Saturday, October 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers sweep up Pulaski Academy

Leader sports editor

There were moments of uncertainty in games two and three, but in both cases, the Beebe volleyball team pulled out the wins and kept intact its perfect season.

The Lady Badgers have still not lost a single set in 5A-Central Conference play after beating Pulaski Academy 25-11 and 25-21 twice Tuesday at Badger Sports Arena.

Beebe and PA shared the league title last year, and the Lady Bruins needed to win Tuesday’s match to have a shot this year, but Beebe all but assured itself an outright conference championship, even though there are two games remaining on the schedule. PA will have to win out and Beebe will have to lose both of its games next week against Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski in order for the Lady Bruins to earn a piece of this year’s crown.

Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski are also almost certainly going to be the other two playoff teams from the Central, so Beebe coach Ashley Camp is not declaring a championship yet.

“It’s there in front of us, but we still have to play North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills, so we’re not talking about it,” said Camp. “But we knew this was a big one.”

Camp’s team came out like it was a big one. The Lady Badgers scored the match’s first four points, including two aces by senior Sarah Clark. Senior Jerra Malone added two kills and the Lady Bruins called a quick timeout.

The margin in game one stayed between four and six points until Paige Smith took serve at 15-10. Abby Smith got a huge kill to start Paige Smith’s service game. After an unforced error, Abby Smith got another kill and Paige Smith aced the Lady Bruins to make it 19-10 and force another PA timeout.

Paige Smith added three more points after the timeout before the Lady Bruins finally broke serve at 22-11, but it was the last point they would score in the opening game.

Beebe quickly broke back, and Abby Smith served out the game, acing the Lady Bruins with a topspin jump-serve for point 25.

Game two went back and forth for a long while, with neither team keeping serve for more than two points until Beebe got just enough of a run near the midway point to hold on for the win. Leading 14-13, Malone served four-consecutive points for a five-point lead.

The Lady Bruins pulled to within two at 18-17, and the two teams traded side outs until 22-21 when Beebe went on a three-point run to seal game two. Abby Smith again ended the game with a huge kill to the middle of the Bruin defense that caromed hard off the defender’s hands and out of bounds.

Sensing that PA was down, the Lady Badgers jumped out to a big lead in game three. Shalen Devore’s serve took Beebe’s lead from 7-3 to 13-3 with the help of two big kills by Malone, who had missed several hits in game two.

Beebe led 19-10 when Paige Smith took serve, but after scoring one point, the Lady Bruins began a furious comeback.

Camp called her first timeout of the match when PA pulled to within 20-16, but the Lady Bruins added two more points before serving long to make the score 21-18. The two teams again began to trade side outs until, on libero Kayla Green’s serve, Clark fooled PA by shooting an apparent set over the net and into a hole in the Bruin defense for match point.

After the match, Camp was pleased with her team’s overall performance, but thought it should have been a little less exciting after taking the big lead in game three.

“We came out ready,” Camp said. “The girls were, really, chomping at the bit for this one. I told them from the very beginning, set the tone, set the tone, set the tone. And we did that. But we’ve done the back and forth all year, especially with them.

“We’ll start off and then we’ll have a lull. Urgency is the key for us sometimes. I was preaching do not get comfortable. You do not have a big enough lead. I think we had a couple lose focus a little bit and that hurts the whole team, but we managed to get it back together. And the crowd like we had tonight helps that.”

Malone had a match-high 11 kills, including six in game three. Abby Smith had nine kills and three blocks for Beebe’s point total. Gracie Rymel had four kills for the Lady Badgers.

Green finished with 23 digs while Paige Smith had 17 and a match-high 10 points on serve.

The Lady Badgers remain perfect on the season in full match play at 15-0. Their only losses this year were in two-set tournament matches to North Little Rock, Conway and Bryant. They are 9-0 in league play and will travel to Conway on Saturday for a nonconference match.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot finally puts away Blue Devils

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers went on their longest road trip of the season and picked up a win in a high-scoring matchup at West Memphis on Friday. The Panthers featured two players to rush for 200 yards in a 49-28 win over the Blue Devils.

Panther quarterback Jarrod Barnes carried 19 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns, while junior fullback Alex Roberts had his best game ever as a Panther, carrying 16 times for 200 yards and two scores.

West Memphis entered the game 3-2 overall and was coming off a 28-27 loss at Searcy last week. The Blue Devils also had lost to Class 5A Blytheville, and narrowly beaten 5A Wynne in nonconference play. In their other 7A/6A-East Conference game, they beat Marion 34-21, a team Cabot trounced a week ago at home.

But the Panthers couldn’t put the home team away easily. Cabot led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, and added a touchdown to take a 21-7 lead into halftime.

Barnes scored on a 30-yard run and halfback Austin Morse scored on a 7-yard dive play in the first half. The Panthers’ other touchdown was an 82-yard kickoff return by senior Holdyn Barnes.

Both teams scored twice in the third quarter. Roberts scampered 75 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the second half, but West Memphis quarterback Kylan Whiting plunged 1 yard to answer the Cabot touchdown.

Jarrod Barnes then scored on a 75-yard option keep, but Blue Devil Devontae Dean III capped another good drive with a 2-yard run to make the score 35-21.

Roberts added a 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Panthers.

Cabot was called for 10 penalties for a loss of 90 yards while West Memphis was flagged only five times for 20 yards.

The Panthers finished with 504 yards of offense, with 476 coming on the ground. The Blue Devils piled up 321 total yards with 140 on the ground and 181 through the air.

Whiting led West Memphis with 17 carries for 94 yards rushing, and was 11 of 29 passing for 181 yards, one touchdown and one interception by Easton Seidl.

Cabot, 6-0, 3-0, will host Little Rock Central for homecoming next Friday at Panther Stadium. The Tigers got their second win of the season on Friday, beating Mountain Home 41-7.

West Memphis is at Jonesboro, a 70-64 loser Friday to North Little Rock.

SPORTS STORY >> Hornets earn big win over Carlisle

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s annual rivalry game with archrival Hazen was tough on the Bison from the start Friday night at Fred C. Hardke Field, as the visiting Hornets scored early and often on their way to a convincing 51-20 win over the Bison.

The 2A-6 Conference matchup looked to be quite competitive on paper, as each team entered Friday night’s game with a 2-3 overall record and 2-1 record in conference play. But once the ball was kicked off, it was all Hazen.

The Hornets (3-3, 3-1) scored the game’s first 22 points before the Bison (2-4, 2-2) could get on the board. After the Bison scored their first touchdown, though, Hazen responded by scoring 29 unanswered points to take its largest lead of the night at 51-6, putting the game well out of Carlisle’s reach.

“It just never materialized for us,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith.

“They’re a heck of a ballclub. They’ve got some backs that can really go. They’ve got some good-sized linemen. They were able to win the battle up front and they have good, quick backs, and we just couldn’t catch them.”

Hazen’s first 22 points were scored on three of its first four possessions. Quarterback Drake Ingle put the Hornets on the board for the first time with a 29-yard run off the left side with 10:46 to go in the opening quarter. He also ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.

Running back Logan Penn scored the next two touchdowns. The first came on a 34-yard run with 4:54 to play in the first quarter and the second was a 76-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. The Hornets converted 1 of 2 two-point conversions on those two scores, making it 22-0.

Carlisle’s first score came less than a minute later on a 59-yard run by quarterback Ty Golleher. The PAT was unsuccessful, leaving the score 22-6. Hazen returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 45-yard line, and on the next snap, Ingle took a read-option keep 55 yards for another Hornet touchdown.

Penn added the two-point conversion to push Hazen’s lead to 30-6 with 10:49 left in the half, but that was the score at halftime. Carlisle received the second-half kickoff and gained a couple of first downs, but fumbled on the fourth play of the drive and Ingle returned the fumble to the Bison 20.

Dakota Aycock found the end zone three plays later on an 8-yard run up the middle of the field. Penn added the two-point conversion to make the score 38-6 with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter.

