Headlines – 1/19/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 19, 2007

  From the 01/19/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

SP coach Woods retires from South Panola
By Myra Bean

South Panola High School head football coach Ricky Woods has announced his retirement from South Panola and the Mississippi Public School System.

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Woods led South Panola to a fourth consecutive state football championship and a
60-game win streak. He amassed a 74-1 record while at South Panola.

Woods has been coaching 18 years and hold a
204-40 record from Eupora, Ackerman and South Panola.

He and his wife, Susan, will both retire following the conclusion of their current school year contracts and move to Bainbridge, Ga. in Decatur County.

Woods, 47, will become athletic director and head football coach following the resignation of former coach and athletic director Greg Guy.

"This is the hardest decision Sue and I have ever made," Woods said in a Friday morning interview. "We feel like Batesville is our home. If the good Lord lets us live long enough, we may want to move back here and retire."

Citing the migration of their two sons south, Woods said that was a strong reason why he decided to make the move now.

His oldest son Stan is considering moving to Wilmington, N.C. for a job and youngest son Thomas will be attending medical school in Jackson.

Throughout the spring, Woods will be traveling back and forth to Georgia to get settled and go through spring practice with the Bearcats. When the school year is out, he and Susan will make the permanent move.

Two walk away from military crash
     A pair of unidentified U.S. Air Force pilots from Columbus Air Force Base survey the scene on Curtis Road near the site of their crashed T-38C fighter trainer.
By Jason C. Mattox
and Billy Davis

A pair of U.S. Air Force pilots ejected safely from a trainer jet that crashed in a field Thursday in west Panola County.

Columbus Air Force Base, located in Columbus, confirmed the crash in a press release, stating the pilots were conducting a "low-level navigation training sortie" when the accident occurred about 1:30 p.m.

Panola Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright said the aircraft was a T-38 trainer. The Air Force press release identified the aircraft as a T-38C model, a widely used Air Force supersonic trainer.

The aircraft crashed in a farmer’s field near Curtis Road, where the road curves southwest into Quitman County.

The pilots parachuted northeast of the crash site near Sorrells Road, said Daniel Cole, deputy director of Panola County Emergency Management.

"One of them landed in a duck hole and the other landed in trees and had to be cut down," Cole told The Panolian at the scene of the crash.

At press time Thursday, law enforcement officials who responded to the scene had not approached the plane, instead crowding onto a graveled portion of Curtis Road while they awaited the arrival of military officials and F.A.A. officials to the scene.

No smoke or flames could be observed coming from the aircraft at the road. The aircraft was located approximately 125 yards from the road.

At the crash site, duck hunter Wiley Wooten said he was watching from a duck hole on Bobo Road when he observed the jet moments before it crashed.

"I saw a puff of smoke and watched the plane go down at a 45-degree angle," said Wooten, who used his cell phone to report what he believed was a crash. He did not say who he contacted first about the downed jet.

Wooten also said a friend hunting with him saw the pilots parachuting safely to the muddy Delta ground.
The pilots’ identities were not known by press time.

Panola County Sheriff’s Department officials as well as Mississippi Emergency Management and Panola County Emergency Management responded to the scene.

The Air Force press release said a board of officers will investigate the accident.

County livestock show tomorrow
The Panola County Livestock Show will be Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Batesville Civic Center.

The event will begin with the goat showmanship contest, then the market goat show, followed by the beef showmanship event, then the commercial heifer show, and ending with the beef breeding show. Awards will also go to the People’s Choice winner, the Best Calf Bred and Born in Panola County, and the Best Calf in the Barn.

A concession stand will be open.

Call Wayne Land at 563-6260 for more information.

Six now vying for supervisor seat
By Billy Davis

The race for a District 3 supervisor’s seat is getting more crowded after another candidate has turned in qualifying papers to seek the position.

District 3 candidate Brad McCulley brings to six the number of candidates who are seeking the seat of departing Supervisor Mack Benson. The other candidates are Tommy Austin, Mike Darby, Donnie Shaw, Gary Thompson and Melvin Traywick.

Benson, who is 75, told The Panolian last week that he will not seek re-election for the seat.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors is a powerful five-seat board whose duties include planning the county’s fiscal year budget and setting the millage rate, overseeing the upkeep of county roads and bridges, overseeing trash pickup and approving recommendations from the county land development commission.

