Friday, July 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Mistakes doom Gwatney in first round

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

CONWAY – The Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team booted, dropped and threw away its first-round state playoff game Friday at Hendrix College. Errors throughout the contest helped Russellville’s cause as the Patriots beat the Chevy Boys 11-3.

But it wasn’t just the defense that didn’t perform. Jacksonville blew two prime opportunities early, and it proved crucial.

“It was ugly,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We threw that one away at first base when we had the kid picked off. We dropped two routine balls in the outfield, two of them. We had double plays set up perfect, and we can’t make a throw to second base. We miss ground balls. It just wasn’t our day. That’s all you can say.”

The Chevy Boys loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second inning. Brandon Hickingbotham reached on an E4 and Jordan Wickersham singled to left field. Caleb Smith then laid down a perfect bunt for a single to fill the bases.

But Tyson Flowers and Jayden Loving struck out before Axton Ramick hit a hard grounder to third. There, Russellville’s Michael Mullen snagged the ball as he fell into his back, and leisurely rolled over and touched third base for the final out of the inning.

Russellville scored two runs in the bottom of the second off starting pitcher Brandon Hickingbotham. Nick Hagerty and Mullen hit back-to-back, one-out singles, and Hickingbotham’s pick-off throw to first was wild, allowing Hagerty to score. Craig DeFrancisco walked to put runners on first and third, and a double steal made it 2-0.

Jacksonville’s Trent Toney and Caden Sample reached on a walk and single and moved into scoring position on a bunt by Hickingbotham, but Wickersham’s hard line drive on the next at-bat went right to shortstop Tim Scroggins to halt the rally.

Russellville added three more runs and knocked Hickingbotham off the mound in the third inning with three singles and a walk. Wickersham took over pitching duties and struck out two-straight batters to end the inning, but the Patriots started hitting him hard in the fourth.

After a fly ball to right field to start the bottom of the fourth, the top of the Russellville lineup was on point. Leadoff hitter Joel Barker singled and scored on a triple to the wall in right-center field by Jacob Sharp.

Greyson Stevens singled to score Sharp, and then Stevens scored on another triple, this one directly over Sample’s head in right field, by cleanup hitter Carter Thessing. Hagerty then hit a deep fly ball to right to score drive in Thessing and give the Patriots a 9-0 lead.

Gwatney got on the board in the sixth inning after Ian Long and Foster Rash threw Russellville off balance and kept further damage from accumulating.

Hickingbotham hit a one-out single and Wickersham reached on an E5 that put both runners in scoring position. Caleb Smith then singled to score Hickingbotham, and Flowers’ fly ball to right field scored Wickersham to make it 9-2.

The Chevy Boys got it to 9-3 in the top of the seventh with a short two-out rally. Sample singled and Hickingbotham doubled down the right-field line to score Sample all the way from third base.

Rash continued to keep Russellville from adding to the scoreboard, but Jacksonville left the bases juiced in the eighth inning as well.

Back-to-back errors in the bottom of the eighth, one at shortstop and another dropped ball in right field, allowed two runs and set the final margin.

In all, Jacksonville committed five errors to go with Russellville’s 14 base hits. The Gwatney bunch hit the ball hard throughout the game, but couldn’t find the gaps when it counted. Jacksonville had seven total base hits, with Sample and Hickingbotham getting two apiece.

Jacksonville will play last night’s late game loser by Mountain Home and Bryant at 1 p.m. today at Hendrix.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans get better at Southside team camp

Leader sports editor

BATESVILLE – The Jacksonville Titans football team split up for a pair of camps on Wednesday. Most of the varsity squad went to Batesville for a full contact team camp, while the rest of the team traveled to Rose Bud for a 7-on-7 meet.

At Southside High in Batesville, Jacksonville’s offensive execution was suspect early, but got better as camp progressed. Xavier Scott made the first big offensive play. He took a quick swing pass from Sharvarius Curley on a read option play against Southside and went 35 yards down the right sideline for the score.

On Jacksonville’s next offensive series, Curley kept on the option and squirted through a clogged up line of scrimmage for a big gain.

The first half of the camp, teams would trade three-play series no matter how much yardage was gained or lost.

After a break, teams came back for a more game-type competition. That’s when Jacksonville started executing better. Starting against Newport, the Titan defense gave up one first down before stopping the Greyhounds. Jacksonville’s offense then gave up an initial sack, but quarterback Harderrious Martin found Mason Wallace for a 24-yard connection on the next play. After another sack, Martin scrambled for a big gain to the 5-yard line, but the Titans failed to punch it in from there after two dropped passes in the end zone.

Newport scored on just one of its four possessions against the Jacksonville defense.

After moving to the other side of the field, Jacksonville lined up against Southside-Batesville again and went on defense first.

The Southerners hit a 10-yard screen to start, but Marquez Casey and Trey Allison combined for a sack on the next play. Southside picked up a first-down on the next play with a 15-yard completion to the left sideline, but Martin picked off a pass at the goal line on the next play to give his team possession.

Once again, Curley and Scott hooked up on the same play as before, the read option screen, and Scott again exploited Southside overplaying the run to score from 40 yards out.

On Southside’s next possession, Jacksonville’s Deboious Cobbs blew up a screen pass for a 4-yard loss on the first play. On the next play, Jacksonville appeared to have stopped Southside for a short gain on an inside run play. The Titans, as was the custom throughout the camp, let up when run was stopped and did not throw the running back to the ground. Southside’s coach yelled at his player to keep going and he scored with no one trying to tackle him.

After a brief discussion among coaches about the nature of the camp, whether to tackle to the ground in such instances, Jacksonville accepted the play and went back on offense.

It didn’t last long, Martin threw an interception over the middle on the first play, but the defense picked him up.

