louis for most of his life.

Big George composed most of the music on “Club Caravan” (named after one of the blues clubs he ran in St. Louis), with some Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters tossed in to spice things up. But this is Brock’s show, which sounds like one of his marathon juke joint performances.

All you have to do is hit replay and keep listening to a genuine master of the Delta blues.

Big George is one of the last of the authentic Southern bluesmen. Most people don’t even know they’re still around. When they’re gone, their music will only be heard on CDs and LPs. Stolle has recorded one of the best.

“Club Caravan” is available from

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

SPORTS>>Sharks win second CASL title

Leader sports editor

The Sherwood Sharks won their sixth and final meet of the season, and clinched their second straight Central Arkansas Swim League championship with a closer-than-expected 768-730 win over the Maumelle/YMCA consolidated team.

Despite the close score, it was one of the most remarkable meets for the Sharks in the team’s history. A total of 103 Sherwood swimmers posted best times in at least one sport, and a stunning 26 swimmers recorded their best times in all five events.

Those swimmer were Presley Austin, Allie Blenden, Sean Brocious, Richard Buzzitta, Chelsea Churchill, Erica Denny, Kalynn Fisher, Jessie Garrison, Nimit Gandhi, Hannah Gray, Ashley Harris, Hannah Jones, Ashley Lewis, Mary Kate McNulty, Amanda Moore, Andrew Moore, Megan Moore, Aaron Ngo, Seven Powers, Jeremy Smith, Brooke Smothers, Lee Smothers, Calvin Spellman, Alisa Staton, Tina Thompson and Greer Williams.

A total of 19 Sharks broke their previous best times and swam fast enough to move up in category in Saturday’s meet.
For the girls, 6-year-old Seven Powers won the silver division 25-yard backstroke with a gold division time of 32.07. In 7-8 year-olds, it was Patelyn Bailey, Maddie Young and Christy Hawking all improving to silver time in their events. Bailey won the bronze 25-yard backstroke with a silver time of 26.49. Young and Hawking took the top two spots in the 25-yard bronze division breaststroke, both improving to silver division.

Nikki Sanders took the 9-10 year-old 50 yard freestyle, Sanders won the silver event with a gold time of 36.13.

The most records were broke in the 11-12 year-old girls, as five Sharks met new best times. Kris O’Connell won the silver division 50 yard freestyle with a gold time of 33.78. Savannah Lancaster improved to gold in the 50 yard backstroke, winning the silver division event over Meg O’Connell, who also swam to a gold division time. Meg also had a gold time in the 100 yard IM. O’Connell won the silver event at 1:26.92.

For the girls, 6-year-old Seven Powers won the silver division 25-yard backstroke with a gold division time of 32.07. In 7-8 year-olds, it was Patelyn Bailey, Maddie Young and Christy Hawking all improving to silver time in their events. Bailey won the bronze 25 yard backstroke with a silver time of 26.49. Young and Hawking took the top two spots in the 25-yard bronze division breaststroke, both improving to silver division. Lindsay Taylor also improved to a silver division time in the 25-yard freestyle, Taylor took second in the bronze division event, with a time of 22.87.

Nikki Sanders took the 9-10 year-old 50-yard freestyle, Sanders won the silver event with a gold time of 36.13.

The most records were broke in the 11-12 year-old girls, as five Sharks met new best times. Kris O’Connell won the silver division 50-yard freestyle with a gold time of 33.78. Savannah Lancaster improved to gold in the 50-yard backstroke, winning the silver division event over Meg O’Connell, who also swam to a gold division time. Meg also had a gold time in the 100 yard IM. O’Connell won the silver event at 1:26.92.

Allie Blendon won the bronze division 50-yard freestyle, with a silver time of 34.89. Ashley Lewis took second place in the 50-yard butterfly in the bronze division, scoring a silver division time of 44.53.

There were also several other wins for the lady Sharks on Saturday. For the 9-10 year-olds, it was Tayler Jones winning the silver division 50-yard breaststroke and 50-yard butterfly.

Savannah Lancaster took a pair of silver division wins in the 11-12 year-old age group, winning the 50-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard butterfly. Lauren Qualls won the 50- yard backstroke in the silver division with a time of 39.81.

In the older age groups, it was Kelsey Lancaster taking a silver division win in the 100-yard IM for 13-14 year-olds. Ashley Lee won the IM for the bronze division with a time of 1:31.34.

For the 15-16 year-olds, it was Alana Brunke winning the bronze division 50-yard freestyle. Brunke also took the win in the silver division 50-yard backstroke, and the silver 50-yard butterfly. In all, Brunke won four events and had one second place finish for the Sharks.

Chelsea Churchill won four gold division events on Saturday for the 17-18 year-olds. Churchill took wins in the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, 50-yard Breaststroke, and 100-yard IM. Ashley Harris also won the bronze division 50-yard breaststroke for the 17-18 year-olds.

There were several records broken on the boys’ side as well. For the 6 and under group, Andrew Williams took gold time in the 25-yard backstroke. Williams took the silver event wih a time of 28.94. David Price won the silver division 25-yard butterfly in the 7-8 year-old group with a silver time of 26.12. Lee Smothers also improved from bronze to silver time in the butterfly event.

Jummy Esola and Nicolas Williams both won in the 25-yard freestyle. Esola won the silver event in gold time, and Williams won the bronze event with a silver time of 21.65

Ian Kerr won the 50-yard breaststroke for the 9-10 year-olds. Kerr won the bronze event with a silver time of 56.62. Jake Schlag moved from bronze to silver in the 100-yard IM.

Schlag won the event with a time of 1:54.48.

FROM THE PUBLISHER>> Editor wins prize for column

(This column from last December won first place in the National Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.)

The state Supreme Court could put the so-called payday lenders out of business in Arkansas.