Hazen scored its final two touchdowns on its next two possessions. The Hornets led 44-6 on a 33-yard run by Penn and pushed their lead to 51-6 with a 3-yard run by Aycock and successful extra point with 2:14 to go in the third.

The clock ran continuously after Penn’s last touchdown, which invoked the 35-point sportsmanship rule, and though the game was well out of the Bison’s reach, they didn’t quit.

Carlisle got on the board with 3:15 to play on an 11-yard run by Devon Kendrick. Carlisle’s onside kick that followed was covered by Bison sophomore Tristan Seidenschwarz.

Golleher scored the game’s final touchdown on a 10-yard run with 14 seconds remaining. Kendrick added the two-point conversion to set the final score.

“We definitely didn’t play our best game,” Keith said, “but you’ve got to be able to overcome it. We were able to keep fighting for four full quarters and we never gave up. The kids showed a lot of heart and they keep battling no matter what. I couldn’t ask for much more than that from them.”

Hazen finished the night with 388 yards of offense, with all but 13 of those yards coming on the ground. Penn had 12 carries for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Ingle had 10 carries for 117 yards and two scores and Aycock had nine carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

Carlisle had 257 yards Friday. Golleher finished with eight carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback Tyler Teel had 19 carries for 90 yards and Kendrick had 13 carries for 61 yards and one score.

Carlisle will try and rebound next week at Palestine-Wheatley (3-3, 2-3). The Patriots beat winless Marvell 34-14 last night. Kickoff for next Friday’s conference game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears beat Red Devils in a junker

Leader sports editor

The officials for Friday night’s football game in Sherwood between Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills were donning pink penalty flags in recognition of breast cancer awareness month.

If anyone arrived at Black-wood Field not knowing that, they could not have left with the same lack of knowledge. Pink polyester littered the field constantly in the Bears’ 29-14 victory over the Red Devils. The officials called 37 penalties.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow likely spoke for everyone in attendance with his opening post-game statement.

“If I’d have paid $5 to get in here tonight, I’d want my money back,” said Withrow. “What did we have, five, six turnovers? The turnovers, the penalties, it was just bad. It was just bad.”

Sylvan Hills was flagged 17 times for 130 yards and committed six turnovers. Jacksonville was called for 20 penalties totaling 191 lost yards and had two turnovers.

With 10:34 left in the game, Jacksonville quarterback Rowdy Weathers connected with Stevie Eskridge for a 69-yard scoring strike, and Tyler Hooper’s extra point set the final margin.

On Sylvan Hills’ first play of the next drive, Eskridge intercepted a Jordan Washington pass at the Jacksonville 45 and returned it 25 yards to the Sylvan Hills 30. But two Jacksonville penalties, a flagrant and unnecessary illegal block by Avery Wells, and a personal foul after the play, pinned the Red Devils on their own 14-yard line instead of near the red zone.

Sylvan Hills was called for four 15-yard penalties that kept the drive alive for Jacksonville, but the Red Devils also had a 60-yard pass play called back for holding.

Weathers, who entered the game on the third snap of the second half after starting quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham left with a shoulder injury, was also knocked out of the game on the drive.

That left sophomore Har’Derrious Martin to step in. He ran for a pair of first downs, but fumbled on his third carry and Sylvan Hills’ Jonathan Hicks covered it at the Bears’ 36.

Sylvan Hills gave it right back when Brandon Bracely fumbled on the fourth play and Jacksonville’s Kendrick Rhynes covered it at the Red Devil 46.

But Sylvan Hills’ defensive line frequently found itself in the Red Devil backfield. Weathers came back into the game and hit Martin for a 21-yard gain on third and 15. An intentional grounding penalty made it second and 15. Jacksonville was then called for holding for a 15-yard loss.

Eskridge made a 15-yard catch on second and 30, but Jacksonville was called for an illegal block during the play, and Sylvan Hills was called for a personal foul after the play. It all left Jacksonville with second and 14, but back-to-back sacks set up fourth and 25. Weathers threw incomplete with 55 seconds left, leaving Sylvan Hills to kneel two times to seal the victory.

“I think the defense played pretty well tonight,” Withrow said. “If I’m looking for a positive I could say the defense played well.”

Sylvan Hills led 15-7 at halftime, and the defense came up big early in the third quarter. Jacksonville’s Robert Knowlin fumbled on the first play of the third quarter; his only carry of the game. Hicks picked it up and ran 20 yards for the score. Tito Mandoza’s extra point made it 22-7 with 11:44 left in the third quarter.

Three Red Devil drives ended in punts. The third drive included a 60-yard screen pass to Martin that went 40 yards, but was called back for holding. The two remaining Bear drives ended in turnovers to finish the third period.

On Sylvan Hills’ first play of the fourth, Bracely broke loose up the middle for a 52-yard touchdown run that made it 29-7 with 11:29 remaining in the game.

The first drive of the game set the tone for the rest of the night. The Bears and Red Devils were each called for three penalties on a drive that consisted of eight plays. It ended when Bracely was stopped after a 3-yard gain on fourth and 5, and Jacksonville took over on its own 33.

The Red Devils went backwards 8 yards and punted, setting up the first scoring drive of the game. Jacksonville again had the Bears stopped for a 1-yard loss on third and 1, but was called for a facemask that kept the drive alive. It set up first down at the Red Devil 21, and Washington hit Cameron Sharp on a seam route on the next play for a touchdown with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville turned it over on downs on its next drive when coach Barry Hickingbotham declined a penalty on third and 19 and accepting the result of a 12-yard scramble by Weathers. That left Jacksonville with fourth and 7 instead of third and 14, and the Devils lost 2 yards to give it over to the Bears on the 39.

During the drive, Jacksonville was called for defensive holding on an incomplete pass on fourth and 5, giving Sylvan Hills a first down at the Jacksonville 29. After three carries by Ty Compton, Washington kept up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run with 9:57 remaining in the second quarter.

Rhynes blocked the first extra point try, but the officials reset the ball with no explanation. On the second try, holder Ryan Lumpkin kept it and ran to the left corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion that made it 15-0.

A Jacksonville punt followed and a Sylvan Hills turnover followed that.

The Red Devils then put together a 59-yard scoring drive, most of which was picked up on a 38-yard pass from Hickingbotham to Martin that set up first and goal on the 3.

Shawn Ellis did the rest on the next play and Hooper added the PAT to make the score 15-7 with 2:40 left until halftime.

Sylvan Hills (6-0, 3-0) finished with 365 total yards of offense and 235 net yards after penalties. Jacksonville (1-5, 1-2) had 249 total yards, and 58 net yards.

Friday, October 09, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Supporting new district

We share your excitement — the opportunity to grow Jacksonville by transforming Jacksonville-North Pulaski into a world-class, destination school district.

We’re tired of people moving away from Jacksonville and the mishmash, bottom-of-the pile, second-class-citizenship status thrust upon its schools by decades of neglect by PCSSD school boards and administrations.

Instead, we envision a district that provides not only new, safe, comfortable state-of-the-art buildings, but excellence and opportunity in academics, great and dedicated teachers, a dynamic talented-and-gifted program, training for non-college track students and bountiful opportunities in art, music and performing arts.

When the newly elected JNP school board met Monday, president Daniel Gray looked like a kid finding a new bike under the tree on Christmas morning, and we hope this first elected school board will prove to be a vehicle that the district can ride into a shiny new future.

Some goals require hard, smart work; some require money, and some — like this — require both.

Coaches like to tell their teams that luck equals preparation plus opportunity. Heaven knows, folks here prepared — for decades — and finally helped create their own opportunity. Now they need to add money to the mix.

Superintendent Tony Wood is expected to recommend at the Nov. 2 meeting that the school board put a 7.6-mill property tax increase before district patrons, payable over 25 years, to raise $45 million toward construction. That would help pay for a new Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School and a new elementary school that would replace both Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementaries.

