Friday, March 30, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Has gun, will teach

What must a gun do in the Pulaski County Special School District before a teacher gets fired?

In two separate incidents, guns belonging to staff members have ended up in the hands of students and no one was fired.

Sure, the counselor and two shop teachers in the first incident were suspended with pay until there was an investigation, but eventually all three were back at work.

In a more recent incident, the teacher was suspended, then fired, but then rehired on appeal.

So what does a gun have to do? Actually maim or kill someone?

In the first case, a pair of students found the gun while working on a counselor’s car as part of a shop assignment. These students did the right thing by turning over the gun to the shop teachers, who locked it up for safety and were suspended for their efforts.

In the second incident, the teacher’s gun was taken out of the purse by a student, who may not have harmed anyone with it, but clearly had no intention of giving it back.

The fatal school shootings in Jonesboro and elsewhere can’t be that far removed from our psyche to allow the teachers in these incidents to go unscathed.

Just look at what teachers have been fired for in Arkansas recently: DUI (even though it was not school related), using a school intercom system for a prank that caused some students to leave campus five minutes early; fudging expense reports and time worked; prostitution (off campus and not with any students); off-the-cuff Facebook comments; talking bad about special-education students, and giving students answers to tests.

But bring a gun to school and let students get hold of it – a suspension, a slap on the wrist and back to work.

Lets hope PCSSD teachers don’t take to carrying guns over making Facebook comments.

TOP STORY >> Air show returns to base this fall

Performers tentatively slated to perform Sept. 8-9 at the Little Rock Air Force Base air show and open house include several top acts.


The Blue Angel’s primary mission is enhancement of Navy and Marine Corps recruiting. The squadron’s air show appearances are Navy and Marine Corps awareness tools.

The Blue Angels are the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron.It was formed in 1946 by order of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and is the oldest formal flying aerobatic team. This year marks the 66th year the “Blues” have taken flight.


The Black Daggers are the official U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team. Their mission is to perform live aerial demonstrations in support of Army Special Operations, community relations and recruiting. Made up of volunteers from throughout Army Special Operations, the Black Daggers have diverse backgrounds and are skilled in various military specialties including Special Forces, Rangers, civil affairs and signal and support.


Floyd Rinker pilots a pink SU-26 aerobatic plane named Pink Floyd in honor of his sister, who is a breast cancer survivor. He says it’s not just the wings that keep his plane afloat, it’s the will to survive.


The Skyhawks’ Canadian Forces Parachute Team is comprised of 18 servicemen from a variety of trades and professions within the Canadian Forces’ regular and reserve components. Since their inception in 1969, the Skyhawks have performed over 5000 demonstrations in front of more than 75 million spectators.


Otto the Helicopter offers a unique act that entertains the crowds by blowing bubbles, playing with his yo-yo, racing around barrels and picking them up, shooting smoke in all directions, towing banners and more, all while interacting with the announcer.


The Air National Guard’s new Max Adrenaline Tour stars John Klatt in his Panzl 330 high performance airplane, Bill Kern in his highly modified Extra 300 and Neal Darnell driving his 12,000-horsepower 375 mph ANG Flash Fire Jet truck.


B-25 Mitchell bomber – “Panchito” is a part of the Disabled American Veteran’s Airshow Outreach Program that was developed to increase public awareness of disabled veterans and to serve veterans in communities across the nation.


USO singers from such Broad-way show as “Spiderman,” “Les Miserables,” “Hairspray,” “The Color Purple” and “Circe du Soleil.”


The USAF Heritage Flight showcases the old and the new as formations of current and historical Air Force aircraft take to the skies and make formation passes along the flightline allowing visitors to compare the different eras of warbirds.

The heritage program was established in 1997 to display the evolution of the Air Force history and achievement. In 2010 the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation was formed to keep this popular program flying. Today, the core of the program remains true to its original vision: honor the past, welcome the future, and provide an aerial monument to the achievements of the Air Force. The Heritage Flight is scheduled to be flown with the F-16, F-4, P-47 and P-51.


The combat-proven F-18E Super Hornet is a next generation strike fighter with the newest advances in multimission capability and decades of growth potential. The F/A-18 performs a variety of missions including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defense, maritime reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker.

Converting from one mission to another can be done quickly and simply by just flipping a switch. The tactical demonstration team flies the single-seat F/A-18E as close to the “edge of the envelope” as safety and prudence allow. The routine highlights the Rhino’s maneuverability and slow-speed handling characteristics.


The CF-18 Demo Team personifies the excellence required to keep the Royal Canadian Air Force among the best aviation organizations on the planet. The expertise and dedication required by the team, from the pilot to the maintenance crews to the coordinators, reflects the professionalism of all of Canada’s airmen.


“A day in Afghanistan” Coalition Forces will perform a simulated suppression of enemy forces, landing/drop zone seizure and mass personnel drop to secure a forward operating location for troop advancement. Techniques and procedures for this demonstration are the modern day equivalent to the paratroop drops utilized during the D-Day invasion.

EDITORIAL >> Special tax a donation?

The Lonoke County Quorum Court faces a dilemma every November when it’s time to decide how much residents will pay in property tax. Should the court include a voluntary collection on tax bills that allows residents to help support several charitable organizations in the county? Or should the court abide by an opinion given by the attorney general almost two decades ago that says collecting voluntary taxes for nonprofits violates the state Constitution?

It’s a tough call.

Last year, that 3-mill tax (or about $1.35 on average) collected $59,842 for 10 nonprofits, or less than $1 for each resident in Lonoke County, which has a population of 68,356. But it’s money the nonprofits count on to help do their work.

The voluntary tax also helps fight drugs and beavers, but that part of the tax is considered legal. In 2011, county taxpayers contributed $37,399.78 to those causes for a total voluntary tax collection of $97,242.

In 2011, the sheriff’s drug unit received $22,438, which is more than any other recipient. The beaver eradication program, received $14,960.84.

Among the nonprofit agencies, the Open Arms Shelter received the most support, $12,718.32 and Lonoke County Cares and Food Pantry received the least at $1,127.92.

The voluntary tax was first collected for nonprofits in 2002, many years after the opinion was handed down. But before that, some of the nonprofits were supported by the county outright, literally in the county budget.

That practice, county officials learned, was definitely against state law. But the voluntary tax is not so black and white.

An interpretation of the constitution, an opinion, even from the attorney general, is just an opinion until a judge calls it the law. And the members of the quorum court have been told the voluntary tax for nonprofits has not been tested in court.

Asked last week what he thought the quorum court should do about the tax since the most recent audit was critical of the county judge for allowing it, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin wouldn’t acknowledge that the county collects taxes for charitable organizations. He said the county makes it possible for tax payers to donate if they choose.

For what it’s worth, Erwin wasn’t even the county judge in 2010, the year of the most recent audit because audits run a year behind. If the collection was illegal, it had nothing to do with him.

But many on the quorum court now were on it when the tax started. This isn’t the first time the county has been written up for the tax, so there is little doubt they have known for years what the attorney general said about it. But an admonition to stop from state auditors isn’t a fine and it is clear that the quorum court has favored a slap on the wrist to telling food pantries, child advocates and the elderly that they’ll have to get by without the voluntary taxes of county residents.

The unanswered question is how they will feel about it in November. It’s good that taxpayers voluntarily give to their favorite nonprofits, but should government collect funds for them? We don’t think so.

TOP STORY >> Memorial held for students

Leader staff writer

Teachers, classmates, parents and community members gathered at Warren Dupree Elementary School in Jacksonville on Friday afternoon to remember the lives of students Dequan Singleton, Sydni Singleton and Haylee Beavers.

Dequan Singleton, 10; Sydni Singleton, 9; Haylee Beavers, 6; mother Marilyn Beavers, 30; and sister Emily Beavers, 4, died from smoke inhalation after a small kitchen fire in their duplex at 3A S. Simmons Drive on March 22.

A group funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Lukes Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Principal Janice Walker said, “Haylee is remembered by her teacher, (JoAnne Buchanan), and her classmates for her happy personality, the wonderful hugs she shared and for being a great classroom helper.

“Sydni is remembered by her teacher (Lena Washington) and her classmates for her outgoing personality and her common sense approach, along with her competitive spirit. She often shared her beliefs and feelings with Mrs. Washington regarding her spiritual understanding of God.