Consumer advocates are challenging Act 1216 of 1999 that allows predatory lending in the state with rates as high as 650 percent.

The victims are the working poor and the military.

Arkansas should follow the example of several other states and ban storefront payday lenders. This outrage must not continue.

Business has never been better, thanks to our state Legislature that almost unanimously exempted payday lenders from limits on interest rates, which are disguised as fees and supposedly legal, although the Supreme Court may have other ideas about that.

Eager to attract new industries to Arkansas and even more eager for campaign contributions, the Legislature rolled out the red carpet for these out-of-state loan sharks at the expense of the working poor and folks in the military.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court rolls the red carpet back up and sends the payday lenders packing. This is one new industry we can do without.

It’s a $40 billion business that started a decade ago in rural Tennessee and grew an estimated 12 to 18 percent this year. Profit margins are 15 percent — far higher than what banks earn — or about $6 billion a year.

You can see the young airmen entering storefronts with signs advertising cash advances, where they get loans against their next paychecks at outlandish rates.

These businesses are not far from the main entrance to Little Rock Air Force Base, which is how payday lenders like it.

They set up shop near military bases all over the country — sometimes 100 or more in one community — and prey on young military people desperate for a few hundred dollars so they can make a car payment and put food on the table for their families.

Leader reporter John Hof-heimer has written a series of articles highlighting the abuses in the payday industry, whose owners are often shadowy figures with headquarters in states like Nebraska, which allows lenders to charge whatever interest rates they can get away with.

This is how the scheme works: Payday lenders all across the country will let young recruits borrow, say, $300.

They’ll make a check out for $375, which they hope to cover on their next payday.

But they realize they can’t pay their other bills if they repay the loan in a couple of weeks, so they go back and extend the loan, and before they know it, they owe the loan sharks twice what they borrowed a few weeks ago.

Many states have banned payday lenders, including Georgia and New York, but not Arkansas, where politicians encourage the fleecing of America.

It’s estimated that nearly 15 percent of America’s 105 million households borrow from payday lenders, and that figure is even higher in the military, about 25 percent, or some 180,000 service families who fall victim to these sharks at rates only the Mafia can surpass.

That kind of rip-off would land the average banker in prison, but the payday lenders get away with it because politicians let them charge whatever rates they want.

These payday lenders wouldn’t exist without the support of big banks that loan them money, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, Wachovia and other behemoths, who prosper at the expense of the least fortunate.

It’s a shame that military people, who often make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, are the payday lenders’ easiest targets because enlisted people are underpaid and overworked.

It doesn’t bother the politicians that the victims are often the same people who protect us from our enemies. While serving abroad they must worry if their spouses can make the interest payment on the 600 percent loan they took out before they shipped to Iraq.

It’s time to pull the plug on these unscrupulous lenders in Arkansas and across the nation.

Until these payday lenders are kicked out of Arkansas, the Pentagon should make these lenders off-limits for service members.
Stressed out and often unsophisticated, these military folks need basic financial counseling. They should know, for example, that they can borrow for a lot less from their own credit union.

When they do get in trouble, they can turn to military services’ relief societies, which often make interest-free loans to members to pay off the payday lenders.

You don’t want a service member fighting for his country while he owes the local loan shark thousands of dollars.

The patriots in the state Legislature should have thought about that when they invited the payday lenders into Arkansas.

Let’s hope the state Supreme Court rights this wrong during this holiday season, even if the lenders say, bah, humbug.

(Postscript: The Arkansas Supreme Court has remanded a lawsuit against payday lenders to Circuit Judge Barry Sims’ court.)

EDITORIALS>> Gold in them thar hills

“What was all that about?” a few of you may have been wondering when Deltic Timber Corp. moved the heavens this spring to get legislation from the General Assembly to prevent the Central Arkansas Water utility from condemning some of Deltic’s land on the south shore of Lake Maumelle, the region’s principal source of water.

Central Arkansas Water, you will remember, thought the 220 luxury homes that the timber and land development company plans to build on the slopes above the lovely lake would contaminate the water and cost water users (that’s the rest of us peons) tens of millions of dollars to counteract. A big citizen campaign, along with House Speaker Bill Stovall of Quitman, scotched the bill. It almost certainly will reappear when the legislature meets again.

Why would Deltic spend so much money on one of the most intense lobbying campaigns in recent times and risk so much ill will among 360,000 water users? And then why would it turn down Central Arkansas Water’s offer of $3.8 million for the land, which lies just above the water system’s intake?

If the answer was not obvious, Forbes magazine clarified it last week, although not in the course of explaining the dispute over the development. It was a business story about this highly profitable development company, which started as a wood-products subsidiary of Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado.

Here’s a little of the Forbes article:

“Deltic also peddles plots to home builders from its large (60,000 acres) holding west of Little Rock. Since 2001 the development, called Chenal, has sold an average 206 lots annually for $76,000 each. This year’s target: 300 lots. For every $1 the company spends clearing the lots, laying down water pipes and building roads, it gets $2 back from the buyers.”

An average of $76,000 for a lot! And many lots go for several times that amount.
Until utilities are laid to the lots, all the speculative land owned by Deltic and other developers in the Maumelle and Chenal region is assessed for tax purposes at a tiny fraction of those values. The owners assess them as timber or pasture land, although the land is held for upscale development.

Typically, developers pay taxes of about $1.65 an acre a year to your county government and schools. Contemplate how much you pay for your little plot and house.

Although its board of directors are getting cold feet, Central Arkansas Water should proceed with condemnation with all deliberate haste and send a message that it will protect our water supply for our lifetimes.

Surely, the developers will not raise the usual cry about public condemnation: that you’re taking the land off the tax rolls and robbing the schools.
They wouldn’t dare.

Would they?