The state is expected to pay about 45 percent of the cost of a new high school. The Defense Department appears ready to pay 80 percent of the cost of the new elementary school, with the state picking up about 45 percent of the balance.

Wood and state facilities and partnership consultant Charles Stein have suggested a special millage election Feb. 2 to vote on the additional 7.6-mill increase.

The millage would cost property owners about $152 a year more on a home valued at $100,000.

Residents in the Jacksonville area have been steadfast over the years in taxing themselves to support children, higher education and public safety and, while we are not taking anything for granted, it seems likely that the same voters and the same enthusiasm that approved a standalone Jacksonville district to be carved from PCSSD by nearly 95 percent will tax themselves to support the new district and new and renovated buildings.

We’d like to see the district strike while the iron is hot. We’d like to see a special meeting called in the next few days to commission a poll among patrons to gauge support for an even higher millage increase. In rough numbers, each additional mill would raise almost $6 million while costing the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $20 a year.

Three more mills — a total of a 10.6-mill increase — would raise another $18 million for a total of $63 million.

That’s enough to add a performing arts center instead of an auditorium. Or to better renovate other elementary schools.

If there was sufficient support in the poll, the board could consider the current recommendation versus a larger increase at the Nov. 2 board meeting and still adhere to the timeline for a Feb. 2 special millage election.

Let’s not be greedy, but perhaps the district can take advantage of the deep reservoir of need and goodwill.

TOP STORY >> Paralyzed Mason returns home

Leader staff writer

A local Mason and 24-year Air Force veteran recently returned home and says a positive attitude is his key to walking again after being paralyzed in a freak accident last year.

Harold (Hutch) Hutchison and three friends were cutting a tree down Oct. 23 on Sugarloaf Mountain for someone in need, when tragedy struck. The tree fell on Hutch.

One of the friends, a retired doctor, kept him alive until a helicopter arrived.

Hutch’s saw was brand new, and the doctor’s was dull. The tree flipped within a few seconds and threw him 10 feet, Hutch and his wife, Gail, said.

When Hutch’s heart rate slowed, Gail continued, the retired doctor thought to give it a boost with the epi pen her husband had brought in case he was stung by a wasp.

Later, the couple discovered the retired doctor’s daughter was head surgical nurse at a hospital he was sent to. She assisted with one of his procedures.

Six hospitals, about five surgeries and 11 months later, Hutch was welcomed home by family and friends at the couple’s house in the Toneyville area of Jacksonville.

He even surprised his wife that day with a vow renewal ceremony conducted by their son, who is an ordained minister.

While Hutch was away, volunteers built a ramp for him during the hottest part of the summer.

Hutch wanted to thank all who have supported him, including this newspaper, which published a feature article and editorial in August about his sister-in-law setting up a Centennial Bank account for those who want to help.

It is called the Harold Hutchison Donation Account, and the account number is 501505255.

Hutch and Gail, who is also disabled from back and neck fusion issues, said the money in that fund has kept them from financial trouble so far.

Hutch told The Leader he wanted to thank the Home Depot store in Cabot, Austin Ready Mix, George Barton Auto Repair and the Jacksonville chapter of Disabled American Veterans for the ramp and helping in other ways.

He added, “A big thank you to my family and friends for your prayers and support during this most difficult time.”

But he and his wife still need a van that could cost up to $29,000 and must meet extensive VA requirements. The VA will install a wheelchair lift at no cost to the Hutchisons.

The van would mean Hutch seeing his granddaughter play volleyball and getting back to everyday activities, like shopping at Walmart.

One of the most difficult things they’ve had to do since Hutch’s accident, the couple agreed, has been asking for help because they were taught to take care of their own problems and be on the other side of charity — giving unto others.

The Mason was known for purchasing, on sale, everything for his lodge’s holiday food box giveaway, with the exception of perishables. Both he and Gail have worked in grocery stores before, so they knew how to save money on such things.

Friends even brought sales papers to Hutch in the hospital so that he could point out the good deals. “I told him that chair’s not going to stop him this year,” Gail quipped.

He has also bought equipment for coaches in Jacksonville and Cabot and backpacks for local schoolchildren, she added.

Their son delivered boxes this year while his dad was in the hospital. His mom said he saw that the fridge of one battered woman who received a box was barren.

The son bought her groceries and told Gail he cried like a baby all the way home afterward, knowing why his father participated in the charitable program every year. “At least I know, if nothing else, that he has taught our son, you know,” Gail said. “People that don’t believe that there’s a higher power, if they had been down this journey with us this last 11 months, I think they’d be a totally different person.”

Hutch and his wife shared with The Leader how they reacted to his misfortune, and they offered advice for those in similar situations.

As for Hutch’s first thoughts, he said, “It was a shock and I just, to be honest, after the accident I really didn’t know what happened.”

Gail said, “When we first found out, we didn’t know nil for awhile, if he was going to live or not, so all we were worried about was keeping him...Everything was just going so fast, and they turned, they had to roll him. And he was in so much pain. He was just praying aloud for God to take him. And, every time he’d pray for God to take him, I think I was praying for God to keep him (here).”

With tears in her eyes, she told The Leader, prayers being said in the waiting room outnumbered Hutch’s pleas.

Gail added that she told her husband later, “It may be my fault that you’re in that chair...My prayer when you went into surgery was, if God would just please spare your life and bring you back, I’d take you any way I could have you, I said, because I can’t imagine my life without him.”

The first surgeon didn’t think Hutch would make it, but he prayed with his patient’s loved ones, the wife continued.

The doctor said after that it “looked like a bomb went off in his back,” but the spinal cord was nicked in three places, not severed. Gail said they were told he had a 50/50 chance of walking, but that it wouldn’t happen within a year.

The VA said Hutch wouldn’t get better, but the couple pointed out that the people who told them that aren’t physicians.

Hutch said, “My attitude is you can’t tell nobody that they’re not going to do anything because, sooner or later, if you’ve got a high enough attitude...They told me 20 years ago that I’d never walk. I had an aneurysm and a blood clot.”

Back then, his right side was paralyzed and he couldn’t do anything, not even feed himself. “I’ve got the attitude. I get depressed every now and then about things that can’t happen. But now I know what to do and how to do it,” Hutch continued.

Gail noted that there was brain bleeding and swelling at the beginning to worry about, which affected his memory. The first person Hutch recognized was his granddaughter.

Then tragedy struck for a second time while he was hospitalized. Hutch’s roommate passed away overnight, and he heard the other man cry out before hospital personnel rushed into the room.

Hutch has CPR training and tried to leave his bed to assist the roommate. “That was really hard on me. To see somebody that you’d been talking to...And he had a wound like I did.”

Hutch explained, “I was blaming myself because I might could’ve saved him if I could’ve got up.”

The couple’s advice for people in a situation like his is to not give up, set a simple goal everyday, have a positive attitude, never lose faith in God and to not be afraid of asking or accepting help when it’s needed.

Gail said, “You have your bad days and your bad moments, and you’ve just got to get through them. And we’re still going through them.” She continued, “For every bad, I think we’ve had a good to come out of it. And I know there’s going to be more, and I know we’ve got a lot more bad coming, but we’ve weathered this storm. We’ll weather another one.”

TOP STORY >> Historic Austin cemetery dates to 1831

Leader staff writer

A small group of local historians is working to preserve a cemetery and Union encampment in Old Austin off Hwy. 38.

Nestled between the Old Austin Baptist Church and a new housing development under construction is the nearly forgotten Austin Pioneer Cemetery reclaimed by nature.

Local historians R.D. Keever and Rusty Eisenhower are trying to preserve the cemetery time has nearly buried. Headstones have disappeared into the soft soil. Sunken depressions in the ground mark where bodies eternally rest. Trees and vegetation had hidden any signs of a gravesite. So far, 60 headstones have been discovered.

The oldest engraved stone marker dates back 184 years ago, to 1831, five years before Arkansas became a state and 30 years before the Civil War.

Saturday, a cleanup of the cemetery was held. Youth and church groups removed fallen tree limbs, brush and dead trees from the site.