“Dequan is remembered by his teacher, (Angela Sprow), and his classmates for his fun-loving spirit, his sweet smile that would warm your heart, his love of science and his amazing math ability. Students during recess remember his favorite expression, ‘tag, you’re it!’

“As principal of this school, I remember Haylee’s feisty spirit, Sydni’s sassiness and Dequan’s radiant smile that would brighten anyone’s day. I ask that you forever hold tight to these memories, as they will get us through the days to come.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “When Sydni’s name was mentioned and how she understood something even at such a tender age about the spiritual aspect of her life, it gives me peace and comfort to know that she’s in a place that we all desire to be someday. I’d like to think that they’re still a part of us.

“God is still god. God is still great and god loves you. Jesus is lord. That’s all you need to know sometimes, when you want an answer to why,” the mayor said.

“We’re all hurting. It’s OK to hurt. But I want you to know something. If you still have a hard time dealing with this as time goes on, you need to be able to talk. You’ve got teachers, counselors, principals, family members and friends that are there to talk to you,” Fletch said.

There’s nothing wrong with talking. In fact, that’s the best medicine of all. So today we cry; tomorrow we will laugh and share those memories,” he said.

Fifth-grader Alexandria Gardner read “Goodbye,” a poem written by Tammy Marie Denus.

She said, “We always take for granted what we thought we’d never lose because we never thought it would happen, until we heard the dreaded news. They say you were chosen for His garden, his precious handpicked bouquet. God really needed them, that’s why they couldn’t stay. Saying goodbye is never easy. It’s the hardest thing to do. But what hurts us even more is not the chance to say it to you. So today, Jesus, as you are listening in your home above, would you go and find our friends, and give them all our love.”

The children’s teachers, along with the mayor and the principal, released dove-shaped balloons into the air for all five victims.

Media specialist Pamela Free-man said, “For centuries the white dove has been a beautiful symbol of love, hope, peace and the Holy Spirit. In peaceful representation, they will all drift upwards home to the heavens above. Their smiles are forever stamped in our hearts and we will remember them always. “

“You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins was played as the students released more balloons.

The balloons floated above the tearful faces of adults and children until they disappeared.

TOP STORY >> Gas prices climbing to $4 a gallon

Leader staff writer

Closing in on $4 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, the rising prices are now starting to attract some concern from elected officials.

On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced legislation to put the brakes on Wall Street speculators who, he believes, are driving up gas prices through excessive speculation.

Meanwhile, the state’s other senator, John Boozman (R-Ark.) brought Arkansans’ concerns about rising gas prices to the Senate floor this week.

In a speech Wednesday, Boozman highlighted some of the frustrations he has heard from Arkansans, including from postings on his Facebook page detailing how the increase in pump prices are affecting the daily lives of hardworking families. 

As of Friday, the average national price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.93, up from $3.73 a month ago, and at the state level is was running $3.77 a gallon, up from $3.55 a month ago.

Locally, gas is cheapest in Cabot and Sherwood with an average of $3.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Jacksonville comes in at $3.73 a gallon, Searcy is at $3.77 and Lonoke, Beebe and Carlisle are all averaging $3.79 for a gallon of gasoline.

Across the state, the northwest section has the cheapest average at $3.71, followed by Fort Smith at $3.73, central Arkansas at $3.77, Texarkana at $3.78 and Pine Bluff at $3.79.

“We import about nine million barrels of oil every day, about half of our supply. This is costly to our economy, our citizens and threatens our national security,” Boozman said.

In his Senate speech Boozman continued, “The increasing price of gas is a costly reminder of how dependent our country is on foreign oil. This is one of the most pressing issues we’re facing today because the price at the pump directly impacts our everyday lives and Arkansans are telling me they are worried about what it’s doing to their bottom line,” he said in his speech.

“Americans are frustrated with the increasing cost of gas and rightfully so. In my home state of Arkansas the cost for a regular gallon of gas is up 22 cents from a month ago according to AAA.

“The letters, calls, emails and Facebook posts I receive from Arkansans are saying the same thing….it’s harder to fill up their gas tanks while making ends meet. 
Arkansas families are faced with tough choices because the rising prices are dipping into family’s disposable incomes. The increasing expense for gas puts a strain on family budgets. 
“American families and businesses deserve a plan that will help bring down the price at the pump,” Boozman said in the speech. 

Pryor said he supports efforts under way by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to curtail excessive speculation that inflates the cost of oil.

He wants to address a remaining loophole that enables Wall Street speculators to manipulate the price of oil without ever taking control of the oil. Currently, Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds control approximately 65-75 percent of the energy futures market.

“Wall Street brought our country to a near economic collapse and cost millions of people their jobs. We’re seeing big investment banks and hedge funds return to their old tricks, using the courts to delay consumer safeguards and taking advantage of every loophole available,” Pryor said.

“Unless we crack down on the multiple avenues Wall Street uses to exploit consumers, this problem will only get worse.” “Spinning oil prices higher and higher for huge profit is hurting consumers at the gas pump and threatening our nation’s economic recovery,” Pryor said.

TOP STORY >> School remembers fire victims

Leader staff writer

“Happy birthday was the last thing I said to Sydni,” recalled fifth-grade teacher Angela Sprow, holding back tears a week after the tragic death of the young girl, her siblings and her mother in a fire inside a Jacksonville duplex.

“It wasn’t even her birthday. It was just a game between us,” Sprow said. “We shared the same birthday.”

Sydni Singleton, a third-grader, was not in Sprow’s class at Warren Dupree Elementary School, but her older brother Dequan was. Still, Sprow and Sydni said happy birthday to each other every day from August on.

When it was actually their birthday, Feb. 2, Sprow recalled that Sydni came up to her and said, “‘It really is our birthday today.’ We shared a cupcake and a hug. The next day it was back to our birthday game.”

Sydni, just like Dequan and her little sister Haylee, had all made loving and lasting impressions on their teachers. The three died of smoke inhalation in their home on March 22 during spring break, along with their mother Marilyn Beavers, 31, and their little sister, Emily Beavers, 4.

Lena Washington, a 22-year teaching veteran, had never suffered a loss of a student before. Like most teachers at Dupree Elementary, she is just stunned over the tragic fire deaths of the kids.

“It has devastated me,” she said a day before the school’s memorial for the students Friday. “I tell all the kids the first day of school that they are my kids, and they are, and this really hurts.”

She left Sydni’s chair and desk in place Monday as she talked to the rest of the students about the incident and the kids voted to leave Sydni’s desk in place for the rest of the year.

“On Tuesday, I came in and there were some stuffed animals in the chair and desk and more have been added everyday. Each of the stuffed animals is called Sydni,” Washington said.

She said that at the end of the year, when the students ask, she will let them take the “Sydnis” home with them. “She was a happy person, a heart of gold and would help anyone who needed it. She was my support,” Washington said tearfully.

“The last day before spring break, she said she was going to come back and win the school quiz bowl,” Washington explained, then looking upward, added, “You are a winner.”

JoAnne Buchanan was little Haylee’s first-grade teacher. Haylee was a vital part of her class. “She was the friend maker, very vibrant, very friendly, always wanting to help. Every morning she just had to come up and give me a hug or telling me something that was happening in her life,” Buchanan said.

She said the first day back after the fire was very tough for the kids. The principal had sent out an alert call Sunday to all the parents, so Buchanan said many of the children knew about it before they got to school.

“Still there was some crying and some children wanted to pray and we did. We shared pastel Hershey hugs and called Haylee our classroom angel,” Buchanan explained.

She said the students had spent the week working on a book to give to Haylee’s dad, who was working out of town when the tragedy occurred. In the book, the kids referred to Haylee as a star, sweet and helpful. One boy called her pretty and another friend wrote about how they played “boat” at recess, with the girls in the boat and the boys were the “sharks.”

One young girl, Brianna, wrote how she and Haylee were good friends because they liked the same colors and both lived in Apartment A’s. Buchanan said Briana lived across from Haylee, and when she found out about the fire, the little girl just sat at the screen door and cried.

Teacher Angela Sprow called Dequan just a wonderful kid who kept things rolling. His classmates affectionately called him DQ or Dairy Queen.

