Friday, June 09, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 06-10-06

Thelma Waymire

Thelma Louise Waymire, 80, of Beebe, formerly of Pangburn, died May 7. She is survived by two daughters, Loretta Norman of Illinois and Melinda Sue Eubanks of Kansas City, Kan.; 10 grandchildren, Pamela Laymon of Greenbrier, Tamera White of Friendswood, Texas, Randy Corpening of Virginia, Christinia Morrison of Tulsa, Okla., Aaron Cooper of Tennessee, Dewey Cooper of Tulsa, Okla., Melinda Weiser of Illinois, James Eubanks of Kansas City, Kan., Lottie Eubanks of Texas and Krystal Eubanks of Kansas City, Kan.; and 15 great-grandchildren. Family will receive friends from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe, with cremation to follow.

Edna Smith

Edna Smith was born Aug. 9, 1924, in Crisfield, Md., and departed June 9. She is survived by five children: Allen and wife Susan Smith of Vilonia, Victor and wife Debi Smith and Troy and wife Belinda Smith of California, Sandra Smith of Washington and April Smith of Vilonia; six grandchildren and eight great- grandkids. She has lived in Arkansas for the past 10 years. Funeral services will be 1 p.m. Monday at Zion Hill Baptist Church, Cabot.
Interment will be in Maryland. Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

TOP STORY >> Moratorium on building could end

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Cabot commission works out a solution to the maxed-out pumping system in Hwy. 321 area.

The moratorium on building on Hwy. 321 in Cabot could be over soon since the Water and Wastewater Com-mission has worked out a solution to the maxed-out sewer-pumping system in that area.

Building permits will be issued as soon as developers of five planned subdivisions in the area that will add 397 new customers to the system pay about $235 for each meter that will be set. The money collected will pay for about $93,000 in upgrades to the lift station and force main.

The problem the commission faced in dealing with the outgrown pumping system was that the city doesn’t own it. It belongs to the Cabot South Sewer Improvement District, which built it about 10 years ago and whose customers are paying for it on their real-estate tax bills.

Before new developments could use the system, the owners had to pay the improvement district an amount equal to what the original customers had paid over the years.

For Jim Green, a Jacksonville developer trying to build his first subdivision in Cabot, that means he will have to pay Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission $42,000 in addition to the $60,000 or so he has already paid Cabot South Sewer subdivision. Although the city has maintained the system in the sewer district since it was built, Bill Cypert, commission secretary, said he could find no records of the system being dedicated to the city or of the city agreeing to maintain it.

So the nature of the relationship between the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission and the commission that runs the Cabot South Sewer Improvement District is unclear. But Cypert made it clear Thursday night, during the regular commission meeting that from here on out, the commission, not the improvement district will deal with developers.

The city is under a consent order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to improve its sewer system or pay heavy fines or worse.

“This is serious business,” Cypert said. “If something goes awry, the whole construction on that end of town could be shut down.”

In other business, the commission spoke to Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent for Cabot School District, who asked the commission to help pay for a $130,000, 14-inch water line to the planned elementary school at Campground and Kerr Station. The commission agreed to consider the request but made no promises.

Dalton had two selling points for the request for any assistance the commission might give.

The school district is one of the water department’s biggest customers, he said. If the school is built there, the area will certainly develop and bring in even more customers.

And the district will never make any money back on laying the large water line.

“We’re not contractors. We’re not ever going to see any profit off this,” Dalton told the commission.

The commission also heard from Vernon Williams with USI-Arkansas, Inc., the engineering firm that will build the new sewer plant.

Williams told the commission the construction plan is on schedule and the plant should be substantially completed by Dec. 31, 2007. Improvement District.

Green, who attended the Thursday night commission meeting, said he will pay because he has no choice if he wants to continue with plans for his 182-home Lakewood

TOP STORY >> Conservative vs. moderate in party feud

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Randy Minton rejects the label “ultraconservative” for the Republican Assembly and disputes notion of power struggle in the county party.

The Arkansas Republican Assembly, which has recently asserted itself in Lonoke County by fielding two candidates who—barring a change in Saturday’s recount — un-seated two incumbent Republicans, embraces all the conservative and traditional family values, according to Randy Minton of Cabot.

The ARRA wants to uphold the Consti-tution, promote free-market capitalism and the Bill of Rights, according to Minton, who is a board member.

Minton objects to the characterization of the group as “ultraconservative,” saying it was “mainstream conservative.”
The assembly refers to itself as “The Republican wing of the Re-publican Party.”

Until about 10 years ago, the Lonoke County Quorum Court was strictly the domain of the Democrats. Now all the Cabot-area seats are held by Republicans, who enjoy a one-vote advantage on the court.

But among those Republicans, “some of political principals we be-lieved in were being pushed to the side,” said Minton. That’s why the assembly recruited other Repub-licans to run against Dist. 12 JP Gina Burton and Dist. 13 JP Marty Stumbaugh.

Burton lost her race to newcomer Casey Van Buskirk by only six votes, 115 to 109, and Stumbaugh lost to newcomer Mark Edward 151 to 125.

Both incumbents asked for recounts, which were to have been conducted Saturday.

Stumbaugh says Minton and the others in the Republican Assembly were punishing him for his vote with Democratic JPs on a tax issue nearly two years ago to raise revenues to fix and expand the jail.

“Locally we are concerned about any kind of tax increases, about not being good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” Minton said. “We’re concerned about growth of government and trying to control those type things.”

People should be able to redirect existing taxes, according to Minton. That’s what he and also most of the Republicans on the quorum court tried to do—put a referendum on the ballot to direct more of the county sales tax money to county government, less to the cities.

Stumbaugh voted with the Democrats, who offered a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax to fix the jail—a proposal that lost.

Burton said she believed that Minton and the Republican Assem-bly singled her out for replacement because she won the county Repub-lican Party chairmanship and be-cause he was later defeated by a single vote by Prosecutor Lona Mc-Castlain’s deputy, Chuck Graham.

People on Minton’s side claim more moderate Republicans brought in a bunch of ringers to join the party and vote for Graham.

The moderates say they had been recruiting actively for a long time.

Minton said the successful effort to replace Burton with newcomer Casey Van Buskirk was not vindictive, “just a difference in philosophy of governance.”

“In Gina’s case, there were times she voted with the Democrats on the quorum court,” Minton said.

He said there is no schism in the county Republican Party, though he agreed there were factions, like those that might exist on a corporate board of directors.

Minton, who is on the board of the ARRA and is president of the Arkansas chapter of the equally conservative Eagle Forum, says he doesn’t have time to seek the county chairmanship next time.

But he said he wouldn’t rule out other races. State Rep. Susan Schulte, R-Cabot, will be term-limited in 2007 and state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, will be term- limited out of the Senate after four more years.

Glover beat Minton in the 2002 general election.

In theory, Minton could serve two years after Schulte, then run for Glover’s seat.

Minton said the number of contested Republican primaries is an indication of the growth of the party.

“When a party changes from minority part to majority party, you always have people who see the change and want to be on the winning side,” Minton said. “The Republican Assembly wants to make sure that we have people who are elected who believe in conservative principles.”

The assembly is also trying to grow its influence statewide and to make sure that the leadership of state party reflects more closely the conservative values.

As for the victories by Van Buskirk and Edwards, majority of the credit needs to go to those two candidates, door to door, asking for votes, he said. The assembly ran newspaper ads endorsing a slate that included the two, JP Larry Odom and for Cabot mayor, Bill “Pete” Pederson, who lost to Eddie Joe Williams.

They also distributed 3,500 door hangers.

As for President Bush, Minton said the Assembly thinks he’s done a good job on family-value issues like abortion, gay marriage and cutting taxes and fighting terrorism abroad, but not such a good job holding down spending, expansion of federal education budget and dealing with illegal immigration.

TOP STORY >>Voters set to choose mayor, JP in runoff

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Local voters return to the polls Tuesday to decide who will be the Lonoke mayor and who will
represent a district including parts of McAlmont, Sherwood and Jacksonville on the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Voters will decide a handful of local contests and pick their favorites in three races for statewide office in primary runoffs Tuesday.
Meanwhile, recounts were slated for 10 a.m. Saturday in three Lonoke County Republican primary races—two of them at the request of defeated incumbents, the other in the case of a Cabot alderman’s race decided by a single vote out of the 1,171 cast.


In a four-way primary contest in Lonoke May 23, voters turned Mayor Thomas Privett out of office, setting up a Democratic runoff between Alderman Wayne McGee and former Alderman Jim Parks. Since there are no Republican or independent opponents, the winner of the runoff will be Lonoke’s next mayor.

McGee’s race against Parks may be less about substance than style, with each promising to continue the work Privett initiated to attract business and to bring a second I-40 interchange to Lonoke.


McGee is an open-faced good ole boy, buying and trading cars, selling furniture and running an auction company, all with his cousin Gaylen McGee. Inclined toward blue jeans, shorts and polo shirts, his is a down-home appeal. He says he knows everyone in town and, delivering furniture, has been in about everyone’s home.

Parks, on the other hand, favors more formal attire like the crisp, three-piece suit and shined shoes he wore speak last week before the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce.

Tall, white-haired and angular, he often refers to himself in the third person, promising to bring professionalism to the office.

A former manager and sales representative for Abbot Labora-tories, Parks implies that he is best suited to meet with national and international representatives seeking to locate a manufacturing plant.

Both men say they expect a light turnout for the runoff and just hope to get their supporters to the polls.

In Pulaski County, voters in parts of Sherwood, McAlmont and Jacksonville will pick the next Pulaski County District 10 Justice of the Peace, choosing between the incumbent, Rev. Robert E. Green, and former JP John Mass.

Between them, Mass, Green or Green’s wife has represented the district for more than a decade. Among those voting locations are the Jacksonville Community Cen-ter and the Bill Harmon Recreation Center in Sherwood.


Statewide races on the Demo-cratic runoff ballot pit state Rep. Tim Wooldridge against Bill Halter for the nomination for lieutenant governor, and North Little Rock City Attorney Paul Suskie and state Rep. Dustin McDaniel for attorney general. Martha Schoffner and Mac Campbell are in a runoff state treasurer.