EDITORIAL>> The virtue of inaction on budget surplus

Deficits are orphans unclaimed even by the parents, but no one can avoid fondling a surplus. The state government ended the fiscal year with leftover cash of a little more than $100 million, about 2 percent of the state budget, and every day’s news brings more proposals for handling it.

Gov. Huckabee talked about a tax cut, but actually, if we divine his purposes accurately, he seemed to prefer doing nothing. For once, that familiar impulse of Mike Huckabee is exactly the right one. “Rainy day fund” is the popular phrase that he used, but it means hold on to the money and see when it comes in handy.

A few Republican lawmakers and pundits talk about calling the legislature into session and cutting taxes. One GOP legislator said the state should use the occasion to slash business taxes and make Arkansas a more attractive place for big corporations. That is the easy, popular and wrong thing to do.

Arkansas, like nearly every state in the union, and the federal government, has experienced unusually healthy revenue growth the past 18 months, owing mainly to the continuing housing boom, low interest rates, whopping corporate profits and solid stock profits. Like other narrow economic boomlets, it will not last.

Employment and wages are stagnant nearly four years after the last short and mild recession ended.

Cut taxes and the state will face a fiscal crisis in short order. The state will be back to raising taxes and cutting services. You will remember (actually, you probably don’t because most people hardly felt them) the tax cuts the legislature engineered at Gov. Huckabee’s behest in the late 1990s. They were followed in short order by an income surtax, increases in motor fuels taxes, several hikes in sales and use taxes and alcoholic beverage taxes.

Why lead the taxpayers through such artifices again? The governor and lawmakers could go home and claim to be tax cutters, not big spenders, but not many voters would fall for it. The experience of the past few years, in Arkansas and in Washington, D.C., is that tax cuts go to corporations and high-income people and the tax increases that follow settle on working families.

If we had to guess, Gov. Huckabee is thinking about the Arkansas Supreme Court. The attorney general is having to defend the governor and the legislature’s appropriation of only about one-twentieth of the money that they had concluded needed to be spent on school facilities to comply with the Supreme Court’s mandate and their refusal to allow one more dime the next school year on teacher salaries and equalization aid to schools — the heart of the constitutional issue before the court.

The attorney general now must stand before the Supreme Court masters and argue that the legislature and governor did all they could reasonably do to bring schools up to constitutional standards while more than $100 million has already been left on the table. His best argument this month may be that what the judges read in the paper was all just the lyin’ press — there is no surplus.

In a way, he would be right. The surplus is a mirage. Every dime of it, and much more, will be needed — and soon. Huckabee knows that.

Our neighbor, Sen. Tracy Steele of North Little Rock, proposed giving half the surplus (roughly $50 million) back to taxpayers in a rebate. It would be, we presume, a one-time check of a few dollars to those who file income tax returns. The poor, who earn too little to pay income taxes but pay plenty in consumption taxes, would get nothing.

Stick to your guns, governor. Do nothing.

FROM THE PUBLISHER>> Music still fills the air over area


You can create your own endless summer festival if you travel far enough to find your favorite musicians.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, fans traveled to Mississippi hill country north of Greenwood, where near the community of Avalon, off Hwy. 7, relatives and fans of Mississippi John Hurt honored the memory of the great country blues artist.

The lyrics to one of old his songs, “Coffee Blues,” asking for “just a lovin’ spoonful,” inspired the name of a 1960s rock group, whose leader, John Sebastian, will perform Mon-day near Hurt’s shack off a winding dirt road outside of town.

Sometimes you get lucky, and you’ll find good music in your backyard.

Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson appeared July 2 at Ray Winder Field. Dylan has been called the best white blues singer of all time, and if country is white blues, Nelson isn’t far behind.

Arkansans have heard some great music in recent weeks, including B.B. King at Little Rock’s Riverfest, the Holmes Brothers at Sticky Fingerz and, farther up the road in Eureka Springs, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Mavis Staples and Shemekia Copeland at the Eureka Springs Blues Festival, which attracted hundreds of bikers who came to town to show off their Harleys.

The Holmes Brothers — Wendell on electric guitar and Sherman on bass — are a gifted pair of musicians who play gospel-tinged blues with a drummer to round out their trio.

They played to a smallish crowd on a recent Tuesday night, but they were as enthusiastic as they were at last year’s King Biscuit Festival and at last May’s Handy Awards in Memphis, where they were named best blues group.

The Holmes Brother grew up in church and have moved beyond gospel into the secular world of the blues.

Their gospel-flavored CDs include the award-winning “Simple Truths” (Alligator), as well as “Promised Land” (Rounder), both a pleasure to listen to, especially on a rainy day.

The Blind Boys of Alabama never left the church. Dressed in long blue coats, they sang gospel for more than an hour in the old Eureka Springs Auditorium with their leader Clarence Fountain, along with Jimmy Carter, both original members of the group. (George Scott, another original member, passed away this spring.)

More than halfway through the show, Carter was led off stage and walked up and down the aisles, still singing and calling for a church service right then and there.

You haven’t lived till you’ve heard the Blind Boys of Alabama sing “Amazing Grace” like no one else can. Music in Heaven must sound something like the Blind Boys.

Their CDs include the Grammy Award-winning “Higher Ground” (Real World) with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, as well as “Oh, Lord, Stand by Me” and “Marching up to Zion,” which are two early LPs on one CD, and “The Sermon” (all from Specialty).

Three weekends ago, B.B. King returned to his home town of Indianola, Miss., where he helped break ground for a $10 million blues museum and performed at the city park. He played at the Club Ebony after 1 a.m. and didn’t stop till almost 3 a.m. He said he could have played all night, but the band looked tired, so he stopped.

Chris Thomas King (no relation), who acted in the movies “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Ray,” played a couple of numbers at the club, including “What’d I Say?,” before B.B. showed up. The next evening at the club before a small crowd, Chris, a gifted musician, put on a great show for a couple of hours.