“Oh, he could sing and dance and could multiply faster than anyone else in the class and he was going to be in the NFL,” Sprow said. “This just hurts so bad. They see us as their moms and they become our children.”

It was especially hard for Sprow as Dequan was the second student her class had lost this year through death. “We had a young girl with us earlier in the year, Cheyenne, who died. It hurt, but, unfortunately, was not unexpected. She had a heart condition and was in and out of the hospital. But Dequan — that was a shock.”

Sprow said the fifth-grader had a passion for people. “He was very respectful, even when he was a mess,” she fondly recalled, as she was holding on to his last stack of graded papers. “He was to get these today,” she said Thursday.

One of the papers was an essay on good sportsmanship. In it Dequan wrote about losing with grace and playing as a team. He wrote, “Be happy if you win or lose. If you lose a game, be happy that you tried to win.”

But being a competitor, he added, “If the other team beats you, learn from your mistakes and learn their moves so the next time you can win. Remember in the end, win or lose, be happy and be friends.”

Dequan was the fastest runner in Sprow’s class and at recess always started the game of tag as “it.”

But he wasn’t there last week, and one day coming in from recess his class stopped at the front door, looked toward heaven and cheered, “Dequan, you’re it!”

SPORTS >> Red Devils beat Top 40 prospect, Mountain Home

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville knocked off one of the nation’s top-rated pitching prospects Tuesday in front of about 40 major league scouts that were on hand at Dupree Park. The Red Devils got seven base hits and scored three early runs to win game one of a conference doubleheader 3-1.

Killian and Jacksonville outfielder D’Vone McClure have already signed with the Hogs, but Killian could be drafted high enough to lure him into professional ball right out of high school.

The Red Devils showed no fear, and McClure showed Killian up, going 2 for 3 with a walk and hitting two doubles off the outfield wall.

In one respect, Killian lived up to the hype as he struck out 12 and walked just one in a complete game performance, but the right-hander gave up three runs in the first two innings in the losing effort.

Jesse Harbin earned the win as the Red Devils pitcher. He was solid through seven innings on the mound, and was just as productive at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two RBI’s.

“He’s a bulldog,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows about Harbin. “If there’s a game, he’s coming to play, no doubt. I don’t worry about 14. I give him the ball and let him go. He’s the least of my worries. I always know what I’m going to get out of him.”

Mountain Home scored their only run in the top of the first, but Jacksonville wasn’t intimidated by Killian, even with dozens of scouts standing behind the home plate fence with their radar guns held high. Kaleb Reeves and Jacksonville’s McClure each got on base in the bottom of the first after Reeves singled and McClure hit a hard double off the wall in centerfield.

Harbin followed with a single that brought both Reeves and McClure home, and Jacksonville took a 2-1 lead. Jacksonville scored again in the third when Cole Breadenberg singled to bring McClure home to make the score 3-1.

After the third inning, Killian found his rhythm and dominated the rest of the game, but Harbin stayed strong on the mound to prevent any chance of a comeback. McClure went 2 for 3 with two doubles for the game. Reeves and Breadenberg each had a hit apiece.

The second part of the doubleheader was a different story as Jacksonville looked nothing like the team that was on the field minutes earlier. The Red Devils committed five errors in game two, and left 11 runners on base as the Bombers cruised to a 7-3 win to split the series.

“We didn’t put the ball in play near as much as we needed to,” Burrows said about the second game. “We have to put the ball in play more than we did, and we didn’t do it. We have to make some routine plays that we didn’t make too.”

Freshman Derek St. Clair started on the mound for Jacksonville, but Mountain Home didn’t have as much trouble putting the ball in play in game two. Leadoff hitter Damon Berry hit a triple to start the inning, and Killian hit a sacrifice fly to right center to bring Berry home.

Cleanup hitter Billy Wehmeyer hit a solo home run over the right field wall to give the Bombers a 2-0 lead. Mountain Home (6-7, 2-2) scored another run in the second, two more in the fourth, one more in the fifth, and one more in the sixth to put seven runs on its side of the scoreboard.

Jacksonville (5-9, 2-2) scored in the top of the third after McClure reached base on an error, then stole second and third base, and scored on an infield single from Breadenberg. Although the Red Devils trailed 7-1 heading into the final inning, they did their best to rally.

After being hit by a pitch, McClure got on base and scored from first after Harbin hit a hard double that allowed the speedy McClure to cross home plate. Harbin stole second, and freshman Greg Jones singled to knock Harbin in for the final run of the game.

Harbin led Jacksonville once again at the plate, going 2 for 2 with a single and double. Breadenberg and Jones each had a hit for the Red Devils.

Jacksonville’s youth showed in the second game as mistakes and missed opportunities hurt the Red Devils through all seven innings, but Burrows believes his team is steadily improving.

“We just have to continue to get better,” Burrows said. “We have a lot of first time starters, seven of them. We have two guys that have played before (McClure, Harbin), and we just have to continue to get experience and learn from mistakes. You never like to lose, but I think we’re going in the right direction. I’m ready to see what the finished product is going to look like at the end.”

SPORTS >> Jacksonville cruises past Blue Devils

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils got an easy win in 6A East play Thursday, beating West Memphis 10-0 in five innings to improve to 2-2 in league play and 2-4 overall.

Whitney House took the mound at Dupree Park and got the win for the Lady Red Devils. She went the distance, giving up just two hits, walking none while striking out six Lady Blue Devils.

Jacksonville hit the ball well and got a lot of help from an error prone visiting team. Jacksonville’s first run was unearned. House led off and reached base on an error. With two outs, cleanup hitter Mailani Walker knocked her in with a sacrifice grounder.

Jacksonville scored three runs with two outs in the second inning on just one base hit. Alexis Goodman walked with two outs to get a runner on base. Nine-hole hitter Keke Alcorn then reached with a grounder to shortstop that the West Memphis infielder overthrew to first base.

House then singled to left field to drive in one run. An error at second base off the bat of Shyrel McKinney scored the second run of the inning. Haley Hickingbotham then hit a deep drive to left field that was dropped, then McKinney scored when her throw to third base went through the West Memphis third baseman’s legs.

That made it 5-0 and Jacksonville failed to push any runs across in the third inning.

Jacksonville got another big inning in the fourth, but it should have been bigger. House led off with another walk and another error in left field left House and McKinney safe at third and second base. Hickingbotham then hit a deep shot down the third base line for a standup double that drove in both runners. She scored on a passed ball on the next at bat to clear the bases, still with no outs.

Walker grounded out to third base for the first out, but the next three batters reached to load the bases. Bailey Mallison walked and Coyja Hood and Bailea Jones singled. Goodman then hit a shot deep to centerfield where it was caught, and Mallison got doubled up at third after failing to tag up before heading to home plate.

The base running mistake only delayed the inevitable.

West Memphis got its leadoff runner on base for the second consecutive inning, but for the second straight time, went down in order after that.

That brought Jacksonville back to the plate with an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Alcorn and House led off with back-to-back walks. House was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice at third base. Hickingbotham and Walker reached on back-to-back errors at shortstop and Bailey Mallison got the game-ending RBI with an infield single that made it 10-0.

Jacksonville got six base hits and walked five times while also reaching on nine West Memphis errors.

The win pulled the Lady Red Devils even in conference play after suffering a heartbreaking loss at Marion on Tuesday.

Hickingbotham gave Jacksonville an early lead with a solo homerun in the first inning, but Marion took scored three in the third to go up 3-1.

Jacksonville then scored seven in the bottom of the third for an 8-3 lead, but the bats went silent for the next three innings.

Meanwhile Marion began swinging the bats well. The Lady Patriots scored four in the fourth to make it 8-7 and Jacksonville added two in the bottom of the sixth to go up 10-7.

But a few Jacksonville fielding mistakes, some timely hitting and an arguable call led to a five-run seventh that gave Marion the 12-10 win.

“They had the bases loaded with two outs and the girl hit a line drive down the third baseline,” Jacksonville coach Kevin Sullivan said. “I thought it might’ve been foul but it rolled past our fence and we chased it instead of just throwing our hands up and calling for the ground rule double. Umpire said if the player gives chase, you play it. They cleared the bases and took the lead.”

Jacksonville is in a tournament in Fayetteville today for two games, one against Farmington and another against Gravette.

