Wednesday, March 01, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 3-1-06


Rev. Lonnie D. Autry, 74, of Sherwood, passed away Feb. 26, 2006. He was the pastor of Berea Baptist Church of Jacksonville and retired from the Corp of Engineers. Rev. Autry was a sergeant in the Air Force during the Korean War and past treasurer of the North Pulaski Baptist Association.
He is survived by his wife, Verdarose Adkins Autry; daughter, Mariell A. “Dee Dee” Autry of Sherwood; sisters, Emily Ewing and Ann He-ron and husband Kenneth all of Jacksonville, Belle Gregory and husband Lloyd of Bon-nerdale; bro-ther, Doyle Autry and wife Mary Beth of Van Buren; sisters-in-law, Christine Autry of North Little Rock and Jo Autry of Cabot. Rev. Autry was preceded in death by his parents, Garner S. Autry, Sr. and Mary Etta Hayes Autry; brothers, Garner and Aubrey Autry.
Memorials may be made to Berea Baptist Church, 104 E. Valentine, Jacksonville, Arkansas 72076 or Arkansas Hospice, 5600 W. 12th St., Little Rock, Ark. 72204.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at North Little Rock Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will be in Rest Hills Memorial Park. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at North Little Rock Funeral Home, 1921 Main St., North Little Rock.


Jerry Stephenson Justice, Jr., 34, died as a result of an automobile accident Feb. 23.
He was a commissioned officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a full-time journalism student at UALR.
Survivors include his wife, Monica Maples Justice of Ward; three daughters, Hayley Nicole Justice, Kourtney Raiann Justice, and Laura Kaitlin Justice all of Ward; his mother, Patricia Harrison Justice, and sister, Terry Lynn Justice both of Ward; several nieces, nephews and other relatives.
He was preceded in death by his father, Jerry S. Justice Sr.
Graveside services will be 11 a.m. Saturday in Hicks Cemetery, Lonoke.
The family will receive friends Friday from 6 to 8 pm at Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Carolyn (Su) Jolley, 61, of North Little Rock, passed away Feb. 25. She was born June 27, 1944 to Nolice Warren and Thelma Bowen in Huntington, W. Va. Su was a Baptist, an Avon representative and a Beanie Baby entrepreneur. She was a loving wife, mother and MiMi who lived for her grandkids. She was preceded in death by her father.
Mrs. Jolley is survived by her husband, John V. "Jack" Jolley of North Little Rock; one son, Jason and daughter-in-law, Tammy Jolley of Cabot; one daughter, Amy and son-in-law, Cliff Childress of Lonoke; mother and step-father Thelma and Willie McCallister of Huntington, W.Va.; one sister, Phyllis Thompson of Huntington, W.Va.; four grandchildren: Sarah Childress, Colt Childress, Rebecca Jolley and Jackson Jolley.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Moore's Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Paul McClung officiating. Interment will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Leslie Mae Farvour, of Cabot, passed away Feb. 23. She was born Feb. 23, 2006 to Joseph and Jennifer Farvour in Jacksonville.
She is survived by her parents; one sister, Amy Farvour; one brother, Alyn Farvour; grandparents, James and Loretta Schmidt of Wayland, Mo., Bettina Hahn of Cabot, Wilbur Farvour of Keokuk, Iowa and a host of family and friends.
Funeral services were Tuesday, at Moore's Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville. Bu-rial was at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Lucille Elizabeth Heriot Ray, 93, of Cabot, went to celebrate her life with the Lord on Monday, Feb. 27. Lucille was born Oct. 3, 1912. One of the many highlights of Lucy’s life was going to her sons dealership, Ray Chevrolet, everyday and visiting with customers. She loved being on the go, especially to tailgate parties and any kind of sports. Best of all, she loved being with her family.
She will be missed dearly by her family and many friends.
Lucille is preceded in death by her husband, James Marvin “Skipper” Ray and one daughter, Elizabeth Ann Ray Jewett.
She is survived by her two sons: Gerald “Jerry” Ray and daughter-in-law, Judy Ray, Cary Ray and daughter-in-law, Roylane Ray; two grandchildren: James Skipper Ray and Ann Elizabeth Martin and her husband Todd; two great-grandchildren: Margaret “Maggie” Elizabeth Martin and Mason Ray Jewett Martin.
Memorial services will be held at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home at 10 a.m., on Wednesday, with Dr. Jon M. Taylor and Rev. Johnny Glaze officiating.
Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 5600 West 12th Street, Little Rock, Ark., 72204 and Central Arkansas Radiation The-rapy Institute (CARTI).
The family would like to thank her special caregivers, Sue Harris and Sandra Chapman and her hairdresser, Ann Gilliam.
A special thanks to Springhill Baptist, Dr. Darren Clark and Cabot Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.


Matthew Dallas Whitley, 27, of Beebe, died Feb. 23. He had attended ASU Beebe. He is survived by his parents, Rick and Ann Whitley; his brother, Michael Whitley, all of Beebe; grandparents, John and Nancy Whitley of Benton; and several uncles, aunts and cousins.
Funeral services were Tuesday, at Westbrook Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to Lions World Services for the Blind, 2811 Fair Park Blvd., Little Rock, AR 72204.