The winner of the Wooldridge-Halter race will face Republican state Sen. Jim Holt in November.

The winner of the increasingly contentious primary runoff for attorney general will face Gunner Delay in November.
Schoffner or Campbell will face Republican Chris Morris.


Carl Schmidt, who lost 586 to 585 to Virgil Teague Jr. in a Republican primary race for Cabot alderman Ward 2, Position 1, seems the most likely to turn an election around.

Dist. 12 JP Gina Burton, who lost her race to newcomer Casey Van Buskirk by only six votes, 115 to 109, has asked for a recount, and so has Dist. 13 JP Marty Stumbaugh, who lost to newcomer Mark Edward, 151 to 125.

TOP STORY >> Bikers protect funeral

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: An anti-gay group mars funeral with chants and signs.

Six wholesome-looking church-goers holding signs proclaiming God’s hate for America faced off against hundreds of grungy-looking bikers in vests and doo-rags proclaiming His love.

That was the scene in Beebe on Wednesday afternoon for the funeral service of Army Specialist Bobby West, who died May 30 in Iraq.

Surreal, perhaps, but it is a scene played out almost daily across the nation as soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan come home for the last time. Members of the small Topeka, Kan., Westboro Baptist Church, whose 70 to 100 members are mostly the family of Fred Phelps, who founded it in 1955, schedule anti-gay protests wherever time permits. And where they are, the Patriot Guard Riders are there also, waving American flags and serving as a human shield to block the mourners’ view of the protesters.

Jonathan Phelps, the seventh of Fred Phelps’ 13 children, and one of the lawyers in the family, was leading the group Wednesday, which also included his younger sister Abigail, and four teenage boys.

He said the church’s mission is to tell the world that homosexuality is wrong and that nations that tolerate it are damned. That the dissenting viewpoint from the bikers across the highway was the one shared by most people was not a concern.
“We don’t care,” Phelps said. “We publish the message. That’s all that matters. We’re not interested in changing anybody’s views.”

And whether the bikers (whom Phelps called “biker bitches”) like it or not, they help get that message out.

“Even though they sometimes beat us to a bloody pulp, they’re serving us so we love them,” he said. “When they come we get more publicity, so we love them to death.”

If the signs they carried – “Don’t worship the dead,” “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God hates your tears” — weren’t enough to rile the bikers, the Phelps’ family’s actions were.

Abigail Phelps wore an American flag for a skirt.

“I’m not just wearing it,” she said. “I’m wearing it upside down to show this nation is in distress. I’m giving it its due respect.”
Later, her brother dragged it on the ground, as the two groups shouted across Hwy. 64 at each other.

Most of the bikers, who lined up for for a roaring procession down Hwy. 64 and in front of First Baptist Church where the funeral was held, came from Arkansas and had never attended one of the Phelps’ rallies. But some, like John Leke from Trinton, Tenn., makes it a point to be where they are as often as he can.

“I’ve been to at least a half dozen,” he said.

The Patriot Guard Riders are a loosely knit organization made up of numerous veterans and biker groups who have been working together since last summer to counter the work of Phelps’ church. They reportedly started with the American Legion Riders Chapter 136 from Kansas who mustered enough bikers for a counter protest at the funeral of Sgt. John Doles. Since that time their campaign has gone national, with every state responsible for finding enough bikers to cover funerals where the church pickets.

In the case of the West funeral, the family asked the guard to attend, said Pete Waddell, the state president. The family asked for 30 bikers, but by using mass e-mail to get the word out, 300 showed up.

Among them was Lee Lowder whose biker vest said he was a member of the Highway Hedges Ministry in Little Rock.

That the bikers’ appearance at the funeral brought more attention to the demonstrators was not of particular concern to Lowder.

“We’re bringing more attention to what’s right,” Lowder said. “These people have a very distorted view of who God is.”

Some of the counter protesters said they were there because they remembered how they were treated when they returned from Viet-nam. Still others said they came to block the view.

Dressed in typical summer apparel and standing elbow to elbow with the bikers were Josh Kamer, Ashley Mitchell and Cassie Metcalf, teenagers from Beebe, who said they came because it was the right thing to do.

“We’re here to support the family and all the people overseas doing what they’re doing,” Kamer said.

Margie and Micah Briley and their three children from nearby Austin stood quietly on the corner near the church driveway holding a large American flag in an attempt to shield West’s family from the protesters.

Micah Briley’s brother, Chief Warrant Officer Donovan Briley, died in Mogadishu, Somalia, when the Blackhawk helicopter he co-piloted went down. The Oct. 3, 1993, mission in which 18 Ame-rican soldiers were killed, 73 were wounded and 500 to 1,000 So-malis were killed changed Ame-rican policy on interfering with foreign governments and became the subject of the movie “Blackhawk Down.”

“We tried to get right in front of them, but the police asked us to leave,” Margie Briley said.

The Phelps’ demonstration was just as disgusting as she had anticipated it would be, Briley said.

“I believe they have the right to protest, but you shouldn’t protest the very people who give you that right,” she said.

Army Reserve Sgt. Kenneth Kimball, who said he had been home from Iraq for only two days, was the only person across the highway from the protesters who was dressed in uniform. He squatted in the middle of the driveway to the church, seemingly contemplating the scene.

“It’s disturbing,” he said of the protesters and their signs. Asked what bothered him the most, he said, “The kids.”

Keeping the peace at the protest were dozens of law-enforcement officers, including 18 from White County, 12 state troopers and two policemen from Bradford.

Asked if he was concerned for the safety of the children who accompanied him, Jonathan Phelps said, “That one over there in purple is a champion runner. And the other three, I guess are in training.”

Bradford Police Chief Josh Chambliss, who returned home from Iraq to a 9-month-old baby he had never seen before, had no comment about what he witnessed Wednesday.

But he said he felt he should be there, so he volunteered himself and one other officer.

White County Sheriff Pat Garrett said he brought in volunteers and off-duty deputies to make sure the county was covered while so many were in Beebe.

“This man gave up his life so these people have the right to protest,” Garrett said.

“As a Marine veteran, I find it offensive, but this is the United States of America, and they have the right to believe what they want.”

Phelps said members of Westboro Baptist Church never picket the funerals of soldiers whose families have indicated that the services are to be private.

“We target only those wanting to use dead children to promote the idea that America is OK,” he said.

A new state law prohibits de-monstrating during funerals, so eventually, the Phelps group left, the police officers thinned out and the counter demonstrators relaxed and waited for the funeral procession to the cemetery while “An American Soldier” by Toby Keith played continually from a car parked on the grass near the highway.

Jessica and Janette Allen, sisters from Sherwood who are home from college for the summer, arrived after the demonstrators left and took their places at the end of the church driveway, saying they wanted to be sure the family saw their signs.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend, John 15:13,” read Janette’s poster board sign.
Her sister’s was simpler. “We love you Bobby,” it said.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Shameful protest

Leader publisher

Jonathan Phelps and his small group from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., this week demonstrated at two funerals for soldiers who were recently killed in Iraq.

Phelps and his group don’t mourn the deaths of soldiers like everyone else but celebrate their passing as evidence of divine retribution for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.

I walked up to Phelps as the de-monstration was winding down at Army Specialist Bobby West’s funeral in Beebe. Phelps’ time was almost up — his group had to leave half an hour before the funeral service started — and I wanted to talk to him before he left.

He’s an affable person, with an easy smile who looks like a high school coach or a minister. He’s a good talker. He later told me he’s been a practicing attorney for 20 years.

“We’ve had to deliver a message,” Phelps said. “Doom and gloom is facing this country. I read the Bible. Any nation that goes the way of Sodom and Gemorrah awaits a similar fate.”

Phelps and his group have held demonstrations almost every day for 15 years. Phelps says he averages three demonstrations a week at funerals for soldiers who’d been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Military funerals are where the action is,” he told us.

His father and church leader, Brother Fred Phelps, did not attend Wednesday’s protest here. “He was giving an interview to Rolling Stone magazine,” Phelps said, laughing. It didn’t seem to bother him that the publisher of that counterculture publication is gay.

The group had been to Arkansas before. Phelps was pleased that we noted in an editorial that his group had picketed at the funeral of Virginia Kelly, Bill Clinton’s mother.

The church was upset with Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuals in the military. “It’s a sodomite agenda,” Phelps said. “His momma raised him from the Devil.”

They were now on Hwy. 64 in Beebe, waving and singing and stomping on flags and holding up signs that said “America Is Doomed,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

An improvised explosive device had killed West, 23, in Baghdad on May 30. His funeral was about to start at First Baptist Church of Beebe, across the road from where Phelps and his entourage were whooping it up, while counterdemonstrators, most of them bikers with U.S. flags, lined up in two long rows in front of the church.

There was some tension in the air, but law-enforcement officials kept the two sides apart. Someone was carrying an eight-inch knife, but the police took it away from him.

Phelps’ group carried other signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Is Your Enemy” and “God Hates Fag Enablers.”

There were cheers when the protesters left Beebe. Phelps and his group walked to their cars and headed for Gerard, Kan., where they picketed at the funeral for a young Marine who was recently killed in the fighting.

He says he keeps up with military funerals by checking a Pentagon Web site and doing Google searches.

We called Phelps on Thursday evening and asked him how the funeral in Kansas had gone.

“It was a grand and glorious event,” said Phelps, talking to us at his church. “The Marine who was killed was very popular in Crawford County, Kansas, where the funeral was held. He was touted as a big hero. We had to set the record straight.
“God is destroying this nation,” he continued.

“It’s not a question of if but when it will be destroyed. He is killing the fruit of this nation in that war. God will bring this nation to Judgment Day by fire and by flood.”

SATURDAY EDITORIAL >> For local boys, on Tuesday

Arkansas will hold its general primaries Tuesday statewide in the case of the Democrats and in far-scattered precincts in the case of Republicans, and the voters are expected to be few and far between. The low turnout could be a record for the modern era. But we do not invalidate the results of an election simply because they reflect the consensus of very few. So let us pay some attention to these races even though the offices do not ordinarily engage us.