Then, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, historic tours will be given at the cemetery and Civil War re-enactors will present a living history of a Union artillery camp.

Plans are to install a gazebo, a decorative wrought-iron fence and security cameras to protect the cemetery grounds.

To help pay for a historical marker and restoration of the Austin Pioneer Cemetery, a brick fundraising program is underway. Personalized engraved bricks will be placed on the grounds of the cemetery as the floor of the gazebo. Red bricks are $50, and white bricks are $100.

Checks can be sent to the Austin Pioneer Cemetery Fund, 1616 W. Cleland Road, Cabot, Ark. 72023.

Civil War era bullets, saber tips, spurs and buttons have been recovered from the grounds. Keever has determined the cemetery was used as an encampment by Union soldiers.

“The whole town of Austin is a Civil War site. The Confederates had it until the fall of Little Rock in 1863. Then the Union Army occupied it. We think the Old Austin Baptist Church was used as a hospital during the war,” he said.

Keever said Austin was a star-shaped hub for mail, merchants and stagecoach routes. To the north, merchants used the route to Searcy and the White River to ship goods. To the west was Conway, to the east was Dec Arc, to the southwest was Little Rock and to the southeast was Brownsville.

Austin was in the Carolina Township. All of its early pioneers came from the state of Carolina. The first mercantile store in Austin opened in 1848.

The town had three different names; Saundersville, Oakland Grove and Atlanta.

“It is so rare to come across an abandoned historic cemetery that dates before Arkansas statehood and then what it says about the local history of that time frame and the mass migration from South Carolina to Arkansas and Texas,” Keever said.

He thinks the cemetery may have begun as a family plot.

Mary Patience Ferguson, who died in Jan. 1831, was the grandmother of Steven Saunders and Anna Dunaway.

Steven Saunders died in July 1843. Anna Dunaway was buried in the Austin Pioneer Cemetery in 1853.

“John Dunaway was a son of Isaac and Anna Dunaway. He was born and raised at Austin. He joined the Austin Rifles-Fifth Arkansas Infantry when the war broke out and fought out East,” Keever said,

He continued, “Back at Austin during the war, the Union forces tore down most of the buildings and used the materials to construct winter quarters for the troops and stables for the horses.

“When John Dunaway returned to Austin after the war, he is quoted as saying, ‘the little town of Austin had been destroyed and there was no business of any kind. Gloom was depicted in every face,’” Keever said.

“Isaac Dunaway, John’s father died before 1860 and is probably one of the lost graves in the cemetery,” he added.

TOP STORY >> Executions on hold for killers here

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen of Little Rock has halted the execution of eight men on death row, including Ledell Lee of Jacksonville, a serial killer who, in the 1990s, raped and murdered several victims, including an alderman’s daughter.

Marcel Wayne Williams, convicted in the 1994 killing of a woman in Jacksonville, is another inmate who was scheduled to be executed.

Griffen halted the executions because he said the state had not provided information about the drugs used in the executions.

Williams, 45, was found guilty in the capital murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery of Stacey Errickson after she stopped at the Jacksonville Shellstop for gas around 6:45 a.m. Nov. 20, 1994.

Williams approached Errickson’s vehicle, pulled a gun and had her move from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s side.

He drove the vehicle away from the gas station, taking the victim to several ATMs, where she withdrew $360 in 18 transactions that were recorded on security cameras. The last transaction was made at 7:37 p.m.

Williams was tried in January 1997 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, and appealed the convictions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the jury’s death sentence in 1999.

According to that ruling, evidence showed Errickson died from strangulation. Her neck and face were deeply bruised, and her hands were tied behind her back.

Lee, 50, was sentenced to die for the Feb. 9, 1993, beating and strangling death of Debra Reese, 26, in the Sunnyside addition, where he had attacked several other women.

He was also convicted of raping two Jacksonville women and was tried for the murder of Christine Lewis, the daughter of the late Alderman Robert Lewis.

Lee was also suspected of killing a Jacksonville prostitute and dumping her body in a shed near the railroad tracks.

Lewis, 22, was abducted from her Sunnyside home in November 1989 as her 3-year-old child watched. She was raped and strangled, and her body dumped in the closet of an abandoned home.

The jury could not agree on a verdict in that trial, but prosecutors decided not to retry him when he received the death sentence in the Reese case and was convicted for raping two women.

DNA evidence tied Lee to the murders and rapes.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

TOP STORY >> Hospital overdue on taxes

Leader staffwriter

North Metro Medical Center owes the IRS more than $1.8 million and state of Arkansas almost $350,000 in unpaid withholding taxes. If a payment is not made to the state by Oct. 15 — according to an agreement ­— the hospital will be in default and the state could close its doors.

When state Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) was the CEO, he made arrangements with the state on the tax issue. Farrer, who resigned last month, said he worked out a deal where the state waived about $175,000 in penalties and late fees and set the hospital up on a payment plan.

“But, if one payment is missed, the plan is over with,” Farrer said.

Also last week, another top official resigned. Scott Prothy, the vice president of acute care for Allegiance, gave his 30-day notice to pursue other options. His job had been to act as a liaison between the hospital leadership and Allegiance.

The hospital is owned by Rock Bordelon and Don Cameron, both of Shreveport, and a silent partner in Dallas. Bordelon and Cameron are also the top two officials in the company that manages the hospital.

Attorney Will Keadle with the state department of finance and administration said there were strict laws preventing him from discussing any individual or corporate tax situation, including the amount owed or specifics of a payment plan. But he did say that, when the DFA is involved, it is usually related to sales tax, withholding taxes or corporation taxes.

“All payment plans are very strict and being late a day could mean default, but each case is different,” he said.

Late payments and nonpayment seem to be an issue with Allegiance.

The company has been sued in Pulaski County courts about 50 times since it entered the central Arkansas market in 2007. Most of those suits had to do with not paying taxes it collected or not paying vendors.

A number of the suits against Allegiance were filed by the state’s Department of Workforce Services because the hospital management firm didn’t pay its workers compensation billings. Most of the time, the amount owed was less than $1,000, yet the state had to take Allegiance to court at least 30 times to get paid.

Many of the suits were against Allegiance and its operation of their specialty hospital in the old Southwest Regional Medical Center, off I-30 near the Saline County line.

The claims date back to 2007, and the most current was filed just four months ago.

On July 13, the Department of Workforce Services filed a suit over a “certificate of assessment,” which showed Allegiance owed $103,459. The amount was collected a little over a month later, on Aug. 26.

The DFA sued for $597.65 on March 12 and that court bill was paid by Allegiance on April 2.

Other suits filed against Allegiance this year include Dunk Fire and Security’s claim that
 Allegiance failed to pay almost $40,000 for construction work and alarm work the firm did in 2013 and 2014.

The case has been assigned to Judge Tim Fox with the Sixth Division Pulaski County Court.
Philips Healthcare also sued Allegiance for breach of contract for failure to completely pay off a service contract of about $350,000. According to the suit, Allegiance still owes Philips $160,000 at 18 percent interest accrued since August 2013.

The case has been assigned to Judge Wendell Griffin with the Fifth Division Pulaski County Court.


Allegiance’s legal troubles aren’t restricted to central Arkansas.

In August 2007, Allegiance took over the management of the Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas (Randolph County).

Within a year, the city wanted to terminate Allegiance’s services because of an improper payment. Mayor Gary Crocker sent a letter to Allegiance in mid-June 2008, informing the company that it had breached the contract and telling Allegiance of the city’s decision.

The breach supposedly involved an improper and unauthorized payment from the medical center to Allegiance. All such payments were to be approved by the local hospital oversight committee and the city council.

“We gave them every chance,” said committee member Terry Dickinson.

Allegiance sued the city over the termination, and it is costing Pocahontas $300,000 to have Allegiance pushed out of the hospital.

It took almost five years for the two parties to reach an agreement in the lawsuit.