SPORTS >> McDonald a model player, hometown hero

Leader sports editor

He’s a man of character and high integrity. His NFL scouting report calls him a “great locker room guy” because of the positive influence he has on teammates. To the lay person, he’s monstrous in stature (though small for his position in the NFL), but even more monstrous than his size is his integrity.

Jacksonville’s own Clinton McDonald, son of Larry and Bonnie McDonald, is truly one of the NFL’s good guys. Everyone knows about the reputation of integrity that Tim Tebow has earned as the NFL’s ultimate good guy. Hardly anyone, even the most ardent NFL fans, know about McDonald, but coaches and teammates he’s gotten to know have known another man of similar attributes.

While the quarterback Tebow has created another firestorm by signing with the Jets, one of the NFL’s highest high-profile teams, McDonald toils away in relative obscurity, playing a low-profile position for a small market team tucked away in the often ignored Pacific northwest. But like Tebow, he’s making a difference in ways that aren’t reflected on the gridiron.

McDonald is an interior defensive lineman who just finished his third year in the National Football League and his first with the Seattle Seahawks.

When the team does community outreach, as NFL teams are known to do, especially through their partnership with United Way, McDonald is there. When almost any opportunity arises to give back for what he calls a “blessed life,” McDonald is there. There is currently footage online on the Seahawks Insiders’ website of McDonald filling grocery bags for Seattle’s less fortunate last Thanksgiving.

McDonald has been home the past few weeks during the offseason, and has spent a good portion of that time doing volunteer work. He’s currently at his alma mater, the University of Memphis, training, but a week ago he held a football camp for the Augusta Peewee league. A friend of his sister’s Margie Mosby, asked him for the favor and he couldn’t say yes fast enough.

“God’s blessed me with this ability, great parents, a great family,” McDonald said. “I feel like any chance I have to give back, I need to do it.”

He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round in 2009 and spent his first year on the practice squad. He made the team his second year and was coming into his own in preseason games his third year. He was the toast of the town after getting eight tackles in a game and leading the team in tackles that preseason. That’s why it was such a shock to him when he was traded to Seattle before the start of the regular season.

“I had been playing my best ever,” McDonald told The Leader last Friday. “When coach said he wanted to talk to me, I never thought I was being traded.”

Bengals’ coach Marvin Lewis told McDonald that other teams had noticed his play also. Seattle called interested in McDonald, and had something to offer the Bengals needed, a cornerback. Cincinnati was deep on the defensive line and thin in the defensive backfield. It all came together as one of McDonald’s biggest lessons on the business side of professional sports.

Still, what the Seahawks were willing to give up for him told him he was valued at his new home. Kelley Jennings, a first-round pick by Seattle in the 2006 draft, was an every-day starter and had just been offered a $1.8 million contract by the Seahawks to keep him off the free-agent market. Then McDonald started showing out in preseason games for Cincinnati, while preseason games for Seattle began to show a glaring weakness on the defensive line. So the Seahawks offered up their former first-round pick for the seventh rounder in southern Ohio.

After playing in eight total games and getting four total tackles in his two seasons at Cincinnati, McDonald played in 15 games last season, started one and recorded 35 tackles.

He had a college career that prepared him for slow progress and taught him that hard work will pay off in the long run. How he got there is an incredible story in itself, and one that shows that even before he became the man of such high character and integrity that he is today, the seeds had been planted in the home.

It’s ironic to give his close-knit, large family home life so much credit for his signing decision as a high school senior, because his decision caused a lot of stress in his home that year.

McDonald was a star linebacker in high school. At 240 pounds, he was a beat in the middle of the Red Devil defense. He was also the biggest head turner at the 2005 Arkansas High School All Star game that included fellow NFLers Darren McFadden and Carlisle’s Mitch Petrus.

But the offers weren’t flowing in from the big schools. For the longest, Memphis University was the largest school to extend an official offer. Arkansas State also wanted McDonald and he even verbally committed to ASU, but soon recanted.

The night before signing day, McDonald chose then Division 1-AA Mississippi Valley State, where his older brother Cleyton had been playing for two years. That decision, McDonald says, was based largely on his father’s wishes. He called Memphis that night to tell them the news.

“My dad had that loyalty to them because they were the ones who signed my brother,” McDonald said. “I really wanted to honor my father’s wishes, but he also said it’s my decision.”

About a week before signing day, the University of Arkansas came through with an offer after being wishy washy throughout the recruiting process. A press conference had been arranged days before. Media, students and teammates packed the JHS library and still McDonald didn’t know which team he was going to sign with.

“I had three letters (NCAA letters of intent) sitting there in front of me,” McDonald said. “First thing I did was pushed Arkansas aside. I knew I wasn’t going to go there. Falling back onto what he’d always had faith in, McDonald stood up behind the table to address the crowd and told the Biblical story of the prodigal son. He’d used the story as motivation for the night before’s decision to sign with MSVU, honoring his father. At the press conference, with his father seated to his left, he recalled the part of the father accepting the son though he didn’t always make the decisions he felt was right. Then announced he was going to become a Memphis Tiger.

The announcement was not met with immediate approval from dad, but Larry McDonald supported his son nonetheless.

College proved more challenging than he expected in several areas, athletics being one of them.

He signed with and reported to the Memphis University as a 240-pound linebacker. After a week, the Tigers moved him to defensive end, where 240 pounds is small for Division I college ball. After putting on 10 pounds and working his way into the starting rotation by season’s end, he was finally coming around to liking the outside of the line. Then just three weeks into his sophomore season, defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn was fired and head coach Tommy West took over that responsibility. He changed the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and asked McDonald to move inside to nose guard.

“I was 250 pounds,” McDonald said. “We had Tennessee coming up our next game. I was outweighed by at least 50 pounds by everybody blocking me. I’d never taken on a double team before. All of a sudden I’m supposed to be that guy to take on the double teams and anchor everything. That was a tough transition. I really started thinking about giving up and transferring somewhere else. That was the first time I really learned what it feels like to get pushed around. I didn’t like it.”

He called home to say he thought he wanted to transfer. This time his mother, who is always working behind the scenes, (she’s the one that called MU the morning of signing day and told them to send the LOI despite the news from the night before) was at the forefront on this one.

“She said ‘you’re right, they told you one thing and have you doing something else.’”McDonald said. She said ‘It’s your decision. But you’ve never quit anything before. I think it would be a mistake.’”

He took his mom’s advice and made ‘getting pushed around’ just another challenge to overcome. He also drew, and still draws, inspiration from his brother Cleyton. The oldest brother and second oldest of six McDonald children, didn’t get the NFL body and strength of his younger brother, but does have the same mental toughness and courage, and displayed it his senior year in high school. He suffered what should have been a career-ending knee injury his junior season. But worked so diligently in rehab that he not only played, but stood out enough his senior year to earn a college scholarship as a linebacker despite also being undersized.

“A lot of people think I’m the one my family looks up to,” Clinton said. “That’s not really true. I really look up to my brother. Seeing everything he went through and seeing how hard he worked and how he carries himself and the integrity he has. I’ve always looked up to him.”

The Memphis head coach wasn’t pleased with the change early on, but McDonald kept working.

“Coach kept saying ‘You guys are not getting it. You’re not getting my vision,’” McDonald said. “It was very hard for a long time. I was already the strongest guy on the team, but I had to work even harder to get bigger and stronger to play where he wanted me.”

West’s vision proved prescient. McDonald, despite his too-small stature, had found his best position and became an-NFL-level talent. But football wasn’t the only challenge he faced in college, but like football, he faced them head on.

McDonald got his first lessons on the difficulty of relationships. His then strong and now unwavering faith was also assaulted.

“I took this class called sociology and anthropology,” McDonald said. “And it really made me start to wonder why I think what I’ve always believed is true. I read the Bible more and I realized what I believe didn’t start with me either. It’s been around a long time and I knew from my parents and my family and my own experience that this (the Bible) won’t let you down.”

So ingrained is the Bible in McDonald’s brain, any general conversation is likely to unlock a scripture in his mind. So much joy does he get from the scriptures, he’ll always share it with a huge smile.

At 25, McDonald now finds peace and rest in his faith.

