Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SPORTS>>Fourth signing at Hillside

Leader sports writer

The fourth senior from the Sylvan Hills High baseball program signed to play college baseball on Friday morning. Students and faculty gathered in the Sylvan Hills High School media center to give well wishes to Ross Bogard, who signed his letter of intent to become a Trojan for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

For the second straight year, the UALR program has ended up with the Bears ace hurler, after signing high profile southpaw Ashur Toliver last spring. While it is the first signing to UALR this season, it is the fourth overall for the departing SH seniors.
Along previous signees Taylor Roark, Tony Pavan and Jake Eller, Bogard was part of a class that helped the Bears to a state title in 2005, and enjoyed back-to-back conference titles their junior and senior years. While the postseason has not been kind to the group the past two years, Bogard says his entire tenure as a Sylvan Hills pitcher was an enjoyable one.

A big moment for me was my sophomore year when we won the state championship,” Bogard said. “Last year, we made it to the second round of state, and we were able to do that again this year. Being part of such a good program was a lot of fun.”
Bogard had a very solid year at the mound as the ace for Sylvan Hills. His record for the season was 8-1 with a 2.2 ERA. At the plate, Bogard hit .310 for the season with three home runs and 21 total RBIS.

“Ross had an unbelievable year on the mound,” Bears coach Denny Tipton said. “He really came through for us. He did a great job in the outfield for us too. It’s going to give us a big hole. Anytime you lose a pitcher that went 8-1 it’s tough, and when you’re losing your five-hole hitter as well, that’s going to be hard to replace.”

As for rejoining Toliver at UALR, Bogard says the reunion will be a welcomed one. “It’s going to be fun to go and play with Ashur,” Bogard said. “I’ve played with him these past four years, and it’s been a pretty good experience pitching with him, so that was also part of my decision.”

Bogard says the Trojan program as a whole should be a good fit for him.“I kind-of feel like staying close to home,” Bogard said. “ I know it’s a good fit for me. I feel like UALR is going to be an up-and-coming program in baseball for the next few years.”

SPORTS>>Panther grad set for ATU program

Leader sportswriter

Cabot graduate Jamie Sterrenberg finalized her college plans just one week after receiving her diploma from Cabot High School on Friday when she signed to play basketball with Arkansas Tech. Sterrenberg signed at the Cabot gymnasium on Friday afternoon in front of students and faculty.

Sterrenberg was a mainstay in both basketball and softball during her tenure at CHS. She was a three-year starter in both sports, and received All-Conference and All-State recognition in both sports as well.

Although her scholarship is for basketball, Sterrenberg plans on remaining a two-sport athlete even in college, as a walk-on for the Golden Suns softball program. While many have warned her of the difficulty of such a feat in college, Sterrenberg stated her case with honesty and matter-of-factness.

“I know it will be very difficult,” Sterrenberg said. “A lot of people have told me that it will be impossible, but it’s just the stubborn side of me; if someone says I can’t do something, I’m going to try that much harder to do it. My studies will come first, so if it comes down to it, I would have to give it up. But hopefully, it won’t be a problem.”

The Golden Suns are coming off an impressive season, going 22-10 overall last year, with an 11-3 Gulf South Conference record. Despite the strong season, it would end up being the second and final season for coach Todd Schaefer, who was recently replaced by new coach Dave Wilbers. Sterrenberg says she looks forward to the opportunity to play under Wilbers as a Golden Sun.

“It’s an awesome program,” Sterrenberg said. “I love playing basketball and traveling. This team doesn’t have to travel too far for most of their games, so that will be nice. It’s nice to get a scholarship; it’s like they are paying me to go to school there, so it all worked out.”

During her senior year as a Lady Panther, Sterrenberg averaged 11.9 points per game, along with seven steals, two steals and four assists per game, and was considered their best defender.

Cabot coach Carla Crowder says the team has been working hard in an effort to find suitable replacements for both Sterrenberg and fellow senior Maddie Helms on next year’s Lady Panthers team.

“We’re really excited for Jamie,” Crowder said. “She likes the school, and I think she will be a great asset to that program. We love her, and hope for her success. The bottom line for us is, she did a great job as a Cabot Lady Panther, she was a complete player.”

SPORTS>>Chevy boys win two, lose one

Leader sportswriter

The North Little Rock Memorial Day American Legion A tournament at Burns Park was a productive one for Gwatney Chevrolet. The Chevy boys took wins over Sheridan and Texarkana on the second and third day of the tournament after dropping their opener to Pine Bluff on Friday night 8-2.

The win over Sheridan on Saturday was a narrow 7-6 decision, but Jacksonville got its runaway win the following day against Texarkana 10-1 in a five-inning, run-ruled finale.

Gwatney got off to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after a triple from Tyler Wisdom at the two-hole slot put the first score in position. A sacrifice grounder to second from Jason Regnas brought Wisdom across the plate for the score, but it would be the bottom of the third before Jacksonville would score again.

When the runs did start to come again, they came almost effortlessly. Eight of the nine batters in the Gwatney lineup came in for scores in the decisive third inning.

The inning started out at the top of the order with Terrell Brown, who singled with a fly to left field. After a triple during his first at-bat, Wisdom flew out for the first out of the third inning, but it would be a long time until out number two would come.

Regnas scored Brown on an RBI single to center, and advanced on an error for Caleb Mitchell. Seth Tombolli had the next RBI for Gwatney when his shot to center scored Regnas to make it 3-0. Jeffery Tillman then loaded the bases by receiving the free trip to first courtesy of a walk by Texarkana.

Shelby Wilcox then grabbed one of the biggest hits of the game with a double to deep left center that cleared the bases of all previous runners and doubled Gwatney’s lead to 6-0. Bryan Thurman followed that with a single to score Wilcox, and Clayton Fenton put a big exclamation point on the inning with a hard smack that sent the ball over the left field wall to score himself and Thurman, giving Jacksonville a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth inning.

A brief moment of confusion led to the only Texarkana score of the afternoon. With runners at first and second, Gwatney tried to turn a double play when their eight-hole hitter Mosbey hit to shortstop. The play was made at second, but Wilcox didn’t get the throw to Regnas at first in time, and the runner at third snuck in for the score.

Gwatney got one more run for good measure in the bottom of the fourth inning on a daring squeeze play by Regnas. Regnas reached after getting hit by a pitch, and stole his way around the diamond. The bases were loaded with only one out as Tillman came up to bat. As Regnas charged the plate, Tillman layed down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Regnas touched the plate before a Texarkana player even touched the ball to set the final margin. Starting Gwatney pitcher Tombolli only needed three outs to claim the win in the top of the fifth inning, and got all of them by pop-ups to right field and second base from the Texarkana batters.

“The left-hander they started out with had us a little confused at times,” Jacksonville coach Travis Lyda said. “He was throwing a lot of outside pitches, and the umpire stayed consistent with his low strike zone. That third inning, we unleashed some frustrations that we’ve had at the plate at some points. A saw a lot of guys doing good all over the place.”

Lyda said his team’s efforts during the weekend were not perfect, but were a big step in the right direction.

“We made a couple of mistakes late in the game against Pine Bluff,” Lyda said. “Last night (Saturday), we had to come back to beat Sheridan. That really jump-started us for today. Today, we came out here and clicked and did the things we needed to do. So, 2-1 overall on the weekend, we made a lot of great strides toward getting where we want to be.” The pair of wins and loss on the weekend gives Jacksonville a season record of 3-1.

EDITORIALS>>Bottom of the barrel

The religion editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette scored an unlikely scoop by calling up former President Jimmy Carter and getting him to say that President Bush was the worst president in history from the standpoint of the United States’ relations with the world.

Carter’s appraisal seemed altogether unremarkable and unworthy of the blockbuster treatment it received in the national media because the same judgment has become a refrain of historians and commentators and Carter had said almost as much in the past.

But former presidents, we learned, are supposed to follow a code of being circumspect in talking about sitting presidents.
Sure enough, Carter began to apologize and soften his remark, saying that it might have been misinterpreted. We frankly were unaware of the code, although we have observed Bill Clinton’s amazingly respectful tones when he speaks of President Bush.

We remember Harry Truman’s ill-disguised contempt for his successor, Dwight Eisenhower. Truman did not honor speech codes. Herbert Hoover publicly belittled his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in terms about as unflattering as Carter’s.
Carter limited his assessment of President Bush to the international ramifications of his policies. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq without international backing or sound cause, his mismanagement of the war and his failure to make a serious effort to resolve Israeli-Arab conflicts have magnified Arab radicalism, made the Middle East more unstable and dangerous than ever and diminished American prestige and influence around the globe. That is Carter’s assessment and it is hard to take exception. But does that make Bush the worst president?

He has some stiff competition: the crook-infested administration of Warren G. Harding, who once confided “I an not fit for this office and never should have been here”; Herbert Hoover, who shrugged while the nation fell into depression; James Buchanan, whose despondency and inaction led the nation into the Civil War; and Buchanan’s predecessor, Franklin Pierce, who was no better.

Their failings, however, were almost altogether domestic, and Carter was talking about foreign policy. That limits the competition to the century in which the United States played on the world stage.

Who was worse? Carter will get some nominations because of the dispiriting Iran hostage crisis, which consumed much of his presidency. But Carter fathered the human-rights foundation of American foreign policy, which raised international reverence and which subsequent presidents have embraced in theory if not in practice. Richard Nixon?

