Headlines – 11/11/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – November 11, 2005

  From the 11/11/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Family, friends, firefighters honor,
   mourn Webb
     Bynum Fire Chief Tony Ragon (right front) and other Bynum firefighters carry the body of Jimmy Webb from Batesville’s First Baptist Church following a memorial service Wednesday. Webb died Saturday, November 5, in route to a house fire in the Eureka community.
By Billy Davis

After an honor guard from the Horn Lake Fire Department gently lifted the American flag from the coffin, then folded it crisply, Fire Chief David Linville bent down and handed the banner to Daphne Tutor Webb.

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The flag came from the oak coffin that held the body of her husband, James "Jimmy" Webb Jr., 41, who was laid to rest Wednesday in the cemetery at Good Hope Baptist Church.

The Bynum firefighter died Saturday, November 5, when the water tanker he was driving to a house fire left the road, ejecting him from the cab and rolling on top of him.

Webb served as assistant chief at the Bynum Volunteer Fire Department.

The accident occurred about 11:30 a.m. in a curvy stretch of Eureka Road, about a quarter-mile from Crouch Road.

Webb is the first Panola firefighter killed in the line of duty in recent memory. The last firefighter to die was Batesville firefighter Vernon "Punk" Whitaker, who drowned in 1959 during a rescue at Sardis Dam.

The funeral service for Webb was held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Batesville’s First Baptist Church, where pastor Dr. Greg Johnston read a Gospel account of the Lord’s supper.

"I pray that You wrap your arms around this family," Johnston prayed.

Good Hope pastor Gerald Walker told mourners that Jimmy and Daphne Webb were faithful church members who wanted to deepen their faith and their walk with God.

"I prayed with them and all three of us were on our faces," Walker told mourners. "I can tell you that, without a doubt, Jimmy is in a better place."

Walker also read from a eulogy written Monday by the widow, who praised her husband for always putting his family and friends first.

"It all boils down to this: God blessed this world with people like Jimmy," Walker said, reading from the eulogy.

In addition to his wife, Webb left behind two sons, Caleb and Blake; his parents, James C. and Betty Elmore Webb; and three sisters, Pam Webb Webb, Rebecca Webb Pinkard and Donna Webb Ray.

The church service also included Gospel song "Beulah Land," which was sung by relatives of the widow, and a recording of a firefighter’s ballad, "As the Firemen Ride."

The firefighter song was written 12 years ago by Danny McGregory, a Batesville musician and cousin of the widow. The lyrics include the lines:

They ride on even though
they may not make it
through the night,
They ride on with a torment
of the struggle and the strife,
In time they know
that when they go
their lives are on the line,
And my tears roll…
as the firemen ride.

After the service at First Baptist, Bynum’s Engine 90 pumper truck led a procession east through Batesville to the grave site on Good Hope Road.

Webb’s coffin lay in the back of the truck, surrounded by his fellow firefighters, who wore crisp white shirts with black ties, and black tape across their badges.

At the church, Bynum firefighters Jody Morris and Will Lack stood at attention atop the truck while pallbearers Tony Ragon, James Morris, Michael Johnson, Randy Richardson, Ronnie Ross and David Gammill hoisted Webb’s body from the vehicle.

Walking with Webb’s flag-draped coffin, the Bynum pallbearers led mourners from the church up a sidewalk to the grave site.

Bynum firefighter Burt Parker followed, holding Webb’s yellow helmet under his arm.

Veteran’s Day tribute planned for today
Patriotic music, speaking and a brief history of local Veteran’s Day observances is on tap for today’s Veteran’s Day celebration. The event will be on the Downtown Square at Memorial Park today at 1 p.m.

A wreath will also be laid by the Exchange Club’s Memorial Monument dedicated to Panola County’s war casualties.

South Panola High School band members will provide the music while colors will be presented by members of the South Panola Jr. AFROTC.

A brief history of former Veteran’s Day services will be presented by Annie-Glenn Howell of the Panola County Genealogical Society and Robert Rawson of the Batesville Church of Christ will deliver an address.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony in honor of all U.S. veterans


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Bright, Sheley aim for November 22, Tedford for 2007
     At the county courthouse in Batesville, Panola Chief Deputy Craig Sheley (center) shares a light-hearted moment with deputies Carlton Hayes (left) and John Still after late-night election returns put him ahead of 10 other sheriff’s candidates. Sheley and Hugh "Shot" Bright will now advance to a November 22 runoff.
By Billy Davis

The next sheriff of Panola County will come from inside the department after most voters cast ballots Tuesday for Chief Deputy Craig Sheley and jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright.