Southside picked 8 yards on back-to-back read-option handoffs, then got another 8 yards on a double inside handoff. But the Cobbs made another big play with an interception at the goal line.

The teams closed camp with a series of goal line situation possessions. Jacksonville, which only had 23 players at the camp and almost everyone played both ways, began to tire.

With each team getting three possessions starting at the 10-yard line, then moving to the 5, and then the 3, no matter what happed on the previous play, Jacksonville failed to score at all against Southside, and then only once against Newport.

The scoring play was a 5-yard run up the middle by Shawn Ellis.

The defense wasn’t bad in goal line. It gave up one score to each team out of six combined possessions. Casey recorded two more sacks during the final portion of the camp.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot pulls away for win

Leader sports editor

CONWAY – The Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team plowed through first-round opponent Arkadelphia at the state tournament on Friday at the University of Central Arkansas.

The Cabot squad struggled for a few innings with Arkadelphia starting pitcher Braydon Todd, but once the hitters found their footing, it turned into a blowout as Cabot won 10-5.

Meanwhile Arkadelphia could never figure out Cabot starting pitcher Caleb Wilson, who went eight and two-thirds innings.

He gave up just one run on four base hits through eight innings, but fatigue began to set in in the ninth inning and Arkadelphia got four runs off four hits before Dylan Billingsley came in to face the final three batters.

Neither team scored through the first four innings, and Cabot finally broke that cycle in the top of the fifth. Rail Gilliam drew a leadoff walk. Michael Crumbly then drilled a hard ground ball that ate up shortstop Alec Ruble for an E6 that left runners safe on the corners.

Jack Broyles got the game’s first RBI with a fly ball to deep center field to put Cabot up 1-0. With two outs, leadoff hitter Blake McCutchen was hit before Caleb Harpole hit into another E6 that scored Crumbly.

Arkadelphia got its first run in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Deven Horn and Ruble, but Cabot added four runs to its lead in the top of the sixth.

Brodey Schluter started it with a leadoff walk, but he was still standing on first base after two fly balls to center field. That’s when Arkadelphia’s defense went slightly awry.

Though there were no official errors scored, two times the second baseman, center fielder and right fielder let a routine blooper fall in between them.

The first was off Crumbly’s bat, and Broyles followed that with two-RBI singles to left field. Wilson then hit a pop fly to the exact same spot at Crumbly, and again no one called it and no one caught it, making it a single for the nine-hole hitter.

McCutchen then drilled a line drive down the left-field line that the speedster turned into an RBI triple for a 6-1 Centennial Bank lead.

Cabot went three up, three down in the seventh, but added four more in the bottom of the eighth for a 10-1 lead, but should have ended it if not for a base running mistake.

Again, the big inning started with a leadoff walk, this time by Gilliam. Crumbly lined out to center field, but Broyles singled to score Gilliam, who had stolen second base. Wilson and McCutchen made it three-straight singles to load the bases.

Caleb Harpole and Brian Tillery made four and five in a row.

Harpole’s shot drove in one run and Tillery’s brought in two more, but he was thrown out trying to sneak into second base after the throw went home to try to get McCutchen.

Without that, it would have been two on with one out, and Cabot needing just one more run to end the game on the mercy rule. But the inning ended on the next at-bat when Schluter struck out.

Arkadelphia’s bats finally came alive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after Wilson hit 107 pitches. Arkadelphia hit three-consecutive singles before a triple and another single set the final margin.

Wilson left the mound after the triple. Billingsley then gave up a single and a walk before striking out Todd to end the game.

Cabot will play last night’s winner between Paragould and Benton at 7 p.m. today at UCA.

EDITORIAL >> PCSSD board risking havoc

Jerry Guess is no longer superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, and it’s a cryin’ shame.

It didn’t have to be that way. Hours before the special board meeting called to consider firing the lawyers, school board president Linda Remele said she hoped it could be fixed.

The unfixable part, it turns out, was Guess’ refusal to work with different lawyers if the board fired two of its current desegregation lawyers, with whom he had a long and successful history.

A syllogism is a logic construct and this syllogism states: “If A, then B.” “A,” “Therefore, B.”

Whether out of friendship and loyalty, just plain stubbornness or some principle of the thing, Guess told the board Tuesday night he wouldn’t work with other lawyers if they fired Allen Roberts and his associate Whitney Moore — which they did by a vote of 6-1 — and as day follows night, he was fired immediately and unanimously.

The Roberts Law Firm, with Guess, helped lead the way on PCSSD’s desegregation efforts and, in a related matter, the successful detachment of a new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

Nearly every patron in both PCSSD and Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District owes Guess, and by extension, Roberts and Whitney Moore, a huge debt of gratitude.

Guess and Roberts are a couple of good ole boys from Camden, and they worked together previously to create a desegregated Camden-Fairview District, with John Walker the opposing counsel.

Guess wielded far more power than a superintendent would normally and with the commissioner, decertified the PCSSD unions, altered the pay structure and, with Roberts, cut deals that finally ended the state’s annual desegregation payments of tens of millions of dollars a year to PCSSD and the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts, while opening the long-sealed door to a standalone Jacksonville district.

After firing Guess, the board hired Dr. Janice Warren, promoting her from assistant superintendent for equity and student services.

Warren is well liked and respected by the staff as a person and an able administrator, and has no doubt already met with her cabinet by now to allay concerns and normalize the working environment.

Roberts and Guess operated the heavy machinery that has been slowly extricating the district from its desegregation problems.

As for Walker, he has been a champion for desegregation in public schools, occasionally with hyperbole and at the expense of common sense. For maybe 20 years he has slow-walked desegregation in Pulaski County, but on occasion, when he sees benefit in agreeing and moving forward, he can turn on a dime.