Milton L. Pruitt of Antioch, born in 1924 at Antioch to Charlie and Mamie McCall Pruitt. He died Feb. 26, at the age of 81. Milton was an Army veteran of World War II.
He served in Germany and was awarded three Bronze Stars for service. He was also a retired dairy farmer.
Milton is survived by his wife of 59 years, Vera Maxine Pruitt; two sons, Bill Pruitt and wife Linda of Searcy and Bobby Pruitt and wife Kim of Beebe; six grandchildren, Jason, Brook and Bryce Pruitt, Amy Pruitt McDuffie, Tisha Ham-ilton and Robby Boland; two great-granddaughters, Tori McDuffie and McKenna Hamilton.
Survivors also include a sister, Mildred Secrest of Pasadena, Texas and a sister-in-law, Aline Pruitt of Beebe and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and five siblings, Delton, Helen, Jack and Russell Pruitt and Christine Wisdom.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Antioch Com-munity Church at Antioch in White County. Burial will be in Antioch Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 2200 Fort Roots Drive, North Little Rock, Ark., 72114 or Antioch Community Church, 2062 Hwy. 31 North, Beebe, Ark., 72012.

SAT 3-1-6 EDITORIAL >> Oklahoma vs. Arkansas

Arkansas lost another battle in the great border war with Oklahoma over chicken litter this week when the U. S. Supreme Court refused to settle the dispute itself. But let us be more precise. Poultry companies and Attorney General Mike Beebe lost the battle. Arkansas could even be a winner.

The two states — rather, their attorneys general — have been arguing for at least four years over the pollution of the Illinois River, which drains big swaths of Washington and Benton counties and then courses into Oklahoma, where it is a source of drinking water. The river is the source for Tenkiller Lake, the water supply for Tahlequah, Okla.

The dispute is akin to our own quarrels in central Arkansas with Deltic Timber Corp., which wants to develop an expensive subdivision on the slopes above Lake Maumelle, from whence comes our pristine water. So we may feel some kinship with Oklahomans who want their water protected just like we do. The problem is that a state line separates them from the largest source of the problem, the refuse from chicken growers that is spread on the slopes of northwest Arkansas to make hay and other animal feed crops grow more lushly. The runoff from excess litter sends heavy amounts of phosphorous and other compounds into creeks and into the Illinois River. The fertilizer causes heavy algae growth in the streams and the lake into which they run, depleting oxygen, killing aquatic life and polluting water supplies.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who we are led to believe by Arkansas officials and industry people likes to play to the peanut gallery, sued eight poultry companies, including the giant Tyson Foods, Inc., in federal district court in Oklahoma. He maintains that the big companies and their growers are violating federal and state pollution laws and wants the federal court to restrain them. The big companies and the growers claim that Oklahoma wants to put them out of business.

Gov. Huckabee and Attorney General Beebe have entered the lists for the industry. Beebe maintains that he represents the farmers and the people of Arkansas, not the industry. Well, of course. He’s fighting to save the Arkansas economy and to protect the “sovereignty” of Arkansas. The issue of state sovereignty has had a tainted history from its use to protect slavery and our own peculiar apartheid.

Beebe pursued a novel remedy. He asked the Supreme Court to block the Oklahoma lawsuit by using its power to resolve disputes between two states by conducting the trial itself. The court unanimously declined.

We are saps for the home team as much as anyone. We pull for the Arkansas teams and try to be philosophical about the peccadilloes of Arkansas politicians when they seek national office, including Mike Huckabee. But it is an embarrassment that our own laws and our regulatory agencies are far more tolerant of abuse of our land, water and air than those of other states.
Edmond’s suit should go to trial and let us see what evidence he can adduce that the companies are imperiling the health of Oklahomans. If they are, an injunction is proper, and the companies are not going to move their operations to other states. Where, pray tell? More likely, the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari will force Oklahoma and the industry to negotiate a settlement that will save the day for Oklahomans and Arkansas farmers.

SAT 3-1-6 EDITORIAL >> ‘Not just NO, but HELL NO’

When you first heard that the U.S. has hired a company owned by the United Arab Emirates to help run some of our nation’s ports, a couple of thoughts probably crossed your mind: Why can’t a superpower watch its own ports without foreign help, and where is the United Arab Emirates located, anyway?

Right there on the eastern tip of the Arabian peninsula, where the U.S. Air Force has had a strong presence for years. That’s why President Bush says the UAE is a close ally of the U.S. and still favors the deal: Our military is all over the place in the emirates and hopes to stay a while longer, unless we’re tossed out over the controversy.

The Bush administration had hoped to show the emirates its appreciation for letting the U.S. launch military operations in the desert kingdom — not to mention its $100 million aid to Katrina victims — but the symbolism of an Arab nation having a say on how our ports are run is too much for most Americans to accept. As Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) put it in a letter to President Bush this week, “Dear Mr. President: In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO but HELL NO!”