Later this year, he’ll report to NFL training camp for the fourth time. Under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, the minimum salary for players with three years of service will be a hefty raise from what McDonald made last year. But he enters training camp without a contract. His career is up in the air, but he knows he’s playing his best ball ever and he’s confident he’ll sign. Even if he doesn’t, his faith and his rock-solid family foundation give him comfort that things will be ok. So does the degree he earned last year during the NFL lockout. He left college a semester early and 16 hours short of his degree to begin training for the NFL. True to form as someone who never leaves anything unfinished, he went back for the spring semester last year and finished.

“I may have a 15-year career or I may not, but I know I have tremendous support with my family, and I know I can accept whatever God has for me.”

SPORTS >> Conway escapes Cabot

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers gave defending 7A state champion Conway all it wanted during a 2-1 loss at Panther Stadium on Tuesday.

The Lady Wampus Cats eventually prevailed when they scored on a corner kick in the fifth minute of the second half for the winning goal, but not before the Lady Panthers (5-3,1-1) held them in check for most of the first half, as well as the remainder of the second half.

“It was very closely contested,” Lady Panthers coach Kerry Castillo said. “Conway is a really good team, and we knew that coming in. We’ve had some new faces on our team that have just added a different level of athleticism for us. We believe that if we can be patient and not chase the ball or make clumsy mistakes, we can play with them. I thought the girls did a wonderful job of doing exactly that.”

Conway took an early 1-0 lead when their leading forward kicked a strike into the lower left corner against Lady Panthers junior goalkeeper Hana Cooper at the 16:34 mark of the first half of the 7A Central Conference clash. Cabot senior forward Ally Lamb tied the game five minutes later with a perfect strike from 35 yards out that just cleared the crossbar to give the Lady Panthers their only goal.

“I thought it was a little bit closer from the distance that I saw,” Castillo said of Lamb’s goal. “But someone said it was about 35 or 40 yards out. It was just a great hit – heads up play. The defense left her open, she saw an opportunity and she took it.”

Sophomore midfielder Jessica Souza kept the Lady Cats honest through most of the first half with a number of strong battles that denied breakaways, while Cooper fended off several shots on goal from Conway until the chaos of a corner kick early in the second half finally caught her out of position.

“She has progressively gotten better,” Castillo said. “Every training session, Michelle Parr is our goalkeeping coach, and Hana has responded to everything she’s been taught. She recorded two clean sheets at the Harrison tournament. She had some really great grabs, and again today on two really high shots. She’s been a bright spot for us this year.”

The Lady Panthers grabbed some early-season momentum and perhaps a little more respect statewide at the Harrison tournament over spring break with a 3-0 victory over 5A West powerhouse Siloam Springs and a 2-0 shutout against defending 5A champs Harrison. Castillo, now in his second season as coach of the Lady Panthers, said he has been pleased with the progress of the program over the course of the past year.

“Their fitness is wonderful, and their attitudes are great,” Castillo said. “They’re responding to the demands that they’re given. I see nothing but more improvement as time goes on. The program as a whole from top to bottom is really coming along and developing. The players are buying into year round, offseason, preseason and game season that they have to go through.

“If I could assess, my expectations have been above and beyond.”

The Lady Panthers played on the road against Mount St. Mary on Friday and will play at North Little Rock on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Democrats incognito

Is the Democratic Party in Arkansas still in business? We seldom hear from party officials, who may be lying low until the November elections, when Republicans threaten to take over the state legislature for the first time in memory.

Oh, sure, we get an occasional e-mail from Will Bond, who is chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party. Sometimes the e-mails are a little obscure, such as this one:

“You may have heard that OFA is hosting an office opening party for their new headquarters in North Little Rock, but in case you missed it, we wanted to get you the details so you can make plans to attend,” Bond wrote on Monday.

We read the e-mail a couple of times, wondering what OFA stood for. We looked at the bottom of the email for an explanation of what OFA might mean. Perhaps a footnote might explain it.

But there was no clarification. We checked with the Democratic Party and also Googled OFA: Obama for America.

So there you have it: The email was an invitation for Tuesday’s opening of President Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters at 201 W. Broadway St. in North Little Rock.

We haven’t had a chance to check it out. We don’t know if there’s a big sign out there to re-elect the president or just the letters OFA. Perhaps the windows are boarded up so as not to attract the curious.

Only four years ago, former Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk Pat O’Brien — he, like Will Bond, grew up in Jacksonville — was an Obama delegate to the Democratic convention and helped open his presidential campaign headquarters in Little Rock. That may have one reason he lost his race for secretary of state two years later.

Democrats are more subdued this year. There’s no chance Obama will do any better here than he did in 2008, when Sen. John McCain easily carried Arkansas.

But important issues remain, especially health-care reform, which the Supreme Court could overturn this summer. The Affordable Care Act can benefit Arkansans — we need all the federal subsidies we can grab — but state Democrats, except for Sen. Mark Pryor and a handful of others, are outright opposed or remain silent on the issue. For the latter, it’s sort of like OFA. You can look it up.

EDITORIAL >> Betty Magie, RIP

Betty Magie, who passed away Monday at the age of 84, was an old-fashioned editor who made sure her Lonoke County newspapers were filled with local news, photos and features.

She helped edit the papers for more than 50 years and read every word that went into each issue. She was a meticulous proofreader who was educated in the old days, long before television, when schools still taught writing and every high school graduate could write a clear English sentence.

A Furlow native, Betty went to Lonoke High School and on to the University of Arkansas at the age of 17 in 1944, where she met her husband Cone, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 81.

They started the Cabot Star in 1955 and soon bought the competing Cabot Herald. Back then, putting out a newspaper took a lot of work, when every letter was pieced together on hot metal and every page took hours to complete.
It was hard work and long hours. But she and Cone loved community journalism and won dozens of awards over the decades. Both headed the Arkansas Press Association several times and represented our profession around the country.

The Magies were among the last of the family newspaper publishers. Their ownership ended in 2006, when the family sold to a Las Vegas outfit. At one time, families owned newspapers all across Arkansas, from Benton to Van Buren, from Cabot to Paragould. Now there are just a handful of local owners. Cone and Betty Magie were among the best.

TOP STORY >> Expansion plans by Cabot church

Leader staff writer

First Baptist Church of Cabot is expanding to Jacksonville with the opening of its first satellite church, The Venue at Chapel Hill, at 11 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 8. The Venue was formerly the Chapel Hill Baptist Church at 1409 Madden Road.

First Baptist Church associate pastor Dave Morley said Chapel Hill Baptist Church has been active for 50 years. Last year, First Baptist Church assisted Chapel Hill with its anniversary.

Through meetings and conversations between First Baptist Church senior pastor Greg Addison and Chapel Hill pastor Mike Douglas, First Baptist Church wanted to help revitalize the Chapel Hill church, whose membership had become stagnate.

Pastor Douglas will continue to lead the Chapel Hill church. The sermons will have same messages as the Cabot church. The messages will be recorded at the First Baptist’s 9 a.m. service and brought to Chapel Hill and shown later in the morning in addition to the live worship service. Chapel Hill will have a live band during worship. The church will also have Bible studies for children and adults.

Morley said First Baptist Church of Cabot continues to grow, but cannot expand because it is landlocked. The church does not want to move out of downtown.

“The strategy is not to build more buildings, but expand the church at other locations,” Morley said.

“We don’t want to spend money for brick and mortar; we want to plant more churches and launch new campuses for more people to come to. A healthy growing church can help a church that is in decline,” he said.

Morley said First Baptist is a strong worship and family ministry. The church has age appropriate teachings for youngsters.

“We’re big on family. It’s all about children, students and marriage,” Morley said.

He gave several reasons for First Baptist joining together with Chapel Hill.

“It’s close to (Jacksonville High School). We look forward to ministering to military families. We have a large commitment to the military. We have strong military presences here,” Morley said.

He said First Baptist Church children’s pastor Ron Pierce is a chaplain with the Air National Guard. Family pastor Greg Hooper leads the military ministry.

First Baptist will continue to help support the work of the chaplains at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

EDITORIAL >> Please help

A community is defined by how it comes through tragedy, and Jacksonville has suffered a tremendous tragedy this past week with six deaths — all unwarranted, all preventable, all painful.

No one can turn back the clock, but we can go forward, join hands and bring about healing by helping all those involved.

First is a proper burial for the five fire victims — a young mother and her four children; then support for the grieving father and the families of our fallen firefighter and the police officer and firefighter still in the hospital, facing long recoveries.