Some PCSSD board members said Guess, Roberts and Moore caved into Walker, because two cases may have created an opportunity for PCSSD to negotiate its way into unitary status. That would release the district from court supervision. U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, who now oversees both cases, had previously ordered Walker and PCSSD attorneys to see if they could agree that the district was unitary in the final three areas — facilities, discipline and student achievement. Otherwise, he said, prepare to go to trial next year.

Guess, Roberts and Moore filed a motion in the Little Rock/Doe case seeking a continuance to give them time to negotiate with Walker on unitary status. That could wrap things up in months instead of years. PCSSD would be unitary, free of court oversight.

But the motion was filed without consulting the board, and the long-term effect could result in changed boundaries and dissolution of PCSSD.

Some PCSSD board members said that Walker was using his leverage to get Warren — a black woman — hired as assistant PCSSD superintendent last month, but a split board denied Guess’ recommendation to hire Warren.

“We may not be as in control as we thought we were,” Remele said.

Ironically perhaps, it was Warren the board hired Tuesday evening to replace Guess.

“Jerry Guess taught me 11th-grade English and was the newspaper adviser at Fairview High School,” said journalism professor Donna Lampkin Stephens. “He cared about me, encouraged me and pushed me, sometimes beyond my comfort zone…I am forever grateful to have had him as a mentor. He deserved better than what he got,” she said.

“Jerry Guess cares about each child getting a quality education,” his brother John posted online. “Each child. Not just well-to-do children, not just children that look like him, and not children that can run a football.”

The PCSSD school board should proceed with caution.

TOP STORY >> Cooling center opens in heat wave Monday

The Jacksonville Senior and Wellness Activities Center, 100 Victory Circle, will open as a cooling center starting Monday for anyone needing respite from the heat wave as temperatures soar into the 90s and heat indexes top 100 over the next few days.

The senior center’s safe room will double as a cooling center from noon till 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

“The city of Jacksonville will monitor the weather to determine how long the cooling center will need to remain open. The center is expected to stay open in prolonged periods of extreme heat and humidity,” according to the announcement.

City officials encourage residents to check in on neighbors, especially people at risk of complications from extreme heat.

“This includes adults over 65, children under 4, and those with disabilities or existing medical conditions. People who exercise outdoors should pace themselves and schedule workouts to avoid the mid-day heat,” according to the announcement.

They also remind residents to provide pets with ample water and be alert for signs of heat exhaustion in pets, and never leave people or pets in parked cars. For more information, call the seniors center at 501-982-7531.

TOP STORY >> Historic district awards dinner

Leader staff writer

Twenty Jacksonville residents are up for five awards in the first-ever citizen of the year banquet hosted by the Jacksonville Historical District at the community center at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The banquet includes dinner, the awards ceremony and a silent auction.

Each individual was nominated by a friend, peer or co-worker and the winners will be announced at the banquet.

Four residents are up for Citizen of the Year. They are Lauren Martin, Larry Wilson, Dr. Alan Storeygard and Jerry Sanders.

Martin, with Double R Florist, has helped with the Father-Daughter Banquet, Jacksonville City Fest Pageant and more.

Wilson donates to Arkansas Run for the Fallen, Wreaths Across America and Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Storeygard is member of the Sister Cities Council and sponsor of the annual IBLA Foundation, which brings classical music performers from around the world to Jacksonville.

Sanders is the founder of the Pencil Store and organized the JHS All-Class reunion.

Harold Gwatney and Charles Hale Jr. are up for the Veteran of the Year award.

Gwatney is a former adjutant general with the Arkansas National Guard. He has been active with the Boys and Girls Club and helped start the Pencil Store, which provides school supplies to Jacksonville students and schools.

Hale is an Army and Air Force veteran. He volunteers weekly as a den leader with Cub Scouts.

Andy West and Kristen Kennon are vying for Realtor of the Year. West has donated funds, time and energy to many organizations and helps with many of the city pageants.

Kennon is the president of the Jacksonville Sertoma Club and an active board member of the Boys and Girls Club.

Five Jacksonville business people have been nominated for Independent Business of the Year.

They include Michael Lebron, who is active with the Stuff the Limo project, which provides toys for needy children in the area; Joan Zumwalt, who is responsible for the expansion of Pathfinders and is a strong force behind the military museum, and Steven Powell, who started the first licensed mobile salon in Arkansas and travels throughout the state providing free haircuts to seniors, the homeless, low income people and people with disabilities.

Also up for the award are Allen and Karen West and state Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville).

The Wests donate time, money and supplies to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and have helped low-income families in the city. Johnson volunteers at the senior center and works with the Jacksonville Historical District and Sertoma.

Volunteer of the Year honors will go to one of seven people: Johnny Hicks, LaConda Watson, Laura Walker, Valerie Perry, Judy Van NewKirk, Linda Lowe or Nicole Ford.

Hicks is active in the community-policing programs in Sunnyside and Jacksonville Towers. He also provides candy and toys to children.

Watson is a Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District board member, director of the Boys and Girls Club and is active in the community.

Walker is vice president of the Jacksonville Sertoma Club and volunteers and helps in a number of city and community projects. Perry is also a Sertoma Club member and volunteers at the Jacksonville Senior Center.

Van NewKirk is active in the local Cub Scouts, serving as a den leader and cub master. Lowe created a park behind her church and provides transportation to the store, doctor appointments and church for those who do not have a car or can no longer drive.

Ford volunteers with the AR Read Program during the school year. She also works with the reading program at the Boys and Girls Club several days a week.

The night of honors will also feature a silent auction as a way to raise funds for the historical district. Items include a mini Hot Springs vacation, a gun safe, a wine bag, a weed eater, a chainsaw, jewelry and a jewelry box, among other items..

Tickets are available from Jacksonville Florist, Time to Shine, Alderman Barabara Mashburn or Lida Feller.


Leader staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series.