According to the terms of the settlement agreement, the city must make $10,000 payments monthly to Allegiance through April 5, 2016. The first payment was made on Nov. 5, 2013.

Eureka Springs Hospital commissioner Mary Jean Sells said in a 2013 meeting, “We had a solemn promise from Allegiance seven years ago to build a hospital. As of today, there has been no plan locked in.”

One of the reasons Eureka Springs hired Allegiance to run its hospital was the firm’s promise to build a new facility. Now residents are worried that the current hospital will fall into disarray before Allegiance follows through.

In an April 2013 meeting, Bordelon, the head of Allegiance, told the Eureka Springs commission that he was “ready to start now” and would be at the next meeting with more details, but the commission didn’t hear from Bordelon for more than a year after that, according to commission minutes.

It wasn’t until November 2014 that Allegiance produced an initial draft of an agreement between Allegiance and Eureka Springs for moving along the hospital project. That draft proposed erecting a new facility on a rocky bluff at the western edge of town.

But not much more has been done since.

SPORTS STORY >> Razorbacks achieve a lot of firsts

Leader sportswriter

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Saturday night, Arkansas finished. The Razorbacks overcame struggles on special teams and the defense held Tennessee to just three points in the second half en route to a 24-20 win over the SEC-East Volunteers in front of a crowd of 101,265 at Neyland Stadium.

Saturday’s game was one of many firsts for the Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1 SEC). It was their first SEC win of the year, their first win at Tennessee since their first season in the SEC (1992).

Under third-year head coach Bret Bielema, it was the Razorbacks’ first SEC road win and also the first time in the Bielema era that the Hogs won a game decided by seven points or less. Before Saturday, the Razorbacks were 0-9 in those one-possession games.

Junior tailback Alex Collins is well on his way to a third-straight season of rushing for more than 1,000 yards. On Saturday, Collins recorded his third-consecutive game of rushing for more than 150 yards. He finished the road win with 27 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

The Hog feature back’s biggest run Saturday was a 19-yard burst around the left end on a misdirection pitch on third and 2 from the Tennessee 35-yard line late in the game. Arkansas was able to run out the clock three plays later.

“We’ve focused a lot in practice on finish,” said Collins, “finish, finish, finish. To see it finally work out, now everyone’s got it in their minds that we’re capable of finishing games, even when they’re close. Now that we know how to do it, we can keep doing it.”

“We kind of talked about it all week, that enough was enough,” said Bielema. “At some point in your life as a man, you’ve just got to kind of finally take what the world wants to give you. You can’t keep giving it away.”

Arkansas almost gave Saturday’s game away on a couple of different occasions in the second half. Even when Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley brought the Volunteers (2-3, 0-2 SEC) within 24-20 of Arkansas’ lead with a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter, the Razorbacks had several chances to build on their lead, but never took advantage of those opportunities.

After Medley’s field goal, Arkansas’ offense answered with a 10-play drive that went deep into Tennessee territory, with the big play being a 51-yard reception by tight end Hunter Henry.

True freshman Rawleigh Williams’ 12-yard run set up first and goal at the Volunteer 7, but the Vols’ defense held and Cole Hedlund’s low-trajectory kick from 22 yards out was blocked. The other error was also on special teams, but the head Hog gets the blame for that one.

Arkansas had a chance to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter with another field goal. The Razorbacks faced fourth and 4 at the Tennessee 10, and instead of taking the field goal that would’ve given Arkansas a 27-20 lead, Bielema called for a fake field goal instead.

The play gained positive yardage, but kicker Adam McFain was stopped a yard shy of the first down and Tennessee’s offense took the field and the momentum. It’s one of those play calls that if it works, the head coach looks like a genius and if it doesn’t, quite the opposite.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and yes, if the play had worked and McFain scored it would’ve all but sealed the game in Arkansas’ favor. But it didn’t, and it allowed Tennessee a prime opportunity to get back in the game and even take the lead.

Regardless, you have to take the points in that situation, which would’ve put your team up seven points. In other words, next time kick the field goal.

That silly play call ultimately didn’t matter, though, as the Razorbacks’ defense, who had struggled mightily at times this season and had to play the second half without linebacker Josh Williams (broken leg), held Tennessee scoreless the rest of the way and Arkansas’ offense made enough plays down the stretch to get the hard-fought win, and it’s one the Hogs needed and earned.

The Razorbacks could’ve easily gotten down on themselves when the Vols jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead when Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and UT quarterback Josh Dobbs capped an 89-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run shortly after.

Tennessee, though, has made a habit this season of jumping out to early leads only to falter and lose those leads down the stretch. Arkansas stayed the course, stuck to its game plan, and slowly but surely made the Vols play its game.

The Razorbacks battled back to tie the game at 17-17 by halftime and took control in the second half, outgaining Tennessee 236-90, while also controlling the time of possession. Arkansas held the ball for 21:57 in the second half and limited UT to 8:03 in that time.

Controlling the clock kept Tennessee’s offense on the sideline while keeping the Razorbacks’ defense fresh. That showed down the stretch, and that helped the Hogs’ defense play its best game of the season Saturday.

Offensively, the Razorbacks’ statistics weren’t much different than in previous weeks. The offense was again pretty well-balanced with 219 yards passing and 275 rushing, but establishing the run is what moved the chains and made the Razorback offense successful Saturday.

Collins made play after play throughout the game, and Rawleigh Williams, like the defense, had his best game of the season. He had his first 100-yard game rushing as a Hog, finishing the night with 14 carries for 100 yards.

Another big difference in Saturday’s game, compared to previous weeks, is Arkansas’ offense cut down on its penalties. Penalties have plagued the team this season, none more than last week’s loss to Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0 SEC), when the Razorbacks racked up 11 penalties for 93 yards – many of which were very costly.

Arkansas had just three penalties for 20 yards against the Volunteers, while Tennessee had four for 39 yards, one of which was a block in the back that negated a long punt return for a touchdown.

It’s a lot easier said than done, but if Arkansas can continue to establish and be strong in the run game, control the time of possession, not give up big plays on defense and limit its penalties, the Razorbacks will continue to give themselves chances to win games week in and week out.

Saturday’s win was a good one and one Arkansas desperately needed, but it was a winnable game and that was known going in. The Razorbacks will face a significantly tougher test this Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

For the first time in 73 games, Alabama entered last week’s SEC showdown at Georgia as an underdog. The Crimson Tide (4-1, 1-1 SEC) responded with a 38-10 win over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC).

By no means will Arkansas be given a chance to win this Saturday in Tuscaloosa, but if the Hogs can do the things they need to do in order to be successful and not aid the No. 8-ranked Crimson Tide in any way, and catch a break here and there, they’ll at least give themselves a chance, and that’s all you can ask of this group.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot XC runners set several PRs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers finished second out of 48 schools in the Chili Pepper High School Open cross country race Saturday in Fayetteville. Four Lady Panthers finished in the top 30 out of a massive field of 485 competitors.

Sophomore Bailey Lebow finished seventh to lead Cabot with a time of 20:22.07. Cabot coach Leon White hoped a few of his runners would break the 20-minute mark for the first time. That didn’t happen, but four of the top five all turned in personal records.

“We ran the open this year instead of the varsity race, but we did well for what we were trying to do,” said White. “We were trying to get kids to run their best times, and most all the girls had a PR.”

Senior Samantha Nickell continues to battle stomach problems, and was the only Lady Panther that didn’t turn in a PR.

“She’s not one to quit, so she keeps going even through all the discomfort she’s having,” White said. “At Russellville she was crying by the time she finished the race, but she keeps going. She was a little better this week, I think, but she’s not yet anywhere near 100 percent. Hopefully by conference and state, she’ll come through. She was our best one coming into the season and she’s capable of running much better times. She’s just having a tough time of it so far.”

Sophomore Casey Gore finished 12th with a time of 20:35.88, and Nickell was 23rd, finishing in 21:25.27. Rounding out the top five for Cabot was junior Brayden Giesler, who finished 29th and sophomore Chloe Thompson who placed 43rd.