He is ranked among the best presidents on foreign policy, although he let the Vietnam War languish for three and a half years after it could have been settled — that is, lost — on the same terms. And what about Lyndon Johnson, who escalated the conflict in Vietnam and then sleeplessly could find no way to shut it down and save face?

But the repercussions were in blood and treasure and on the American psyche. It would prove to have little effect on U. S. prestige and sway.

George W. Bush certainly looks like the worst, but the horrors that are so apparent now may not have the lasting consequences that so many predicted when it began and that we all now fear. The world has a way of healing rapidly.
Let’s have this conversation again in 50 years.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

EDITORIALS>>Pit bull owners

To the editor:
In my opinion, the Jacksonville City Council made two mistakes when it voted to ban pit bulls.

The type of owner who was at the council is the type of person who appears on the Jerry Springer show. These are the type people who encourage aggression in, and often train their dogs to be, aggressive.

They are so alienated from what most consider to be societal norms that they avoid the “man” at all costs. The level of fear or threat (that someone would take their dogs) that they must have felt, sufficient to mobilize them to the point that they would stand up in the “man’s” forum and challenge and threaten the “man” who they normally avoid at all costs, is both astonishing and very sad.

Yet, they came to defend their dogs. They came to have their say. They fought for their pets in the only way they knew how to – with threats and insults.

The level of rudeness displayed by these owners at the council meeting is inexcusable. And, while it is, using that rudeness as an excuse to ban a breed is reprehensible.

The council acted no differently than the owners of the dogs. Both said the equivalent of, “Do something I don’t like and I will exact my revenge!” The difference between the two is that the council did so with more subtlety and should be above such behavior.

To make matters worse, the council enacted legislation based on hype, hysteria and ignorance. While it is possible that no one contacted them by phone, fax, email or regular mail, and politely provided information that dispels the usual hype, hysteria and ignorance, my money is on the fact that they were inundated with it.

The overwhelming majority of professionals (veterinarians, behaviorists, trainers, researchers, the National Animal Control Association, and the Center for Disease Control, to name only a few), maintain that breed-specific legislation is not the solution to dog aggression.

One can only hope when tempers cool that the Jacksonville City Council will revisit this issue and enact a decent, fair and effective dangerous dog law.

Donna Malone
Memphis, Tenn.

EDITORIALS>>Huckabee as a clown

There is no history of anyone wisecracking his way into the presidency of the United States, or for that matter any other high office. But judging by the first debates and cattle shows Mike Huckabee intends to be a trailblazer. Buried at the bottom in the polls of likely Republican voters with 1 percent, the former governor has crafted a joke for each show and found an occasion to deliver it. It is his way of separating himself from the pack.

Each time it has won him laughter in the studio audience and mention in the news accounts. The one-liners have got him about his only notice. In the South Carolina Republican debate he got the big and about the only laugh of the evening when he jibed, “We’ve had a Congress that has spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.” Edwards, one of the leading Democratic candidates, has been derided for paying $400 for a haircut. Huckabee was buoyed by the reaction to his wisecrack and last week set out to use it to raise badly needed campaign funds. He asked people to send him a donation at the price of their last haircut.

Everybody loves a clown, but jokes have rarely got politicians very far. The best of recent vintage was Kinky Friedman, who ran for governor of Texas last year on the slogan, “How hard can it be?” Entirely too hard, if he meant getting elected. But he was talking about running a state that George W. Bush once ran.

Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, was good at one-liners, but they nearly always were of the self-deprecating variety that did not offend. People just didn’t like what he said or did when he tried to be serious. U. S. Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, a Democratic candidate for president in 1976, and Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, who sought the nomination several times, enlivened every debate and every speech with original but always gentle humor. Crowds loved them but voted for the deadly serious men.

There is rarely anything gentle about Mike Huckabee’s humor, though he has on occasion poked fun at his own poor fund-raising. His jibes have a mean edge, whether the target is John Edwards, Hillary Clinton or Edward Kennedy.

The former governor’s cracks are risk-free now because no one is going to retaliate against a man who is 1 percent in the polls and shows little promise at the moment of rising much beyond it. One percent is a safe vantage point from which to launch missiles at anyone. Even Mitt Romney, the object of some of Huckabee’s early attacks, is not going to elevate a cellar-dwelling candidate by giving him the time of day.

But if Huckabee manages to break out of the herd of single-digit candidates, he has set a precedent that may serve him badly. His own official past provides rich material for precisely the kind of jibes that he loves, and he has invited it. They could popularize some of the Huckabee weaknesses that no one so far has exploited because he is not a serious factor in the race.

For instance, an opponent might crack that someone was “as excited as Mike Huckabee in a rich man’s haberdashery,” recalling the $23,032 worth of clothing Huckabee acquired in 1999 on Jennings Osborne’s clothing account. It was that year the governor sucked in $112,366 worth of gifts. Huckabee’s famous penchant for freebies, including the establishment of wedding registries for going-away gifts for the first couple last December, furnishes a limitless supply of thigh-slappers. Here is another: “I would sign that bill as fast as Mike Huckabee getting a rapist out of prison.”

This is not a game that offers long-term promise for our man. Huckabee should remember that scolds and jesters never get to rule.

OBITUARIES >> 5-30-07

Selma Lybrand

Selma Joyce Lybrand, 63, of Sherwood went to be with the Lord on May 26. She was born Sept. 3, 1943 in Little Rock to the late William and Ora Branum Venable. She was a credit and collections specialist for Fuel Man of Arkansas and was of the Baptist faith. Three brothers, two sisters and two sons preceded her in death.

She is survived by her husband, Jim Lybrand; three daughters, Telela Grissom and husband Jerry of Conway, Rhonda Williams and husband Jody of Pangburn, and Melissa Long and husband Charles of Cabot; one son, Gerald Lybrand and wife Kathy of Sherwood; 12 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday May 30 in Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home Chapel with Brother Scotty Burrow officiating.

Burial will follow in Sumner Cemetery.

Kathleen Pratt

Kathleen Estella Pratt, 83, passed away May 26.

She was a member of Lonoke Baptist Church, a retired telephone operator and a member of Telephone Pioneers.
Survivors include her husband of 53 years, James A. Pratt; several nieces and nephews, including Dewone Payne of Missouri and Billie Jean Sullivan of California.

Funeral Services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 30 at Lonoke Baptist Church with burial to follow in Rest Hills Memorial Park in North Little Rock. Memorials may be made to Lonoke Baptist Church Building Fund. Arrangements will be by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Patricia Cox

Patricia E. Cox, 62, of Ward died May 29.

She was born March 11, 1945, at Damascus to Wilbur S. and Erma Bradley Hickey. She is survived by her husband, Frankie Cox; two sons, Chris Cox and wife Trish of Cabot and Rick Cox of Ward; one daughter, Veronica Glover of Ward; four grandchildren, Kayla Cox, Hayley Cox, Taylor Cox and Ashley Glover; and sister-in-law and brother-in-law Fran and Larry Joe Stocks of Ward.

The family wishes to express their thanks to Dr. Dewey McAfee and Hospice Home Care for all their kindness and support, and also would like to thank her special friends at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Cabot. Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 30 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Graveside service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 31, at Sixteenth Section Cemetery.

Mary Brown

Mary Evelyn Brown, 84, of Little Rock passed away May 24.  

She was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Hugh Brown and grandchildren, Christopher and Kimberly.  
Survivors include daughter, Carol Jones; sons, Claude Brown and Robert Johnson; grandchildren, Jessica and Victoria Jones, Jason and Wesley Brown and Meagan Johnson; and great-grandson, Ace Brown.

Graveside memorial services will be at 11 a.m., Friday, June 1 at Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock. All that knew her and her family are welcome.  

Flowers may be sent to Calvary Cemetery on Thursday or Friday prior to services. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

John Olive

John Edward Olive, 79, of Jacksonville passed away May 28 in North Little Rock. He was born Sept. 19, 1927 in Redfield to the late Luther and Agnes Tuck Olive. His first wife, Betty Jean Jones; his second wife, Carolyn Abbott; a sister, Shelba Ann Reese; and a daughter, Teresa Lynn Olive, also precede him in death.

He served in the Merchant Marines prior to joining the Air Force where he served in the Second World War, receiving the Victory Medal. He also served in the Vietnam War.

He retired from the military in 1967 due to a disability. He was an active member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 5448.
Survivors include his son, John E. Olive Jr. of Florida; daughter, Judi Armstead and husband Bradley of Bee Branch; brother, Joseph Olive and wife Margie of Redfield; grandchildren, Brandi Davis and husband Edmund of Bismark, and Heather Bristow of Bee Branch; great-grandchildren, Cloey Bristow and Hayden Davis, as well as numerous step grandchildren and step great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Friday, June 1 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with Rev. Doyle Wilson officiating.

Visitation will be at the funeral home Thursday, May 31 from 6 until 8 p.m. Funeral arrangements are under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Thomas Fulmer

Thomas Ricky Fulmer, 54, of North Little Rock departed this life on May 26 in Sherwood after a courageous fight with cancer.
He was the son of Louise Fulmer Thompson and the late O.B. Fulmer of Newark.