Dr. Nihit Kumar works with opiate addicts at the suboxone clinic at UAMS on Thursdays and does research on addiction on Fridays. He is also a specialist in adolescent mental health and child and adolescent psychiatry. The suboxone and methadone clinics are both housed in the Psychiatric Research Institute at the hospital. Both clinics treat opiate addicts. He works with other doctors on researching and treating opiate addiction.

“Folks that are opioid users are at a very high risk for overdose deaths,” Dr. Kumar said. “With meth you get really psychotic and you can die on it, but with opioids’ chemical composition, opioids are more likely to kill you than meth. It slows your breathing. When you start combining alcohol with opiates, or say Xanax or valium, with opiates, it’s definitely fatal.”

Why is the risk of overdose deaths high for opioid users? Because addiction to opiates is hard to kick.

“When a patient with opiate abuse transitions to buprenorphine, it’s not easy to transition them right away,” Dr. Kumar said. “There’s a lot of research going on here about what is the best way to transition to medication-assisted treatment.” Buprenorphine is one of several medications used in opiate addiction treatment and research.

“People say, ‘Well, you’re putting them on another medication while they’re using medication, so what’s the big deal?’” Dr. Kumar said. “It’s more about changing your life rather than depending on something. When people are addicted to a substance they are engaging in certain behaviors related to that addiction. They are constantly thinking about that substance. They are chasing the high.”

Withdrawal from opiates is extreme and often leads to relapse. “Those withdrawals are extremely bad, its almost feels like a bad flu. They have cravings, all the nausea, vomiting, irritability,” Kumar said. “You feel really sick. It is not life threatening, but when they go through these withdrawals its very hard for people to resolve themselves. Some people do it. Say you manage to get through these three or four days, five days. You’re done with it but you still have the cravings to use.”

The cravings, according to Kumar, trigger the memory of using. “Those cravings are pretty strong. Without medication, it is very hard for a recovering addict to maintain their sobriety without relapsing back on opiates. The relapse rate is in the 90 percents without medication assisted treatment,” Kumar said.

Addicts often obtain opiates through illegal means. They begin to ignore family, friends and even their job. Dr. Kumar says these behaviors are related to the addiction. “When they transition to a medication, we give it to them as a prescription. It is legal. They take it as prescribed,” he said.

This allows patients in the addiction clinics to start improving their lives. They are no longer chasing the high.

“The success rates in general for addiction treatment aren’t very good. That’s why there’s a push to increase success rates to get them on medication-assisted treatments. The success rates of those who try to quit without treatment is even lower,” Dr. Kumar said.

Why use opiates and opioids to treat pain?

“Opiates are the best painkillers we have. But when it comes to chronic pain, opiates in the long-term aren’t very effective,” he said. “The brain changes that happen with addiction – it doesn’t matter what substance you use, are the same brain changes.”

Addiction affects all parts of the brain, according to Dr. Kumar. “We think of addiction as any other illness, for example, heart disease. Heart disease has multiple causes, there’s not just one cause,” he said. “Addiction has many causes. Genetic factors – if addiction is in the family, you’re more likely to get addicted if you use a drug. There are environmental factors. If someone has a genetic risk factor but they never use substances, they won’t get addicted. Mental illness is kind of the same way. It has those same risk factors. What classifies addiction as a mental illness is that it has a lot to do with the brain.”

Dr. Kumar says there is often a concurrence of biological and genetic risk factors in addicts. “Mental illness also changes your brain in terms of the neurochemistry. You can see how they are related,” he said. “If you look at the population data, there is a high degree of co-occurring – people with addictions have mental illness and people with mental illness have addictions. Almost 60 to 70 percent of patients with opiate addiction have a co-occurring mental illness.”

The average age of patients seen in the addiction clinics are between 18 and 45 years of age.

While the clinic does see some heroin users, most of their patients are addicted to prescription pain medicines.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Boxing’s greatest mystery

Leader sports editor

This column originally appeared in the June 8, 2016 edition of The Leader. It recently won a first place award for best sports column at the Arkansas Press Association awards banquet.

Muhammad Ali is an American hero. Many heroes are loved almost as much for their flaws as for their greatness. Not so with Ali. He was a great, but flawed man whose tangled past has gone ignored.

America is uncomfortable with complexity, and Ali was nothing if not complex.

Ali, who died Friday at the age of 74, was a great boxer and a man of conviction. His dedication to his convictions made him an inspirational figure during the civil rights movement. He gave up three years of his athletic prime by having his boxing license revoked for refusing to enter the draft for the Vietnam War.

He once talked about how all the great leaders in the past, especially religiously motivated ones, suffered persecution and came out of it greater and stronger leaders, and then he showed that kind of resolve.

But when Muhammad Ali was at the height of his popularity and his voice on social injustice was strongest, he was wrong when he chose the violent and hate-mongering group, the Nation of Islam, as the platform for his stance.

Ali came under the influence of the then militant Malcolm X as a burgeoning 19-year talent, but didn’t publicly declare his allegiance to the NOI until the day after he beat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship three years later. That was also the day he changed his name from Cassius Clay to the poetical and musical sounding name by which he’s forever remembered.

Famous fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s personal physician and cornerman, said the NOI’s influence on Ali was “the most complete manipulation of a person I’ve ever seen.”

That Muhammad Ali was member of the Nation of Islam is a well-documented fact, but people seem to avoid telling the plain truth about that organization, at least when it comes to “The Greatest.”

Ali did not promote equality. He promoted the superiority of the black race and racial purity. The Nation of Islam is on the list of hate groups provided and tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, itself a major figure in the civil rights movement.

Ali even spoke at a Ku Klux Klan meeting in 1975 to talk about their common ground with the NOI, that being that races should not mix in sex and marriage.