Say prayers, and to put it bluntly, send money.

An account for the Beavers-Singleton family has been established at Regions Bank.

For the fallen firefighter, Capt. Donald Jones, and his injured first responders, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo, an account has been set up at Arvest Bank.

“This is an another opportunity for our community to show their deep compassion,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

We agree.

TOP STORY >> Fund is established for victims of blaze

Leader staff writer

A funeral fund has been set up at Regions Bank for the mother and her four children who were killed Thursday in a kitchen fire in Jacksonville.

Donations can be sent to routing number 082000109 and account number 0166651727.

“She was one of the best moms a kid could have. They were good kids. I was their dad and their best friend. I loved them dearly. They were my rock,” said Furlandare Singleton, the mother’s fiancé.

Marilyn Beavers, 30, her son, Dequan Singleton, 10, and her three daughters, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4, died from smoke inhalation at their duplex apartment at 3A S. Simmons Drive.

A group funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Arrangements are by Gunn Funeral Home in Little Rock.

Fletcher said, “The expense of five funerals is overwhelming. Obviously our police and fire still have needs, but the most immediate need now is helping this family put their loved ones to rest. This is another opportunity for our community to show their deep compassion.”

The cause of the fire at Max Howell Place, a low-income housing complex, is still under investigation, according to Jacksonville Fire Marshal Mike Williams. He said the department had a few leads, but he could not release them on Tuesday.

Williams confirmed the fire started in the kitchen and said it “probably smoldered out.”

He said he didn’t believe anyone opened any windows or vents.

A relative said Tuesday that he was told the fire started after the family warmed up some French fries in the oven.

But Singleton, the fiancé, doubted that.

He said, “I’ve never, ever known her (Marilyn) to leave a stove on. That puzzled me.”

Jennifer Gray, who lives next door in 3B, called 911 a few hours before the bodies were found because she smelled smoke.

Firefighters first responded to the duplex at 5:50 a.m. Thursday.

They left 30 minutes later after finding no sign of a fire. She was told smoke had drifted from another fire across the freeway, about a mile away. That fire leveled an unoccupied home at 3400 Northeastern Ave.

Firefighters did a walkthrough of Gray’s apartment, an external walk around the duplex and used a thermal imager, a device that detects heat. The fire did not cause any damage to the exterior of the building, Williams said.

Tom Vanhoveln and Bobby Snow, maintenance men for the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which manages the duplexes, entered 3A around 7 a.m. in response to a call from Gray.

They said the smoke detector was going off when they entered.

The two men found smoke and the children in their beds.

The fire had gone out by the time firefighters arrived for a second time at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire marshal said the department uses thermal imagers frequently and it couldn’t have malfunctioned.

“When they fail, they don’t come on,” Williams said.

Firefighters also knocked on the door of 3A, but didn’t go inside when no one answered.

Williams said it is department policy that firefighters not enter a residence uninvited when there is no sign of a fire, especially for their own safety as some individuals may have firearms and shoot at intruders.

The state fire marshal is advising the department in this case. The Jacksonville Police Department, state Crime Lab and county coroner are also involved in the investigation, Williams said.

He said, “I’m sure there will be” an internal investigation, and that is typical for any incident like this one.

Singleton said he talked to the family at 2:3o a.m., hours before firefighters first responded to the scene. They were eating ice cream and watching movies, enjoying spring break.

He was on the phone with Marilyn’s dad when her dad arrived at the scene.

“All I heard was a scream. He said, ‘It’s over. They’re gone.’ I almost ran off a bridge. I saw my life flash before my eyes. It hurt.

“I’m deeply disappointed in the fire department. I’m not sitting up here saying they could have saved them. I don’t know that. But at least I would have had the satisfaction of them trying,” Singleton said.

He met Marilyn, the mother, 16 years ago, when they were in ninth-grade.

The two were going to be married at the courthouse in a few weeks.

Marilyn wanted the children to have the same last name when they moved from the cramped three-bedroom duplex to a five-bedroom house near Cato Elementary School. They lived at Max Howell for seven years.

Emily just started school this year at Homer Adkins Pre-K and she loved it. Haylee’s favorite book was “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, and she wanted to help people in trouble. Sydni liked writing songs and cooking with her mom. Dequan was an athlete and in the talented and gifted program.


The Singleton-Beavers family, consisting of Marilyn Beavers, 30; Emily Beavers, 4; Dequan Singleton, 10; Sydni Singleton, 9, and Haylee Singleton, 6, all of Jacksonville, passed away March 22.

The family was very happy and full of joy. Some of their pastimes consisted of skating, events, cheerleading, football and basketball, just to name a few. Marilyn was a very loving and caring mother, daughter, sister and friend. She provided care to others, especially her mom.

The most important thing in her world was God and her kids. She enjoyed planning outings and events for them to participate in. They will truly be missed. Dequan had dreams to be in the NFL. Sydni wanted to be a songwriter.

Haylee wanted to be a private investigator. Emily was going to be the boss. She most definitely enjoyed bossing everyone around.

Marilyn Beaver was born Dec. 29, 1981. She is survived by her fiancée, Furlandare Singleton; parents, Marilyn and George Beavers; grandmother, Ruthie Ingram; sisters, Kimberly Beavers and Tamera Downing, and a host of other relatives and friends.

Dequan Singleton was born Aug. 10, 2001.

Haylee Singleton was born May 18, 2005.

Sydni Singleton was born Feb. 1, 2003.

They are survived by a loving father, Furlandare Singleton; two siblings, Nadia and Furlandare Singleton Jr.; two grandfathers, Paul Jones and George Beavers; two grandmothers, Marilyn Beavers and Jean Singleton, and a host of other relatives and friends.

Emily Beaver was born Feb. 26, 2008. She is survived by her father, Clyde Hatchett; stepfather, Furlandare Single-ton; brother; Furlandare Singleton Jr.; sister; Nadia Singleton, and a host of other relatives and friends.

Visitation for all will be from 6 to 8p.m. Friday, March 30 at St. Luke Baptist Church, 8205 Hwy. 161, North Little Rock. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 31 at St. Luke Baptist Church. Services entrusted to Gunn Funeral Home in Little Rock.

TOP STORY >> Farewell to fallen firefighter

Leader staff writer

“We are celebrating the life of Donny Jones,” Battalion Chief Joe Bratton, chaplain for the Jacksonville Fire Department, told more than 500 people gathered at Saturday’s funeral for 31-year-veteran firefighter Capt. Donald Lee Jones.

Jones was killed last Monday after Bryce Allen, 47, of Jacksonville drove around emergency vehicles and struck him, firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo as they were working the scene of an accident at 8411 Hwy. 161.

His is the first line-of-duty death for the department. The other two men were seriously injured, but are in stable condition.

About half of the crowd at McArthur Assembly of God Church on Saturday were fire-fighters and police officers from all over the state and hundreds of miles away.

Arkansas flags were flown at half-staff on Friday. A U.S. honor flag, the one that was flown during recovery efforts at Ground Zero in New York City, was sent from Texas to honor Jones, who was 56 years old.

Bratton said, “Donny was a unique individual. He was one of a kind. He was the most talkative, quiet guy I knew. He wouldn’t run up to you, but if you got on a topic he liked, he would talk forever.

“He worked hard. He didn’t really look at things, I think, as play. He worked at his play. If you went fishing with Donny, you went for the day and maybe the night and you’d better bring some food and water with you because he would be there. He wasn’t going back to the dock for anything, especially if the fish were biting. But even if they weren’t, he could sit there and look at the line for a long time before he ever moved the boat.

“Whether it was hunting or fishing or helping a young lady play softball or whatever else, Donny was all in. He was all in, about that. Donny brought that same passion to his job at the fire department.

“When I met him in 1984, when I was hired on, I thought he’d been here a long time. In fact, he’d only been here three years. But he just knew his job, and he was professional at his job. And I thought he was one of these men that had already been there 20 years,” Bratton said.

“He was a good EMT on the ambulance, one of the best EMTs I’ve ever worked with on the ambulance. He was a good firefighter. For me, that’s one of the best compliments you can give a man, is that he’s a good firefighter.

“Donny taught me things about the fire service and about firefighting.