“That was the first race Chloe ran for us,” White said. “She ran for us in junior high and then didn’t run in ninth grade. She said she’d come back out and give it a try, and she did pretty well for it to be her first race in about two years.”

Jordan Woodson was the top finisher for the Cabot boys. He finished in 20th place out of 828 runners with a time of 17:34.33. Wells Guyor was 37th and newcomer Landon Vaught finished 51st. Blake Scott took 53rd and Stuart Nickell was 70th for the Panthers.

The Cabot boys finished seventh in the team competition out of 60 schools competing.

“Three boys ran a PR for us, too,” White said. “Jordan has been our top runner the last two meets and he ran a PR. He says he’s run faster than that in road races and things like that, but as far as a high school meet, that was his PR. Landon is a basketball kid that came out and finished in our top five. So we’re excited about that. He’s going to get better.

“Like I’ve been saying, we’re a young team and we’re not running championship level times this year. But if all these kids will stay with it, in a couple years they could be right there near the top.”

SPORTS STORY >> AHSAA decides JNPSD to be 6A

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville athletic teams are slated to compete in the 6A Classification for the next two-year classification cycle. That is despite a current enrollment that is hundreds of students short of the smallest 6A school, according to the numbers released by the Arkansas High School Activities Association for the 2016-18 cycle.

A contingent of representatives for Jacksonville appealed the ruling in July after the new numbers were released. That appeal was denied.

The issue surrounds the upcoming break of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District from the Pulaski County Special School District. When the numbers were released in April and schools were placed in their classifications, the AHSAA counted 100 percent of the then current North Pulaski student count as part of the new JNPSD.

However, only about half of the former North Pulaski area, as zoned by PCSSD, will be in the new JNPSD. The rest will be in PCSSD’s zone for Sylvan Hills.

The process for determining each school’s classification is taking a three-year average of each school’s population in grades 9-11, as reported by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The largest school in Class 6A for the next cycle will be West Memphis with 1,303 students, based on the three-year average of ADE reports. The smallest will be Greenwood with 837.

Jacksonville’s and North Pulaski’s combined student population average used to determine the next cycle’s classification was 1,185, which would make it the 21st largest district in the state and place Jacksonville in Class 6A as the fifth-largest school in that 16-school classification.

The PCSSD’s eight-day student count shows Jacksonville with only 618 students in grades 9-11, and North Pulaski with 217.

Meanwhile, Sylvan Hills’ average three-year count used by the Arkansas Activities Association was 712, making it a 5A school, but itseight-day enrollment this year was 1,070, which would make it 6A with the 22nd largest enrollment in the state.

Jacksonville’s appeal was before the school year began and those numbers were not available, but AHSAA executive director Lance Taylor said the deadline is past for any further appeals.

“We have to go by the laws the member schools have voted on, and we have to do it the way the schools have told us,” said Taylor. “The perception is out there that the board can make by laws or change our constitution. But if you read our book, we really don’t have the power to do that.”

Taylor cited a note under Rule 7 of the handbook concerning classification of schools that deals with consolidation.

The note reads: “When schools consolidate, enrollment numbers from each school will be combined for classification purposes.”

Jacksonville’s appeal was based largely on its interpretation that the new JNPSD was not a consolidation of Jacksonville and North Pulaski, but a dissolving of North Pulaski into two schools, Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills.

The eight-day enrollment numbers bear that out. There has already been a large exodus of students from North Pulaski High School, and Jacksonville appears to have received very few of them.

The district lines for the new JNPSD do not cover all of the area previously zoned by PCSSD for North Pulaski. One survey indicates that about half of NPHS’ student population currently live in Pulaski County’s zone for Sylvan Hills.

Taylor said that information was not presented during Jacksonville’s appeal; and indicated that it likely wouldn’t have made a difference in the decision to deny.

“We did not hear that,” Taylor said. “We did ask them who all was coming back or who was leaving, and they could not tell us. Those students who were attending North Pulaski, but live in Sylvan Hills’ zone, could still go to the new district if they chose to. Or Jacksonville could make their students who are currently going somewhere else, come back. That’s all school choice and that’ll be a decision for that new board. And I don’t know about all the desegregation and all that, or how that will effect them.

“We just didn’t have a clear idea of how many students Jacksonville will have once this next cycle begins. But we have a process in place, and so that’s what we went by.

“These numbers can change for lots of reasons, and the line has to be drawn at some point that says this is the process, and this is the deadline for changing it.”

The new district will no longer be a part of the magnet school program. It is making many students who live in Jacksonville, but attend other schools as part of that program, return to JNP next year. That will likely increase its enrollment next year, but probably not enough to leap in classification.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills wary of 1-4 Red Devils

Leader sports editor

A quick glance at the season records, and one might assume this week’s 5A-Central matchup between Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville will be a one-sided affair. The Bears host the Red Devils at Blackwood Field, and have a perfect win-loss record, two new school records for yards in a single game and the state’s most prolific scoring offense awaiting the visiting Red Devils.

Jacksonville brings a 1-4 record into Sherwood and is coming off a gut-wrenching 13-12 loss last week to Beebe on homecoming night.

None of that means anything to Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow.

He sees Jacksonville as a very dangerous opponent.

“Sometimes you get a certain record and people think you’re something you’re not,” said Withrow. “I don’t look at 1-4, I look at Jacksonville and I see a dangerous team. You look at who they’ve played, teams like Benton, who is a dog gone good 6A team. You look at Little Rock Christian, who’s the No. 2 team in the state in 5A. And then you just consider that it’s a rivalry game. It always seems like it’s close just from that aspect. So we’re approaching this game like it’s the best team we’ve played so far this year.”

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham doesn’t have to be so analytical to see the challenge in front of his team. Through five games, Sylvan Hills is averaging 55 points and almost 600 yards of offense per game.

“They’ve just got speed, speed everywhere,” said Hickingbotham of the Bears. “I’m not so sure the quarterback they’ve got this year isn’t a lot better than the one they had last year. And he was a good one. Looks like they’ve got about a half dozen different guys that can run it. But you can’t load up on that because that quarterback can throw it, and he’s got a couple of receivers who can go up and get it. It’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous challenge for us. We’re going to have to play mistake-free football, and that’s something we’ve struggled with.”

Jacksonville had eliminated a lot of mistakes for three quarters last week, and it held a 12-0 lead with 11 minutes to play. But those mistakes came flooding back in the fourth quarter. Still leading 12-6, a punt snap sailed over Tyler Hooper’s head and resulted in a Badger touchdown that set the final margin with 6:49 to go.

The Red Devils’ next two possessions also ended in turnovers, one fumble after a long gain, and an interception in the end zone with 1:30 remaining that ruined a nice 10-play drive.

Jacksonville was also called for 10 penalties for 85 yards last week. One penalty negated a 60-yard punt return, and four of the penalties came in the fourth quarter, including a holding penalty right before the final interception that turned a first down into second and 19.

“The mistakes are something we’ve got to clean up,” Hickingbotham said. “Sylvan Hills will make you pay. And it’s not just the players. I wish now I’d have gone for it on fourth down (before the high snap).

“But I think our defense took a big step forward. Coach (Brian) McDermott and coach (Larry) Burrows and coach (Jim) Stanley did a great job getting those guys ready for that offense. This week is a whole different challenge. We were in this same situation last year and we fought our way to the playoffs. We’ve still got goals we can accomplish.”

The head Bear also noticed Jacksonville’s improvement, and doesn’t like that it coincided with what he felt was a sloppy effort by his squad last week, in spite of the fact that the Bears beat J.A. Fair 54-0.

“We made some mistakes and didn’t do some things we’d been doing on Friday,” Withrow said. “The offensive line played its worst game of the year, and coach (Denny) Tipton addressed that with them pretty firmly.