He was born premature on Nov. 30, 1952, and battled coming into the world as he did leaving. Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Glenda; son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Misty of Little Rock; son, Kevin of North Little Rock; three brothers, Odus Fulmer of Newark, Rowland Fulmer of North Little Rock, and Rammie Thompson of Oklahoma.

Funeral services were held May 29 at Wood Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville. Burial was at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Jacksonville with funeral arrangements were made by Wood Funeral Home.

Glen Moon

Glen Moon, 85, formerly of Ward passed away May 19. He will be greatly missed by many loved ones and friends. In lieu of flowers, send donations to Serenity Hospice of Claremore, 441 No. Lynn Riggs Blvd. Claremore, Okla., 74017.

Joseph Hauser

Joseph John Hauser, 86, of Cabot passed away May 20. He was born in Highland Park, Mich., on Aug. 21, 1920 to the late Joseph and Anna Hauser.

He was a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy serving during the Second World War in the Pacific areas of New Guinea and Philippine Liberation Campaigns.

His career as a machinery sales engineer took him over the entire country and to his transfer to Texas in 1968. He retired to Cabot. He was a member of the Engineering Society of Detroit and also of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
He is survived by his son, Kurt Hauser; his daughter, Lisa Nesbitt; as well as granddaughters Erica Riddle and Michelle Nesbitt, and grandsons Jacob Hauser and Alden Hauser; along with two great-granddaughters, Lindsey and Lydia Riddle.
At his request, his cremains will be scattered over the South Pacific area by the U.S. Navy.

Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

O.D. Richey

O.D. Richey, 80, died May 24. He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Ronnie, and an infant brother, J.D.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Jo Richey; one son, Ricky Richey and wife Susie of Morrilton; one daughter, Cathy Hunt of Benton; two granddaughters, Nicole and Cathy Jo; two great-grandsons, Lane and Justin; sisters, Opal Parker and Hazel Hubbard; and brothers, Coy Richey, Lloyd Richey and Dub Richey.

Funeral services were May 29 at Boyd Funeral Home Chapel in Lonoke with burial in Sunset Memorial Gardens.

Mary Weatherford

Mary Bernice Weatherford, 83, went to be with the Lord May 25 leaving behind many loved ones. She was born May 10, 1924, to the late Rupert and Mary Hill. Her loving husband, R. H. “Hugh Jack” preceded her in death in 1987, as well as her brother, Bill Tom Hill. She was a member of Union Valley Baptist Church. Bernice worked for Franklin Electric in Jacksonville for over 30 years.

Survivors include her three children, Bobby and wife Barbara Weatherford, Becky and husband Skip Downing, all of Beebe, and Terry and wife Tonia Weatherford of Jacksonville; sisters, Lorene Scheer and Melba Manasco, both of Searcy; Thelma Ray of Beebe, and Jane Payne of Dardanelle; a brother, Dean Hill of Silsbee, Texas; seven grandchildren, Jennifer Stane, Michael Weatherford, Preston Downing, Kyle Downing, Tory Weatherford, Terrica Weatherford, and Tucker Weatherford; and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were May 28 at Union Valley Baptist Church. Burial was in Grissard Cemetery in El Paso. Memorials in Bernice’s name may be made to Union Valley Baptist Church Building Fund, 932 Hwy. 64 West, Beebe, Ark., 72012, or Grissard Cemetery Corp., P.O. Box 93, El Paso, Ark., 72045. Funeral arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Next move may be up to federal prosecutor

When the FBI completes its public-corruption probe into former Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh’s administration, interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin in Little Rock could be the one who decides whether to file charges against Stumbaugh and his cronies.

Both Stumbaugh and Griffin are prominent Republicans, so Griffin could recuse himself and let nonpolitical appointees decide on whether to file charges — or he could go ahead and give the green light for a corruption trial if the findings warrant it just to prove he is not the partisan attack dog that the media have portrayed him since the U.S. attorney firings became a national scandal.

Unless you’ve been on vacation all year, you know the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock and seven others around the country have been under a cloud ever since the dismissal of the top prosecutors. U.S. attorneys were fired either for prosecuting too many Republicans or not prosecuting enough Democrats.

Griffin falls somewhere in between. His predecessor, Bud Cummins, was supposedly dismissed for “poor performance,” although he was probably fired to make way for Griffin, a protégé of White House aide Karl Rove.

Now Griffin has to decide if he’s a partisan Republican or an independent prosecutor. In our dealings with him, we’ll go with the latter: A month ago, he demoted his chief of the criminal division after the fellow sent an off-the-wall threat to file a libel suit against this editor for reporting his involvement with Jay Campbell, the convicted former Lonoke police chief.
Griffin, who could leave his post before summer is over, wouldn’t comment on the Stumbaugh investigation, but you have to wonder: If and when he receives the FBI file, would he take the case on himself to show he’s not just a political hack but a fair-minded prosecutor who goes after wrongdoers regardless of party affiliation?

When our reporter Joan McCoy revealed two months ago that the FBI was investigating Stumbaugh and his administration and carting away computers with city records, the former mayor denied there was a probe. Last week, McCoy reported that not only is the FBI continuing its investigation, but Stumbaugh, as is his right, has requested city documents to clear his name.
Investigators are curious about city contracts that were made under Stumbaugh’s watch, particularly with USI-Arkansas to upgrade Cabot’s water system and sewer treatment plant. USI, the Alabama-based parent company, has a history of bribing public officials, and its former president is awaiting sentencing after he was found guilty of bribery. He could get leniency if he comes clean about his company’s business practices and helps corner others who took payoffs.

Investigators are also looking into another company that did business with Cabot, the giant garbage hauler IESI, which hired Stumbaugh as a consultant after he left office in December. IESI’s employees in Cabot have been terminated, although the company insists that had nothing to do with the investigation.

Yet another angle in the case could involve a multi-level marketing firm that Stumbaugh is involved in. Investigators might want to know if the former mayor did business with contractors who may have bought goods and services from the marketing firm.

Stumbaugh is preparing his defense on several fronts, including the USI-Arkansas and IESI’s contracts. Last month, he requested documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, and it wouldn’t surprise us if he hired a lawyer before the FBI’s findings go to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In a few short years, Stumbaugh, who is now out of office, has seen a promising political career come crashing down, from chairman of the Lonoke Republican Party to mayor of Cabot to congressional candidate, albeit a failed one. The White House and national Republicans had recruited Stumbaugh, a former Little Rock cop, to challenge Cong. Marion Berry in 2006.

He agreed, but changed his mind, then agreed again to run against Berry, who, it turned out, was unstoppable, especially in a Democratic year.

Stumbaugh’s political career lasted but four years. The one-term mayor has been accused of mismanaging the city, which was on the brink of bankruptcy until newly elected Mayor Eddie Joe Williams began turning things around.

Sending a city into insolvency is not necessarily a federal crime — mayors around the country manage that feat all the time — but there are some things a politician cannot and should not get away with.

The FBI will determine if crimes were committed, and then the U.S. attorney will decide if indictments are warranted.
It looks like interim U.S. Attorney Griffin might have one big case to decide on before he leaves office. The White House and the Justice Department may be watching.

TOP STORY >>Alleged killer has hearing rescheduled

Leader senior staff writer

Family and former bosses showed up in Pulaski County Circuit Court Tuesday for the mental health hearing of a 25-year-old Jacksonville man alleged to have killed a 5-year-old Jacksonville girl in October 2005, but the hearing was cancelled.
Howard H. Neal, Jr., charged with capital murder, kidnapping and third-degree battery at the time for killing the child and also for stabbing his sister’s boyfriend in the head and face with a screwdriver was not competent to stand trial at the time, according to Jenna Sherrill, the deputy Pulaski County prosecutor and he was committed April 3 to the state hospital for evaluation. The hearing has been reset for July 9 so he can undergo more testing, according to an officer of the court.
Neal’s mother, sister and other family members as well as his former supervisors at the Leader newspaper and at the Crooked Hook restaurant, were subpoenaed for the hearing.

Neal has a history of mental problems and was off his medication at the time of the incident, his mother, Doris Neal, said at the time.

Neal has been diagnosed in the past as a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violence toward family members and sexually related arrests. Jacksonville police arrested Neal Oct. 23, 2005, after a 50-minute standoff at the home of his sister, Crystal Pickens, at 314 Elm Street. The body of 5-year-old Jasmine Taylor was discovered under a pile of heavy furniture. She was pronounced dead at the scene and taken from the home in a body bag.

Neal also stabbed an adult visitor in the home, Ronald Redden, who escaped over a fence and across the railroad tracks, where he was found bleeding profusely.

Neal’s mother said at the time that she couldn’t afford the antipsychotic medicine he needed and had been prescribed, and she could find no agency to help despite his history of violence toward family members and sexually-related arrests.
Neal, who was charged with the rape of a 2-year-old girl in 2001, was released after two hung juries. He agreed in April 2004 to a $500 fine and time served for fondling a teenaged girl and was charged in July of 2004 with failing to register as a sexual offender.

The prosecution dropped the case in May 2005, according to Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson, after Neal’s lawyer provided evidence that he was in mental facilities during the time that the state maintained he should have registered.

Neal was admitted in restraints to the St. Vincent Heath System’s Living Hope Institute June 22, 2004, where he was treated with drugs and counseling until he improved sufficiently to be discharged seven days later into a shelter, according to a medical report attained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

He was brought in on a commitment from Lonoke County where he had “apparently tried to set his family on fire,” according to hospital records.