The lucky few who were there caught a great performance.

Most blues fans had headed out of town that night, down to Pickens, Miss., where B.B. King played for two nights at the 42nd Medgar Evers Homecoming, a fundraiser in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

Charles Evers, his older brother, gave a moving address about the long struggle to achieve equality for black people, including the right to vote, and at one point, Evers held back tears, and King reminded the white people in the audience that 40 years ago it was against the law for blacks and whites to sit together.

Then it was back to more music.

B.B. gave the band the cue to play Brinkley native Louis Jordan’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” reminding us once again that the blues is not always sad. You’ve got to leave the hard times behind as much as you can and have some fun.

Enjoy the music.


Wilma Burrow

Wilma Jewel Burrow, 92, of Jacksonville, passed away July 16.

She worked in sales at Sterling Dept. Stores of Little Rock and was a seamstress for Fort Roots for 15 years until her retirement.

She is survived by one son, Bill W. Burrow, Sr., of Cabot; two sisters, Louise Henderson of Cabot and Cleo McConkey of Little Rock; grandchildren, Bill W. Burrow Jr., Kenneth Allen Burrow, Bryan Burrow, Jenny Parker and Carie Anne Ebrahimi; three great- grandchildren and friends of Baring Cross of North Little Rock and Second Baptist Church of Jacksonville. She was preceded in death by her husband, Harvey Dozier Burrow, her parents, Benjamin E. and Eva Georgiana (Galbreath) Edwards, three sisters and two brothers.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at North Little Rock Funeral Home chapel. Burial will be in Rest Hills Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 2200 Fort Roots Dr., North Little Rock, Ark. 72114.

Elizabeth Edmondson

Elizabeth Marie Ball Edmondson, 57, of Lonoke passed away July 15. She was a member of Cabot First United Methodist Church, a school teacher with Cabot Schools, a farmer and rancher.
She was preceded in death by her infant daughter, Melissa Marie Edmondson, and her parents, Ethel and Baxley Ball.

Survivors include her son, Baxley Glyn “B.G.” Edmondson of Lonoke; daughter, Gynger Edmondson of Cabot; sister-in-law and brother, D’Arylan and John Ball of Scott, and many nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Funeral services were held July 18 at Cabot First United Methodist Church with Bro. Richard Lancas-ter officiating. Interment followed at Lonoke Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Elizabeth Edmondson Memorial Fund at Cabot First United Methodist Church.

Hazel strickland

Hazel Strickland, 71, of Jacksonville passed away July 16.

She is survived by four sons, Victor Strickland, Jr., and wife Cecelia, Rev. Jerry Strickland, and wife Barbara, and David Strickland, all of Jacksonville, and Danny Strickland and wife Sandra of Venus, Fla.; seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren; five sisters, Ollie Fay Berdeaux of Cleveland, Ala., Nancy Brown and Patsy Curran, both of Crossett, and JoAnn Aguillard and Linda Harri-son, both of Port Allen, La.

Her husband, Victor B. Strickland, Sr. and her parents, David and Bonnie Sledge, preceded her in death.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at First United Pentecostal Church in north Crossett. Burial will be in Montrose Cemetery in Montrose.

Family will receive friends from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at First United Pentecostal Church in North Crossett. Arrangements are by North Little Rock Funeral Home, 1921 Main St., 758-1170.

Kenneth Spease

Kenneth F. Spease, 82, passed away July 15 in his Jacksonville home following a lengthy illness.

Born Oct. 20, 1922, in Aurora, Ill., he was a son of the late Frederick and Bertha Hartman Spease. He was also preceded in death by a sister, Doris Skaggs; brother, Robert H. Spease; daughter, Anna Marie Spease; grandson, Ronald Dirks, Jr., and nephew Ward Skaggs. He moved to Rock Falls, Ill., shortly after birth. He met and married Charlotte J. McNinch on Sept. 15, 1941.
Spease served in the Army and was a World War II veteran. He retired from Parris Alford in 1979. Shortly after retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Spease moved to Jacksonville.

He is survived by three sons; Charles F. Spease of Ward, Kenneth M. Spease and Robert J. Spease of Jacksonville; one daughter, Judith Martinez of Marion; six grandsons, Michael J. Spease of Jacksonville, Matthew Spease of Ward, Timothy Spease of North Little Rock, Rodney K. Duncan of Blytheville, Paul Martinez of Marion and Phillip Martinez of North Carolina; four granddaughters, Roxanne Long of Beebe, Melissa Telford and Sherie Swagarthy of Jacksonville and Lindsay Martinez of Florida, eight great-grandsons and four great-granddaughters.

Funeral services are under the direction of McDonald Funeral Home, Rock Falls, Ill. Local arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Russell Drake

Russell Kenneth Drake, 60, of Princeton, Ill., died July 16 in Blessings Hospital in Quincy, Ill.
He was born in Bureau County, Ill., the son of Kenneth and Nelda Drake. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his daughter, Dana and her husband, Greg Rozenski of Jacksonville; a son, Ashley Drake of Jonesboro; two sisters, Martha and her husband, Albert Flaherty of Princeton, Ill., and Linda and her husband, Jim Marlowe of Wyanet, Ill.; three brothers, Leroy and wife Edith Drake of Princeton, Ill., Howard and his wife Alice Drake of Granville, Ill., and Douglas and wife Cheryl Drake of Princeton, Ill., and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents.

His remains were cremated and a private family service will be held at a later date.

Louise Cazer

Louise Cazer, a member of the Lonoke United Methodist Church, born March 2, 1912, passed from this life to eternity on July 15.

She is survived by loving cousins; nephew Larry Cazer of Brinkley; niece, Sharon Rushin of Ward, and many great-nieces and nephews.