No wonder the deal is now on hold and may be scrapped as opposition from both political parties increases every day. The Bush administration is clearly on the defensive as it tries to answer critics who point out that several 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE, which also once recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Besides its spotty record on terrorism, the UAE is an authoritarian country that is hardly qualified to run our nation’s ports or profit from their operation. The port deal may be questionable, but the emirates have their supporters in this country, particularly Treasury Secretary John Snow, who once headed the company that owned the port operations business before the UAE purchased it as part of a multinational deal.

Although the President didn’t know about the deal until a few days ago, the Bush administration had consented to the port transfer as a way of thanking the emirates for letting the U.S. use their airfields and ports, especially for refueling. C-130s from Little Rock Air Force Base have landed in the area for many years, while KC-10s used the emirates for refueling planes that enforced the southern no-flight zone over Iraq before Saddam was overthrown.

If the deal is scrapped, the United Arab Emirates might tell us to take our ships and planes elsewhere, but that might be a small price to pay if we can keep our nation’s ports in American hands, as we must.

WED 3-1-6 EDITORIAL >> Would UAE let us run their ports?

President Bush picked a fine time to worry about ethnic profiling: when the safety of the nation’s ports is in peril. The man who has inflamed Arab passions against the West more than anyone since Pope Urban II and Peter the Hermit organized the First Crusade is terribly afraid that not allowing the sheik of Dubai to run major U.S. ports will cause Muslims to distrust us and not want to do business with American corporations. Bush’s trade representative is trying to negotiate a trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which is keenly wanted by major businesses.

We have no idea the degree of risk that the government is taking when it rents the operation of the ports to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the Dubai government. No matter how many assurances of future security cooperation that the sheik’s men give to the Bush administration, it really can have little confidence either.

Perhaps, as the president says, it really makes no difference since the U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. agencies will be in charge of security, not the Arab dictator’s agents, and our men are on the scene and fully up to the job. But do you trust those assurances?

What has the Bush administration done to shore up port security, identified three years ago as a matter of grave danger? Nothing. The Coast Guard estimated after 9/11 that it would take $5.4 billion to raise security to the level required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. The administration requested only $46 million last year, less than before 9/11. Congress raised it to $175 million. Even now, less than 5 percent of cargo unloaded in U.S. ports is carefully inspected. But even that does not reach the real worry. Unloaded cargo is not the issue. A nuclear explosion aboard a ship in the harbor would cripple a city and the nation for years.

The president is right to worry about Arab feelings of slight and discrimination, but we have been told that the threat of terrorism overrides everything, even the Constitution. Last week, the government agreed to pay $300,000 to settle claims by an Egyptian restaurant owner in New York City who was swept up along with many other people of Arab descent by federal agents after 9/11, beaten, jailed incommunicado for many months before officials acknowledged his complete innocence and deported him. The suits of hundreds of others are pending. Bush said the government could take no chances that one might have designs against the country.

The Dubai government, as the president says, has been helpful to the United States in the war against Iraq and terrorists from time to time, letting us base planes and warships there. But is Dubai a lesser risk than, say, Ehab Elmaghraby, that New York restaurateur who ladled splendid moussaka at his Times Square cafe before the government jailed and deported him?
Remember, Dubai was the transfer port for the spread of nuclear technology to tyrant regimes by the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan’s network. Remember also that, according to the 9/11 Commission, at least two 9/11 hijackers were from the Emirates and operated from safe houses and bank accounts in Dubai, and that when President Clinton ordered an air strike on Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan’s hills in 1999, the CIA unilaterally called it off upon learning that some Dubai royals were in bin Laden’s hunting camp.

It is not as if the sheiks would return the favor. An American company would not be allowed to operate the Dubai port. No business can operate there without majority U.A.E. ownership. Free speech and commerce are not allowed there. Americans cannot own land.

Approval of the port sale to the Dubai company deserves special attention for another reason: the peculiar associations within the administration. We don’t mean the president’s claimed personal friendship with the Emirates’ dictators.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department chaired the federal panel that signed off on the port sale to Dubai, was chairman of a rail firm that sold its own operations to Dubai in 2004 for $1.15 billion. Last month, President Bush appointed David Sanborn, who runs Dubai Port’s American and European operations, to run the U.S. Maritime Administration.
This deal may be as safe as the country can arrange, but it deserves to be scrutinized by skeptics, not cheerleaders.

SPORTS >> HA ladies knock off Carlisle in title game

Leader sports writer

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats won the AA Region 6 tournament with an upset over the Carlisle Lady Bison 37-31 in Augusta on Saturday. After losing twice to the Lady Bison during the conference regular season, the Lady Wildcats used a match-up zone to contain Carlisle in the defensive struggle.

“We defended every pass, and every shot,” Lady Wildcats assistant coach Rusty Garner said. “We also rebounded well all night. The biggest difference was the press. When they used it on us this time, it didn’t bother us, we didn’t panic. We told them they didn’t have to be better than (Carlisle) all year; they just had to be better than them tonight.”

Carlisle took the advantage in the early going with a 5-0 lead. The Lady ‘Cats fought back to take over with a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Harding Academy extended its lead in the second, with a 21-15 advantage at the half.

Although the Lady Wildcats maintained their lead in the third, the Lady Bison closed in on them to trail by one, 27-26 heading into the final frame. Carlisle took the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a three-point shot in the early moments of the fourth to go ahead 29-28.