He reportedly also threatened family members and chased them with a hammer. He was discharged June 29 on Depakote, Lexapro and Zyprexa for schizoaffective disorder. On July 8, he was admitted to the Bridgeway, where he said he was hearing voices telling him to hurt people. He told staff members he angered easily and thought about killing people when they irritated him.

When Neal is out of jail, he is frequently homeless or bouncing from cheap motel to cheap motel, she said at the time.
Neal himself hadn’t worked regularly in more than a year—much of the time he was either in jail or in some sort of mental facility such as Bridgeway.

TOP STORY >>Collective efforts on new water

Leader staff writer

In the water world, five years is now, according to those who try to keep the faucets running for all the rest of us who give it no thought. That is to say, if you need the water in five years, it’s already too late to do much planning. It’s time to panic.
In the central part of the state, which is known for its shortage of ground water, those people who know about water have been busy for years trying to arrange for a plentiful supply of lake water.

Some like Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Water Users Association have been successful because they have signed contracts and borrowed millions of dollars to connect to Central Arkansas Water (CAW) which was formed when the water departments of Little Rock and North Little Rock merged.

But others like Ward, Austin, Bayou II Water Association and Grand Prairie Water Association have been trying, some for almost 15 years, to bring water down from Greers Ferry Lake by way of the Lonoke / White Water Project which is now estimated to cost about $60 million.

Recently, those Lonoke /White Project members received a water allocation from Greers Ferry Lake through the Mid Arkansas Water Alliance that would likely serve their needs for many years.

The total allocation available from the U.S. Corps of Engineers was 15 million gallons a day. The Conway area, which is not part of the Lonoke / White Project, but is part of MAWA, got half of it. Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Water Association each received 1.2 million and the balance of 3.9 million gallons a day will go to the members of the Lonoke / White Project, who need it now or in the near future. During a recent meeting of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, members voted to pay a one-time fee of $225,000 to secure its allocation.

“Getting their straw in the lake,” they called it. And although, the Cabot commission says the Lonoke /White Project will eventually be build, it won’t be soon, not within the five years that is “now” in the water world. And that begs the question: How will the people who need water now get it if funding isn’t found soon?

The answer for many is Cabot, which could supply water to its neighbors from the line it will lay to CAW. And if the state approves a request from the Water and Wastewater Commission to increase its take of water from its wells east of town from 3 million gallons a day to 6 million, water from that source could also supply Austin and Ward and, some say, Grand Prairie for many years to come.

Either way, Cabot could be the solution when the water runs low for its neighbors. And either way, Cabot’s neighbors could help pay for the water line that Cabot will run to connect to CAW.

TOP STORY >>Graduation for area seniors

Leader staff writer

The skies were filled with mortarboards and “Pomp and Circumstance” echoed in the halls as more than 1,200 area seniors took the final steps of their high school careers during graduation ceremonies held in the past weeks. More than 760 seniors graduated May 18 from Cabot, Beebe and Lonoke high schools, and about 550 more graduated Friday and Saturday from Jacksonville, North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills high schools as well-planned graduation ceremonies commenced on schedule.

Seniors at JHS graduated Friday evening at the JHS football stadium. Jacksonville’s class of 2007 co-valedictorians were LaRae Brown and John Wilkins; salutatorian was Christopher Copeland. There were 13 other honor graduates in Jacksonville High’s Class of 2007.

Sylvan Hills High School seniors graduated Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center located at the north side of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus. Valedictorian Andrew Reynolds and salutatorian Caroline Borden, with 15 other honor graduates, lead the class.

North Pulaski High School’s commencement was also held Saturday at the Stephens Center at UALR. Sarah Watson, valedictorian, and Charles Gervasini, salutatorian, lead their graduating class. There were 14 additional honor graduates in North Pulaski’s Class of 2007. Cabot’s 480-plus graduates walked at Alltel Arena May 18 in North Little Rock with more than 7,000 family and friends watching the ceremony.

John C. Thompson, chairman of the Cabot Scholarship Foundation and Cabot alumni, was the community representative for the evening’s ceremony and told graduates to move their Class of 2007 tassel from the left to the right, marking their transition from high school into the real world. Heather Bodiford and Sarah Coggins graduated at the head of Cabot’s class as co-valedictorians; Sondra Grinnis was the salutatorian.

Cabot had a total of 13 high honor graduates, including Bodiford, Coggins and Grinnis, and 86 honor graduates.
Lonoke High School graduated 113 seniors at the Lonoke football stadium on May 18.

Jason Barnes and Jonathan Tackett led the LHS Class of 2007 as co-valedictorians; Logan Danielsen was salutatorian. Lonoke had nine other honor graduates.

At Beebe, out of a total of 170 graduates, 167 walked during the May 18 commencement. Brittney Bass and Katie McIlwain led the Beebe High School Class of 2007 as valedictorian and salutatorian; there were 18 other honor graduates.

Searcy’s Class of 2007 graduated May 12.

TOP STORY >>Mayor will find funds to pay for firefighters

Leader staff writer

In the wake of criticism that the city has lost so many firefighters that there aren’t enough left to protect the residents and each other, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said Tuesday that he will try to find the money to hire three full-time firefighters and 21 pay-per-call firefighters to more than replace the three who have resigned and the two who have been deployed.
To pay the $150,000 or so it will cost to hire more firefighters, Williams said he might have to trim the budgets of other city departments.

“All departments will become a stakeholder in solving this problem,” he said.

Additionally, he said that since safety is the issue, he will talk to MEMS about moving ambulances out of the residential neighborhood behind Price Cutter and into the fire stations on Highway 89 and Highway 321. It makes no sense to have both ambulances parked on the same side of the railroad track, he said. They once were housed at the fire stations and they can be again. “We get hundreds of calls a month for those ambulances and they should be strategically placed,” he said.

And while the mayor is not saying he is ready to stop large fire engines from running backup to the ambulances, he is saying that since some on the city council think it’s unnecessary, he will look for alternatives.

Currently, he said, he is considering modifying a pickup into a rescue vehicle that would be parked at Central Station. A handout from Fire Chief Phil Robinson during the Thursday evening fire and police meeting showed that of the 155 calls to the fire department in April, only one was a structure fire, while 116 were backup for MEMS. Williams put together his plan over the Memorial Day weekend.

He said during a press conference Tuesday that Fire Chief Phil Robinson will be getting more firefighters than the nine he told a local television station that he needed.

Insurance Services Office, which rates cities’ ability to fight fires, says three pay per call firefighters are equal to one fulltime firefighter, Williams said. So for ISO purposes, Robinson will get10 firefighters.

Cost overruns on the new community center and animal shelter and old bills that needed to be paid (such as more than $100,000 to the garbage company and the $10,000 a month that should have been paid to the judge’s pension plan) had the city about $1 million in the red when Williams took office in January.

Laying off eight employees cut about $500,000 from the 2007 budget, he said. But he was determined to build enough reserve that, at the very least, he wouldn’t have to worry about making payroll in the months with five paydays. While he didn’t lay off any firefighters or police officers, Williams said he would not fill vacant positions until he got the budget under control.

Scott Barker, president of the firefighters association, said during the Thursday night meeting of the fire and police committee that residents need not worry about their safety. If a house catches on fire, the fire department will be there to put it out and rescue anyone inside. The ones in danger are the firefighters, he said because if the two who now currently staff an engine are both inside, there is no one outside to watch out for them.

He warned the committee, “If we don’t do something, we’re going to get someone killed.”

Williams said during his press conference that every available firefighter responds to fire calls. Trucks from all three stations respond, he said.

And even off-duty firefighters wear pages so they can come in if needed. Asked if the firefighters were happy with his plan to increase their numbers, Williams said he had heard positive reports that they were and that he has asked them to help make it work.

Listening to the firefighters complaints Thursday night, Williams repeatedly told them that he heard what they were saying and understood their concerns.

By Sunday morning, he already had most of his plan put together and on Monday, a holiday, he called his fire chief in to tell him what he had in mind. “I’m ultimately the guy who’s got to float this ship in the right direction,” he said.

TOP STORY >>Spurned buyer revamps plan

Leader staff writer

Businessman Ron Campbell, whose $5.1 million offer to buy the North Hills golf course for a 200-home development was derailed by the Sherwood city council, has a new plan for the 106-acre facility.

Campbell is proposing to build 34 homes, leave the front nine-holes as a golf course and donate land—the equivalent of two fairways near Club Road to the city.

The developer tried to speak during the new business phase of Tuesday’s city council meeting but was denied the opportunity. City Attorney Steve Cobb told Campbell as he tried to speak that because a lawsuit had been filed against the city in this matter he had advised the aldermen not to speak about the issue.

“But I’m not part of that lawsuit, I have a right to be heard, I will be heard or arrested trying,” Campbell said, at which time the council quickly adjoined the meeting and Police Chief Kel Nicholson asked everyone to continue any discussions outside the building. A police officer escorted Campbell out mainly for his safety as tempers started to flare in the mostly pro-golf course crowd.

The developer says his design will give the city the green space it wants, without the expense.

Campbell’s first deal fell through after the city council approved a six-month moratorium, at their April meeting, stopping any and all preliminary or actual construction, redesign or planning work on the golf course.