Democrats will choose their nominees for attorney general, lieutenant governor and state treasurer. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate in the few dozen hours a year that it is in session, at least when he wants to. The treasurer keeps a set of books on state expenditures and, with the guidance of a board and under the strictures of state law, invests idle government money. The attorney general is only the government’s chief legal counsel, but attorneys general the past 40 years have exercised important discretion in lots of affairs, and you are choosing someone who likely will be the next governor or U.S. senator or at least a powerful contender for one of those offices.

All three races are apt to be decided by a single factor, the loyalty of friends and neighbors. Three contiguous counties in northeast Arkansas have candidates in the races, a coincidence that serves all three of those candidates well. On the other hand, North Little Rock has a candidate for attorney general and another for lieutenant governor. Community or regional pride is a strong draw in statewide races, though it is a somewhat weaker factor in an urban area like Pulaski County. Mac Campbell, who is running for state treasurer, is the only candidate for a state office from outside either region, and he may stir some turnout in remote Boone County near the Missouri border. In the other 70 counties, the turnout is sure to be dismal.

We make recommendations in two of the races and, yes, they are next-door North Little Rock boys, but we are presumptuous enough to believe that they are also the best candidates.

As we observed before, the candidates for attorney general, Paul Suskie of North Little Rock and Dustin McDaniel of Jonesboro, are extraordinarily talented and promising young men. We can envision a Governor Suskie or a Governor McDaniel one day and harbor no fears.

Suskie is the North Little Rock city attorney, just back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. City attorneys are a dime a dozen, but Suskie has been an inventive one. He developed ways of shutting down the community’s drug houses. Young McDaniel, of Jonesboro, was one of the most energetic members of the House of Representatives, where he had but one big misstep, but that a very big one. He sponsored the legislation that hands commercial real estate developers, including a big contributor to his campaign, a siphon hose into state public-school funds. That is the tax-increment-financing law.
We give Paul Suskie the edge.

It is not close in the lieutenant governor’s race. North Little Rock’s Bill Halter inflates his résumé by claiming earthshaking achievements as a functionary in the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton White House and later as second in command at the Social Security Administration, and he plans all sorts of initiatives in an office that will not accommodate such ambitions, but both those attributes are second nature to politicians now. Oh, and he favors a lottery as a solution to education problems, a foolish but popular notion.

Still, Halter is progressive, bright and articulate, and he has run an above-board campaign.

His opponent, Sen. Tim Woodridge of Paragould, is a veteran state lawmaker, but that somewhat lengthy service does not particularly recommend him. A good benchmark for a legislator in 2006 is how he or she voted on legislation to take away the right of a municipal utility to protect the water supply for its citizens. Wooldridge voted to prevent Central Arkansas Water from protecting Lake Maumelle, the principal water source for all of us in central Arkansas, from the contamination of the development by million-dollar homes on the slopes above the water intake. He went with the developer, Deltic Timber Corp.

That is not the only instance that his judgment failed him acutely. In the House of Representatives he sponsored a bill to install public hangings on the courthouse squares of Arkansas’s 75 counties as the method of execution. Now he says he was not exactly serious, that he did it for a constituent who kept bugging him to do it. But the record shows that he fought hard and earnestly for it before a House committee killed it. This week, his campaign let loose a broadside against Halter, accusing him of being a friend of perverts and pornographers because internet surfers could access porn sites through a technology company on whose board Halter has sat.

Bill Halter is the clear choice for lieutenant governor.

For treasurer, we have no recommendation. Mac Campbell of Harrison is a personable and bright young man who served as a legislative assistant and tax counsel in the office of U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Like Halter, he makes his ordinary labor there sound groundbreaking, and he does boast about the work to repeal the inheritance tax on very wealthy families (several of which are supporting him financially).

His opponent, former state Rep. Martha Shoffner of Newport, inflates the pedestrian work that she did in the state auditor’s office, and her legislative tenure was hardly superlative. The Democrat-Gazette once labeled her as “furniture” in the House.
How do you choose between them? We can’t and we won’t.

SPORTS >> CASL gets started with large tri-meet

Leader sports writers

IN SHORT: Cabot, Sherwood and Lonoke meet at the Lonoke Community Center today, the opening day for the Central Arkansas Swim League.

The Central Arkansas Swim League gets started again this weekend, and three local teams will be competing at the same venue in week one.

Sherwood, Cabot and Lonoke will meet at the Lonoke Community Center at 8 a.m. today for a tri-meet to kick off the new season.

The meet marks the beginning of the Sherwood Sharks’ quest for a third-straight CASL championship, and it’s very likely to happen.

Sherwood comes back from its second consecutive league championship with its largest team ever. Around 210 young athletes make up the Sharks’ roster, including several that won Meet of Champions’ titles last year.

Sherwood’s team organizer and lead volunteer Mary Jo Heye is excited about the growing popularity of the sport.
“The popularity of swimming is really picking up,” Heye said. “I think a lot of it is word of mouth. Kids are going back to school and telling friends how great it is. It’s the fastest growing high-school sport in the state of Arkansas. It’s a good lifelong sport, and a good crosstraining activity for athletes in other sports.”

Jacksonville High School started a swim team three years ago. They were coached by Cabot’s CASL coach Debbie Skidmore.
Cabot just finished its first year of high school swimming as well.

Skidmore has been back at work with the Cabot summer swimmers in recent weeks, and expects to field a competitive team again this year. Like last year, 12- and 14-under girls will be Cabot’s deepest group, but the team excels in several divisions and age groups.

One thing that hasn’t gone well for Cabot already this season is the lack of a home pool.

The Piranhas arranged a deal with the Jacksonville Community Center to host events there, but the comm. center’s pool’s roof is being renovated, and repairs are taking longer than expected.

Cabot is acting as the host team at this weekend’s meet, but the venue had to be changed because of the repairs in Jacksonville.

Lonoke is the smallest team in CASL.

Last year the Sharkrockets teamed up with Bryant, but will team with the North Little Rock YMCA for the 2006 season.
Although smaller in numbers than other local teams, the Sharkrockets continue to grow every year.

Now in their fourth season, the Sharkrockets started with just 20 swimmers, but have seen that number grow to over 60 at the start of spring practice this May.

Sharkrockets team organizer Susan Wright has also noticed the increased popularity of the sport in recent summers.
She says many younger swimmers have come from surrounding areas like England, Scott, Carlisle and Humnoke, tripling the Sharkrockets’ roster in a mere three summers.

“I am really encouraged by all of the new kids that have joined,” Wright said.

“Those are my heroes. These kids are learning how to swim while competing with other kids, and that takes a lot of courage.
“It’s exciting for a rural area like Lonoke to have a nice facility where kids can come and take part in a league like this. Not every kid is a baseball player, so it’s nice to have an alternative for them.”

There are only four meets this year, and they will be every Saturday for three weeks before taking the July 1 date off.

The final regular-season meet will be held July 8, and the meet of champions will take place at UALR on July 15.

SPORTS >> Bruins split with Colts at De Salvo

Leader sports writer

IN SHORT: Sylvan Hills AAA legion team shared a double dip Wednesday night against North Little Rock at Burns Park.

It was another split for Sylvan Hills in Class A and Class AAA American Legion play against the North Little Rock Colts Wednesday night at Vince De Salvo Stadium in Burns Park. The Class A Bruins dropped their second straight game in a 16-4 rout by the Colts. The AAA Bruins held off a late-game charge from NLR after holding a seven-run lead through much of the contest to win 8-4.

Sylvan Hills pitcher Ashur Toliver gave up three of his total six allowed hits in the bottom of the seventh, along with the Bruins’ only two fielding errors of the game that resulted in a three-run inning for the Colts.

Toliver hung on for the win, going the entire seven innings on 105 throws. The future UALR Trojan struck out 11 batters, gave up six hits and three walks, along with three earned runs.

The SH runs were evenly scattered throughout the game. The Bruins took a 4-0 lead after two innings, and added another pair of runs in the third before tacking on their final two scores in the top for the fifth inning.

A solo home run from Brad Swiderski over the left-field wall in the bottom of the third was the Colts’ only score through the first six innings, until they were able to take advantage of a tiring Toliver during the final frame for their best turn of the night. Toliver had sent them three-and-out the inn-ing before, but North Little Rock would come two batters shy of making it through the lineup in the bottom of the seventh.

Sylvan Hills’ first score of the night should have been the final out of the inning in the top of the first. After a pop-up to right from Ritchie Irvan, Austin Gwatney changed his mind on tagging up after the ball quickly made its way to the plate from Colts right fielder Patrick Strack. Gwatney was caught between third and home, but finally slipped his way out of the trap for the score.

The Bruins loaded the bases to start out the second inning. The Colts committed their first of two defensive errors on a grounder to left from Gwatney that scored Nathan Van Schoyk. An RBI single from Toliver directly afterward bought Taylor Roark and Shawn Bybee in for runs to put the Bruins up 4-0.

Starting Colts pitcher Nick Johnson was relieved by starting third baseman Kevin Coleman after Johnson gave up a single and two walks to start out the third inning.

Coleman got the job done immediately in the third, forcing a pop up to shortstop from Roark and striking out David Simpson and Bybee to deny a score for Sylvan Hills after having three in position.

Swiderski’s homer in the third was only the third hit given up by Toliver through six innings. The southpaw recovered from the slip in the following inning, sending the Colts three-and-out on only 11 pitches, striking out Patrick Strack, Coleman and Carroll Newton in consecutive order.

The Bruins doubled their score during their turn in the fourth and fifth innings. An error scored Toliver and Irvan in the fourth, and Toliver drove in Simpson and Bybee in the fifth off a double to right field. Sylvan Hills ended the fifth inning one score shy of activating the run- rule, but would only score one more hit in the game through the final two innings.

After pitching a near perfect game through six innings, Toliver had a little difficulty putting NLR away in the bottom of the seventh.

Coleman started out the inning with a bit of break for the Colts. The NLR pitcher’s grounder to Bruins shortstop Van Schoyk took a Sunday hop straight over him, giving the single to Coleman.