Ali also experience and exhibited a change of heart as profound as the one by Malcolm X, but he was given decades to do so without the proper demand for answers or apology.

When Malcolm X had his epiphany that the hate preached by the NOI was wrong, Ali turned his back on his once close friend. He has since said that was one of his biggest regrets.

Strangely, the same year he spoke at the KKK meeting, and revamped his years-long character assassination of ring rival Joe Frazier – one that far exceeded the boundaries of decency – he himself renounced his membership in the NOI. But renunciation is not the same as denunciation, and Ali didn’t do that until his autobiography came out in 2004, and even that failed to measure up to the word paintings Ali was so capable of creating with his oratory skills.

That denunciation also contained a confession that forever went unquestioned.

In that book, Ali wrote, “The Nation of Islam taught that white people were devils. I don’t believe that now; in fact, I never really believed that.”

If he never believed the main tenants of NOI teaching, why did he do all the things he did and give so much legitimacy to a hate group?

Ali remains a mystery.

He got to address his relationship with a hate group 30 years later on his own terms. He got to address the horrible way he treated Joe Frazier, the man without whom Ali would be no legend, 35 years later, and again on his own terms.

Frazier was the man who had gained the heavyweight championship while Ali was serving his three-year ban for refusing to enter the draft for the Vietnam War.

Tired of hearing that he wasn’t the legitimate champion, Frazier publicly lobbied on Ali’s behalf to have his license reinstated. When it was, Ali knocked out Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena, (two extremely rugged and talented boxers in their own rights) and quickly re-establishing himself in the minds of American sports fans that he was the real heavyweight champion.

In the fashion he had developed early in his career, Ali began insulting Frazier during pre-fight press conferences and any other chance he got. But he went further with Frazier.

He turned black America against Frazier, even though Frazier’s life was much more exemplary of the struggles of black people than Ali’s.

Frazier was, literally, the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina. He was from the Deep South. He was darker skinned, and that meant something in those days. He moved, like many blacks in the Deep South, to the north. In his case, to Philadelphia, where he continued to live in abject poverty.

Ali was raised in a middle class neighborhood in Louisville, Ky.

Frazier should have been seen as inspirational in his own way. He wasn’t political, but he displayed a determination to succeed that was inspirational to a 10-year old boy who was turned on to old boxing films by his grandfather.

Frazier did not have the size, footwork or athleticism of Ali, but he had toughness matched by few in sports history.

Instead, Ali labeled Frazier “a good negro” a condescendingly racist term often used by old white’s back then to describe black people they liked.

Frazier, vastly outmatched in a battle of words with an orator like Muhammad Ali, wasn’t able to stop the groundswell of hate that was developing towards him by his own people because of Ali’s antics.

He was, in the eyes of many black people, the “Uncle Tom” that Ali said he was. Ali even said, “Anybody black who thinks Frazier can whup me is an Uncle Tom.”

Bryant Gumble, now an HBO superstar but then a fledgling sportswriter, dubbed Frazier “The white champion in black skin.”

It’s called the “Fight of the Century.” It was the greatest fight of all time. The $5 million purse was the largest ever for a prizefight. Burt Lancaster was the color commentator and seemingly every celebrity in the world was ringside. Frazier beat Ali via unanimous decision in 15 grueling rounds, putting a stamp on the victory by decking the iron-chinned Kentuckian in the final round with his patented left hook.

He also put Ali down in round 11, but the referee didn’t rule it a knockdown, though he did, for reasons never explained, give Ali nine seconds to recover from the blow.

Two judges had it 9-6 for Frazier while one had it 11-4.

Ali had made promises of contrition if he lost. Instead, he was a no-show at the post fight press conference, and never publicly admitted defeat. He cried racism and said the white judges cheated him.

Frazier, himself roughed up and needing medical attention, did make a brief appearance at the press conference. With one eye closed, simply said he just wants Ali to “take back all those hurtful things he said about me.”

Ali did the opposite. For five more years he insulted Frazier at every opportunity. Throughout the buildup of their second fight, one which was legitimately controversial in which Ali got the decision, and ramped it up to an unprecedented level for the third and final meeting, the Thrilla in Manila.

There he redoubled both his hatred for white people and his character assault on Frazier. He told one stunned, white reporter, “He’s the other type of negro. He’s not like me….Joe Frazier’s worse than you to me. That’s what I mean when I say “Uncle Tom. I mean, he’s a brother. One day he may be like me, but for now he works for the enemy.”

Ali won that fight, another brutal affair that pushed both men to the physical and mental brink, when Frazier’s longtime friend and trainer Eddie Futch refused to let him answer the bell for the 15th round.

In a strange, and unjust twist of irony, Frazier fought his cornerman to let him continue while Ali, who wanted to quit, was forced by his cornerman to stand up and get out there. When Futch took the drastic step of cutting Frazier’s gloves and telling the referee it was over, Ali won the fight by TKO.

Ali apologized 30-plus years later for the way he treated Frazier, but never did face to face. He did, very soon after the third fight, give Frazier credit for being a valiant fighter.

“I was thinking at the end, why am I doing this? Ali would say. “What am I doing here against this beast of a man? It’s so painful. I must be crazy.”

Ali did finally say, decades later, that he was sorry he hurt Frazier.

“Joe Frazier is a good man, and I couldn’t’ have done what I did without him. He couldn’t have done what he did without me. And if God ever calls me to a holy war, I want Joe Frazier fighting beside me.”

But Ali’s previous ridicule and marginalization of Frazier had lasting effect. At the turn of the century, Ali topped ESPN’s list of the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century at No. 1. Frazier didn’t make the list at all. One would think if one man is the best athlete of an entire century, the man who beat him when they were in their prime and took him to death’s door two other times, would at least deserve a spot in the Top 100.