The moratorium led Jim Rodgers, one of the owners, to file an appeal in Pulaski County Circuit Court asking for the moratorium to be declared void.

The city has 20 days, or until about June 8, to respond to the appeal. The council is also waiting for an appraisal of the golf course. That appraisal is expected to be ready this week. Campbell, who has already spent more than $600,000 pursuing the property, said if the issue goes to court, someone will end up building 200 homes on that site. “That’s what is most profitable,” he said. Campbell said his new idea is still in the rough draft plan and that he doesn’t have the property under contract at the moment but “is still on speaking terms with the owners.”

“This is a happy medium,” Campbell said, adding that the city needs to “come to their senses and realize that they can’t afford it.”

Campbell says the owners want to sell the property, and not for $1.5 million that the feasibility study recommends, but for $5.1 million. “And I want to buy it for $5.1 million and build very niceestate homes on the acreage. I’m not asking for apartments or high rises, just 34 homes, two streets and a small quiet commercial zone,” he said.

In previous council meetings, interim Mayor Bill Harmon had said that the issue should go before the people, but now he is saying that the city’s Public Facilities Board could actually buy the course and then lease it to the city for the amount of the monthly payments.

Jim Rodgers, one of the owners of the golf course and country club says he is still fielding calls from two or three prospective buyers. “But no one wants to commit until the building moratorium gets lifted,” said Rodgers. Campbell’s plans call for building a street down the middle of what is currently the fourth fairway and building 14 homes there.

Those homeowners would be the owners of the nine-hole golf course that would abut their property.“Those owners would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the course. He would build one more street the length of the property to house 10 homes on each side on large estate size lots. “Again, that will create a lot of green space.” Campbell said.

Then he’ll donate the equivalent of about two fairways, near Club Road, to the city as green or park space. The legal action that the owners of the golf course property have taken against the city names the city, the mayor and all eight aldermen as defendants.

According to the appeal, the city discussed and voted on the resolution April 23 even though it was not on the original agenda. The resolution called for a “six-month moratorium on the filling of applications for rezonings, subdivision plats and for the issuance of building permits for the area known as North Hills Country Club.”

The owners’ attorney Stuart Hankins, in the appeal, called the resolution “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unlawful, oppressive and discriminatory.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

SPORTS>>Progress pleasing to new coach

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers completed their five days of spring football practice Tuesday under the tutelage of new coach John Shannon. Shannon spent the spring session installing the basic fundamentals of the T-formation offense, and is very excited about how the former spread team picked up on the change.

“I thought we got a little better each day,” Shannon, a 1983 graduate of Beebe, said. “Of course we’ve got a long way to go, we only put in the basics, but everything went really well. I’m pleased with how the kids reacted. I believe we’re actually ahead of schedule. The kids picked up pretty quick on what we were able to put in.”

Shannon estimates that he and his staff were able to install about 25 percent of the offense and close to half of the 5-2 defense that new defensive coordinator Sean Robertson will utilize. While it doesn’t sound like much, Shannon reiterated that it is ahead of where he thought, or planned to be at this point.

“It’s such a dramatic switch in philosophy, of course we couldn’t get the whole thing in,” Shannon said. “We only really worked on the basics though, and they picked up on it. Hopefully over the summer when we get into more detail, they’ll continue to do so.”

Shannon plans to hold two practices per week starting June 5. The team will usually spend about an hour of those sessions lifting weights and running, and an hour working with the football. Shannon put the team on a new weight program shortly after being hired, but the team proved to be in pretty good form already. After finishing spring practice in pads, the players tested on weights Wednesday and Thursday, and Shannon liked what he saw. “I am extremely pleased with where we are strength-wise, and it should only get better,” Shannon said. “That was a pleasant surprise.”

Shannon also likes the athleticism of his squad. The line has good size and the backs, offensive and defensive, have good speed. “We don’t have any 100-meter champions out here, but we’ve got some kids that can move pretty well. They remind me a lot of the kids we had at Cabot, only bigger. That’s what amazes me, is the size this team has.”

The quarterback spot is still a battle between Roger Glaude and Charlie Spakes. Shannon says both are playing well, but excel in different areas.

Kyle Williams has been a standout on defense, and drew praise from the new head coach. “Kyle Williams has had an outstanding spring at linebacker,” Shannon said. “We’re really excited with the way he’s playing and the effort he’s giving us out there.”

The offensive line, which is Shannon’s specialty, is settled save one tight end spot. Shannon said Josh Turner and James Anderson excelled in the secondary. Beebe also added George Schwaab to the coaching staff this week. Scwaab, who came from Marion, will coach the secondary.

SPORTS>>Gwatney sweeps Sylvan Hills

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion baseball program got the season off to a fine start Thursday, pulling off a Class A and AAA sweep of long-time nemesis Sylvan Hills at Dupree Park.

The Bruins were a bit short-handed with a few players participating in the Sylvan Hills High School spring football scrimmage, but the win was a good one nonetheless for Jacksonville.

“The thing I liked the most about it was the kids that had up and down seasons on the mound in high school pitched really well,” Jacksonville head coach Bob Hickingbotham said. You also have to like how few mistakes we made. Honestly that’s been a big problem for us in recent years, but it looked like they wanted to be there when that ball was put in play.”

A big first inning by Jacksonville’s A team was challenged later in the opening game, but in the end the Gwatney team held on for a 9-7 season-opening victory over Sylvan Hills Thursday night at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville A coach Travis Lyda liked what he saw from his lineup. “I have to say something good about all of them because every single one of them did their job tonight,” Lyda said. “We got every kid in the lineup out there and they all did their job.”

Jacksonville scored five runs on four hits and two Bruin errors in the bottom of the opening frame, and answered every challenge as the game progressed. A.J. Allen’s two-RBI double to right field highlighted the opening inning for Gwatney and drove in the final two runs of the frame.

Terrell Browna and Tyler Wisdom started things off with back-to-back base hits. Seth Tomboli then bunted, but put it in such a place that he was safe at first and left the bases loaded. Caleb Mitchell then walked to drive in the first run. Jeffrey Tillman then put down the second perfectly placed bunt of the inning that scored Wisdom and left the bases loaded.

With one out, AJ Allen hit a line drive to right field to score two runs, and Stephen Swaggerty reached on an error that also scored a run.

“We had a little bit of a miscommunication on the Tillman’s bunt,” Lyda said. “Wisdom missed the sign, but he made up for his mental mistake with hustle. It didn’t hurt that the bunt was perfect either. That’s execution and that’swhat you have to do to beat a team that is so fundamentally sound year in and year out.”

No one scored in the second, but the Bruins pulled closer in the top of the third. Ty Van Schoyck singled to start the inning for Sylvan Hills and scored when a ground ball by Nathan Eller took a funny hop and got between Gwatney third baseman Seth Tomboli’s legs. Blake Evans then singled to centerfield to score Eller and make the score 5-2. Jacksonville not only got those two runs back, but added one in the bottom of the same frame. With one out, Mitchell started the rally with a single to left field. Tillman followed with a single to center andClayton Fenton singled left to drive inboth runs. Fenton later scored on a groundout by Swaggerty.

Sylvan Hills made it 8-4 with two runs inthe fourth. TC Squires’ single was followed by a double to right field by Van Schoyck that put runners on second and third. Evans then singled to center to drive in both base runners. Jacksonville scored its final run with three straight singles by Wisdom, Tomboli and Mitchell, Mitchell’s hit driving in Wisdom for the 9-4 lead.

The Bruins added three in the fifth on just two base hits. Eller was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Evans singled. VanSchoyck reached on an error at third before Cody Cormeter and Casey Cerrato walked. Eric McKinney then singled to centerfield to drive in the final two runs of the game.

Jacksonville got a walk by Shelby Wilcox, a double by Hayden Simpson and a walk by Brown to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. The rally and game was thwarted by the two-hour time limit. Jacksonville moved to 1-0 while the Bruins dropped to 1-1.

Both teams will participate in the North Little Rock class A tournament this weekend.

SPORTS>>Locals highlight 2007 MOC

Leader sportswriter

Two local athletes, Jeff Henderson of Sylvan Hills and Whitney Jones of Searcy, won multiple titles at the Meet of Champions track meet Wednesday at Cabot’s Panther Stadium.

For its 50th anniversary, recently crowned state champions in all classifications were on hand at Cabot High, including 17 student-athletes from The Leader coverage area that qualified for the prestigious event.

As most expected, Searcy’s junior phenom Whitney Jones stole the show, winning all four of her events, while setting a new state record with her win in the triple jump. Jones scored a 39’ 00.25” for the event, breaking her own overall and MOC records set last year during her sophomore year.

Her overall record was broken by 5.5”, and the 2006 Meet of Champs record was shattered by over a foot. Through all four events, Jones took the win virtually uncontested, beating Fort Smith Northside’s Teondra Poole in the 100-meter dash with a 12.58, exactly four-tenths better than Poole’s 12.98. Her second win for the evening came in the 200-meter dash. Jones ran a 25.05 in the 200, once again leaving Northside’s Poole behind by almost three quarters of a second. Her other win came in the long jump, once again beating out Poole for the win with an 18’ 03.00”.

Sylvan Hills senior Jeff Henderson took first place in two events, including setting his own Meet of Champs record in the triple jump. His leap of 47-03 eclipsed the previous record set in ?? by ??. Henderson won the long jump with a measurement of 24-00.00. The win was decisive, with Union Christian’s Dawson Urrutia posting a distant second place with a 22-09.50.