“He taught me that it isn’t just fun, which, back then, it was all fun to me. We had great fun in our times and I looked forward to our runs. He said to me, ‘It isn’t just fun. It’s a job, and jobs have to be done right. They have to be done professionally because what we’re doing is important. We’re involving people’s lives, and we’re involving people’s belongings.’

“One time, we had a fire over on Lehman Street. As it turned out, it was an attic fire and we used a little bit of water on it. It was one of those fires where stuff was kind of floating out of the front door. Donny was pretty upset about that. We got back to the station and he simply, quietly told us, ‘Guys we’re better than that. We’re better than that. It’s not just about putting out the fire. We’re about saving people’s belongings. We’re about saving people’s stuff.’ He was professional.

“He taught me about being aggressive but not being reckless. One time, I think it was Wayne Coleman and I, we’re at a house over on the east side of town and it was burnt up and we were inside it and it was on fire.

“We were fighting fire and he pulled us out. It was literally falling down around us. He pulled us out and then he fairly sternly again told me, ‘What were you doing? What was that worth? It was already lost. There was nothing to save. You were just risking yourself. Don’t do that.’

“He believed in taking care of his people, and he did that both on and off of the fire ground. And that’s how he believed in doing his job. He believed in doing it right,” Bratton said.

“Donny loved his family and he didn’t put them last. He loved his family. He loved his kids. He loved his grandkids, his great grandchild. Betty, he loved the time he spent with you. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were standing at the alter and you were getting married. And you were buddies and I know that. He wasn’t just a husband. He was your friend.

“I also learned that you have a new addition to the house. I met him the other day, Beebe the dog. I heard that Donny was quite took up with Beebe, that even when you went fishing he would make a tent in the boat so that Beebe wouldn’t get too hot. “That’s pretty high status for somebody in Donny’s world that he would take the time on a fishing trip to take care of the dog.

“He was a good provider. He was a faithful husband, a caring dad and a grandpa and great grandpa. I think he summed up everything that I think a good firefighter and a good person should be.

“He was a good friend of mine, and I’m sure he was a good friend of yours if you knew him, because if he was a friend, he was a good friend.”

The Conway Firefighters Pipes and Drums played the bagpipes. “I Miss My Friend” by Darryl Worley drifted through the silent sanctuary before Bratton came to the microphone.

When Bratton finished speaking, Craig Morgan’s “Almost Home” and “A Voice Missing from Roll Call” accompanied a photo slideshow.

Then the firefighters and policemen formed a line to salute their friend and fellow service-man.

A long procession of fire trucks, an ambulance and a few police cars escorted Jones to his final resting place at Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Jacksonville.

Donations to a memorial fund for Jones’ family, Bowmaster and DiMatteo can be made at any Arvest Bank branch.

SPORTS >> Devils lose two late at Xtra Innings

Leader sportswriter

After a good start, Jacksonville suffered a bad ending in the Xtra Innings baseball tournament over spring break. The Red Devils beat Springdale 7-3 to start the event on Thursday, but lost its last two games on Friday and Saturday.

It was a 12-team tournament played over three days at Jonesboro and Nettleton high schools. On Friday Jacksonville blew a seventh-inning lead to lose 8-7 to Camden-Fairview, then lost 5-0 to West Memphis on Saturday.

“Some games we didn’t hit and the game that we hit we made a bunch of mistakes,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said.

Jacksonville entered the seventh inning of Friday’s game against the Cardinals trailing 6-3 and began to put together a rally. After one run had scored. Derek St. Clair and Kaleb Reeves reached base with two outs, bringing cleanup hitter Jesse Harbin to the plate. Harbin cranked a shot over the fence in left centerfield to give the Red Devils a 7-6 lead.

It was a short-lived lead.

Camden came to bat, and its first two batters walked. After one out was recorded, a base hit drove home the tying run. Another hit scored Camden’s eighth run and ended the game.

Jacksonville dug itself a hole early on, giving up five runs in the first inning to the Cardinals.

“It was mostly mental errors and not so much physical errors,” Burrows said of the sloppy first-inning. “Things like not being in the right cut off spot, not knowing where to go with the ball. We’re a young team and we’re going to make mistakes, but we should’ve played better than that. We just gave it right to them.”

Jacksonville had little chance against West Memphis. Blue Devil ace Cody Dauksch took a no hitter into the final inning before Jacksonville’s D’Vone McClure broke it up with one out.

Jacksonville meanwhile, tried to pitch by committee over the last three games. Ace Jesse Harbin got the win against Springdale and freshman No. 2 pitcher Derek St. Clair was on the mound against Wynne. From there, the Red Devils threw every pitcher it had in every game the rest of the tournament.

“We threw everybody,” Burrow said. “We threw James and Andrew Tucker, we threw Derek again, everybody we had available. I didn’t think the pitching was all that bad. We didn’t need to walk the first two in the last inning like we did against Camden. But this is just how we’re going to have to do it. When you’re throwing three ninth-graders, you’re going to take some lumps, but they’re all three going to be pretty good pitchers.”

The 1-3 record in the tournament leaves Jacksonville 4-8 overall and 1-1 in conference play. At Marion last week, Jacksonville split its 6A East opening doubleheader with the Patriots. Jacksonville won game one 3-2 and lost 17-0 in game two.

The Red Devils hosted Mountain Home Tuesday night after The Leader’s deadlines, and will be at home again Friday for a non-conference game against Sylvan Hills.

SPORTS >> Carlisle run rules Falcons

Leader sports editor

After getting rained out of its spring break tournament, the Carlisle Bison baseball team got back on track Monday with a 13-3 home win over North Pulaski.

Trey Wilson started on the mound and got the win for the Bison, who improved to 8-1 on the season. North Pulaski’s Jacob Walter took the loss for the Falcons, who fell to 0-4.

A combination of 13 Carlisle base hits and seven North Pulaski errors led to the run-rule shortened six-inning game.

Carlisle’s three and four hitters provided the game’s highlight in the third inning. Leading 2-1, Wilson and sophomore Deron Ricks hit back-to-back homeruns. Wilson’s drive over the left-field fence made drove in Tommy Inman, who had just doubled to right field. Ricks’ shot went out at straightaway centerfield and gave Carlisle a 5-1 lead.

The Falcons got one back in the top of the fourth. Cleanup hitter Austin Allen led off with a double and scored after two sacrifice grounders, one by Troy Allen and the other by Jospeh Gregg for the RBI.

In the bottom of the fourth, Bison leadoff hitter Chris Hart tripled to right field with one out, and scored on an error in shallow left field on Inman’s at bat.

Carlisle came within one run of ending it after five innings after posting five runs. Deric Herring and Josh Mathis were hit by pitches to start the inning. Mathis hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out.

Austin Reed then singled to right field to drive in one run. An error at second base off the bat of Conner Fields scored another. Hayden Hoover then singled to right for an RBI that again put runners on first and third. Hoover was thrown out by Troy Allen while trying to steal second base and Fields scored from third on the double-steal attempt. Hart then singled to left field and advanced to second on an error. He then scored on an error in centerfield.

The Falcons got an unearned run in the top of the sixth. Troy Allen walked and scored two batters later on a error at shortstop to make it 11-3.

Carlisle loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, but still hadn’t scored with two outs. Ricks started the rally with a triple down the right-field line. Herring was then hit by a pitch and Mathis walked.

North Pulaski relief pitcher Tyler Mogish struck out Reed and got Fields to pop up to second base. Hoover then singled to right field to drive in two runs and end the game.

Wilson threw five innings for Carlisle. He gave up just three hits, struck out nine and walked three Falcons while allowing two earned runs. He fanned the side to get out of a serious jam in the second inning after putting the first three batters on base. He also fanned the side in the fifth inning, wrapping three strikeouts around a hit batter and a walk.

Leadoff hitter Hart reached base on all four at bats. He reached twice on errors and got a triple, a single and scored three runs.

Inman also reached all four times and also reached on two errors while collecting two hits. He had one RBI and one run scored.

Ricks finished with two hits and also reached by getting hit. Reed and Hoover also had two hits each.

One thing Carlisle couldn’t do was steal on NP catcher Troy Allen. He gunned down three Bison stolen-base attempts.

SPORTS >> Panthers break losing streak

Leader sportswriter

The skid went to five games total before Cabot wrapped up tournament play in the Central Arkansas Invitational with a 13-2 run-ruled victory over Little Rock Christian Academy late Saturday.