Ali’s own religious beliefs are a conundrum. When he renounced his membership in the NOI, he became a Sunni Muslim, a mainstream sect of Islam. In 2005, his daughter Hana Yasmeen told Beliefnet that her father had become “more spiritual than religious,” and had embraced the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Universal Sufi religion.

Most orders of Sufism are considered mystical Islamic sects, but Universal Sufism rejects any religion that adheres to a single book, which Islam does – the Koran.

Other friends say he worked to convert people to Islam until his death.

Ali remains a mystery.

What is certain is that Ali, for all his faults, was an inspiration in a time in American history when oppressed people needed inspiration, when prejudiced people needed shocked into a better world view and an unfair system needed change.

Muhammad Ali deserves the respect, admiration and honor he’s receiving in death, but we do our culture and our own souls a disservice when we ignore the sins of our heroes.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Junior season ends

Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank Junior American Legion team saw its season come to an end on Saturday at Hendrix College after two games in the state tournament. Cabot got an unlucky draw, or rather an unlucky schedule change, which aided its quick exit from the playoffs.

The two losses were 10-2 to Sheridan in the first round on Friday, and then 11-3 to Texarkana in game two. Cabot’s first game was scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday but Sheridan requested the game be moved from the opener until after the first three games were played because some of its players wanted to participate in a 7-on-7-football meet with the Yellowjacket High School team.

That request was granted, and then a rain delay pushed the Cabot-Sheridan starting time back to about 10 p.m. The game ended at approximately 12:30 a.m. Saturday, and the loser was scheduled to play at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Cabot coach Cody Perrin requested his team’s next game be moved to a later time to avoid such a quick turnaround, but that was denied.

“I asked if something could be done because of the turnaround involved,” said Perrin. “I was basically told, well that’s just baseball. I said I didn’t think my parents were going to like that answer, but it’s what we had to deal with.”

Cabot won the Zone 3 tournament despite being made up entirely of 15-year olds in a 17-under league, but that disadvantage caught up to them in the state tournament. Sheridan’s junior team consisted of six players from the Class 6A high school state championship squad.

In that game, Sheridan scored three runs, one in the first and two in the second, before Cabot got on the board. Jake Moudy drew a two-out walk and scored after a base hit by leadoff hitter Graham Turner.

Moudy also scored Cabot’s other run. He led off the fifth inning with a single, reached third on two passed balls and scored on another base hit by Turner.

Turner went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and one walk to lead Cabot offensively. Tanner Wilson, Mason Griffin, Jackson Olivi and Moudy had the other hits for Cabot.

Cabot (13-14) led briefly against Texarkana after scoring three runs in the top of the second inning, but the Razorbacks posted a five spot in the bottom of the same frame and led the rest of the way.

Olivi drew a leadoff walk in the second inning to get Cabot’s rally started. Blayse Quarnstrom then hit a hard shot to shortstop that was flubbed. Blake Buffalo followed that with a two-RBI double to straightaway center field that gave the Centennial Bank team a 2-1 lead. Buffalo moved to third on a groundout by Brock Martin, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Moudy.

Texarkana’s five second-inning runs came on four singles and two walks. The Hogs added another run on two singles and a walk in the third inning, two runs on two errors and a walk in the fourth, and two more on two singles and a double in the sixth. “You could just sort of tell after that second inning we didn’t have much left,” Perrin said. “We kicked the ball around a couple times and good teams take advantage of that. But I’m proud of the season we had. Our whole team is going to be sophomores, and they’re out there competing with teams much older. And from our perspective, those are the teams you want to play because that’s what makes you better. We got a good look at some very talented teams and it gives us an idea of where we need to be for the future.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot splits twin bill

Leader sports editor

The Paragould-Glenn Sain GMC Senior American Legion team is not accustomed to losing, but the Cabot-Centennial Bank team split a doubleheader at Paragould on Sunday. The Cabot team dropped the first of two pitchers’ duels 2-1, but bounced back for a 3-1 victory in game two. It was just the third loss in 33 games for Paragould this summer.

The first three innings of game one went by rapidly, with a grand total of two base runners, one for each team. Cabot’s first base runner came in the top of the third when Rail Gilliam struck out, but reached base on a third-strike passed ball. The next three batters went down in order on two more strikeouts and a groundout to second base.

Cabot pitcher Brett Brockinton was just as dominant as Paragould’s Ty Gordon. The only base runner he allowed through the first three innings was on an error at first base.

Cabot went down in order again in the top of the fourth, and Paragould finally got some offense going in the bottom half.

P.J. Hilson and Larry Tilley hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning, with Tilley knocking in Hilson for the 1-0 lead. Ethan Allred then reached on an E5, and a sacrifice fly by Matthew Fraser scored Tilley to give the home team all the runs it would need for the win.

Cabot’s run came in the top of the fifth inning. Brockinton got a one-out single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Gilliam then singled to center field to scoreBrockinton to set the final margin.

Brockinton retired Paragould in order in the bottom of the fifth, and gave up a one-out single in the sixth to finish his three-hitter.

Cabot threatened in the top of the sixth, getting two runners on base with one out when Caleb Harpole singled and Brian Tillery walked. But a strikeout and a fly ball to center field ended the half inning.

Jack Broyles hit a two-out single in the top of the seventh, but Gordon struck out Caleb Wilson to seal the victory.

Cabot finished with four base hits, one more than Paragould, but the unearned run allowed in the fifth proved decisive. Paragould committed no errors.

Brockinton finished with six strikeouts and zero walks, taking the loss despite an impressive performance. Gordon fanned eight Cabot batters and walked one.

Michael Shepherd pitched a gem as well in game two and got the win. He gave up an early unearned run due to another Cabot fielding error in the bottom of the first inning, but it only tied the game. Cabot scored in the top of the first after back-to-back singles by Blake McCutchen and Caleb Harpole started the game. With those two at first and third, Brian Tillery got McCutchen home with a deep fly ball.