Harding Academy answered with a home run pass on the in- bounds to senior Liz Ashley, who was all alone under the goal for the easy basket to give the Lady ‘Cats the lead once again.

Harding held off the Lady Bison from that point on, claiming their fifth regional title in as many years.
It also marks the second consecutive year that the Lady Wildcats have failed to beat Carlisle in the regular season, but overtook them in the regional finals.

Liz Ashley led Harding Academy in scoring with 12 points. Jessica Stevens was the leading rebounder for the Lady Wildcats with 10.

With the win, Harding Academy will now face Arkansas Baptist in the first round of the AA state tournament today, as opposed to Carlisle’s opening round opponent Jessieville.

The Lady Wildcats easily beat Baptist in the regular season. An opening-round win would put Harding Academy in the quarter- finals of the state tourney on Friday.

Academy boys fall to Hughes

AUGUSTA – If moral victories counted, the Harding Academy Wildcats would be heading to the Class AA state tournament. The Wildcats put up a valiant effort on Friday night against Hughes but fell, 44-37, in the semifinal round of the Region 6 tournament.

Hughes punched its ticket to the state event while Harding Academy finished its season at 14-12. The Blue Devils will now face Altheimer, a 69-39 winner Friday night over Palestine-Wheatley, in tonight’s regional final.

“We’ve had a tough week,” Hughes coach Jason Carmichael said afterward. “We finished up our district on Tuesday, then we’ve had to play against some contrasting styles. Harding Academy really played a high-IQ game against us, like I knew they would.”

The Wildcats trailed just 24-22 at the half and led the game as late as midway through the third quarter when Alex Beene, who had 11 points for Harding Academy, scored on a drive with 4:09 left. Hughes guard Ken Smith put the Blue Devils back on top, matching Beene’s bucket with one of his own. Seconds later, Lance Carr, who led the Wildcats with 12 points, hit 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to knot the game at 32 with 3:18 left in the quarter.

Hughes standout Marcus Washington then scored the most spectacular of his game-high 16 points, converting a steal in the backcourt into a crowd-pleasing dunk and the Blue Devils never trailed again. Hughes led 35-32 after three quarters.

The Blue Devils pulled the ball out and ran time off the clock to begin the fourth period. Kevin Brown hit a free throw and Washington connected on a pair to give Hughes its largest lead of the game at 40-32 with 3:47 left. Beene responded, though, by drilling a long 3-pointer. After two more Washington freebies, James Kee sank two free throws to pull HA back to within five at 42-37 with 1:59 left.

Hughes did just enough from the line from there, connecting on 2-of-4 to seal the victory.

“I never thought we’d be holding the ball against Harding Academy in the fourth quarter,” Carmichael said.
“They really scouted us well. They shut down Kevin Brown inside by just sagging, sagging, sagging. They took him away from us.”

Brown finished with seven points.

Harding Academy led just briefly in the first half. Hughes shook off some cold shooting to open an 8-2 lead. Harding Academy pulled to within 21-20 on Nick Beene’s 3-pointer and took the lead with 1:46 until halftime on Alex Beene’s floater in the lane. Two free throws by Michael Darnell gave Hughes its 24-22 halftime lead.

In the girls bracket, Harding Academy advanced to the state tournament and the regional finals with a 48-39 win over 2AA-South foe England. The Lady Lions led HA, 23-21, at the half. Treys by Sara Montgomery and Loghan Lowery in the third quarter put the Lady Wildcats ahead to stay.

Lowery, who led Harding Academy with 15 points, knocked down four consecutive free throws in the final period. The Lady Wildcats connected on 9-of-12 from the line in the final period.

Jessica Stevens added nine points for Harding Academy, which improved to 21-9.
The Lady Bison advanced with an easy 66-37 victory over Augusta in Friday’s late semifinal.
The Leader’s Rick Butler contributed to this story.

SPORTS >> Cabot survives early scare

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers fought off a strong fourth-quarter attack Tuesday night to defeat Conway 62-57 in the opening game of the class AAAAA state tournament at UALR’s Stephens Center.

The Lady Panthers led by 13 at halftime and 48-38 at the end of the third quarter, but Conway came storming back to make it an exciting game at the end. The Lady Wampus Cats scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, and took the lead at 54-53 with 1:32 remaining before the Lady Panthers regained control.

Cabot coach Carla Crowder would have liked for the win to have been easier, but was happy to get into the next round.
“They’ve got a good team and played real hard,” Crowder said. “We didn’t play well in spots, but we made some plays at the end. Hopefully this won’t happen to us again.”

Wyvonne Hawkins’ driving layup and subsequent free throw, her first points of the game, put Conway up for the first time in the game at the 1:32 mark.

Lauren Daniels answered with a minute remaining off an assist by Cabot senior Kim Sitzmann.

Conway’s Caroline Powell walked on the next possession, and Maddie Helms hit two free throws for Cabot to make it 57-54.
Powell missed a three at the other end.

Teammate Shabhree Maxfield got the rebound, but missed a short jumper amid heavy traffic. Sitzmann got that rebound and was fouled. She hit both free throws with 25 seconds left, but Conway still wasn’t finished rallying.