Sherwood area students participated in the girls 400-meter dash. Sylvan Hills sophomore Caron Van Hook took third in the race with a 1:00.27, while Abundant Life sophomore Hannah Pastor ran a 1:03.36 for an eighth-place finish.

A pair of Cabot students rounded out the local girls entries for individual competition. Lady Panther sophomore Tori Hendrix took a close second in the high jump, recording a jump of 5’2”, an inch off her seed measurement heading into the event. LRCA’s Patricia Elliot played the spoiler for Hendrix, beating her previous best with a 5’3” jump to take the win.

Junior Emily Carpenter was the only local girls long-distance participant. Carpenter took part in the 3200-meter run, scoring a fourth-place finish with a time of 12:05.47. Despite the solid year that got her into the Meet of Champs, Carpenter was visibly disappointed with her performance on the night.

“My time wasn’t very good today,” Carpenter said. “If I would have run my best time, I probably would have been up there with first and second, but it’s okay. I’m glad I did better at the state meets.” Carpenter says that while she was slightly let down with the performance, she is already looking forward to the chance to qualify and return to the Meet of Champs for her senior year in 2008.

“I’ve got one more chance, so I’m excited about that. I’ll be content with today; I enjoyed being here.”

The North Pulaski 400-meter relay team ran in one of the evening’s final events, finishing sixth with a time of 4:15.16. The team made up of seniors Lecreisha Cash and Tiffany Templeton, along with sophomore Amber Marcantel and freshman Claire Crews may not have competed for the win, but they were all smiles after the race was over.

“We’ve never been here before,” Cash said. “All of this is wonderful. It’s a great feeling to go out knowing you’ve made it this far.” Templeton, the only single-sport athlete of the group, echoed Cash’s sentiment.

“Lacreisha and I are seniors this year,” Templeton said. “So to be number one in state and actually make it here is an accomplishment unto itself, and I couldn’t have been here without the help of all my teammates. Even though we didn’t win, we gave it our all.”

Marcantel also mentioned her pride in winning the 4A state title, the first in North Pulaski school history, and making new friends.

“Making first in state was just awesome,” Marcantel said. “We are all really excited to be here to run in this event. I’m mostly glad I got the chance to meet these new people, I didn’t know them that well before, so I’m grateful that I got to compete with them.”

The girls then had a group hug after Marcantel’s sentimental statements before Crews summed up the whole experience.
“I’m a freshman, so it’s been a great experience for me,” Crews said. “I have three more years of this; so hopefully I can find another team as good as these guys and make it this far again. I just had fun this year.”

Cabot’s Nathan Johnson finished sixth in the 3200-meter run, recording a time of 10:05.45. James Kee of Harding Academy finished sixth in the shot put with a throw of 48-04.75.

In the only local relay entry on the boys side, the Cabot 800-meter relay team took third place behind West Helena and Rogers with a total time of 8:16.71.

EDITORIALS>>U.S. attorney plot thickens

Witnesses come and witnesses go, but not one of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former and present aides gives him the slightest nourishment in his effort to outlast the storm over his leadership of the nation’s law-enforcement system.
Neither do they help J. Timothy Griffin, the political assassin whom Gonzales installed five months ago as the federal prosecutor for eastern Arkansas.

Monica Goodling, the Gonzales deputy who resigned when the fury over the firing of U. S. attorneys erupted and claimed her right to avoid self-incrimination, finally took the stand on a promise of immunity from prosecution. She defended her old boss but acknowledged that he had not been truthful to the congressional committees about his role in the prosecutor firings.

When it appeared that both she and Gonzales would have to testify under oath about the firings, Gonzales sat down with her to rehearse each other’s memory of things. She said she felt very uncomfortable. No wonder. Bill Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice for a similar conversation with Betty Currie, his secretary.

Goodling was more blunt about Gonzales’ chief deputy, who she said just plain did not tell the truth. They were aware, Goodling said, of the White House’s interest in getting rid of the Republican U.S. attorneys in a number of states and replacing them with people more suitable.

High on the list was H. E. “Bud” Cummins II in Arkansas, who was replaced by Griffin, an aide in the White House political office and former opposition researcher for Republican campaigns.

Although he was appointed on an interim basis to avoid confirmation by the Senate, Griffin is still serving. Congress passed legislation last week that will force him out in four more months. Goodling and Griffin worked together in the White House political office of Karl Rove and before that at the Republican National Committee and remain corresponding friends.

“I believe that the deputy [former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty of Whitewater fame] failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House’s interest in selecting Tim Griffin as the interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas,” Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee.

McNulty, of course, promptly said Goodling was not telling the truth. The White House and Gonzales have insisted all along that the White House was not really involved in the ousters. Goodling made it clear that they were deeply involved. She had little choice. Already divulged electronic correspondence made that apparent.

Although she received immunity from the committee for her testimony, Goodling is in some jeopardy because the Justice Department is investigating whether she broke the law in basing hirings for career jobs in the agency on political leanings. Only Republicans were hired.

Goodling admitted that she had done that in her ardor for the cause and she said that she regretted it. The Goodling correspondence unearthed during the week did not help the case of Griffin, who maintains that old Republican loyalties would not affect his independent and nonpartisan pursuit of justice now that he has the job.

Not long after taking the job in December the new chief prosecutor was e-mailing Rove and other White House aides and Goodling chortling about how he had taken a good swipe at Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who was mad that Gonzales had lied to him and that Griffin would avoid Senate confirmation. The Justice Department had assured Pryor that Griffin would undergo the usual confirmation process while privately Gonzales aides were saying he would not.

“Everything’s political to him,” said a Pryor aide. “He e-mails Karl Rove, and he’s bragging about how he took a swipe at Pryor. This e-mail was sent to the entire White House team right at the time everybody was saying, ‘Oooh, Karl Rove’s got nothing to do with this.”

Griffin was also corresponding almost immediately with Goodling about Justice aides’ idea of replacing the chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office at Little Rock as a step in getting control of the Arkansas operations.
“Awesome,” Griffin replied.

And we had reflected favorably on Griffin’s demotion this month of Robert Govar, the criminal chief, after Govar had threatened the publisher of this newspaper over a column critical of his role in the Lonoke Police Department scandal.
It turns out that Govar had simply made it easy.

Arkansas will have to wait four more months to be confident that impartial justice is being administered. If then.

OBITUARIES >> 5-26-07

Clint Huffman

Clint Huffman, 81, of Vancouver, Wash., passed away May 20.

Graveside services will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 26 at Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville. Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

M.L. Faucett

M.L. Bud Faucett, 72, of Jacksonville went to be with the Lord, May 22 in Little Rock. He was born Nov. 16, 1934 in Lamar to the late Raymond Dean and Ella Horton Faucett.

He was preceded in death by his wife Fredia in 2006, as well as his sister, Eloise Jenkins. Bud worked with the Compensated Work Therapy Program at Fort Roots V.A. Hospital for over 30 years. Survivors include his brother, Ernest Faucett and wife Joy of Sherwood; sister, Shirley Wood of Cabot; sister, Beverly Winberg and husband Ron of Westland, Mich.; as well as six nieces, one nephew, eight great-nieces, three great-nephews, two great-great nieces and two great-great nephews.

Graveside services were May 25 at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville.   Funeral arrangements were under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Annie Ault

Annie Lee Ault, 85, of Beebe died May 21. Her husband, Lewis, preceded her in death. She is survived by one sister and a nephew, Rick Torrence of Beebe.

Graveside services were held May 22 at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.

Kenneth Smetzer

Kenneth Lee Smetzer, 42, of Beebe died May 22. Born July 17, 1964, at Malden, Mo., to Olin Kenneth Lee and Patsy June
Waller Smetzer. He was preceded in death by a son, Kenneth Lee Smetzer, Jr., and his father. Survivors include his wife, Debbie; children, Blake and Stephanie Smetzer of Beebe; grandchild, Cade Landon Smetzer; brothers, Chris Zeller Champion, Charles R. Champion and Charles J. Champion, Jr.; sisters, Sandra Smetzer Roush and Patricia Smetzer Yandell.

Funeral services were May 24 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Burial was May 25 at Memory Gardens at Valley, Mineral Wells, Texas.

Billy Mitchell

Billy Joe Mitchell, 73, of Cabot died May 23. He was born Aug. 24, 1933 in Perry to the late James and Pearl Standridge Mitchell.

He was a graduate of Morrilton High School. He served in the Air Force for 24 years and was a letter carrier with the Postal Service in North Little Rock for 19 years. Billy was a member of Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot. His sister and brother, Judy Gaither and Maj. Raymond Mitchell, preceded him in death.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Mitchell of Cabot; four children, Ronald Mitchell and wife Geneva of Chattanooga, Tenn., Martha Mitchell Shackelford and husband Mike of Orlando, Fla., Teri Lynn Payne and husband Ron of Keller, Texas, and Charles Douglas Mitchell and wife Susan of Madison, Ala.; two sisters, Christine Horn of North Little Rock and Jean Carson of Sherwood; nine grandchildren, Thomas, Daniel, Becky, and Jessica Mitchell of Chattanooga, Tenn., Alison Shackelford of Orlando, Fla., Matthew Narron and Kadi McNew and husband James of Keller, Texas, Sean and Bradley Mitchell of Madison, Ala., and one great-grandchild, Abigail McNew of Keller, Texas.