Brian Briles reached first with a single, sending Coleman to third. Both of those runs scored before a second Bruins error allowed Joe Kaminski in to set the final margin.

Along with getting the win, Toliver also finished with the best offensive stats, going 3 for 3 with four RBIs.

Van Schoyk was 1 for 2 with two RBIs. For North Little Rock, Dean Larson was 2 for 4 with a double and Briles was 2 for 3 with a pair of singles.

The Bruins started out strong in the Class A contest, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning.

The Colts would answer with six runs during their first turn on their way to a 12-run blowout win.

A pair of runs were added in the second inning along with three more in the third to give North Little Rock a comfortable 11-4 lead.

The fourth inning would be the decider for the Colts as they put up five more runs to set up the 8-run-rule the following inning.

Sylvan Hills AAA team will take part in the Jonesboro tournament this weekend, while the Class A squad will host Conway today in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.

The Class AAA will get back to season play on Monday with a visit to Cabot.

SPORTS >> Cabot hammers Heber for two wins

Leader sports editor

IN SHORT: The Cabot American Legion team beat Heber Springs 8-0 and 12-0 in a AA, AAA doubleheader Thursday night in Cabot.

The Cabot American Legion baseball team had very little trouble with Heber Springs Thursday night at Wade Field in Cabot. The Home Depot team swept their AA opponents 8-0 and 12-0 in two games.

Game one was scheduled for seven innings, but took just five as the home team took an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Starting pitcher Sam Bates got three outs in four at bats in the top of the fifth to end the contest early.

Game two, scheduled for five innings, got out of hand faster than that. Heber Springs failed to score despite getting two runners on in the top of the first, and then couldn’t throw a strike early in the bottom of the opening frame.

The first three Cabot hitters of game two, Trey Rosel, Drew Burks and Chad Bryant, each walked to load the bases. Bates hit a sac fly deep to centerfield to score Rosel. Sean Clarkson then singled to right field for another RBI. Jake Davis walked to load the bases again for Tyler Sorrels, who hit another sacrifice fly to centerfield to make it 3-0 Cabot.

Shane Burgen then walked to load the bases for the third time. That set up a three-RBI triple down the left-field line by nine-hole hitter Blake Passmore to give the host team a 6-0 lead after one inning.

Cabot added a singly tally to that in the second. Bryant and Bates hit back-to-back, one-out singles to set up an RBI base hit by Davis.

The game became totally one-sided in the third when Cabot added four more runs to its total. Burgen led off with a walk and Passmore singled to left field with no outs.

Rosel followed that with a single that scored Burgen. Two batters later, Bryant hit a RBI single and Bates hit another sac fly to centerfield to give his team an 11-0 lead.

The two victories brings Cabot’s season record up to 5-7.

A scheduled doubleheader with Sylvan Hills on Tuesday was canceled.

Cabot will be very busy in the days to come. They start a busy third week of June with a doubleheader against Pine Bluff on Sunday at Pine Bluff.

They will face Sylvan Hills Monday and Little Rock Catholic on Tuesday. Thursday, Cabot will host Russellville before taking the rest of the week off.

SPORTS >> Fifth inning disaster

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Jacksonville held Benton to two runs until the top of the fifth inning in Class AAA action on Thursday. Benton scored nine runs off five errors in the fifth.

One bad defensive inning from Jacksonville was all it took for Benton to turn a closely contested game into a 13-4 blowout Thursday night in a Class AAA American Legion matchup at Dupree Park.

The Chevy boys trailed by only a single run until the top of the fifth inning, when the Benton McClendon’s Appliance squad went through 14 hitters and three Gwatney pitchers, scoring nine runs on four hits and five Jacksonville errors.

Gwatney’s offensive highlights came too little too late in the bottom of the fifth, although Kyle West’s three-run home run got Jacksonville out of run-rule status.

West’s shot over the right- field wall closed the gap to 11-4, but two more runs in the sixth for Benton stretched the lead once again and set the final score of 13-4.

Benton took the early lead in the top of the first inning off a double to centerfield from Nick Shoptaw that scored James Branett and Seth Hobbs.

Starting Gwatney pitcher Tim Payne forced the final two Benton batters of the inning into pop-ups, leaving one man on.

Jacksonville made one of those runs up in the bottom of the first. Lead-off batter Randal Peeples reached with a walk, and crossed the plate two batters later courtesy of a single to center from Trey Smith.

Gwatney was in position to take the lead with runners at first and third and no outs, but a line-drive to starting pitcher Bill Massing from West caught Smith off guard at first, and Massing made the throw to Benton first baseman Shoptaw for the second out on the same play. Brandon Clements grounded out to shortstop to end the inning, leaving Benton up 2-1.

Gwatney looked good defensively for the next three innings. Payne struck out five batters during the second through fourth innings, and only allowed two hits.

Jacksonville started to look really strong by the fourth. A pop- up from Benton, along with a 4-3 from Jordan Payer to Clements and a 1-3 sent Benton three-and-out for the first time in the game.

Jacksonville went three-and-out during its turn in the fourth as well. The game was shaping up to be a classic defensive struggle, until Benton took to the plate for the fifth inning.

Gwatney had been error-free through the first four innings, but any lucky breaks through those frames were made up for and then some in the fifth. A single by Branett, a fielding error from a bunt by Hobbs and a walk for Noble loaded the bases for Benton with no outs. Shoptaw singled to score Branett for one of the four earned runs of the inning. A total of five fielding errors from Gwatney added five more runs for McClendon’s Appliance.

Casey Winstead relieved Payne for the seventh batter of the inning after Benton had increased its lead to 5-1, but the painful inning would be far from over.

Hobbs had already reached by an error during his first trip to the plate in the fifth, but needed no assistance during his second turn, lifting the ball over the left-field wall to score three more runs and increase Benton’s lead to 11-1. Neil Hatcher was finally brought to the mound to end the turn, and got the final out off one pitch, forcing an F7 pop up from Luke Kerseymere.

Three runs were made up by Jacksonville in the bottom of the fifth when West’s home run drove in Jeremy Williams and Smith. The homer also cut Benton’s lead down to seven runs, allowing Gwatney to escape the five-inning run-rule.

Benton was determined to get the runs back in the sixth. Zach James became the fourth Chevy boy to take time at the mound in the contest in the sixth. One more hit for Benton scored another pair of runs to increase the lead once again to 13-4.

Jacksonville’s final shot at closing the gap ended in the bottom of the sixth. Massing struck out the final two Gwatney batters of the game to seal the win for Benton.

Gwatney finished the game with four runs, five hits and seven errors. Benton had 14 runs, 10 hits and two errors. Trey Smith was 2 for 3 for Jacksonville with a pair of singles. Kyle West was 1 for 3 with a home run and Tyler Uptergrove was 1 for 2.

Both Gwatney teams will be in action Today in a twin bill against Morrilton starting at 1 p.m. for the Class A opener.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

EDITORIAL >> As we grieve a fallen hero

If early-week reports are right, the funeral in Beebe today for Army Spec. Bobby West, who gave his life patrolling the harrowing streets of Baghdad, will be disturbed by not one but two fringe groups.

Brother Fred Phelps and his church disciples, the Kansas scourges who haunt military funerals, show up from time to time to taunt the families of fallen soldiers. Rev. Phelps says God is killing soldiers in Iraq to punish Americans for their tolerance of gay and lesbian people.

They will show up with their signs (“God hates fags”) and march around as they’ve done for years, starting, as best we can recall, with the funeral of President Clinton’s mother at Hot Springs and uttering the same hateful shibboleths. A new state law will keep them at a distance this time.

There was word that vigilante motorcycle groups that have deputized themselves to shield grieving families from the nuts will show up, too. They will make the scene no less appalling for Specialist West’s family and friends.

But the family and admirers of the young hero need not despair. Rather, they should take increased devotion from his unstinting service to his country because in the broadest sense it is the sacrifice of the Specialist Wests that insure Rev. Phelps and his followers the extraordinary privilege of speaking their hateful minds. Where else?

EDITORIAL >> FOI victory for people

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling that Gov. Huckabee cannot hide the results of an investigation into alleged misconduct of a state official by the ruse of making them part of his office papers was as heartening as it was predictable. But let us hope that the governor is unhappy enough to appeal the order to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees people access to the meetings of government bodies and the records of government action, is a powerful tool of the citizenry, Judge Piazza said. When government refuses to allow people, whether a citizen or a newspaper reporter, to examine records that are of public concern “it creates an atmosphere of public distrust,” he said. “And I think that’s the case here.”

His order quickly followed a hearing on a lawsuit brought by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which was refused access to an investigative report on an allegation against one of the governor’s appointees to the Board of Paroles.

All but a single copy of the report was destroyed and it was sent to Huckabee’s office, where he claimed it to be a privileged paper of his own creation. He said it was part of the governor’s “working papers,” which are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

There was no reason for the judge to dally. The working-papers exemption was never intended to shield the activities of government from the people it serves. Its purpose was to maintain confidentiality between the governor and his staff advisers so that critics can second-guess him while he is developing policy. No one claimed otherwise until Gov. Huckabee began a policy of bringing potentially embarrassing information into his office so that confidentiality could be claimed.

Huckabee refused to release either the letter of resignation from Lynn Zeno, the vice chairman of the Board of Paroles, or the short report of a Parole Division investigation of an employee’s complaint against him. Zeno, who was appointed by Huckabee in 2002, resigned the $75,000-a-year job without a public explanation. The governor merely said he did not think the incident, whatever it was, worthy of asking Zeno to resign and that he didn’t ask for the resignation.

We hope that Mr. Zeno’s peccadillo was as harmless as the governor implies. If so, Huckabee does his friend no favor by keeping it a secret. Imaginations tend to run to the worst.