Hawkins hit a three pointer with 17 seconds remaining. It was the first and only three of the game for Conway in 10 attempts.
Conway almost forced a turnover after timeout, but junior Jamie Sterrenberg saved the ball from going out of bounds and hit Sitzmann in the middle of the court. Sitzmann was fouled and hit both free throws with 11 seconds to go to seal the victory.
Maddie Helms added one more free throw with two seconds remaining to set the final margin.

Conway knocked Cabot out of the tournament last year, and that fact was not forgotten. If it was, Sitzmann made sure to bring it back to her teammates attention.

“I had to bring that up,” Sitzmann said. “We were ready to take care of them.”

The Lady Panthers started fast, running out to an 8-2 lead in the first three minutes, including a 6-0 run after a 2-2 start. Conway battled back and tied the game at eight apiece with 3:45 left in the first, but it was all Cabot from there.

Junior Lindsey Watts check-ed into the game and immediately hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Lady Panthers up 18-10.

After a couple of Conway free throws, Sitzmann closed the quarter with a three at the buzzer to make it 21-12 at the end of one.

Cabot didn’t score for over two minutes of the second quarter while committing three straight turnovers, but little damage was done. Conway only scored four points before Sitzmann added two free throws to make it 23-16 with 5:45 left in the second quarter. Lauren Daniels gave the Lady Panthers their first field goal of the quarter with 5:10 left.

Conway’s Chanel Irvin got a bucket and foul to make it 25-19, but after a Jamie Sterrenberg bucket, Sitzmann got a steal and layup to put the Lady Panthers up by 10 for the first time in the game.

Irvin kept getting offensive rebounds and free throws, but Helms made it an 11-point game with 1:38 left in the half with a driving layup and a free throw.

Cabot developed the dropsies again at the start of the second half, but damage was minimal until the fourth quarter as stone-cold shooting prevented the Lady ’Cats from getting any closer than seven points.

Sophomore Leah Watts drilled a three pointer from about 23 feet to put Cabot back up by double digits with 5:26 left in the third.

Sitzmann finished with 24 points to lead all scorers. Helms added 13 for the Lady Panthers.

Irvin led Conway with 15 points while Chelsea Sublett and Maxfield added 14 each.

Conway dominated the boards, finishing with a 37-18 rebounding advantage.
The win puts Cabot into a 1 p.m. matchup Friday against tonight’s Rogers-Lake Hamilton winner.

NEIGHBORS >> Knight’s celebrates 35 years

Leader Publisher

Knight’s in business since 70s

A long time ago, Warren and Sandra Knight had a dream of owning their own business. In 1971, they bought a store in Cabot, which was a sleepy little town, and renamed their business Knight’s Dollar Saver at 302 E. Main at the corner of Grant.
The store, which had 5,000 square feet, did well from the very beginning. Sandra and Warren worked closely together, and as their sons grew, so did their responsibilities at the store.

Knight’s quickly expanded to a full-service supermaket and then opened stores in Beebe and Jacksonville with a total of 157,000 square feet.

The chain has expanded their stores and even rebuilt after a fire at the South Pine location.
Warren Knight passed away last year, but Knight’s remains a family-owned business and hopes to serve the community for a long time.

To celebrate its 35th anniversary, Knight’s is giving away a 60-inch high-definition TV and many other prizes. Drawings will be held at all stores on Saturday, March 25.

In memoriam: Tribute to grocery chain’s founder

This column first appeared on March 2, 2005, and is a tribute to Warren Knight, who passed away on Feb. 27, 2005.
A gentle rain fell Sunday evening only hours after Warren Knight passed away in his sleep at the age of 71 in his Cabot home.
Somebody said the sky was crying as friends and relatives reminisced about this extraordinary man’s life.

He and his wife, Sandra, had founded a chain of supermarkets with a little store in downtown Cabot in 1971, when the city’s population was about a tenth of what it is today.

Warren Knight had hoped his business would grow enough so his three sons would one day own their own homes, his oldest son Keith recalled Sunday.

The family patriarch had passed away early Sunday morning, apparently of a heart attack. His middle son, Kent, who lives next door, had raced over to his parents’ home when his mother told him Warren was unconscious. Paramedics rushed to the home, but they could not revive him.

Warren and Sandra were married for 52 years. She’d dated him when she was just 15. They were from Memphis and were contemporaries of Elvis — Warren a couple of years older and Sandra about the same age.

The Knights married in 1952 and were determined to make a success of themselves despite their modest circumstances.
Memphis, often called the capital of the South, has always had a can-do spirit. Peter Guralnick, Elvis’ biographer says, “Memphis, after all, is a town that has never been prone to self-doubt; civic pride has always held that a city which gave birth to Piggly Wiggly, the Holiday Inn, Elvis Presley and the blues … was somehow touched by magic.”

Guralnick hails “the triumph of the independent spirit, something no Memphian could fail to understand or appreciate,” and he might as well have been thinking of the Knights, who were touched by magic.

They raised a family in Memphis, where Warren worked for the A&P supermarket chain. They eventually moved in Pine Bluff, where Warren worked for Weingarten’s, a Houston-based grocery chain with several stores in Arkansas.