In the bottom of the first, Paragould’s Tillery reached on a two-out E5, and back-to-back base hits followed to drive in the base runner.

Cabot (11-10) scored the game’s final two runs in the top of the second before pitchers again took over the game.

Gilliam reached on a one-out E3 and Broyles doubled to put runners at second and third. Shepherd then singled to score Gilliam, and Broyles scored when Shepherd was picked off at and got caught in a rundown. As Broyles scored, Shepherd was thrown out at second base.

The game was called after five innings. Shepherd went the distance, giving up three hits and zero earned runs with four strikeouts and one intentional walk. Cabot had seven base hits, two by McCutchen and one each by Harpole, Brian Tillery, Logan Edmondson, Broyles and Shepherd.


The Centennial Bank squad also traveled to Pine Bluff on Monday, but lost that game 7-2 to the Relyant Bank squad. Cabot scored first in the top of the second inning, but gave up two in the bottom half of the same frame and never led again. The home team, made up mostly of players from White Hall High School, added three runs in the bottom of the fourth and another in the sixth. Cabot scored in the top of the seventh and Pine Bluff set the final margin in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Cabot picked up just five hits in the nine-inning contest. Gilliam led the way, going 2 for 3 with a walk and one RBI. Harpole, Tillery and Broyles added one base hit apiece.

Pine Bluff compiled 13 base hits off three Centennial Bank pitchers. Caleb Wilson threw three and a third innings and took the loss. Brodey Schluter pitched three and two-thirds while Dylan Billingsley pitched one inning. Six of the home team’s seven runs were earned. Cabot committed three errors.

Cabot is scheduled to host Clarksville at 6 p.m. today at the Cabot Sports Complex.

TOP STORY >> Team locates homeless in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Central Arkansas Team Care for the Homeless is working on homelessness in Cabot.

CATCH Cabot coordinator Allen Miller spoke about a need for a homeless shelter during the city council meeting Monday. He has been with the organization for 10 years.

“We have some homeless people camped out in Cabot, Austin and Ward areas. We are going to try and address the homeless problem in this three city area. We’re trying to get something established here — a facility or a building donated that we can open up as a camp shelter to get the people off the street and try to get them some help,” Miller said.

CATCH, a nonprofit organization, covers Lonoke, Pulaski, Prairie and Saline Counties. It provides substance-abuse services, behavioral health and counseling services, crisis intervention and emergency shelter.

Miller said CATCH is trying to get several organizations to work together with Housing and Urban Development funds to establish a shelter.

He said there is nothing in Cabot for the homeless. The closest day shelter is in North Little Rock.

Miller has seen seven homeless people scattered around Cabot. Some are camped at Walmart, Home Depot and at the City Hall Plaza flag poles.

“They don’t want to go to Little Rock because they don’t feel safe,” Miller said.

He said the homeless in Cabot are veterans and non-veterans. There are a lot of resources for veterans, but not for the non-veterans.

Some are transients and others are locals.

The homeless are usually individuals but some have families.

CATCH is working on a count to find out how many homeless are living in Cabot, Austin and Ward.

CATCH held a meeting on June 16 at the Cabot American Legion Post 71 with five churches and organizations attending to address homelessness in the city. The next meeting is at 9:30 a.m. July 29 (location to be determined).

“There is an interest to help. Hopefully we will get more people involved,” Miller said.

For more information Miller can be reached at the Cabot American Legion Post at (501) 203-5715.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD terminates law firm and Guess

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District Board, by a vote of 6-1, on Tuesday night fired the Allen Roberts Law Firm, its desegregation lawyers, went into executive session and emerged unanimously to “immediately terminate Dr. Jerry Guess from superintendent.”

The board returned to executive session and came back about 30 minutes later to promote Dr. Janice Warren as superintendent through June 30, 2018.

Warren was the district’s assistant superintendent for equity and student services.

“I want to assure everyone school will start on time, go smoothly, and we’re going to have a great year, with the board working together,” said board president Linda Remele.

“This board wants unitary status. We reiterated to (Warren) we want her to work with Sam Jones toward unitary status. If you can work out an agreement with no side deals, we encourage you,” Remele said.

Jones is another of the district’s desegregation lawyers.

State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell appointed Guess superintendent in 2011, when the state put the district in fiscal distress and dissolved the school board.

“These have been the six best years of my life,” Guest said after the firing. He was told toclear out his office Wednesday.

“We do not have faith in the Allen Roberts Law Firm,” Remele said. Guess said he would not work with another lawyer.

Allen Roberts and Whitney Moore have worked with Guess on achieving unitary desegregation status and dealing with federal court oversight since 2011.

Before the Roberts firm was fired, Guess told the board he would not work with other desegregation attorneys in attempts to achieve unitary status, leaving board members little choice but to fire him after they fired Roberts and Moore. Guess told of the important part Roberts had played in helping move PCSSD forward.

The board felt that Guess, Roberts and Moore exceeded their authority in getting involved in the Doe v. Little Rock School District suit, supporting a motion for a continuance.

They were seeking more time to negotiate with Joshua Intervenor attorney John Walker to reach an agreement that would find PCSSD unitary.

The board said Guess and the lawyers left them out of the loop.

“We were authorized and asked to do everything we did,” Moore said later. “We’re proud of the progress we made and hope the board will continue that progress.” Achieving unitary status is the most important thing,” she said, “correcting constitutional violations.”

Walker, who has been a slow-moving champion for Joshua, suddenly wanted a speedy resolution to the PCSSD unitary case, which would help him restore local control for the Little Rock School District, taken over by the state about a year ago.

The board feared that a speedy declaration of unitary status could result in a change of boundaries, dissolving PCSSD and creating a single district south of the Arkansas River and perhaps four north of the river. Those would be North Little Rock, Jacksonville and eventually Sherwood and Maumelle.