Graveside services were held July 17 at Lonoke Cemetery by Boyd Funeral Home of Lonoke.
Arrangements by Norberg Memorial Home in Princeton, Ill.

SPORTS>> Piranhas place 65 swimmers into meet

IN SHORT: Cabot swim team finishes season 1-5.

By Ray Benton
Leader sports editor

The Cabot Piranhas fell to the Otter Creek Otters Saturday in the final regular season meet of the Central Arkansas Swim League, and finished 1-5 in the six-week season.

Despite the record, it was still a great season for Cabot, as 65 Piranhas qualified for the CASL Meet of Champions that will be held this Saturday at UALR.

“I think it was a good season considering we have so many disadvantages to the other teams,” Cabot head coach Debbie Skidmore said. “We’re the only team in the league that doesn’t have an indoor pool. Everyone else has a great facility with a full-size (50-yards) pools, and we have to practice in a 20-yard outdoor pool. It’s just too small and too crowded to really teach the kids everything they need. If we had the advantages everyone else has, we would have done a lot better. The commitment is there from everyone except the outside people. The swimmers, the coaches and the parents all do a wonderful job, but the proposal to build a pool didn’t pass. We’re going to start having off-season practices in Jacksonville.”

The score in Saturday’s meet against the league runners up wasn’t close. The Otters won the meet 826-464, but it wasn’t without some Piranha highlights.

Several Cabot swimmers recorded their best times and moved up in classification.

Six-year-old Caitlin Cunningham won the silver division backstroke, and her 31.56 time in the event moved her up to gold level.

In the same event, Emily Harness won the bronze division race and moved up to silver with a time of 38.72.

Otter Creek’s Kara Moser won four of the five gold events in the 6-under age group, but Elaine Helpenstill won the 25-yard kickboard race.

Darby Harmon won the 8-under gold backstroke with a time of 24.44, but teammate Riley Young joined her at the gold level by winning the silver race with a 24.03.

Alex Caple moved up to silver in the breaststroke by winning the bronze race with a time of 31.50.

Ten-year old Piranha Micah Odom won all five top-level events in the 10-under girls division. In the 12-under girls category, where Cabot is deepest with talent, Megan Owens won three events while teammate Stephenie Odom took first in the breaststroke.

Otter Creek’s Erin Moser won the 12-under butterfly to stop a Cabot sweep of the age group.
Otter Creek dominated the girls 14-under age group, but Cabot’s Vicki Lovelette won four of the five gold events in the 16-under division.

Only Lauren Mesker of the Otters stopped a Lovelette sweep by taking the butterfly race.
Otter Creek dominated al-most all of the boys action. 14-year old Piranha Michael Rakoski, however, dominated his age group.

Rakoski was the only Cabot swimmer to win all five gold-level events in his age group.
The MOC will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at UALR’s Donaghey Center.
Skidmore believes she has a few swimmers that are capable of breaking league records this Saturday.

“We’ve got several kids I think can do it.
“I know we’ve got some that are already close, and have already beaten the record times. You have to do it in the Meet of Champs for it to count though.”

Owens, Ashley Baird and Rakoski are among the potential record breakers.

SPORTS>> Joyner to coach Red Devils

IN SHORT: Former North Pulaski coach moving across town to lead Red Devils

By Ray Benton
Leader sports writer

Former North Pulaski head boys basketball coach Victor Joyner accepted the boys head coaching job at Jacksonville High School Monday night. The selection of Joyner ends a search to fill the position that began back in May with the resignation of former head coach Jerry Wilson.

Wilson was on the search committee that interviewed five applicants, and said Joyner was the best fit.

“He’s a guy with lots of success at the high school level, and he’s already a member of this community. He does a lot of stuff with the kids in Jacksonville outside of school. I think it will be a good fit.”

Joyner had many words to describe his feelings when he was informed he got the job.

“I was relieved, excited, a little scared maybe. It’s a new challenge and there are high expectations at Jacksonville. But that’s what makes me go. I love a challenge.”

Jacksonville principal Kenneth Clarke made the final decision on the hire, and said that experience was a major issue among those interviewed.

“He’s the only one (who interviewed) who was a head coach,” Clarke said. “He’s been a head coach for a long time and he’s been very successful. You can’t overlook that kind of experience.”
Experience wasn’t the only contributing factor to Clarke’s decision.

“He a member of this community and he’s very involved. Plus he seemed very focused on the kids. He stressed in his interview that he has always worked hard for his kids as far as helping them make it to the next level, and that he would continue to do so. That was very impressive to me. That’s what we’re here for. He seemed just as much concerned with helping his players get into

college and become better young men, as he did with wins.”

Joyner also expressed a sincere sadness at leaving the site of his first head-coaching job. He even sneaked in at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to clean out his office, saying he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to anyone just yet.

“I just don’t think I could have handled it at this point,” Joyner said. “I had too many things going through my mind, and there are some people over there that are just like my family. I’ve been there 11 years, and I’ve grown to love those people.”

Joyner reflected on his first day at NP, and shared a spiritual moment that paralleled his first and last day on the job.

“When I first got to NP 11 years ago, I did the same thing and brought everything in here late, late at night,” Joyner said. “I turned the clock on, and it was the only light in the gym. I sat down in the middle of that floor and prayed that I would be able to do what’s right by all the kids that would be coming through here.

“I did the same thing last night. I turned the clock on and sat down in the middle of the floor and prayed. But when I turned the clock on, it was running. It was running down from eight minutes. And then when I looked over, the direction arrow was on. There’s a short in it and it doesn’t come on sometimes, but it came on, and it was pointing to the visitors bench, and it was turned and pointing towards Jacksonville. It might have been nothing, but it made me feel like it was okay to leave. Because I was really struggling to walk out of there.”

Joyner brings an impressive resume from NP, including a streak of about 13 straight wins over JHS. He won eight conference titles, including four straight from 2000 through 2003.