Warren became Weingarten’s Arkansas manager but quit in 1971, taking his family to Cabot, where they bought Thompson’s Dollar Saver, turning it into a success almost immediately with $10,000 in sales the first week, a tremendous amount of money 34 years ago.

The four Knight’s stores gross as much as $1 million a week. He was a smart grocer who understood good food and how it should be presented.

“He wanted his customers to be satisfied,” his wife recalled Sunday.

When a customer complained about some steaks she had bought for a party, Warren took some steaks over to her home and cooked dinner for everybody, cutting up a watermelon for everybody while they waited for dinner. He listened to his customers and valued their opinions. He and Sandra and their three sons helped build the business into a chain of stores in Cabot, Beebe and Jacksonville (which was once a Weingarten’s).

Knight was our only printing customer when we bought our first press more than 15 years ago. He took a chance on us, but since then we’ve printed more than 20 million Knight’s circulars that go into homes from North Little Rock to Searcy.
Warren had health problems in the last few years, but everyone expected him to pull through because he was a strong personality. He’d had a lot of close scrapes, but Sandra and his doctors managed to keep him going.

Warren was a successful businessman, but he never forgot his roots. He helped hundreds of people along the way. He helped people go into business for themselves, lending them money and his invaluable advice.

When you told him you’re buying a printing press, he stuck with you even as you struggled to get the business off the ground.

He helped people survive hard times, and he lifted them out of the abyss. People straightened out their lives and made something of themselves because of Warren.

The Talmud says if you save one life, it’s as if you have saved the whole world.
That was Warren Knight.

TOP STORY >> Newspaper starts its 20th year

The Leader begins 20 years of publication and invites readers to take advantage of an anniversary special.

The Leader is starting its 20th year. To celebrate, start a new subscription or extend your subscription for just $5 a year. That’s two issues a week, 104 issues a year, for less than a nickel per paper.
This offer ends at the end of the week, so mail it in or bring in your coupon today. This spectacular offer is our way of showing our appreciation to this community, which has allowed us to grow from a small newspaper to the largest paid non-daily in Arkansas.
The Leader, which started on March 2, 1987, has more than doubled its circulation in the past two decades.
We’re looking to double our circulation again in the next couple of years.
So start enjoying The Leader, an award-winning newspaper known for its coverage of local news, sports, commentary, features and colorful TV guide.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood mayor will retire

Leader staff writer

“This is my last state of the city address,” Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, 80, announced Monday night at the conclusion of the address brimming with good news about the town’s finances and growth.

Although there had been speculation that Harmon would step down at the end of his fourth term, this first confirmation had Alderman Dan Sted-man hastily scribbling “I will be a candidate for the position of Sherwood mayor” on the back of his business cards, slipping one to each reporter at the end of the meeting.

“Andrew Carnegie said you can take away my steel mills and take away my railroads but leave me my people and I’ll have them all again in two or three years,” said Harmon in tribute to the job city department heads and personnel had done over the years.

Harmon said that city revenues were recovering quickly from the relocation of Wal-Mart and Best Buy to North Little Rock in no small part because of businesses recently opened in the town, businesses such as Gander Mountain, Academy Sports and others, such as Kohls.

He said income had not quite replaced the losses from Wal-Mart and Best Buy, but that while the city had budgeted $3,200,000 from city taxes, it raised $3,400,000.

Harmon said city revenues for 2005 were $493,500 more than expenses.
“We just received the December tax money and it’s $73,000 more than the previous month and $55,000 more than it was last year.

“We came in $600,000 under budget, thanks to the department heads and the council,” he said.

Harmon wasn’t done with the good news, however. A FTD call center had hired 300 people and a Cardinal Health call center would soon begin hiring 500 people.

“Our land use plan has been revised to provide more commercial property in the (undeveloped) north part of the city,” he said.

About 110 acres of new residential and commercial development are slated for the intersection of Brocking-ton Road and Hwy. 107, he said.

Developers have bought 800 more acres they want to annex into the city.
“Growth will come,” he said.

The council unanimously approved in one sitting an ordinance requiring and allowing pawnbrokers within Sherwood to list information about daily transactions on line, making it easier for law enforcement to track stolen property.

Little Rock and North Little Rock have the system and Benton, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Hot Springs either have the system or are looking into it.

The ordinance requires electronic recordkeeping by not only pawnshop operators but dealers in secondhand goods.
In other action, the council tabled declaring two parcels as public nuisance until confusion over the addresses of those properties was resolved.

The council did declare a mobile home at Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park a public nuisance and also finding the triplex at 607 Sherer Plave Drive to constitute a public nuisance.

The council also confirmed Harmon’s appointments of Carolyn Chalmers to the civil service commission and of Arnie Bergquist to the personnel commission.

TOP STORY >> Annexation would add on to Cabot

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District is working with residents in the area of Campground and Stagecoach roads to have the area annexed into the city limits in order for sewer lines to be extended to the proposed site of a new $6 million elementary school. Cabot will not extend sewer services beyond the city limits.

The district’s plan to spend $200,000 to purchase 20.1 acres from Harlan and Carolyn Sanders is contingent on neighboring property owners agreeing to be annexed into the city limits.