“This board sincerely desires unitary status the right way and not in a back room or negotiated deal in order to break up our district to help another district,” Remele said.

“We think the district is on the right track,” she said.

Guess said Roberts had initiated many of the innovative decisions that have moved the district forward.

“Tearing apart PCSSD is not an innovative solution,” said board member Alicia Gillen.

Shannon Hills Mayor Mike Kemp was the lone school board member opposed to firing the Roberts firm. “I’d hate to get this close to the finish line and try to change horses,” he said.

Under a two-year old state Board of Education proposal, Shannon Hills would be annexed to the Bryant School District.

Some PCSSD board members say Guess, Roberts and Moore caved into Walker, attorney for both the Joshua Intervenors and, in a separate suit to return local control to patrons of the Little Rock School District, the Doe plaintiffs.


Leader staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series.

John walks in and sits down at the table. His shirt is tucked in. His hair is cut short. He is on his lunch break from a job he’s had for years where he makes a decent living. He has a wife and kids, a home. He’s not what you would expect an opiate addict of 17 years to look like.

John is one of the lucky people in Arkansas. He was able to get help with his addiction. Others are often not so lucky. In 2015, 52,404 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. Of those deaths, 38,597 were associated with opiates. To break it down even further, 12,989 of those deaths were associated with heroin use, while the rest were associated with prescription drugs – obtained through both legal and illegal means.

The statistics, which can be found at, show that overdose death rates more than doubled between 1999 – at 16,849 deaths, and 2009 – at 37,004 deaths. The numbers have continued to rise and strike all across the board, affecting men and women, adolescents, elderly, blacks, whites, Hispanics.

Arkansas saw 392 drug overdose deaths in 2015.

Opiate addiction has become an epidemic.

“Contemplating suicide. I never planned it, but I just didn’t want to do this anymore, I didn’t want to be alive,” said John of his lowest point of addiction. “I didn’t think there was another way out. That’s definitely something that happened to me in that last year more days than not.”

At age 30, John suffered a back injury in 2000 that required pain management. He was prescribed an opioid painkiller and continued taking them until Aug. 10, 2016. He is now 47 and has been in recovery for 11 months.

“I took opiates mainly for that reason (pain), but it changed over the years. It took a while before I started seeking it,” he said. “At first it’s more like you get your prescription and it lasts as long as it’s supposed to. Or maybe you don’t get a lot, you get 30 days worth and it’s supposed to last you three months. I was fine with that, for two or three years.”

Over time, John says his thinking changed from managing pain to “this makes you feel good, why don’t you do this all the time.”

John’s back troubles worsened, keeping him in need of pain management. “I did have a physical reason to need it,” he said. “There were times I may have exaggerated that to get a refill. When you have a back injury, it doesn’t hurt nine out of 10 every day. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.”

After five years of taking prescription pain medicine for his back, John says he began to have a desire for more and started having a craving for it. He started obtaining pills through illegal channels.

“I knew I was sort of living in an addiction that was unsustainable. Probably at that six or seven year mark after I hurt my back, I knew that my seeking behavior didn’t have a happy ending, going the direction I was going,” he said. “I knew that I had a mental obsession with it and I was seeking it. I didn’t feel like I was in control of that. I didn’t feel like it was something I could beat. And I lived with that for probably 10 years.”

John planned his days around how many pills he had and how long they would last, when would he run out, would he have money for more. “That is in your head 24/7. The first thing you think about when you get up in the morning is how many pills to I have. How many can I take now?” John said. “And it is the last thing I thought about before bed. Not my children. Not my wife or my job. Not my family. Not myself in a healthy way, but pills.”

While John was able to function as an addict, other aspects of his life were being affected.

“My job performance was not up to the standard I held myself up to, not how I was raised,” he said. “My performance was eh, at one time top, but somewhere in the middle now, but I still had money to spend on it. That’s what kind of kept me going. It kept me in that false reality that things were not so bad. I could always buy more.”

His relationships with his wife and kids suffered also. “I lied to my wife,” he said. “I’ve lived a lie to my wife and kids and my extended family. Those are kind of the things on the outside. But inside it’s just a feeling of failure, shame.”

John says that while he may have take pills so he didn’t have to feel bad, for him it was more about avoiding withdraw. “Underneath that I know it was more. It’s easier to deny your problems than to face them, for sure.”

During the year leading up to starting treatment John told his wife that he needed help. “I told her I was addicted. That I couldn’t do it on my own,” he said. “I was kind of trapped. I wanted to be able to get help. But that cost money too. I had to find a point where I said no to buying the pills and used that money for help.”

John’s wife knew when he went into withdraw and where he was going when he left the house. “That helped I think. She didn’t judge me,” he said.

John sought out help last year at UAMS. “I found the program by a radio advertisement. It was for the research program. I called and got into the research program. That’s how I started in treatment,” he said.

“I was ready when I sought help,” John says of his treatment. “For me, it needed to be my idea and on my terms.”

John says he doesn’t know if other addicts feel the same. “I don’t know if it is always (a personal choice), but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “You hear talk about someone has to reach their own bottom and they have to be ready when they come in. I think that’s true to a degree. It doesn’t matter how you got there. If you’re there and you stay there, that is good enough.”

John says his relationships with his wife and kids have gotten stronger since he’s been in recovery. “I’m back to some of the standards that I hold myself. I’m a better father and husband for sure,” he said.

Now that his days are not spent planning out when to take pills, John now has time for work on himself and to “figure out what I’m interested in as an adult. I have space to make myself a better person.”

John attends monthly group sessions and meets with a therapist.

“People struggle,” John said. “Sobriety has to be kind of a selfish thing. I worry about myself and my sobriety first.”