The Panthers (6-6) lost to Central Arkansas Christian 11-4 on Friday and were run ruled 10-0 by Springdale Har-Ber in their first of two Saturday games, but determined not to go through the three-day tourney winless, put together one of their best efforts of the season to down the Warriors. The victory also avenged their first loss of the season in which LRCA won 2-1 at the Jacksonville tournament in early March.

“The tournament in general, boy, it was a good tournament,” Panthers coach Jay Fitch said. “There were a lot of talented teams. Our whole deal, even back to when we played in the Jacksonville tournament is that our bats have been really inconsistent. It’s been a real struggle for us to score runs.

“We’ve really struggled at the plate, and it carried over into this tournament. We shook the lineup up just a bit and let two or three new guys give it a shot. I don’t know if that was the missing ingredient or not, but we’re going to get it figured out.”

The Panthers jumped on Christian early and batted through the lineup in the first inning with eight runs off five hits. Bryson Morris came away with hits during both of his appearances at the plate in the first frame. Morris led off the game with a double and then connected on a RBI single the next time, scoring both times. Tyler Carter drove him in the first time on a RBI single, and Scott Burnett hit a two-RBI double to give the Panthers an early 3-0 lead.

Kason Kimbrell also had a RBI in the first inning, and got Cabot going again in the top of the fourth inning with a double before Carter hit a two-run home run to put the Panthers up 10-0.

“When you’re a young team, you’re going to go through adversity,” Fitch said. “But it’s how strong you are mentally. There’s plenty of talent, but at the same time, it doesn’t take much to shake you up.”

The Warriors scored a run in the bottom of the fourth, but the Panthers turned around and put the game away in the top of the fifth inning with three more runs.

Morris led off with a single once again and advanced on a single by Carter before Casey Vaughn came away with Cabot’s biggest hit of the tournament, a three-run home run to give the Panthers an insurmountable 13-1 lead.

LRCA needed at least three runs to avoid being run ruled in the bottom of the fifth, but only managed one.

At the mound, Hayden Vinson earned the win with a complete-game effort through five innings. Vinson gave up three hits, all singles, while striking out four and walking two batters.

Vaughn was 3 for 3 with a home run while Carter was 3 for 4 with a home run and Morris also went 3 for 4.

Cabot started the tournament with a close 5-4 loss to Vilonia on Thursday, and the two blowouts suffered Friday and early Saturday were even more difficult.

Fitch commended his club for their ability to keep focus and put together the solid win over Little Rock Christian Academy as the Panthers prepared to return to 7A Central Conference action this week.

“I was surprised with how the kids bounced back,” Fitch said. “My big thing is, I mean, you naturally want to win any tournament; you want to bring home that trophy, but the main thing is getting better for conference. We’ve got a little momentum to build on, and we’ve got a tough Conway team coming in on Tuesday.

Then Friday, we get to play a team that a lot of people say will win the state championship in 7A in Little Rock Catholic.”

The Panthers hosted the Wampus Cats Tuesday night after The Leader’s deadlines and will host the Rockets at the Cabot City Baseball Park.

SPORTS >> Late mistake thwarts Bears’ rally

Leader sportswriter

It was the championship game before the Sylvan Hills Bears faced serious adversity in the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament Saturday at Little Rock’s storied Lamar Porter Field. They trailed tournament host Little Rock Catholic 5-0 after an inning of play, rallied late, but the early mistakes cost the Bears the tournament championship as the Rockets squeaked by with a 5-4 win.

Sylvan Hills should have tied the game in the top of the sixth inning, but a base-running error turned what should’ve been a five-run rally into four. Trailing 5-4 with two outs, Sylvan Hills pinch runner Nathan Thomas stumbled as he approached home and failed to touch home plate. The Catholic catcher tagged him on appeal as he was walking back to the dugout and the umpire called him out.

“We didn’t play our game,” Tipton said. “Our game is we don’t walk people, and we don’t make errors. In the first inning, we walked people and we made errors and we got beat.”

J.D. Miller started the game on the mound for Sylvan Hills (9-4, 2-0), but struggled from the start. Miller walked three batters and hit two more in the inning, which gave Catholic (8-3, 0-2) too many opportunities to put runs on the board.

Leadoff hitter Michael Haun crossed home plate on a wild pitch to give Catholic a 1-0 lead, and Clayton Gretchell scored after Cole Boardman hit a double off the wall in right center for the Rockets’ second run of the game.

Miller almost pitched his way out of the jam, but with the bases loaded, Mason McKay hit a two-out double that cleared the bases and gave Catholic the 5-0 lead.

Carasquillo came in to relieve Miller and the score remained 5-0 until the top of the sixth. Eller singled and stole second to start the inning, and Carasquillo hit a hard line drive to right center that allowed Eller to cross home plate with ease.

The Bears held Catholic scoreless once again in the bottom of the sixth, but had to get things going offensively in order to try and make the dramatic comeback.

Sylvan Hills wouldn’t go down easy as Hunter and Freeling got on base to start the final inning, and Boone singled to send Hunter home. Eller followed with a sacrifice fly that allowed Freeling to score. Jacob White reached base on a two out error that allowed Baioni to score the final run for the Bears.

With runners on second and third with two outs, the Bears ran out of luck as Catholic pitcher Andrew Mashburn struck out T.J. Burrows to end the game.

Sylvan Hills committed two errors in the game and left nine runners on the bases. It was an uncharacteristic game for a team that is used to feeding off of the opponent’s mistakes, not the other way around.

“I really think in this game we showed our inexperience as far as mentally,” Tipton said. “They (Catholic) jumped out and this is the first time we’ve been down five. I really thought we let it bother us for a while. The thing I liked is then we kind of settled down and got back in it and battled back and had a chance to win.

“That does make me happy. I thought too for a while that we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves. It kind of got to be the blame game, but it’s like I said, we’re going to be successful when we don’t walk people and we don’t make errors. We made more errors tonight than we’ve made the last four games.”

After beating 7A powerhouse Fayetteville in the opening round of the tournament, Sylvan Hills used its pitching and stellar defense to beat Russellville 7-3 in the second round Friday at Benton High School.

Lance Hunter earned the win for the Bears, as the right-hander struck out seven, walked four, and allowed three runs through five and a half innings.

“Once again we pitched well,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton about the win. “Lance Hunter got out there and competed well on the mound for us. Again, we had some key hits. They made some mistakes and we were able to take advantage of those mistakes.”

Russellville committed five errors and Sylvan Hills capitalized on nearly every opportunity as the Bears scored four unearned runs against the Cyclones.

Sylvan Hills wasted no time setting the tone as the Bears scored two of their seven runs in the first inning. Dylan Boone started things off with a one out single, and three and four hitters Connor Eller and David Carrasquillo both reached base on Russellville errors.

Hunter Heslep doubled with the bases loaded, sending Boone and Eller across home plate to give the Bears a 2-0 lead. Russellville answered with a run in the top of the second, but the Cyclones’ mistakes continued once they got back in the field.

After reaching base on another Russellville error, Dalton Freeling stole second, and after advancing to third on a ground ball by leadoff hitter Brandon Baioni, Freeling crossed home plate on a wild pitch.

Sylvan Hills added two more runs in the fourth, and two more in the fifth to take a comfortable 7-1 lead. Russellville added its final two runs in the top of the sixth when Eric Turner hit a double that sent Hayden Hipps home.

Turner then stole third base, and James Reasoner singled to send Turner home to set the final margin. Carasquillo came in to relieve Hunter, and the Bears (8-3, 2-0) had little trouble finishing off the Cyclones (7-3, 2-0).

Sylvan Hills played later that night in the semi-final round of the tournament, and beat the host Benton Panthers 6-3 to advance to the final against Catholic.

Monday, March 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> JHS hosts college, career fair

Jacksonville High School will hold a college and career fair from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the school’s media center and cafeteria. 

The fair is open to all JHS juniors, seniors and their parents, who are interested in learning about options after graduation. 

“This is a great opportunity to gather information about many colleges, trade schools and career paths,” JHS parent and community liaison Jada Ellis said.  

Centennial Bank will provide free hamburgers and hot dogs.

For more information, e-mail Ellis at or call 501-982-2128. The school is at 2400 Linda Lane.