A private graveside service took place prior to memorial services May 28 at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Cabot. Memorials may be made to Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church.

TOP STORY >>Corn sweet to farmers

Leader senior staff writer

New forces are at work shaping Lonoke County’s agricultural landscape, not the least of them the rising demand for corn to manufacture ethanol.

Because of the increased demand and the attractive price, currently about $3.70 a bushel, farmers have increased last year’s 3,000 acres of corn four-fold to about 12,000 acres, according to Jeff Welch, the county’s chief extension agent. While that’s still not a lot of corn acres, it is a substantial move, he said.

On the downside, an early-April freeze knocked back part of that crop, requiring the farmers to replant about 10 percent of their corn, he said. That same freeze killed or damaged a third to a half of the wheat crop, meaning farmers will need a really good year to break even.

“We’ll know more a week from now when we start cutting wheat,” Welch said. Gov. Mike Beebe has declared farmers in Lonoke, White and Prairie counties eligible for disaster-relief low-interest loans from banks.

Other than the freeze and a bit of flooding, the weather has been pretty cooperative this year, getting the growing season off to a good start, Welch said. Grain prices are pretty good overall, including wheat and milo, he added. Overall, however, high costs of fertilizer and energy will make profits elusive.

Not all soybeans are in the ground yet, Welch said, but despite the arrival of soybean rust in the county last year, farmers expect a good price this year and are planting quite a bit.

Rust over-wintered on kudzu further west in Louisiana than in the past, which could mean it will arrive earlier in Arkansas than in the past, bourn on westerly winds. If environmental conditions are correct, we’ll be exposed to viable spores earlier this year than in past. It takes the pathogen, environment, and a susceptible host for rust to take hold.

The soybeans are the host, so if the weather is cloudy and not too hot, the rust will thrive, meaning it will be even more expensive for farmers to make a crop. People would have to spray fungicide earlier and more often at a cost about $35 an acre pre spraying. With fuel and fertilizer already sky-high, it could be tough to make money on soybeans this year.

Meanwhile, farmers are cutting back this year on capital-intensive crops, such as cotton and rice. Lonoke farmers are more likely to ship their corn to feed mills than to ethanol plants, of which there are few.

Arkansas farmers will be paid a premium to truck their corn to Tyson and Wayne Foods for feed, perhaps as much as $1 a bushel, while farmers will be charged 20 cents to 40 cents a bushel to ship corn to ethanol plants. While the colony collapse that’s haunting commercial beekeepers in many states is wreaking havoc with their operations, the situation is not as bad in Arkansas.

Not only does there seem to be less loss of bees, but also the crops here are less dependent upon bee pollination than in some other places. Welch said that cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, squash and tree fruit are among the crops highly dependent upon bees for pollination.

TOP STORY >>Keep out pit bulls, sex shops

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s elected officials look at their crowded streets and the need for more firefighters and a fourth fire station, but while those topics consumed much of a meeting of the fire and police committee Thursday night and dominated the conversation on the sidewalk afterwards, the proactive ordinances that came before the body for consideration were about pit bulls and sex shops.

In the near future, the committee could likely recommend ordinances to the full council that would keep pit bulls out of the city and make it difficult for sexually oriented businesses to move in.

“We need to be ahead of the game in case one of these businesses decides to come to Cabot,” Jackie Davis, Cabot police chief, said of the sex businesses of every imaginable kind the proposed ordinance would regulate.

The proposed pit bull ordinance is necessary, said city attorney Jim Taylor, because North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville and Lonoke have already banned the dogs, which means their owners are likely moving toward Cabot.

The pit bull ordinance would require registration of pit bulls already in the city and make it illegal to bring more in.
If walking outside, the dogs would have to be restrained with leashes no longer than four feet long. They could not be chained to trees, for example, and they could not be outside unattended.

Puppies born inside the city to grandfathered females would have to be out of the city by the time they are six-weeks-old.
The police chief told the committee that no one has been seriously injured yet by a pit bull, but he said they are frequently tied at the front door of drug houses and it is only a matter of time before someone is hurt.

The proposed ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses is 20 pages long. In addition to graphic descriptions and definitions, it is filled with stringent rules for licensing and would require licensed businesses to submit to periodic inspections by the police chief to ensure the businesses are in compliance with their licenses.

The draft ordinances also contains several blank spaces for such information as how much the licenses would cost, the allowed size of plain signs to advertise the businesses and how far the businesses are to be located from schools and churches. Both ordinances will be discussed further during the June meeting of the fire and police committee. As drafted, the pit bull ordinance would require owners of grandfathered animals to submit photographs with the registration request.

But Alderman Ed Long said all the dogs look alike and it would be easy for owners to pass off an illegal new dog as one that was grandfathered. Long suggested that the city should number the dogs as they are registered and require the owners to have the numbers tattooed on their ears. Alderman Becky Lemaster suggested implanted electronic chips to identify legal pit bulls.

These dogs are defined as pit bulls in the proposed ordinance: bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bulls, American Staffordshire terriers, mixed breed dogs known as pit bulls and dogs which have the appearance and characteristics of pit bulls. The sexually-oriented business ordinance was tabled because committee members did not receive it until Thursday and few had read it.

TOP STORY >>Instructor is back at his school

Leader staff writer

Mike Brown, also known as Milton Leon Brown, a convicted sex offender, still teaches at Mike Brown’s Taekwondo in Jacksonville, but he lists his place of residence on the sex-offender registry as Palestine in St. Francis County.

This information surfaced after The Leader published a story about a recent re-notification effort to update the addresses of convicted Level 3 and Level 4 sex offenders by the Jacksonville Police Department, but he wasn’t on the list.
Brown has a Level 3 ranking.

Level 3 and 4 sex offenders appear on the Arkansas Sex Offender Registry list at the Arkansas Crime Information Center website. Level 1 is considered a low risk; Level 2, a moderate risk; Level 3, a high risk; and Level 4, a sexually violent predator. On Thursday, Brown confirmed he comes to Jacksonville about twice a week to teach aerobics kick classes to women. As to his career and his home, Brown said, “It’s about 80 miles away, and I’m getting ready to retire.”

Brown also said he hoped that The Leader would not write a story about this matter because it would hurt the next owner of the establishment. The business, according to Brown, is being turned over to 18-year-old Chase Heineman, who has been involved in martial arts with him for approximately 10 years. “He’s a good kid,” Brown said.

Brown was arrested in 2001 involving allegations by a 13-year-old student of Brown’s. The incident reportedly took place after she allegedly fell sleep on a couch at his then residence—a McCain Park apartment in North Little Rock. Brown, who was 49 years old at the time, entered a plea of not guilty to rape.

It was previously reported by The Leader that the girl claimed that she awoke as Brown fondled her genital area, according to a prosecuting attorney’s affidavit. Soon after, she called her mother to come get her. Sgt. Jim Scott said Brown was “babysitting” the girl.

Brown was charged with rape because of the age of the alleged victim. According to state law, a person commits rape who engages in sexual intercourse or deviant sexually activity with a person less than 14 years old. He was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and sentenced to 10 years probation, according to Dina Tyler, spokesperson of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He did not serve any state prison time, she told The Leader, but he did go to the county jail.

In 2002, Brown’s sentence also included a $500 fine as well as restrictions of having no contact with the victim and her family members and no instructions with minors, according to a Pulaski County/Circuit Clerk’s Office summary sheet. It also showed 120 days at Pulaski County Detention Center.

According to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department he served 89 days, plus the day he was arrested, for a total of 90 days.
Inquiries indicate that Brown still works in Jacksonville, but local authorities did not know of any addresses for Brown in Jacksonville. This week, Jacksonville Police Chief Robert Baker told The Leader that each time local police checked out Brown’s story, he was truthful with them. “We’ve always found he’s been honest with us,” Baker said.

Baker said Brown has told local authorities he teaches adult classes and local authorities could not debunk Brown’s claims of being in compliance with Arkansas state statutes addressing convicted sex offender.

Sgt. Tom Mayberry of the Jacksonville Police Department continues to investigate questions concerning Brown. Mayberry says that the JPD has no reports or proof that Brown instructs children at the martial arts academy.

“About once a year, we receive some degree of inquiry about Mike Brown’s residency,” Mayberry said. “Back about a month ago, we got a tip he was residing here, and we went to that house, checked utilities and even spoke with neighbors, but there was absolutely nothing to it.”

Mayberry said he went to Brown’s business, and Brown told him that an assistant teaches the children’s classes.
“They cannot have direct contact with children,” Mayberry said. Paragraph 8 of the sex offenders acknowledgment form reads, “Pursuant to Act 1779 prohibits a Level 3 or Level 4 offender to engage in an occupation or participate in a volunteer position that requires the sex offender to work or interact primarily and directly with children under 16 years of age.”

This acknowledgement allows a convicted sex offender to be around children under the age of 16 years old as long as there are others around. Mayberry explained that it is possible for a convicted sex offender to even live with children under the same roof unless conditions of parole states otherwise.

“To our knowledge, Brown is in compliance with the law, and if anyone would approach us with verifiable information to the contrary, then we would pursue it,” the police officer said. This year, state legislators began strengthening Act 1779 governing convicted sex offenders living in Arkansas.