“And here’s the thing. You can’t get sloppy. I felt like we got a little sloppy this time last season, and Jacksonville almost jumped up and got us. We had the same records last year and they took us to the wire. And here’s another thing, and this is a testament to those coaches, they get better as the year goes on. They did it last year and it looks like they’re doing it again. You can’t get sloppy when you’re facing a team you know is improving. And heck it’s Jacksonville, so you know they’ve got athletes.”

The Bears and Red Devils kick off at 7 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Anniversary for air base

The Leader’s special section in today’s newspaper commemorating the 60th anniversary of Little Rock Air Force Base tells the history, mostly in photos, of one of the premier military installations in the country.

Back in the early 1950s, the community raised $1,180,000 ($10.5 million in today’s dollars) to buy 6,100 acres of land in Jacksonville and donated it to the military, which spent $48 million (worth $425 million today) to build the air base. Land was also donated by the Nixon, Dupree and Thompson families and others.

Missions have ranged from Strategic Air Command to missile wings, from training units to combat airlift, yet the overall mission remains the same: Protecting our nation and our allies, going back to the darkest days of the Cold War, from the Cuban missile crisis to the war on terror, while carrying out humanitarian missions throughout the world.

As Jim Peacock, a local realtor who has seen the base since its earliest days, said in our special section, the city went from a “small town to a flourishing town.”

“People were excited. It was kind of like a dream come true, getting the base...A lot of people didn’t believe it would happen,” he added.

Banker Larry Wilson pointed out that, when the base officially opened on Oct. 9, 1955, “There was not enough housing on base to provide places for the military personnel to live, and so it generated a housing boom in Jacksonville that went on for several years.”

Even after base housing was built in the late 1950s, he said, quite a few airmen chose to live off base.

Reflecting on the continued importance of our base, the Air Force has ordered three major construction projects worth $133.6 million.

They include rebuilding a 50-year-old runway and adjacent landing strip. Sundt Construction of Tempe, Ariz., is the contractor for a new 12,000-foot runway. In addition, the construction of a fifth C-130J simulator is underway as the 19th Airlift Wing transitions to an all C-130J combat unit and the wing continues its combat missions in Asia and Africa in the war against al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.

The base has four C-130J simulators, and an annex to house a fifth one is due for completion by November. Alessi-Keyes Construction of Maumelle is the contractor, and the cost of the project is $4,218,503.

The base has several aircraft and a dozen crews deployed in Afghanistan, as well as one plane and two crews flying in support of the Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa, supporting that operation against violent extremist groups in east Africa. Two missions have been flying out of central Europe to respond to nearby trouble spots.

To keep the planes flying, they need fuel to stay in the air. The new C-130 fuel-cell building project is also being completed. The team of more than 80 enlisted airmen works three shifts around the clock to get the job done.

The original awarded amount in June 2013 was $20,869,000, but the scope of work increased. The new facility replaces Hangar 222, a 1950s-era building that was not designed for the C-130.

The missions and planes have changed, but the target remains the same: Protecting freedom wherever necessary. As Col. Charles E. Brown Jr. said recently, “We’ve shown we can work with partners and share infrastructure. We’ve spent 60 years here, and the Air Force has continued to invest in missions into this base. They’re all different, but they’ve found value, despite all the shifts in missions.”

“The C-130J,” he added, “will probably be here 30 to 40 more years, but we’ve done 60 years here. There aren’t too many bases that could say the same thing, and the Air Force has continued repeatedly to invest missions into this base.”

Here’s hoping that, 60 years from now, there will be other youngsters like Jim Peacock and Larry Wilson reminiscing about the good old days at the air base back in 2015.

Long may it continue.

TOP STORY >> Planting of tree is symbol of hope

Leader executive editor

“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor, I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists... and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies — while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.” — Anne Frank, Feb. 23, 1944.

President Clinton on Friday helped dedicate a small sapling taken from the chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s window in Amsterdam and now planted in 11 cities in the U.S.

The dedication took place in front of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock with hundreds of local students, invited guests and families of Holocaust survivors.

Before the ceremony, my children asked me if their grandmother knew Anne when they were prisoners in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. My 19-year-old mother, Ilona, survived, but Anne, just 15, perished a few weeks before the British overran the camp on April 15, 1945.

Anne and Ilona were also at the Auschwitz death camp the summer before, but probably not at the same time, since my mother was sent west to Germany in August 1944, just weeks before Anne and her family were shipped east to Poland and imprisoned in Auschwitz after an informer betrayed them and four others who were hiding in the annex.

I tell my children that Bergen Belsen, with about 8,000 women prisoners, was much smaller than Auschwitz, which held hundreds of thousands of inmates.

My mother, who will be 90 next week, might have caught a glimpse of Anne and her sister Margot in the camp. Margot died from typhus in February, and Anne died the next month.

Peter Van Pels, the boy who lived with Anne in the annex, died in Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where my father, Frank, was a prisoner and who two years later married my mother in their native Hungary.

The Nazis ransacked the annex on Aug. 4, 1944, and tossed Anne’s diary across the floor because they figured they were just words no one would read. “The Diary of a Young Girl” has sold more than 25 million copies.

“She has certainly gone on living long after her death, through her writing, through the Anne Frank House and its counterpart, the Anne Frank Center USA,” Clinton said.

The former president called her “a brilliant talent with a sweet good heart. The sapling will grow, and the people will come.

“Young people should be able to go to places like this and see symbols of life, unity and hope,” Clinton said. “And we will remember the wisdom of a 14-year-old girl, whose spirit is depending on us to redeem the years she did not have.”

The sapling came from a 170-year-old white horse chestnut tree that was uprooted in a storm five years ago. Some 150 descendants of the tree have been distributed worldwide.

The installation honors Anne and other victims of persecution, including the removal of American Indians in the 1830s to the West, the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and the 1957 integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School, where another sapling from Anne’s hiding place is being planted.

Little Rock is the only city in the U.S. with two saplings from Anne’s tree.

Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, said at the dedication, “Anne Frank took great solace from the horse chestnut tree that grew outside the secret annex on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where her family and four others were in hiding during World War II. To Anne, it represented life in the face of death, the freedom to blossom and prosper.”

From June 1942 to August 1944, she confided her dreams and hopes, Leopold said, but did she still believe people are really good at heart, as she wrote in perhaps the most famous passage in her diary?

Some 55,000 prisoners survived Bergen Belsen, among them my starving mother, who held onto life, probably just a few yards from where Anne and Margot perished.

When the U.S. Army liberated my father on May 6, 1945, at Mauthausen-Gusen, some 38,000 prisoners were still alive, including Peter, the boy who gave Anne her first kiss as they hid in the annex.

Leopold told me after the tree dedication that he found out recently that Peter was still alive when the U.S. Army entered the camp, but he soon died from disease and malnutrition. My parents were just hours away from suffering the same fate as Peter. My mother wrote in her memoir she felt very close to death even after she was liberated.

The number of concentration camp survivors are found in a recently published book, “KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps” by Nikolaus Wachsmann, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux — an exhaustive history of Nazi brutality that details the horrors of the Third Reich as no other book has done before.

Wachsmann estimates that some 150,000 prisoners died in the first months of 1945 even as the Nazis fled in advance of the Allied armies.

Otto Frank, the father of Anne and Margot, was the only survivor from the group of eight people who hid in the annex. When he returned from Auschwitz, Miep Gies, the Christian woman who helped them hide in the annex, handed Otto his daughter’s diary, the work of a gifted young writer who found her voice at age 13 and was silenced, along with a million other Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust.

Clinton made a plea for tolerance and acceptance of our common humanity.

“The people who were butchering Anne Frank and her family and fellow Jewish citizens were 99.5 percent the same, biologically, as they,” Clinton said.

While Clinton spoke, our 8-week-old grandson Isaac — Ilona’s and Frank’s great-grandson — cried for a minute, perhaps for the millions of victims who perished.

TOP STORY >> CabotFest this weekend

Leader staff writer

The 37th annual CabotFest will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the streets of downtown Cabot. It’s a celebration that started in 1978 to signify the rebuilding of Cabot after the city was leveled by a deadly tornado in 1976.