Sheley and Bright will now advance to a November 22 runoff to see who will complete the two-year term of the late Sheriff David Bryan.

Citing unofficial totals, Sheley and Bright together garnered 39 percent of 9,628 votes cast, leaving a field of nine other candidates to split 5,905 votes, or 61 percent, among them.

Sheley pulled in 1,991 votes, or 21 percent, while Bright garnered 1,732 votes, or 18 percent.

About 200 affidavit ballots were counted Wednesday morning at the county courthouse in Batesville but did not alter the final outcome.

Sheley and Bright emerged from a field of 11 candidates Tuesday after a tight race pitted the chief deputy against fellow department insiders Bright and investigator Mark Whitten.

During the race, Bright, Whitten and the eight "outsider" candidates said voters were seeking a change in leadership at the department, citing complaints of slow response time to calls and a failure to fight illegal drugs.

Sheley responded to those complaints, however, by saying the department needs improvements but otherwise enjoys a good reputation.

Reached Wednesday morning, Sheley said his top finish among the candidates bolstered his earlier comments.

"I think any department, whether it’s The Panolian or the sheriff’s department, has some improvements that can be made," Sheley said. "I think overall everybody is satisfied with the service we provide them."

Asked Wednesday about the department’s reputation, Bright said only that he would "try to make it a better place" if Panola voters put him in office.

Asked what would push him past Sheley in the runoff, Bright said, "Hopefully the voters."

Whoever wins the November 22 runoff for sheriff could draw at least one opponent in the 2007 race, third-place finisher Jamie Tedford.

He pulled in 1,519 votes or 16 percent of the vote.

After the vote tally was announced Tuesday night, Tedford told supporters on the Square that he will run again in two years.

"My campaign hasn’t stopped," he said amid hugs and handshakes.

Tedford was making his first run for public office, battling the issue of his age – 30 – while touting his experience as a Batesville police officer. He is assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Oxford.

The fourth-place finisher was Assistant Como Police Chief Antonio Daniel, who took a leave of absence from the department to run for sheriff.

Daniel garnered 1,127 ballots, or 12 percent of the total vote.

The remaining sheriff’s candidates ranked as follows:

5. Gary Thompson 916
6. Steve Chancellor 787
7. Mark Whitten 681
8. Kelvin Taylor 291
9. John Rodgers 252
10. John Hardy 146
11. Noel Aldridge Jr. 100

 Voters give their views, see story on page A6.

Fewer ‘ghosts’ voted in Tuesday election
By Billy Davis

When Panola voters cast ballots for sheriff Tuesday, fewer ghosts slinked into the voting booth thanks to tougher scrutiny of the voter rolls.

The number of registered Panola voters has shrunk from 29,000 to about 18,900 on the rolls thanks to a purging of the voter rolls, election commissioner Ronald McMinn said last week.

That means the election day tactic of voters "rising from the grave" to vote was harder to manage in the Tuesday sheriff’s race.

Tuesday’s sheriff’s election came amid a storm of voting troubles in the county, namely the indictment weeks ago of the Como police chief and city clerk on voter fraud charges following a state attorney general investigation.

Two more Como residents were indicted for bribing voters as part of the state investigation.

Unofficial results showed 9,628 Panolians cast a ballot for sheriff Tuesday, nearly the 10,000 Circuit Clerk Joe Reid had predicted prior to the election.

About 3,000 Panola voters were placed on an inactive list after they didn’t respond to an inquiry in March from the circuit clerk’s office.

"We sent about 3,000 (post) cards, asking them to respond, and we got about 100 cards back," said Joe Reid.

The last mass mailout in Panola County occurred in 1994 and produced similar results, Reid said.

The county’s voter rolls have also been reduced by better attention paid to deaths in the county. McMinn makes a monthly trip to The Panolian newspaper office to collect a list of obituaries, then the election commission compares the list with the voter rolls.



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