His teams advanced to three state tournament semifinals and made appearances in nine straight state tournaments.

Most of those state tournament appearances came in class AAAA, where NP is one of the largest schools in the classification. He’ll now be taking over one of the smallest schools in the state’s largest classification.

Joyner simply looks at it as another challenge.

“This is without a doubt the toughest conference, but like I said, it’s a new challenge and that’s what I love,” Joyner said. “I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about Jonesboro and West Memphis and those guys. I’m taking over a program in a tough conference that hasn’t been winning. I’m going to have to teach a whole new system, but we’ll get there. I want to get Jacksonville High School to No. 1 in the state and keep ‘em in the top five of the rankings all the time. That’s my dream for this school.”

North Pulaski and Jacksonville are natural rivals, and the two schools gear up for each other in every sport, but Joyner says he never looked at it as a rivalry game.

“I’ve always considered myself a Jacksonville coach,” Joyner said. “It’s not been at Jacksonville High School, but it was still Jacksonville kids, and that’s who I’m here for. I never really looked at the kids at Jacksonville as rivals, and I won’t look at the NP kids that way now. I realize some people don’t look at North Pulaski as a Jacksonville school, but I always have and I’ll continue to do so.”

NEIGHBORS>> Having a blast

IN SHORT: It’s not just rocket science at cabot space camp.

By Sara Greene
Leader staff writer

With a jubilant countdown to each blast off, about 40 Junior Space Camp students watched MSgt. Bobby Coe of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps launch model rockets last week at Southside Elementary in Cabot.

The weeklong camp is an enrichment program where students can learn about planets, constellations, life in space and the history of flight through a variety of hand-on activities.
Junior Space Camp has been at Southside Elementary for the past two years. Before that it was held at the Arlene Cherry Memorial Library.

“Today we made space suits,” said kindergarten teacher Jane Shafer, as students displayed their paper bag space suits with empty plastic bottles on the back.

“Those are the rocket packs,” explained Ally Bevis, 5.

One of the highlights of space camp, for teachers as well as students is Rocket Day, when the classes watch members of the Cabot JROTC launch model rockets over the playground.

“This is my first year to launch rockets for Space Camp,” Coe said.

“I’ve been launching these for four years for the ROTC student’s Rocketry class.”

About 20 students watched the morning launch with Shafer and kindergarten teachers Christy Cavin and Terry Donham.

The foot-long model rockets are launched using a battery-powered ignition Coe explained.

The motors are lipstick-sized cardboard tubes of wadding and a small amount of sulfur propellant, less than in most fireworks.

The motors do not get hot enough to damage the rockets. Coe carefully set up each rocket and then pressed a button to launch.

Although each rocket contains a parachute, out of five launches that morning, only one parachute successfully opened.

Students shouted the count down for each launch, sometimes prematurely.

They eagerly informed Coe when the parachutes didn’t open and asked about the lingering smell of sulfur in the air after each launch.

“I do this for these little guys,” Coe said as the students marched back to the classroom to get ready for their parents to pick them up.

Susan Stephens’ daughters Samantha, 6, and Ashley, 9, both attend space camp.
“Ashley’s attended space camp every year,” Stephens said. “They’re teaching me things I didn’t know.”

TOP STORY>> Rainfall helps some farmers, late for others

IN SHORT: Drought has hurt some Lonoke soybean fields, but flooded fields hurt others as farmers hope for good yields.

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer

“Everybody says farmers are never satisfied, and I guess that’s right,” said Dick Bransford, who along with other Lonoke County farmers, was praying for rain just two weeks ago.

“A little spell of dry would be pretty good,” he said Tuesday afternoon, even as thunder rumbled in Jacksonville. “Let roots of soybeans get a little air down to them. We’re not hurting anywhere for water right now, but that can change in a few days

“All that rain might have hurt us a little bit,” Bransford said. “Some neighbors lost quite a bit of beans,” he said.

Bransford himself has about 100 acres of soybeans damaged by the heavy rains, and he doesn’t know whether or not they will make it.

recently watered before the rains, it stunted them back.”

In contrast to Bransford and his neighbors, Jeff Welch, senior Cooperative Extension Agent for Lonoke County, said many soybean fields were hurt by drought stress, which would result in some reduced yield. “I’m hopeful that we can salvage a decent year, but it’s going to be nip and tuck,” Welch said. “There’s not very much, if any, profit in this crop.”

Bransford said sandy soils could handle the rain, but the heavy buckshot holds water much better—not a good thing when there is too much rain.

“We’ve still got a chance to make a decent crop,” he said.


The price of soybeans is up nearly $2 a bushel, but fuel costs have doubled, which is significant to farmers who ran irrigation pumps around the clock earlier this season.

The recent rain has been a blessing as far as saving fuel on soybeans, cotton, rice and corn irrigation, according to Welch. “It’s saving a lot of money. It’s a break on labor and time and mentally it gives the farmer time to recoup,” Welch said. “On pasture, it helped grow more forage for hay and dairy.”

“It looks like we have a good corn crop,” said Welch, who had just left Laudies Brantley’s farm near Keo. “They just terminated irrigation.”

The good news is that most fields haven’t required any irrigation since the July 5 deluge.

“Expenses are ungodly,” said Bransford. “Fertilizer is up 40 or 50 percent.

“My fuel bill for all the irrigating is tearing us up.”


His crop dusters didn’t increase their prices this year, but a 7 percent surcharge was levied to cover in-creased fuel costs.

“If my bill was $10,000, then there’s a $700 fuel-adjustment cost. And I’m sure they need it, but I can’t pass it on.”

While soybean prices are “quite attractive,” cotton and rice are still selling below the loan price, he said.