Admission and parking to the event is free.

This year, the carnival will begin Thursday and be from 6 until 10 p.m. It continues on Friday from 5 until 11 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Carnival-ride armbands are $17 per person per day in advance until noon Thursday at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, 110 S. First St., or $20 at the gate. Armbands are for Thursday and Friday only.

Entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday with Jon Aitchison. Triple Threat follows at 7:30 p.m., and the Larry Weathers Band rounds out the night at 8:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Blend will take the stage at 2:45 p.m. Backroad Anthem performs at 3:45 p.m., and the Just Sayin’ Band wraps up CabotFest at 5:15 p.m.

“It looks like we’re going to have fantastic weather, says Cabot Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Williams.

“We’ve added a new day for the carnival, and we’ll have more musical entertainment by adding Friday night. It is going to be good,” she told The Leader.

The Faith Support Ministry 5K run/walk for cancer awareness starts at 9 a.m.

New this year is the Cabot Public Schools Entertainment Stage. It will showcase the talents of school district’s students, teachers and staff.

“The Cabot schools stage is going to get a lot of interest,” Williams said.

CabotFest will have 130 food and other vendors.

And the New Life Church is returning with its puppet show.

Activities will be happening all day long.

Those include the ReNew Church cricket-spitting contest, AARP Bingo, a car show, a First Electric climbing pole, paintball, inflatables and slides.

The Cabot Animal Shelter mobile pet adoption unit will be out and about at CabotFest.

The Game and Fish Commission’s traveling aquarium will make an appearance, too, as will the Cabot Public Schools bookmobile.

TOP STORY >> District wants millage hike

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District patrons could vote Feb. 2 on a 7.6-mill property tax increase to help pay for new and rehabilitated school buildings, if the new school board approves Superintendent Tony Wood’s recommendation at its Nov. 2 meeting.

That increase would bring the millage to 48.3, about North Little Rock’s millage, and would raise about $45 million with a 25-year payoff, Wood said Monday night. It would cost property owners an additional $152 a year on a $100,000 home, Wood said.

To keep the building program and state funding partnership viable for the 2017-19 state funding cycle, the board should also decide at the Nov. 2 meeting on a building site for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School from among three alternatives and submit a specific six-year, long-range building plan to the state.

The purpose for the increase is to provide new and improved facilities for students and staff that support teaching and learning and to provide facilities sufficient to help remove the district from court desegregation supervision.

The increased revenue would help build a high school complex to replace Jacksonville High School and one elementary school to replace both Arnold Drive and Tolleson Elementary.

Wood said the other elementary schools — Bayou Meto, Dupree, Pinewood and Taylor — would each receive a multipurpose building, with all planned projects subject to state partnership funding and the new elementary school subject to Department of Defense funding.


Ivory Tillman, former president of the Jacksonville NAACP, questioned the placement of both proposed new schools on the west side of Hwy. 67/167 — farther from black neighborhoods, largely on the east side.

Next February is the ideal time for a millage-increase election, according to Charles Stein, the district’s facilities and partnership consultant. Until July 1, Stein was over those programs for the state.

The deadline to submit the master plan is Feb. 1, and a partnership funding application is due March 1. Stein said the state would notify the district May 1, 2017, of what it would fund. Should the district fail to meet all the deadlines, it wouldn’t be eligible for partnership money from the state until the 2019-21 building cycle.

Based on the district’s estimated wealth index, the state would contribute approximately 45 percent toward all facilities used for academic purposes — a gymnasium for physical education classes, for instance, but not a football field.

Representatives for WER Architects discussed the three possible sites for a new JNP High School and the challenges and advantages of each.


The three sites are 91 acres the Defense Department is likely to lease or sell cheap to the district, the 42-acre site of the current Jacksonville High School and the 34-acre site of the former Jacksonville Middle Schools.

Daniel Gray, re-elected board president by fellow board members, said 49 percent of 439 patrons on the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Facebook page wanted the current high school site, 38 percent liked the Air Base site and 13 percent preferred the middle school site on Main Street near Hwy. 67/167.

The cost of building, initially, a 280,000-square-foot high school for 4,000 students is considered about the same for the actual building, but the cost of site preparation, including utilities, would be less at the old middle school site. Preparing the current high school site would cost $1.5 million more than at the middle school, and site preparation on raw land at the Air Force base would be $5.4 million to $7.4 million more than the middle school site, according to Eldon Bock of WER architects, in consultation with Baldwin & Shell Construction.

During public comment, there was little support for using the middle school site, which might be better used by selling it to a commercial developer. Construction there would also require closing Sharp Drive and could cause traffic problems.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said the old middle school is a very promising commercial site and would generate revenue not only by selling it, but also from sales tax revenues generated later.


A couple dozen or more parents and students turned out before the meeting with signs calling for the district to allow students to continue attending PCSSD scholars program magnet school classes at College Station Elementary, Fuller Middle School and Mills High School. About 20 of them addressed the board.

Because of the TAG program and AP classes, one parent said his student arrived at college, day one, with 36 college credits.

At least one parent said she would move into PCSSD rather than allow her children to languish, get bored and get in trouble in classes that didn’t challenge them.

Julie Davis, a junior at Mills High School, told the board she learned to play viola in the fifth grade, was in AP calculus and will have nothing left to take if she has to go back to Jacksonville next year.

One student opened and closed his plea to be allowed to remain in the scholars program speaking Mandarin Chinese, which several of the students had taken while enrolled in the program.

Loren Wright, a parent, said, “There’s no doubt Jacksonville can create a program, but it takes time. My kids are needing education now. Please find a way for them to go while you are building a program.”

Gray thanked them for their comments and said he sympathized, but that, legally, the district’s hands are pretty well tied by state law.

“The talent pool in our community was drained and sent across the river with the best of the best,” Gray added.

“The scholars program is ended, funded by state desegregation payments,” he said “I don’t what to deny anybody an opportunity. I’ve got 4,000 students, and we’re funded on a per-child basis. Everything is based on what we can pay.

“It’s troubling to me, people fighting to stay with PCSSD. That system is what put us where we are.”

Eighty Jacksonville-area students are currently enrolled in the scholars program.

Wood said there were a couple of ways some parents could keep sending their students to the PCSSD scholars program. A parent can get a legal transfer for their students to a school district where the parents works. Also, it’s possible to affect a legal transfer that doesn’t negatively impact the racial balance at either school or district.


Jacksonville-area Justice of the Peace Aaron Robinson swore in the seven board members, including holdovers Gray, Ron McDaniel, Carol Miles and LaConda Watson and the three new members, Dena Toney, Marcia Dornblaser and Jim Moore.

Then they drew for term lengths so that there would be a school board election every September, beginning in 2017.

McDaniel and Dornblaser drew four-year terms, Gray, Miles and Toney three-year terms, and Watson and Moore two-year terms. That ensures staggered elections, but all future elections will be for four-year terms.

McDaniel was re-elected vice president, Miles as secretary, and Toney was elected the disbursement agent, who co-signs checks with Wood.


Col. William Brooks, as Little Rock Air Force Base mission support officer, was elected ex-officio board member. A non-voting member, he sits with the board and next to the superintendent.

The community and the air base have a long history of cooperation to their mutual benefit, and currently the Department of Defense appears poised to pay 80 percent of all costs to replace Arnold Drive Elementary, which is on the base, as well as to lease or sell land for the elementary and the high school.

It may well be a year before the district knows if and how the Air Force and Defense Department will make land available for a high school campus, so Stein was asked if that would prevent the district from applying for state partnership long-range facility plan funds for a new high school on that land.

“Mr. Wood and I have researched and we have not found in the partnership rules — nor in my 10 years of work there — part of the submission that mentions the actual site.”

Stein said the state uses siting averages and a formula to determine the amount of money it would provide for preparation, but that the partnership funding application need not specify the exact site.

JNP would have to pay anything over the amount the state would pay for site preparation.