Judge Piazza stayed his order for 30 days to give the governor a chance to appeal it to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. It will be tough for Mr. Zeno to hang in the wind for another six months, but an appeal is best for everyone else. If Gov. Huckabee believes in his doctrine of confidentiality for anything that he chooses then he must protect it by appealing.
The appellate courts, we are supremely confident, will uphold Judge Piazza’s order. With one terrible recent aberration, they have always given the Freedom of Information Act the liberal reading that the authors intended. Gov. Huckabee and any successor who may be similarly inclined need a clear and unambiguous statement from the highest court that there must never be dark corners when public business is at stake.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> A bad week for Huckster, but he lives

Leader publisher

Gov. Huckabee had a near-death experience last week while flying to a political convention in North Carolina. One of the engines on a small jet he was flying on for that state’s Republican Party convention — freeloading, as usual — malfunctioned, and only one of the engines was working, when, by a miracle, the pilot managed to land the plane and had the engine fixed before the night was over.

Perhaps someone high in the chain of command is trying to tell the governor to drop out of the presidential race.
Huckabee didn’t tell the Little Rock media about the incident because he didn’t want them to know he and his family were thumbing a ride on a corporate jet, which is his custom when he doesn’t hijack the State Police crime-fighting jet for his errands.

He’s still peeved at the Arkan-sas Democrat-Gazette, which had successfully sued him under the state’s Freedom of Information Act for refusing to release documents about one of his appointees to the parole board who left the board under a cloud.

Former parole board member Larry Zeno had stepped down following wild allegations that he had solicited a bribe in return for a parole – specifically, a deep discount on a diamond ring from the jewelry business owned by the convict’s family — but Huckabee didn’t want you to know that one of his appointees may have had an ethical problem. Zeno has denied the allegations.

Huckabee’s natural instinct was to hush up the case, claiming special privileges under the “working paper” exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, but Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza didn’t buy that argument.

“The exemption in this case is outweighed by the need for public scrutiny,” Judge Piazza ruled.

Huckabee might as well declare his administration a work in progress, with all decisions in every department and board off limits to the rest of us. That’s absurd, and he knows it.

He has shed more light on his dieting than on how he runs the state.

Huckabee must wake up in the morning and think of ways to violate the Freedom of Information Act.

He hates sharing information with the public, especially when it comes to paroling criminals. He seems very protective of them, for some reason.

It seems Huckabee’s always in trouble with the parole board and the convicts who win their freedom, often under suspicious circumstances.

Remember Wayne DuMond, whose release he championed? After his exile to Missouri, the rapist killed two women there, for which the Huckster has never apologized.

Recent legislation has forced him to explain his paroles and pardons, and now Judge Piazza has handed him another defeat.
Is this a record for a presidential candidate to run on? The national media can’t get enough of his aw-shucks personality, but once they look closely at his record, Huck’s campaign will stall, like that jet engine that blew out last week.

TOP STORY >> Foodbank working hard to reduce hunger pangs

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: FishNet Missions gets ready to feed hungry students, celebrates National Hunger Awareness Day.

While 400,000 Arkansans are hungry, few Arkansans are aware of the problem, according to Phyllis Haynes, director of Arkansas Foodbank Network.

To educate people Tuesday — National Hunger Awareness Day — the foodbank teamed up with Jacksonville’s overachieving FishNet Mission to feed the hungry at the mission’s dining room, 213 Marshall Road, and helped move and restock supplies.
Volunteers unloaded trucks and pallets, stocked shelves and made up food bags for the hungry and needy.

Joining FishNet and the Arkansas Food-bank Network were volunteers from St. Luke United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb. — 16 youngsters and five adults.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim stopped in to help load groceries.

“We’re just trying to help draw attention (to the fact that) there are a lot of hungry people,” said Haynes.

One hallmark of fast-growing FishNet, which now helps 8,000 families a month, is its open-door policy.

If people are hungry, they can come to get groceries on Tues-days and Thursdays without proof of income or identification, according to Dewey Sims, the director.

Sims said FishNet also delivers easy-to-make meals to about 200 senior citizens each week and services about 120 homeless people at the Arkansas River, under the Broadway Bridge on the Little Rock side.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, lunches will be available at the mission for kids who depend on the school breakfast and lunch programs during the school year, according to Sims.

More than half of the children in Arkansas public schools qualify for free or reduced school lunches, a low-income indicator.
“This day is an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding hunger, and also an effort to help end hunger in Arkansas and across the country,” said a spokesman.

“FishNet Missions and Jack-sonville Care Channel represent only two of the numerous feeding programs that help meet the need in Arkansas every day,” he added.

The Arkansas Foodbank Network served nearly 150,000 different people last year, Haynes said.

Those needing food range from hardcore homeless, mentally ill, people chronically poor, or in some cases those working full- time jobs or temporarily without work.

That was the case for one woman who said her husband is a cement worker and because of recent rains had missed many days of work.

“I’ve got to feed my kids one way or another,” said one wo-man, loading food into the back of her car. “We need something to tide us over.”

The woman, a Cabot resident who wouldn’t give her name, said a church referred her to FishNet. This was her first visit, she said, but she’ll come back if she needs to.

FishNet is a very well run, large community-based organization, said Haynes.

Fresh squash and beans were included in the food packets Tuesday, food from American Second Harvest.

Other regular contributors include Kroger, Target, Nabisco, Bimbo Bakery and Coleman Diary, according to Frank Hilliard, a foodbank worker.

The Sherwood McDonald’s recently donated a walk-in refrigerator/freezer to FishNet and the group now has a commercial stove to prepare meals.

TOP STORY >> Beebe candidates line up

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Alderman Mike Robertson, a former mayor, is the only one to announce for the office to succeed Donald Ward.

With more than two months to go before the end of the July 20 to Aug. 9 period when independent candidates in Beebe must file for the seats they hope to win in November, the races being talked about are looking more and more like a game of musical chairs.

Alderman Mike Robertson — who was mayor for one term almost eight years ago before losing to Donald Ward — is the only announced mayoral candidate. Ward is not running for a third term.

Former Alderman Carol Crump, now Crump-Westergren, who lost her seat on the council during the last election to Robert-son, has announced for clerk-treasurer, while Clerk-Treasurer Paul Hill has announced for the city council.

Hill will run for the Ward 2, Position 2 seat now held by Ronnie Dean, who bought a historical home just outside Ward 2, rendering himself ineligible for a fifth term.

That is, unless he runs for the Ward 1, Position 2 seat now held by Janice Petray, wife of former Mayor Phil Petray, who lost after eight years to Robertson.

Alderman Bobby Robinson, Ward 3, Position 1, isn’t running again.

“Janet and I bought some land out of town and we’re moving this fall,” Robinson said Friday afternoon.
“I hate to leave. It’s been 10 years and everybody’s been good to me,” he said.

So far, Robinson’s seat appears to be wide open. No one has announced or even started a rumor about a possible race.

But former Alderman Les Cossey says he will run for Robertson’s Ward 3, Position 2 seat on the council. So far, no one seems to be talking about a bid for the Ward 1, Position 1 seat held by Harold Welch.

But former Clerk-Treasurer Becky Short has long been ru-mored as a candidate for Ward 2, though whether she is interested in the seat currently held by Dean or Janet Rogers is not clear and Short hasn’t announced anything.

As for Rogers, she is taking full advantage of the fact that independent candidates have more time to make up their minds than party candidates and whether she is or is not running isn’t something she will talk about to the press.

“I’ll decide pretty soon, but I’m not prepared to say right now,” Rogers said.

TOP STORY >> Funeral services today for fallen Beebe soldier

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Black and yellow ribbons were tied around a tree near the home of Army Spc. Bobby West who was killed May 30 in Iraq. His funeral will be 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today at the First Baptist Church in Beebe for Army Spc. Bobby West, killed May 30 in Baghdad.

West, 23, enlisted in the National Guard after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon and joined the regular Army two years later.

He was killed halfway through his second tour in Iraq, and though friends and family are mourning his death, they say he was a soldier because he very much wanted to be one.

Beebe Police Officer Zack Dix-on, 27, who will be leading the funeral procession, considers himself among West’s friends.
The two young men were in the National Guard at the same time and served together in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

“He was a great guy, a young guy with the world on his shoulders,” Dixon said.

He was usually in a good mood and he joked a lot, Dixon said. But the characteristic that stood out the most was his competitiveness.

“Once when we were in the Sinai, him and me and Jimmy Simons were all playing basketball,” Dixon said.

“It was about 125-135 degrees and the gym was a tin building. It was hot.

“Bobby was tall, about six foot four,” Dixon said. “He played a lot of basketball and he was good. But he told me if we had to stay there through two shifts in desert BDUs (battle dress uniforms), we weren’t leaving until I beat him.”

After the tour in the Sinai with the National Guard, West joined the regular Army. Dixon said he told him that he really liked military life and since he wasn’t married there was really nothing to hold him back.

He was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated while he was on foot patrol with his unit.

He was part of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas. His unit was scheduled to leave Iraq this fall.

Dixon said he ran into West at Fort Hood after his first tour in Iraq and he was still happy to be in the Army.
West’s older brother Patrick West, 25, was just 45 miles away from Baghdad when his brother was killed. He is with the 101st Airborne.

An Army spokesman at Fort Hood said last week that Bobby West has earned these medals: Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Me-dal, Global War on Terrorism Ser-vice Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

West is survived by his father, Ricky West of Carlisle; his mother, Linda Wiggins West of Beebe; his brother Patrick West; grandmother, Syble West of Carlisle; aunts, Marge Liddle of North Little Rock, Marcella Wiggins of Little Rock, Marie Smith of Alabama and Jan Anderson of Carlisle; and uncle, Leonard Wiggins of Searcy.

Burial will be in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.

Memorials may be made to National Guard Family Assistance, 6402 Missouri Avenue, Bldg. 6402, North Little Rock, Ark. 72199.

TOP STORY >> Minister bringing anti-gay protest to burial

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Beebe police hope to keep order as a controversial religious group plans to rally near the church where services for soldier will be held today.

Tuesday afternoon, about 24 hours after receiving a fax that the funeral of Army Specialist Bobby West would be picketed by members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who cheer the death of American soldiers, Beebe police said they are ready to protect the protesters and hope area residents ignore them.

Don Inns, a lieutenant with the Beebe Police Depart-ment, said four officers, including one state trooper and a White County sheriff’s deputy, will help guard the picketers, who believe America is cursed because it tolerates homosexuals.