“The residents in that area are aware of the advantages of being in the city such as water, sewer, police and fire services,” said Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent for the district. “We’re putting together information on what restrictions they would face in the city limits. None of them have said ‘no’ but we won’t approach the city for sewer services until we file the annexation papers.”

The district currently has seven elementary schools, two middle schools, two junior highs and a nearly completed $13 million high school.

Based on enrollment trends from the past five years, the district, which now has a student population of 8,400, is projected to grow to 10,902, according to Dalton.

In other school business, the district is seeking a $1 million grant from the Arkansas De-partment of Education for an Early Childhood education program at Northside Elementary.

If approved, the grant will be used to fund classes for 4-year-olds as well as before- and after-school programs.

The district already has early childhood education programs in place at Westside Elementary and Ward Central Elementary such as playgroups for 3- to 5-year-olds, computer instruction, library access and tutoring in math, literacy and science. Board members Brooks Nash and Wendel Msall were recognized for receiving their certification from the Arkansas School Board Association (ASBA).

The ASBA requires that all school board members have at least nine hours of training. Msall and Nash have completed more than 15 hours of training.

TOP STORY >> Tax base small for separate districts

Leader staff writer

There may not be sufficient tax revenue north of the Arkansas River to support separate school districts for both Jacksonville and North Little Rock, a consultant hired to sort out Pulaski County’s public school mess told a meeting of county mayors and the county judge Tuesday.

Thanks to special language inserted into the state Education Department’s budget by state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jack-sonville, the state has hired William Gordon Associates of Saluda, N.C., for $244,120 to study realignment of public school districts in Pulaski County, which are inextricably joined by a 20-year-old school de-segregation agreement.

Meeting with mayors Tommy Swaim of Jack-sonville, Burch Johnson of Maumelle, Pat Hayes of North Little Rock, and Jim Daily of Little Rock and with County Judge Buddy Villines, Gordon Tuesday morning said it was too early to know what his group would recommend, but he eliminated the idea of one district for the entire county.

Gordon said that the desegregation agreement was the gorilla in the room when considering best ways to realign school districts in the county.

Gordon said that the Little Rock School District had met most of the requirements to be released by Judge Bill Wilson from the agreement, but that releasing one district before the others would throw the desegregation case “into chaos.”

“The desegregation agreement is a can of worms,” said Gordon. “You have three systems in different stages of unitary status.”

Gordon said he was surprised that neither the North Little Rock District nor the Pulaski County Special School District had filed for unitary school status to either get released from the agreement or find out what additional work they needed to do first.

“I’m not convinced that desegregation is improving the quality of education,” said Swaim.

Swaim disputed the notion that people in his area would not support a millage increase to support the schools.
“PCSSD has never shown us we could get enough benefit,” he said.

But he noted that Jacksonville-area residents have approved several bond issues and tax increases in the past few years, after they were shown how they would benefit—taxes for a new library, to promote tourism and for the military museum, for instance.

Gordon agreed that there did seem to be a disparity, with PCSSD schools south of the river in better condition than north of the river.

“Jacksonville High School needs help,” he said.

Jacksonville has been working toward its own school district since 1976 and Swaim said they had commissioned an extensive study and that they were “very confident we’ll have sufficient funds.”

Hays said that if the county’s schools were eventually reconfigured into two districts, one north of the river, one south, the north district would have to be “a true merger,” not just tacking Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle on to the existing North Little Rock District.

Rounded off, North Little Rock has 60,000 residents, which is actually less than the combined populations of Jacksonville (30,000), Sherwood (22,000) and Maumelle (15,000.)

Gordon Associates, which specializes in desegregation agreements and problems, must make recommendations to the state General Assembly by June 30 on realignment and on getting out from under federal courts’ desegregation supervision.

Hays suggested one money-saving device would be to transport students by Central Arkansas Transit Authority instead of a huge, inefficient fleet of school buses, and Gordon replied that had been done successfully in some places.

Gordon Associates will meet Wednesday night with the PCSSD board and Thursday morning with the Jacksonville Chamber of Com-merce Education Committee, which includes some of the activists trying for a stand-alone district.

Gordon said he and his associates needed more travel money to continue the rest of their study. He expects to return to Pulaski County twice in April, once in May and then come back in June.

TOP STORY >> Cabot council is close to deal

Leader staff writer

The transfer of authority over Cabot’s water and sewer systems from the mayor and council to a new commission approved by voters more than a year ago is one major step closer to completion.

After months of talking about getting together for a roundtable discussion, the two groups finally did that Monday night with all members from both groups present. They dissected the is-sues that have kept the transfer from being completed – such as real estate, personal property contracts and a franchise – and suggested solutions that could be acted upon during an official council meeting. The consensus at the end of the two-hour meeting was that it had been productive.
“I think we’ve got some things resolved. I hope,” commission chairman J.M. Park said.

The most pressing issue was Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh’s veto of a document called an “assignment and assumption agreement,” which would have turned contracts made by the city over to the Water and Wastewater Commission. Those contracts were as inconsequential as uniform service and as weighty as the engineering contracts for major water and sewer projects and contracts to buy water.