Cotton and rice

The cotton crop is looking pretty good, but Bransford and neighbor Leon Hill both have crops severely damaged by some unexplained application of the herbicide 2,4-D. Bransford could lose 36 acres and Hill about 125, he said.

The state Plant Board is investigating the source of the defoliant.

“We don’t even know what direction it came from,” he said.

He said many producers had already spent their budget on irrigation, fuel and fertilizer and have run out of money. There were no reports yet of banks refusing to make loans, but “they are going to be very frugal.”

“At the end of the year, the question will be, can the farmer hold on another year? Some may very well not,” he said.


As the seventh largest livestock producer in the state, White County depends on hay for winter feed. But the lack of rain this summer means a poor hay crop, said Keith Martin, White County extension agent.

Compounding the imminent problem, the pastures also are dry and farmers have been forced to feed hay stored for the winter.

“When you’re feeding hay the first of July, it’s really serious because that’s when you’re supposed to be growing it,” Martin said.

Some farmers have already started their second cutting, he said. But the first cutting was down 50 percent or more in some areas, he said, so there is really no way to completely recover this year.

“Even if the later cuttings do produce more, we’re probably going to be short,” he said.

As a result, some farmers might aggressively cull their herds so they won’t need as much hay, he said. But others will likely buy hay either from out of state or in state where rainfall and therefore hay production has been heavier, he said.

Leader staff writer Joan McCoy contributed to this report.

TOP STORY>> Single-gender school ready

IN SHORT: Boys principal defines the problem as the Pulaski district rolls out an innovative, if so-far unproven, approach to education.

By John Hofheimer
Leader staff writer

Like it or not, boys will be in one building, girls in another when Jacksonville Middle School starts the new school year August 19—the state’s first modern-day experiment with single-gender schools.

Throughout the country, there were 161 districts implementing or preparing to implement single-gender classes last spring, according to Marvin V. Jeter III, assistant superintendent for learning services.

Jeter said many of the teachers and parents he talked to were excited about the innovative program, but others were adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

Laura Shirley, who will serve as principal of the girls school, is out of town, but Michael Nellums, principal of both the boys school and the in-school suspension program in yet another building, thinks the idea may work.

“We’re looking for opportunities to change young men’s direction as it relates to academics,” Nellums said. “Boys have always done worse at this level. We’re hoping to change that picture drastically.

“Discipline will be a challenge,” said Nellums. “We’re putting all the boys—they account for 82 percent of discipline referrals and 73 percent of suspensions—under one umbrella. I have two outstanding assistant principals, Jackie Calhoun and Colleen Johnson.”

He said Johnson, new to the district, brings a wealth of knowledge working in successful middle school programs.

“We’re fortunate to have her in this community.”

Nellums said he hoped the teachers would be sensitive to the needs and behavioral tendencies of adolescent males.

Bishop James Bolden III, Jacksonville’s representative on the Pulaski County Special School District Board, has questions of his own, but he made the motion to separate the genders, and he has pitched in cleaning up the grounds and has watched developments with a close eye. The boys will take their core classes in the old junior high school and the girls in the nearby old middle school. Elective classes will be coeducational.

Having single-gender classes in public schools—or single-gender schools—has only been legal for a couple of years in this country, so it’s too early for domestic data, but in other countries, test scores have improved for boys and girls when attending separate classes, according to Jeter.

Discipline problems also are said to diminish when boys don’t feel compelled to show off in front of girls, he said.

The idea came about after the decision to move Jacksonville’s ninth grade from the junior high to the high school, according to Jeter, and officials began looking for the best way to divide up grades six through eight between the middle school and junior high.

Jeter and then-Superintendent Donald Henderson held a series of meetings with Jacksonville parents and members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Although some students and parents didn’t like the idea, there was enough support for the school board to approve the idea for this school year.

The first teacher instruction specific to this arrangement will be a one-day in-service training — gender, ethnicity and student achievement — led by Leonard Sax, author of “Why Gender Matters.”

Jeter said there were still a few teaching positions to be filled in the boys and girls schools, and a total of 63 teaching positions yet to be filled district wide. New basketball courts and benches will be installed outdoors at the boys school, according to James Warren, assistant superintendent for facilities.

A plan to connect the two main buildings by a covered walkway was nixed by the Jacksonville Fire Department, which said such a walkway would limit their access to the buildings in the event of fire.

When it’s raining, a shuttle bus will carry students between the two buildings, according to Warren.

Jeter, who says he has several grants pending, said the district may be in the running for U.S. Department of Education money to build an all purpose building between the two schools for elective classes, computer labs, a media center and other purposes.

The project seemed to lose momentum in recent months and Bolden has been critical. Jeter said Tuesday that the project had slowed while awaiting approval by the Office of Desegregation Monitoring.

Warren said by housing in-school suspension in a building adjacent to the boys school, the district would save about $16,000 a year in rent. Overall, the district has been doing some painting and sprucing up of the buildings and before school opens, there should be new signs—Jacksonville Middle School—Girls and Jacksonville Middle School—Boys.

Board members have said they would expect to see benchmark test scores improve over the next couple of years.

TOP STORY>> Veterans get toilet after fight with city

IN SHORT: Group files suit to make Cabot officials keep promise to rebuild facilities at park.

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

The veterans group that sold the land to Cabot where the community center is supposed to be built is suing the city over a toilet, but the city now says it will build a toilet after all.

Jack Knox, representing Cabot War Veterans Memorial Associ-ation, filed suit in circuit court last week. The suit says the city has not lived up to its contractual obligation to provide a permanent restroom on the property which also holds a veterans monument.

The suit was made public at the end of the Monday night city council meeting by Alderman Odis Way-mack, who wanted to appoint the council’s veterans to deal with Knox. City Attorney Ken Williams said at this point the council can only deal with Larry Cook, Knox’s lawyer.