According to Mayberry, Level 3 and Level 4 sex offenders will no longer be able to reside within 2,000 feet of public parks or youth centers beginning Aug. 1. Level 3 and 4 sex offenders are now only restricted to live 2,000 feet away from a daycare or public school. “It’s going to affect several sex offenders in the city,” Mayberry said.

Mayberry is notifying convicted sex offenders of the new law. He estimated that at least 10 convicted sex offenders will have to move, but those who own their homes will not have to relocate, Mayberry explained. Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, said two more bills passed the Legislature involving restrictions on certain convicted sex offenders this year.

Act 394 of 2007 will limit convicted sex offenders from living 2,000 feet near their victims as well as restricting them from contacting their victims. Another new law prohibits awarding custody of children to a convicted sex offender except under certain circumstances, Bond said. “We have tried to tighten up the law,” Bond said.

Bond pointed out there is still the issue of an individual’s constitutional rights not being violated. The Arkansas Supreme Court may step in to adjudicate if convicted sex offenders’ rights are being infringed upon, Bond said.

There are no Level 4 sex offenders in the Jacksonville area, but there are 19 Level 3 sex offenders. Most did not have a place of employment listed on the re-notification flyers distributed to their neighbors.

TOP STORY >>Purchase of course may skirt by voters

Leader staff writer

Sherwood could spend millions buying the North Hills golf course without a vote of the residents. In previous council meetings, interim Mayor Bill Harmon had said that the issue would go before the people, but now he is saying that the city’s Public Facilities Board could actually buy the course and then lease it to the city for the amount of the monthly payments.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the police department building, and although the golf course is not on the agenda, a pro-Harmon blog dedicated to saving the golf course is asking for everyone in favor of keeping the golf course to show up.

The blog calls the council meeting important and states, “We need everyone in favor of Keeping Sherwood Green to attend the meeting.”

In the meantime, the owners of the golf course are fielding calls from two or three prospective buyers. “But no one wants to commit until the building moratorium gets lifted,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers also added that he is still talking to Ron Campbell who initially tendered a $5.1 million offer for the 106-acre property with plans to build a gated community of $300,000 to $400,000 single-family homes. The Campbell deal fell through after the city council approved the six-month moratorium stopping any and all preliminary or actual construction, redesign or planning work on the golf course.

The moratorium led Rodgers to file an appeal in Pulaski County Circuit Court asking for the moratorium to be declared void.
The city has 20 days, about June 8, to respond to the appeal. The council is also waiting for an appraisal of the golf course. That appraisal is expected to be ready in about a week.

The Sherwood council ap-proved the ordinance creating a Public Facility Board in 1978 under Mayor B.E. Henson.
The current three-member board includes two members who have addresses outside of Sherwood. Chairman Linda Napper has a North Little Rock address and Jack Wilson has a Jacksonville address. The third member, Forrest Penny, lists a Sherwood address.

The ordinance does not address whether members need to be city residents, but is based on a 1975 state law that allows for the organization of a Public Facilities Board. The state law says these boards can have numerous purposes, “including the developing and providing for decent, safe and sanitary residential housing.”

The board was empowered “to win, acquire, construct, reconstruct, extend, equip, improve, operate, maintain, sell, lease, contact concerning or otherwise detail in or dispose of residential housing facilities or any interest in such facilities.”
The board has the authority to issue bonds and “obtain funds and revenues for the accomplishment of any authorized public facilities projects.

Bonds issued by the Public Facilities Board do not obligate or add debt to the city, according to the ordinance. The ordinance was expanded in 1982, also under Mayor Henson, to “encourage the development and establishment of such public facilities projects…for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

The legal action that the owners of the golf course property have taken against the city names the city, the mayor and all eight aldermen as defendants.

According to the appeal, the city discussed and voted on the resolution April 23 even though it was not on the original agenda. The resolution called for a “six-month moratorium on the filing of applications for rezonings, subdivision plats and for the issuance of building permits for the area known as North Hills Country Club.”

The Sherwood City Council voted 8-0 to approve the resolution.

The owners’ attorney, Stuart Hankins, in the appeal, called the resolution “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unlawful, oppressive and discriminatory.”

The appeal states the city’s actions were improper because it only applies to “the North Hills Country Club property and no other property or property owner in the City of Sherwood is affected by it.”

Hankins said the moratorium is “unlawful because its stated purpose exceeds the statuary power granted to cities to condemn property.”

TOP STORY >>Shortage of funds prevents hirings

Leader staff writer

Firefighters, concerned over their declining numbers, attended the monthly meeting of the fire and police committee of the Cabot City Council Thursday night. They, as well as a handful of city residents who also attended, said safety was the issue that concerned them and asked the mayor and committee what they are going to do about it.

The answer was that there is not a lot that can be done because the city is still having financial difficulties. Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said that between unpaid bills and cost overruns on the animal shelter and community center last year, the city owed $1 million that he hadn’t expected to have to pay this year. Just two weeks ago, he had to decide which bills he could pay and still make payroll, he said.

The department is down five firefighters since three resigned and two have been deployed. The mayor has said that because of budget concerns, he won’t replace the three who resigned and he is reluctant to replace the two who have been called to the war in Iraq because he would have to keep the new employees when the old ones return.

He said during the meeting that Fire Chief Phil Robinson should consider bringing back firefighters who are only paid when they are called out. Those “pay per call” firefighters were terminated last year when the chief thought he would add firefighters this year, Williams said before the meeting.

A handout from Robinson showed that of the 155 calls to the fire department in April, only one was a structure fire, while 116 were backup for MEMS, which contracts with the city to provide ambulance service. Two were vehicle fires, seven were grass fires, seven were motor-vehicle collisions, five were false alarms, six were canceled and 11 were for services such as checking fire alarms and sprinklers.

Some council members who gathered outside after the meeting questioned the necessity of the fire department providing backup for the ambulance service, especially since their runs are in large fire engines. The council members also cautiously and very informally raised the possibility of another one-cent sales tax that could be used for streets and to help fund the fire and police departments which now share the $3 million revenue from a one-cent sales tax.

The sales tax in Cabot is 9 percent for most purchases, 6 percent for the state, two percent for the city and one percent for the county. But the city also has a 1.5 percent hamburger tax, so the total sales tax on prepared food is 10.5 percent.

During the meeting, Scott Barker, president of the firefighters association, said he was inside a burning house last fall and was pulled to safety by the firefighters who were still outside. The current staffing allows only two firefighters on a truck, he said, adding that if two are inside a structure fire, there is no one on the outside to keep them safe.

“I don’t know the answer,” Barker said. I don’t handle the money. But I do know this: if we don’t do something, we’re going to get someone killed.” The council members who talked together after the meeting said fire engines from all three stations respond to fires so the scenario described by Barker is unlikely.

Williams said during the meeting that the city has been written up by state auditors for not having any money in reserve. He said there is no money now for street overlays or new equipment. Police Chief Jackie Davis is scavenging parts from old patrol cars to keep others running, he said. His goal is to cut costs enough to set aside at least $600,000 this year to keep 2008 from starting out like 2007, he said.

TOP STORY >>Base observes Memorial Day

Leader staff writer

In honor of Memorial Day, Little Rock Air Force Base airmen gathered Friday afternoon to remember their fellow servicemen who have made the ultimate sacrifice. More than 200 men and women of the 314th Airlift Wing took part in this time-honored military tradition to recognize those past and present who have been lost.

The names of Arkansans killed in the line of duty since last Memorial Day were read by the 314th AW Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant Brooke McLean, including LRAFB’s own Staff Sgt. John T. Self, a member of the 314th Security Forces Squadron, who was killed May 14 in Baghdad by a roadside bomb.

A 21-gun salute resounded in the air after the reading of those killed. As Taps played, four C-130s flew over the ceremony; one plane dropped out of formation to signify the airmen and soldiers that never made it home while serving in the armed forces. As Ret. Col. William A. Kehler, base commander from July 1983 to April 1985 and guest speaker at the ceremony, said, “We honor those who have gone before…it’s because of them that this land is one of the free and the brave.”

“Our prayers go out to the family, friends and loved ones of those lost,” Kehler added. More than one million service members have been lost since the Revolutionary War. “You are our guardians of freedom and justice, of national security and are always willing to defend your country with your life,” Kehler told the airmen at The Rock.

“You never leave an airman behind, you never falter and you never fail – I salute you,” Kehler said in closing. Col. Rowayne Schatz, Jr., who took command of LRAFB one week ago, told airmen they were gathered to remember, honor and give thanks to their brothers in arms. “We honor the brave men and women of Arkansas who died this past year for their sacrifices in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear,” Schatz said.

“We are forever in their debt for putting themselves in harms way so we can live in peace,” he said.

“We can only show gratitude to the loved ones of those who died for a noble cause. Today we say ‘thank you’ and make sure they are never forgotten this day and every day,” Schatz said.

As the base honor guard lowered the American flag, those gathered stood at attention, watching the symbol that has carried the message of freedom, at home and abroad, for more than 200 years. “It flies in the heart of every Airman that serves this great nation,” Capt. Shannon Vinson, narrator for the ceremony, said of the American flag. “It stands for the freedoms we all share and for patriotism; it is a beacon of hope – long may it wave,” Vinson added.

Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, was established in 1868 as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.