Inns said he would be one of the four guarding the church demonstrators. He explained that most area residents know and like him and he hopes that his presence will have a calming effect.

“Our main concern is that we don’t want the public to incite any violence,” Inns said.

A few of the 10 expected demonstrators will likely be children, he said. But some will be lawyers.

“They know the law that gives them the right to assemble and the right to free speech and they know how to act,” he said. “They aren’t going to break the law.”

“Ignore them,” Inns implores area residents. “They have the right to assemble and they are doing it correctly.”

Inns said Beebe Police had been watching the WBC Website since Friday when a phone call from the FBI alerted them that the West funeral might be a target. On Sunday, a new press release on the site confirmed the FBI’s information.

“WBC to picket funeral of Army Spec. Bobby R. West at 1:15 p.m., Wednesday June 7, at First Baptist Church leper colony, 101 Highway 64 West, Beebe, Ark.,” the Website news release said.

“He was killed by an IED like the one America (university students in Topeka) bombed WBC with in a vain attempt to stop our anti-gay gospel preaching. God almighty killed Army Spec. West. He died in shame, not honor for a fag nation cursed by God.”

The church, established in 1955 and still run by Fred Phelps, believes the deaths of American soldiers fighting the war on terrorism are divine retribution for America’s tolerance of gays.

And the message delivered through its Website and picket line is that the WBC is the last hope of the world.

“Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God hates you,” “Fags doom nations,” “God hates your tears,” say some of the signs church members carry at the funerals of soldiers.

“Thank God for 22 more dead soldiers. We wish it were 22,000” was the headline for press release earlier this year.
The list of dead soldiers was called a “roster of the damned.”

Inns said the church demanded in the fax sent Monday asked for an area to demonstrate in and police protection. No permit is required for the demonstration.

“We’ve got a permit for door-to-door salesmen, but Beebe doesn’t have a permit for picketing that we can find, and we looked,” Inns said.

Arkansas is one of a handful of states that have passed laws limiting picketing at funerals for soldiers. Inns said the police department has asked for clarification of the law from the Arkansas Muni-cipal League, which provides various services to cities including legal advice.

The law requires picketers to stay 150 feet away from mourners and they aren’t allowed to picket 30 minutes before a funeral service is scheduled to begin or 30 minutes after it ends.

Inns said the space that has been selected is 300 yards away from the church at the intersection of Highway 64 and Dugger Road on state right-of-way. To get any closer, picketers would have to be on church property where they could be asked to leave.

No picketing is planned at the cemetery.

Inns said he had taken calls all day from residents wanting to know if they could protest the picketers, including one who wanted to know if throwing water balloons was allowed.

Inns said he hopes those people realize that if they cause trouble, they will be arrested. As distasteful as the WBC’s demonstrations are, they aren’t against the law, he said.

“I need everyone to keep in mind the real purpose of tomorrow,” he said.

“It is a day to pay respect to a soldier from this city. “If you don’t agree with (the picketers), don’t acknowledge them.”

TOP STORY >> Starbucks sweetens city's cup of growth

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Several national and regional businesses have made plans to open outlets here.

Even though Jacksonville’s actual building permits have slowed the past two months, the city is on the verge of some major business growth if all the signed deals begin to fall into place.

A multi-screen movie theater is inked for the city, along with Papito’s, a Mexican-theme restaurant; Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits; Bank of the Ozarks and Cici’s Pizza.

Plus, Starbucks has just confirmed it will be opening one of its famed coffee outlets near the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, off John Harden Drive.

Only the developer of the retail center housing Cici’s Pizza has brought preliminary plans before the city’s planning commission.

Cici’s will be part of a 30,000 square-foot retail center to be built just north of the New China restaurant between Marshall and John Harden roads.

Bank of the Ozarks bought the space formerly occupied by Long John Silver’s in the Hasting’s shopping center on Main Street to build their first Jacksonville branch. The old seafood restaurant was torn down, the area cordoned off and a Bank of the Ozarks sign posted, but since then those plans have been waylaid by a lawsuit brought by First Arkansas Bank and Trust.

A judge recently sent the case back to the state’s bank commissioner to show proof that the city could support another bank.
Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits is slated to open in the old Burger King facility on Main Street across from Jacksonville Middle School. The lease has been signed for nearly a year now and franchise details recently worked out, but no plans have been brought to the city to remodel the vacant restaurant.

Papito’s Mexican Restaurant is slated to occupy the old Shoney’s building next to Western Sizzlin’ on John Harden. Although an agreement has been signed and signs are posted on the building, no plans have been brought to the city engineer for approval.

Starbucks, an upscale coffee outlet, is set to build between Burger King on John Harden and Cranbury Inn on an outparcel of land in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The movie theater deal was inked about a year ago, but no visible preliminary work has been done to the site and no plans have been submitted.

Memphis-based Malco Thea-tres is set to build the multi-screen theater at Jackson Square Shop-ping Center, south of Main Street near Knight’s Super Foods.

Jacksonville hasn’t had its own theater since the two-screen Flick closed its doors in the early 1990s.

TOP STORY >> Eyes on the prize, Stubby goes on tour of the district

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: With 10 stops planned by the end of today, Cabot Mayor Stumbaugh launched his campaign for Congress with a speech in Cabot on Monday.

Cong. Marion Berry has failed first district farmers and senior citizens, Cabot Mayor Mickey (Stubby) Stumbaugh told about 35 people assembled to help him kick off a three-day, 10-city tour of the district in pursuit of Berry’s Dist. 1 House seat Monday morning.

With American and Arkansas flags and his “cheese-wagon” van as a backdrop at the plaza behind Cabot City Hall, Stumbaugh re-peated his campaign mantra, putting people before politics.

Stumbaugh said he was not concerned that Berry has name recognition, personal wealth and a lopsided lead in campaign money raised.

“There’s races won all across the country by candidates with less money,” he said.

“Now that the primary elections are over, we’ll see more people come out and donate.”

To be competitive in this race, Stumbaugh has his work cut out for him.

Through May 3, Berry had outraised him $858,346 to $43,493, a margin of 20 to 1. In funds available, Stumbaugh had $4,711 compared to $421,781, a margin of 90 to one.

Stumbaugh said he had gotten good response from the people at the public events he had been attending, such as the Newport Park Fest and Steamboat Days at Des Arc.

“I don’t want to be a congressman, I want to be your representative,” he said.

He signed the Taxpayer Protec-tion Pledge sponsored by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

“I was one of seven children, born in Beebe but we got here as quick as we could,” Stumbaugh said. When his dad died and his mom had to raise all seven children alone, Santa was a Jaycee for three years in a row. “People want a hand up, not a handout,” he said.

Stumbaugh said that even as a 13-year-old pumping gas at the nearby station, he told people that some day he would be mayor.

When he finally ran, after 15 years as a Little Rock police officer, the incumbent was favored to win with 70 percent of the votes, Stumbaugh said. But by the time the smoke settled, Stumbaugh got 60 percent of the votes and former Mayor Joe Allman lost.

Stumbaugh’s itinerary this week through Wednesday included stops in Stuttgart, Blytheville, Jonesboro, Paragould, Walnut Ridge, Moun-tain Home, Mountain View, Batesville and Heber Springs.

Monday, he accused Berry, himself a farmer, of abandoning the farmers by leaving the House Agriculture Committee for the House Appropriations Committee.

Stumbaugh charged that Berry said eight months ago that he knew 30 years ago that high fuel prices and eventual shortages were on the way.

Then two months ago, he said “there was no way we could have anticipated this,” Stumbaugh said.

“My opponent doesn’t know how to tell the truth, he talks terrible about our president’s….leadership, but we haven’t been attacked since 9-11,” he added.

He added that proportionately, the $38.4 million Berry’s district got was the smallest of any of the state’s districts. While in Arkansas and nationally, about 45 percent of Medicare recipients qualify for part D prescription drug benefits, in the First District, 65 percent qualify, according to Stumbaugh.

Every congressional district has about 600,000 people in it, but of the 435 districts in the U.S., only 24 have more people eligible for those additional benefits than in the First District, he said.

Stumbaugh said Berry opposed the president’s prescription-drug plan because it was sponsored by a Republican.
Berry calls it a giveaway to insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

“I have introduced legislation that would create a Medicare-administered drug benefit with negotiated prices. . . that (can save) taxpayers as much as $40 billion a year in prescription costs,” he said.

Stumbaugh promised to get federal spending under control and noted that Cabot was building a $4.5 million community center “without a new tax.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

OBITUARIES >> 06-06-06


U.S. Army Specialist Bobby Russell West, 23, of Beebe was killed May 30, while serving in Iraq. He attended Beebe High School.

He is survived by his father, Ricky West of Carlisle; his mother, Linda Wiggins West of Beebe; one brother, Patrick West, stationed with the Ar-my in Iraq; grandmother, Syble West of Car-lisle; aunts, Marge Liddle of North Little Rock, Marcella Wiggins of Little Rock, Marie Smith of Alabama and Jan Anderson of Carlisle; and uncle, Leonard Wig-gins of Searcy.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Beebe First Baptist Church, with burial in Meadow-brook Memorial Gardens by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.

Memorials may be made to National Guard Family Assistance, 6402 Missouri Avenue, Bldg. 6402, North Little Rock, Ark., 72199.


Virtree Peeler, 79, of Cabot, was born Aug. 1, 1926, at Beebe to Arthur and Rosie Wilson Moss. She passed away June 3.

She was a Baptist and was retired from Remington Arms. She was preceded in death by her husband, O.D. Peeler Jr. and her parents. She is survived by son, James Peeler of Cabot; daughters, Glenda Achten and Dianne Cathey and husband, Mark all of Mau-melle; her sister, Tempie Wells of Indio, California; grandchildren, Angie Heffner and husband Bobby of Romance, Stephanie Cathey of Little Rock, Sara Servin and husband Luis of San Antonio, Texas, and Matthew Peeler of North Carolina; great-grandchildren, Bobby Heffner, Jr. and Emmalee Heffner both of Romance.

Funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe with burial in Old Austin Cemetery.


Ray Benard Sturgis II, 17, of Jacksonville died June 3.
He was born Sept. 1, 1988, in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, to Ray B., and Tyres Garland Sturgis, Sr.

He was a student at North Pulaski High School where he was a member of the chorus choir. He was a member of St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Jacksonville. He was a former member and served on the usher board at Mt. Olive Mission-ary Baptist Church in Lebanon, Illinois.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by a brother, O’Donnis K. Garland of De Kalb, Texas, and sister, Eboné C. Sturgis, all of Jacksonville; maternal grandparents; Jerrie D. and Donald K. Garland of De Kalb, Texas, and great-grandfather, Isaac Whitaker, Jr. of De Kalb, Texas. Other survivors in-clude his aunts, Pennie V. Jackson of Lancaster, Texas, Donna J. Lamar of Victorville, Calif., La-Honda Boyd and Juanita Garland both of Ft. Worth, Texas, Ellawees (Terry) Jones of El Dorado, Joy Andrews and Betty Usher, both of Camden, Helen Stanley and Emily Young, both of Las Vegas; uncles; Robert Sturgis of Rockford, Ill., Terry (Annette) Sturgis and Lavelle Sturgis, both of El Dorado, Stacy Boyd of Fort Worth, Texas, Ronald Lamar of Victorville, Calif.; great uncle, Peter Butler of Sagi-naw, Michigan; great aunt, Gertha Butler of Camden; and his best friend, Yoshi.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Jacksonville Baptist Church with Rev. Eric Alexander officiating.  

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.   Interment will follow at Garland Community Cemetery in De Kalb, Texas. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Faye Kulsa, 90, of McRae, was born Dec. 12, 1915, in Timbo, to John and Amanda Ward Good-win, and she joined her husband, Pete, son John, daughter Carol and sister Blanche on June 3.

She attended First Baptist Church, McRae. She loved spending time with her family and always had a story to tell. Faye and her stories will be greatly missed.

Faye leaves four grandchildren, John Kulsa, Brian Weston, Matt Oldham and Lisa Petriches; four great-grandchildren and a nephew, David Gibbs.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Meadow-brook Memorial Gardens, Beebe.


Mary Elizabeth Akin, 91, of North Little Rock passed away June 5. She was born April 25, 1915, to the late Eagle Walker and Alice Marie Baker Walker.

She is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, James K. Akin and her son, James W. Akin.

She is survived by her son William “Billy” Akin of Jacksonville, grandsons, James and wife Kathy Akin, and Chris Akin of Antioch; nieces, Jimme Lou and husband Harry Hulett of North Little Rock, Dianne Wilson of Sherwood; and nephew Tom and wife Susan of Tucson, Ariz.

The family appreciates the care provided by the nursing staff at Woodland Hills in Jacksonville and Arkansas Hospice.

The family requests no visitation. Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville.

Arrangements are by Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.


On June 2, Jacqueline Hazel Keefover of Jacksonville joined her husband Cecil and other family in heaven at the age of 90. She is preceded in death by her mother Gertrude, father Homer, brothers Bill, John and Frank and sisters Lucille and Irma.

She loved bingo, jigsaw puzzles and sci-fi movies. She was an independent spirited outspoken wo-man until her last moments. She loved to go out to eat with her friends and have spaghetti dinners with her family. Christmas was her favorite holiday because she had everyone she loved in one room.

In her last days sick in bed when a relative asked Jackie what she was doing Jackie simply replied, “I’m playing bingo!”

Her family takes comfort in the fact that she is playing bingo with family in heaven now waiting for the rest of us to join the game.

She leaves behind her sister, Helen and her brother, Donald; her daughter Carla Nolen and husband Jim; her son, Chuck Keefover and wife Kathy. Jackie was also blessed with grandchildren, Chris and wife Casey, Jamie and fiancé Ricky, Chase, Lauren, CJ, Ben, Anna, Michael and great grandson Jacob. Many friends will remember Jackie including Edith, Daisy, Ted, Quida and Frank.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Floyd Hines Jr. officiating.
Interment followed in Chapel Hill Cemetery.

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


Denise Fuhrman, 66, of Jack-sonville, passed away June 1 at her home. Denise Schwartz Fuhrman was born in Napoleon, N.D., the daughter of Jacob and Bertha (Schauer) Schwartz.

She was raised in Dawson, N.D., and graduated from Dawson High School in 1957. After graduation, she moved to Fargo, N.D., where she was employed with Northwest Bell Telephone Company.

On June 17, 1961, she married Duane Fuhrman in San Francisco. She worked for many years as a dental assistant, then went on to get her LPN. At the time of her death, she was employed at the Veterans Administration Hospital in North Little Rock for more than 20 years.

She was an avid bowler and rarely missed a National Bowling Tournament. She loved to travel and lived in and visited many parts of the United States. She cherished her grandchildren and included them in her many trips to North Dakota where she loved to spend her weekends with her husband, children and grandchildren at their lake home in Greers Ferry.

She is preceded in death by her father, Jacob Schwartz; mother and father-in-law Theodore and Marie Fuhrman; and brothers-in-law Vern Bahm, Harold Bullis and Robert Morton.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Darin and wife, Lisa; daughter, Dana and husband, Scotty; two grandchildren, Danielle Fuhrman and Jake Otto; her mother Bertha Schwartz of Bismark, N.D.; three sisters and brothers-in-law, Dorothy and Ar-land Grunseth of Bismark, N.D., Calista Bahm of Mandan, N.D., Louise and husband, Dick Lawson of Fort Collins, Colo.; one brother, Dale and wife, Pam Schwartz of Mandan, N.D., three sisters-in-law, Arlene Morton of Houston, Dolores Bullis of Fargo, N.D., and Janice and husband, Jim Lahman of Bismark, N.D.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Griffin Leggett Funeral Home-Rest Hill Chapel in North Little Rock, officiated by Tim McMinn.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the American Heart Association, 909 W. 12th St., Little Rock, Ark. 72201.
Arrangements were by Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home in North Little Rock.


Dawn Yvette Landrum of Jacksonville born Sept. 4, 1965, died and went to be with her grandparents, Louise and Charlie Webb and uncle, Lewis A. Webb on June 3.

She is survived by her mother, Janie Lavonne Webb Mistric and her mother’s husband, Tim, and her father, Clarence Richard Land-rum and wife JoAnn; her sister, Delores Wil-son and husband Jeff and her best friend Carla Holmes.

She is also survived by two nephews, Nick Page and Marcus Holmes; two nieces, Melody Page and Jennifer McKinzie; grandniece Elizabeth “Bubbles” McKinzie; uncles, Charlie F. Webb and wife, Martha, John Webb and wife, Angie; aunts, M.R. Long and husband, Richard, Beverly Parker, and Helen Campbell and husband, Michael.

She also leaves behind her special friend Glenn Hollis and many other cousins and friends. She will be missed by all. A private memorial was held Sunday.

NEIGHBORS >> Summer has begun

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Splash Zone started off the summer season at full capacity on Saturday.

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, it is thanks to Splash Zone, Jacksonville’s outdoor pool complex.

Children laughing, adults sunning, lifeguards watching, toddlers dogpaddling, teens water-sliding under sunny skies at the Splash Zone.

At the ever-popular diving board swimmers perform an amazing array of dives. A few half-gainers, numerous belly-busters and several fabulous flips signaled both fun and fitness at the diving board.

Saturday kicked off Splash Zone’s second regular season. The three pool water-theme park is located on Martin Street just off First.

Before 2 p.m. on Saturday, Splash Zone reached its capacity of 353 people but a line of hopefuls formed outside the gate.
Diane Novotny, aquatics director for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation, had to shut the gates to admissions for awhile. With a birthday party for 50 people and regular admissions, the pool reached its capacity at 1:42 p.m., according to Novotny.

Through word of mouth, Kim Webster of Ward heard about Splash Zone and she brought her children here.

“I really like it and it’s a reasonable price,” Webster told The Leader.

Admission is $4 per person plus an additional $1 to use the slide all day long. Swimmers must be 48 inches tall to use the slide.

Children under 2 years old get in free.

Another out-of-towner, Bonnie Jones of Cabot, brought four children to visit the pool.

“This is the first summer I’ve brought them up here, and they’re having a ball,” she said.

Shirl Holmes, a Jacksonville resident of 20 years, lounged in a poolside chair and watched her two daughters take to the water like a couple of ducks. “It’s family-oriented and someplace to enjoy the day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Beth Sheppard, serving her first year as pool manager, says she is definitely pleased with the large turnouts the facility has already generated when it opened for a limited time over the Memorial Day holiday. On May 27, 422 came through the gates.

“That beat last year’s opening,” Sheppard said.

NEIGHBORS >> Cabot author reads to children

Leader managing editor

IN SHORT: Cabot author and resident Katy Duffield read her book about Farmer McPeepers to children and their families at the Arlene Cherry Memorial Library, where the summer reading program kicked off on Monday.

Arlene Cherry Memorial Library hosted children’s author and Cabot resident Katy Duffield on May 31. She read her new book “Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows” and “Click, Clack, Moo,” written by Doreen Cronin to 30 children and 17 parents who attended.

Duffield also played games with the children including one called “This little cow eats grass,” which was a play off of the “this little piggy” finger game children play.

It ended on the pinky finger with “and this little one eats grass and just lays around,” said head librarian Christine Williams.
Duffield also autographed and sold several of her books at the event. The library kicked off the summer reading program for children and young adults on Monday. “We usually have about 700 sign up each year,” Williams said.

Participants keep a log of the books they’ve read and for each level — 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 books — they will get a prize, which could be a toy or coupon from an area restaurant.

“We stop counting at 100,” Williams said.

The theme for the program this year is “Paws, Claws, Scales and Tales” for children and “Creature Features” for young adults.
Williams said the program is “a good way for children to keep up with their reading over the summer, and I think the teachers appreciate that also.”

On July 13, a party will be held to celebrate the end of the reading program. Almost like a carnival, games, food and activities outside, as well as a magic show inside the library.