But the council decided that the only proper action, considering the city had violated the contract with the veterans, was to give Knox what he wanted and told the mayor to get it started.
“We need to build a restroom,” Alderman Bob Duke said.

A unisex restroom will cost about $10,000, Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh told the council, adding that he has already obtained plans for the project.

The city did build a permanent restroom on the property but tore it down to start the dirt work for the planned, but not completely funded community center.

Stumbaugh told the council that he had a handicapped portable toilet placed near the veterans’ memorial after Knox complained, but the city’s contract with the veterans says it must be permanent and public and they will accept nothing less.

Carroll Astin, director of city parks, said the suit was filed after the parks commission declined to honor the veterans’ request that a new restroom be built near the monument.

The property is located across the street from Cabot High School and the commission is concerned that a public restroom so near a school could be dangerous for the students, Astin said.

“A public restroom that near a school could be a breeding ground for illicit activities,” he said.

Stumbaugh listed some of those feared activities during the city council meeting: sex, drugs and vandalism.

The commission told the veterans that when the community center is built, the visitors to the monument may use the restrooms in the center.

Astin said that even before the restroom was razed, it was not really public. It was left locked until the veterans needed it for some event.

Knox, 80, and one of only five of the 105 veterans who bought the property where the community center is to be built, said he is suing because he had no success in trying to work with city officials.

“What gets me is that we had a restroom and they tore it down,” Knox said.

Furthermore, he said the restroom was not even on the land the veterans sold to the city but on the part they retained for their monument.

Knox thinks little of the park commission’s plan to allow the veterans to use the restroom in a community center which may not even be built.

“We have people coming there in wheelchairs and walkers and no place to relieve themselves,” he said.

The city bought the property from the veterans group about five years ago, paying $50,000 for about eight acres, Knox said.

Waymack learned about the suit Friday and said he was disturbed that no one had told the council it was even a possibility.

The mayor and some members of the council have talked a lot in recent months about the importance of keeping their word and allowing a one-cent sales tax to sunset as promised, Waymack said.
Waymack supports using the tax to build a $16 million sewer plant and to pay for other projects including the community center.

“They say they must follow the law by letting the tax end, but the city council is responsible by law for all the city’s property and I didn’t find out about this lawsuit until after it was filed,” he said.

TOP STORY>> Tax supporting Cabot projects on ballot again

IN SHORT: Proposal would raise $26 million for a new sewer plant, railroad overpass, community center, animal shelter and other projects, but if voters reject the tax, their sewer rates would more than double, officials say.

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

A 5-3 vote of the Cabot City Council Monday night will give city residents the choice between more than doubling their sewer rates to pay for a new treatment plant or paying for that plant with an existing but temporary 1-cent tax that was is-sued to pay off water improvement bonds.

If voters don’t approve extending the sales tax in an election tentatively set for Sept. 13, the council will raise sewer rates to pay for the new plant. Alderman Eddie Cook, who, along with Alderman Odis Waymack, co-sponsored the ordinance referring the tax extension to city voters, said after the council meeting that he hopes he is able to make that point clear to city voters in the weeks leading up to the election.

“We either extend the sales tax or we raise the rates. There are no other options,” he said.
Voting for the ordinance were aldermen Cook, Waymack, Tom Armstrong, James Glenn and Bob Duke.

Voting against it were aldermen David Polantz, Jerry Stephens and Patrick Hutton.

In addition to money for the sewer treatment plant, the ordinance also includes funding for several other city projects that might not be completed without extending the tax or will not be completed any time soon.

It includes $16.5 million for the sewer treatment plant and repairs to the collection system, $1.5 million for the community center that came in over budget, $200,000 to build an animal shelter at one time instead of in phases, $800,000 for the city’s part of a federally funded railroad overpass and $7 million to pay off the existing debt that is supported by the one-cent tax.

If voters don’t approve extending the sales tax, the railroad overpass could still be built in 2008, when it was originally scheduled for construction.

But plans for the community center will die, officials say. The city has sold $3.5 million in bonds funded by existing city taxes to pay for the project, but the low bid for construction was $4.2 million. The city has three years from the time the bonds were sold to use the money or refund it, but without additional funding, the project can’t progress past the $500,000 in dirt work that is already completed.

Polantz, who has voted against extending the sales tax every one of the three times it has come before the council in the past two months, defended his position by saying it was a matter of integrity. The council told voters in 1999 when they approved the tax that it would sunset when the water improvement bonds it supports are paid off.

He wanted to pay for the community center and overpass by increasing the city millage from 3.5 to 4.5, but city voters said no to that plan in last week’s election, which cost the city about $5,000.

“Since I’ve been on the council, all I’ve heard about is unfunded projects, unfunded projects,” said Cook, who is in his first year on the council.

“Let’s complete all our projects, then let’s put the burden back on the council and mayor to make sure we are frugal with the money so there are no more unfunded projects,” he said.

A public hearing on in-creasing sewer rates was held before the regular council meeting, and the council chamber was still so full during the regular meeting that people had to stand against the wall.

One of those standing was Bill Pedersen, a member of the Lonoke County Quorum Court, who addressed the council, saying people are tired of being taxed as evidenced by the election the week before.

Pedersen told the aldermen they should take off the community center and overpass because voters had clearly rejected them. Cook said the voters had only said they didn’t want any new taxes.
Patty Webber disagreed with Peder-sen. The disappointment of the children who use the gym on Richie Road was palpable, she said, making the already hot gym seem even hotter.

Margie Webb told the council that a sales tax hurts poor people the most, and there was no guarantee extending the tax will hold sewer rates down.

But Janet Clinton said taxes will never go down anyway, so the council should give people the choice between paying for the new sewer plant with a rate increase or the existing tax.

Waymack, who is trying to limit his public support of paying for the plant with the tax, said that was all the council is really doing with its ordinance, putting the question to the voters and letting them decide.