Without the agreement, the other parties to the contracts would not necessarily recognize the commission’s authority.
“We probably need this one settled more than any one on the list,” Park said.

But tucked into the assignment and assumption agreement was a reference to deeds.

The mayor also vetoed legislation that would give the commission control of property owned by water and sewer and he said since he vetoed that he had no choice about vetoing the assignment and assumption agreement because of its reference to deeds.

If the commission would take that out, he would not veto it again, he said.

The agreement passed the council 8-0.

Six votes would override the veto, but Park said he would rather present it again without the language the mayor objected to instead of asking the council to override.

“I have absolutely no problem with y’all assuming those controls,” Stumbaugh said. “If y’all have the money, y’all should have the control (a reference to the commission already assuming control of the bank ac-counts for water and wastewater).”

The council was amenable to deeding the commission assets such as equipment, but only after a thorough inventory, which the mayor said could take most of the year.

The council further agreed to consider giving real property such as the water-well field and the old post office that now houses Cabot Public Works on a case-by-case basis.

Alderman David Polantz said those as-sets really don’t belong to the city because they were paid for with water revenue.
But elected council members not appointed commissioners should have control over them.

The franchise agreement the mayor vetoed could be back under a new name because some council members fear that a franchise fee might be added in the future.

“We won’t call it a franchise agreement,” said Tad Bohannon, counsel for the commission. “We’ll call it an agreement of operation and understanding… I’m not wedded to the term franchise. It’s just what you usually see.”

But regardless of the name, several members of the council want some provisions changed.

Alderman Jerry Ste-phens said he objected to the commission ex-tending sewer service outside city limits when some city residents have been waiting for the service for 30 years.

Aldermen David Po-lantz and Odis Way-mack agreed.
The city’s policy has always been that anyone who wants sewer must agree to be annexed.
Don Keesee, vice chairman of the commission, pointed out that such a policy would prevent the city from extending sewer service to a new elementary school proposed for Campground Road.

It can’t be annexed because it doesn’t abut the city limits.
But the council members stood their ground and the commission conceded to give final authority on that issue to the council.

TOP STORY >> Unsafe at any speed?

Leader staff writer

Truck driver in fatal crash is identified

Donald Watkins, 35, of Bald Knob has been identified as the driver of the loaded gravel truck that apparently started the six-vehicle, chain-reaction accident that resulted in the death of Jerry S. Justice, Jr., of Ward, and the hospitalization of four other people Thursday, according to State Police reports.

State Police had not previously released the driver’s name.

Justice, of 22 Geraldine Court, the driver of a black 1995 Ford pickup truck, was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained when the Burns Trucking Freightliner dump truck hauling gravel from Bald Knob to North Little Rock came upon stopped traffic on the Hwy. 67/167 overpass at Main Street in Jacksonville, and swerved into the right lane, slamming the two smaller trucks off the overpass and plunging with them down to Main Street below.

Three other vehicles involved in the accident stayed on the overpass and the occupants were not hospitalized, according to the report.

The overpass does not meet modern specifications and could be upgraded to meet standards.

“The accident is still under investigation, according to Capt. Gloria Weakland, Troop A commander.

The investigation would be forwarded to the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s office. She said that’s because it was a fatality accident with special circumstances, such as starting on a state highway and ending on a Jacksonville city Street.
Prosecutor Larry Jegley’s office confirmed Tuesday that it had not received the report.

Justice’s wife, Monica Justice, was still in stable condition at St. Vincent Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.
Justice’s mother, Patricia Jus-tice, also of Ward, is in stable condition in the Rebsamen Medical Center ICU Tuesday, according to a spokesman, and Danny Craw-ford was transferred to Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock Monday.

In the same 1990 GMC pickup truck with Crawford, 29, of Romance, was Tommy Simpson, 32, of Mt. Vernon.
Baptist Hospital said it could not release any information on Simpson, a patient since Thurs-day.

The accident stripped several concrete posts and guardrails from the inside southbound lane of Hwy. 67/167, but by Tuesday morning state Highway Depart-ment workers were restoring the railing, according to a Highway Department spokesman.

He said the repairs should be completed by early next week.

The overpass was built in 1960 to then-prevailing design standards, but could not be built that way today.

As per the 1960 standards, the two-lane overpass is 28 feet wide, built with guardrail attached to reinforced concrete posts.
The same overpass built today would be 40 feet wide.

Visitation for Justice will be from 6 until 8 p.m. Friday at Boyd Funeral Home, 202 E. Second Street in Lonoke, according to a funeral home representative. Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hicks Ceme-tery on Mt. Tabor Road (off Hwy. 31 North) in Lonoke County.

Justice was a security guard at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for the past six years, according to a hospital spokesman.
“Jerry was an outstanding officer, devoted to his family, a very dedicated employee,” according to Dan McFadden, spokesman for Children’s Hospital.

“He was customer friendly and always willing to go the extra mile for patients and their families,” said McFadden, “as well as ACH employees and fellow officers. He will definitely be missed by us all at ACH.”

McFadden said Justice’s fellow security guards would serve as pall- bearers at the funeral and a hospital memorial would be set at the family’s convenience.