SPORTS >> Searcy, Harding Academy do well in ‘Raid’

Leader sports writer

IN SHORT: The Searcy Lions finished third and the Wildcats fourth in the Sonic 7-on-7 football tournament.

A total of 16 teams competed in the Sonic Air-Raid 7-on-7 football tournament at Harding University on Saturday. Local teams Searcy and Harding Academy, along with 13 other Arkansas schools and Boyd-Buchanon High School from Tennessee took to the eight different fields in the double elimination tourney.

Each team played three games in the preliminary round, and the eight teams with the best records moved into the afternoon championship bracket, while the rest played in the Land-O-Frost consolation bracket.

Shiloh Christian eventually went on to win the overall championship, defeating Fayetteville in the championship game and going undefeated in the tournament. Searcy finished third overall, with Harding ending up fourth in the final standings.

The Lions finished with a final tournament record of 6-2, with HA just one shy of Searcy’s winning mark with a 5-2 record.
Searcy and HA both made it to the championship bracket, and eventually squared off in a rare cross-town rivalry game in the quarterfinals of the losers bracket after both teams lost in the first round of the championships.

Both schools went 3-0 in the preliminaries, but Harding had a difficult time with the CAC 2 squad in the first round of the championship, losing 29-6. Searcy led Stuttgart through most of its first-round matchup, but a last-second play for Stuttgart stole the win from the Lions 22-21.

The Lions and the Wildcats both ended up in the loser’s bracket, but both teams were determined to still make it to the championship. Harding Academy pulled out a 27-19 win over Forrest City in the first round of the losers bracket, while Searcy held off a stubborn Bryant team 20-14 to advance to the next round.

In the 3 p.m. games, HA beat Stuttgart 28-18, while the Lions easily handled CAC 2 33-12, setting up a much-anticipated game between the two schools.

Neither team scored on their first possessions. The 30-minute scrimmage went scoreless until 20:38 remaining, when Justin Rowden hit Matt Cramblett from nine-yards out for the first Searcy score. The extra-point throw was completed, and the Lions went up 7-0.

Harding Academy answered on the following possession, when Luke Tribble made a 1-yard shovel pass into the end zone for the score.

Tribble found another receiver for the extra-point conversion, but the Lion defenders stopped him on the 1-yard line to keep a slim 7-6 lead.

Searcy’s next score came on a hail-Mary looking pass from Rowden to a crowd of Searcy and HA players. The Lion receiver caught the ball, and was pushed out of the back of the end zone by the Wildcats. The pass was deemed a catch by the officials, and Searcy added to its lead 13-6.

Searcy intercepted Tribble on the next possession, but gave the ball right back to Harding on downs.
The Wildcats would score this time when a pass from Tribble was scooped up at the 2-yard line after the intended receiver fell down.

The receiver behind the play snagged the ball just before it hit the ground and ran in for the score. The touchdown cut Searcy’s lead to 13-12 with only 5:54 remaining, but both teams still had another score left.

The Lions scored their final TD with 2:18 left on a 1-yard toss from Cramblett to Easton Valentine. The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 19-12 in favor of Searcy.

The Wildcats had to hustle with the continuous clock, but managed to put it in the end zone with a little more than 30 seconds remaining.

HA had the option to go for the one-point conversion from the 5-yard line for the tie, or go for the win with a 2-point conversion from the 10-yard line. Coach Tommy Shoemaker opted for it all, with a 2-point attempt on the final play of the game.

Tribble launched the ball into the end zone, but it bounced off the HA receiver’s extended hand, giving Searcy the win 19-18, and putting the Wildcats out of the tournament.

“That was a lot of fun,” Shoemaker said after the game. “We were about out of gas, so we went for the win there. I thought we had a good play; we just didn’t get it done. It was a good game, and good for the city. I know there are probably a lot of people who were excited to see the two of us mix it up.”

Even with a light practice schedule over the spring, Shoemaker was impressed with his young team, especially receiver-turned-quarterback Luke Tribble.

“Luke done a great job,” Shoemaker said. “He was a little shaky in the first game and threw a couple of interceptions, but he was right on the money in the rest of the games. He’s a good competitor, and I was impressed with how well he threw the ball.

“We have a lot of young guys, and I thought they did really well. We have some technique stuff to work on, and we have to decide where some guys fit, but they picked up things well, especially with so little time to practice.”

Searcy faced Fayetteville in the semifinals with the winner moving on to face Shiloh Christian for the championship.
The Lions led 15-14 with seven minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns in the final minutes to take the win 26-15, and ending Searcy’s impressive run.

Lions second-year coach Bart McFarland was very pleased with the team’s effort, especially the leadership he got from the seniors.

“We have come a long way from last year,” McFarland said. “To reach the final three is a great accomplishment for this team. Everybody stepped it up today. All of these guys were tired, but we came back and competed. Justin did great all day, I think he only had one interception the whole tournament. Easton and Matt both made some unbelievable catches out there.

“We’re doing exactly what we’re going to do on Friday night, right here. We had a lot of guys take it to the next level out there, and that’s what we’re going to have to do all season during the fall in order to be successful.”

SPORTS >> Cabot closes 7-Up Classic with win over Brinkley

Leader sports writer

IN SHORT: The Cabot American Legion team went 1-2 at Paragould’s annual 7-Up baseball tournament.

The Cabot Home Depot Class AAA team lost two out of three games at the 7-Up Classic tournament in Paragould last weekend. Losses in the first two rounds to Benton and Searcy’s B & B Oil AA team put Cabot at a deficit in the tourney, but they closed out bracket play strong on the final day with an 8-1 win over Brinkley.

“We rebounded pretty well on Sunday,” Cabot coach Andy Runyon said. “We were in a position to win two out of the three games. We had some errors that killed us on Friday. Saturday, we just played like a team that was tired and not all there; I think the score reflects that. It was good to see them bounce back on Sunday and respond the way they did; they really played tough against Brinkley. If you take those errors away from the Benton game, we would have had two wins over quality teams for the weekend.”

The overall 1-2 record for the weekend looks worse on paper than it was in actuality. Cabot led Benton through most of Friday’s opener until two late errors from the Home Depot team allowed four runs from the Panthers. The Saturday game against Searcy was played with a skeleton lineup due to basketball camp, with two of its strongest players at a college prospect camp. B & B Oil took advantage of the situation with a 10-1 rout over Cabot.

The Sunday game with Brinkley closed Home Depot out on a strong note for the tourney. The defense turned in its strongest performance in the third-round outing, with starting pitcher Sam Bates going the distance for Cabot.

Bates gave up six hits and two walks to the Brinkley batters in 84 pitches, and allowed no earned runs.

Justin Free gave the strongest offensive performance for Home Depot, going 2 for 3 with a triple and scoring three runs.
Corey Wade led in bases stolen with two, as Cabot racked up seven total team hits and seven walks in the dominating performance.

Colin Fuller had the best single play of the game defensively, snagging a ball barehanded after a rock changed the direction of the Brinkley grounder.

Fuller grabbed the ball with his left hand and made the play to first to get the out and help protect what was then a 5-1 Cabot lead at the time of the play.

“I think that play pretty well took all the wind out of their sails,” Runyon said of Fuller’s amazing play. “As a coach, when you see kids make a play like that against you, you start to get the feeling that maybe things aren’t going to go your way.”

Home Depot took on Sylvan Hills on Tuesday after Leader deadlines, and will host a double- header against Heber Springs on Thursday before traveling to Pine Bluff Sunday.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville rallies past Benton in tourney final

Leader sports editor

IN SHORT: The Gwatney Class A team beat Benton 4-3 on the game’s last at bat to close its tournament.

They saved their best for last, and it was just enough for Jacksonville’s Gwatney A American Legion team to close out their tournament Sunday with a 4-3 win over Benton.

Gwatney scored one run in the bottom of the first inning thanks to a Ben-ton error, but Benton took the lead in the top of the second and didn’t trail again until the last at bat of the game.

All three of Benton’s runs were unearned. Gwatney committed three errors in the inning, including two with two outs that gave Sports Shop three runs and a 3-1 lead.

Gwatney got one run back in the bottom of the second, but blew a golden opportunity for a big inning.

Benton pitcher Chase John-son walked Jacksonville’s seven, eight and nine hole hitters to start the inning. Leadoff hitter Adam Ussery then struck out, and Shane Graham hit into a 5-2 fielder’s choice.

Cameron Hood then singled to score Devin McMunn from third, but Graham rounded second base and headed to third with Cody Spears still standing there. Graham tried to stop and got caught in a rundown. Spears broke for home during the rundown and was thrown out to end the inning.

Benton returned the favor by blowing a crucial scoring opportunity in the top of the seventh and last inning.

Bo Mitcham hit a one-out double down the left-field line, but made a big base-running error on the next at bat.

Nine-hole hitter Alce Mann executed a perfect bunt that left him safe at first, but Mitcham tried to stretch two bases out of it and was easily thrown out at home. It certainly cost Benton a run because leadoff hitter Justin Mills singled on the next at bat. Justin Pfieffer then popped up to second base to end the inning.

Jacksonville took the lead and the game in the bottom of the frame. Seth Tomboli fell behind 1-2 in the count, but responded by bouncing a line drive off the fence in centerfield. He stretched the stand-up double into a triple by sliding in just safe at third base.

Benton elected to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. Ussery then doubled to right field to score Tomboli and secure the victory.

While base-running errors cost each team runs, Jacksonville tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with a heads-up play on the path by Cameron Hood.

Hood singled to lead off the inning. Adrian Baker grounded out to third base, and Hood rounded second on the throw from third to first.

The throw back to third was wild, and Hood scored from third.

Graham got the win on the mound. He gave up six hits, struck out three, walked one and gave up zero earned runs in the complete-game effort.

Hood and Tomboli, as well as Benton’s Mills, were the only players with multiple hits in the game. Tomboli went 2 for 2 with a walk and a triple.

Gwatney went 2-1 overall in the tournament. It beat Woodlawn 10-7 Friday, then lost 10-3 to Sheridan Saturday in a game that turned ugly after a collision at home plate.