County public officials who have drawn opponents include:

  • Circuit Clerk Joe Reid, who has drawn challenger Margaret Pope;
  • District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins, whose challengers so far are Calvin Land, Patricia Tramel and Howard Brower;
  • District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup, who faces Michael Towles;
  • District 1 Constable Cleve Gale, who will face Eric "Buck" Harris;
  • District 1 Justice Court Judge James Appleton, who faces Everett Hill.

Panola County public officials who have qualified by January 18 but had not drawn opponents are:

– Chancery Court Clerk Jim Pitcock,

– Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright,

– County Tax Assessor/Collector David Garner,

– District 2 Constable Raye Hawkins,

– County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge,

– County Attorney C. Gaines Baker,

– District 1 Supervisor James Birge, and

– District 2 Justice Court Judge Willie E. "Bill" Joiner.

Most candidates who qualify in local races typically run as Democrats, meaning they are vying for a win in the party primary, which is August 7.

Morris remembered as ‘distinguished gentleman’
     Pallbearers carry the body of Rep. Leonard Morris to a waiting hearse Tuesday after his funeral service at Batesville Junior High School. At the front of the casket were (front left) Lygunnah Bean and Charles Johnson. At left behind Bean is William Pride.
By Billy Davis

The life of Batesville resident Leonard Morris was celebrated this week as time spent on earth improving the lives of everyone who knew him.

An overflow crowd in the auditorium at Batesville Junior High School heard from Morris’ pastor, Edward Thomas, as well as state Rep. Billy McCoy, the current Speaker of the House, and state Rep. Tyrone Ellis.

Morris, 59, died Friday, January 12, following complications from surgery. He served as a deacon at Concord Missionary Baptist Church, worked as a self-employed Realtor, and had served in the state House of Representatives since 1993.

The funeral service was held in the school auditorium to allow for an expected large crowd of friends and family. The standing-room-only crowd rose to its feet as Morris’ family entered the auditorium, walked to the front of the stage, and filed past Morris’ body.

A pair of Panola sheriff’s deputies held the hands of the lawmaker’s widow, Belinda Morris, who led daughters Lillian and Lenora, and her late husband’s siblings, into the auditorium.

More than 100 local and state officials attended the service, including many of Morris’ colleagues from the state House and Marsha Barbour, wife of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Speaking to the crowd to open the funeral service, Thomas announced the ceremony as a "homegoing celebration" for Morris, a "brother and friend, husband and father."

Later delivering the eulogy, Thomas sped through an acrostic of the entire alphabet to describe Morris, remembering him as an "ally" and "Christian" who was "saved," "determined," "enthusiastic" and "hopeful."

The Concord church pastor also read from the Old Testament book of Job, quoting the famous scripture, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," and suggesting that God had merely taken Morris back to heaven after giving him to Morris’ family and friends for a little while.

Rep. Billy McCoy described Morris as a "distinguished gentleman," telling the gathered congregation that the pair had spent countless hours together as they worked on legislation each morning during the legislative session and later ate meals together in the evenings.

"You don’t spend that much time with someone without knowing their character," McCoy said. "Every day you spent with Leonard Morris you appreciated him more."

Speaking about Morris’ legislative talents, McCoy said Morris cared deeply about public education and had "no equal" in his knowledge about economic development, but Morris’ quick learning and sharp thinking earned the Batesville lawmaker the first chairmanship of the newly formed Medicaid Committee.

"He was the right man for the right job at the right time," McCoy said.

The Speaker saved his warmest words for the end of his remarks, calling Morris a "statesman," a title McCoy told the crowd "few truly earn."

"I will miss his smile and laughter, and his pat on the back," the Speaker said. "He was my friend."

Rep. Ellis called Morris a man of "true faith," suggesting that, like a flower, God had chosen Morris for His own garden.

Musical selections included "Order my Steps," "What a Friend we Have in Jesus," and "I am Happy With Jesus Alone." The sanctuary choir of Concord church led the congregation.

Thomas announced during the closing moments of his sermon that Morris had written instructions for his funeral service, including the request that the service be conducted quickly and not become a drawn-out event.

The service lasted just over an hour.

Burial was at Concord Cemetery.

Morris death leaves open seat in House
By Billy Davis

Following the January 12 death of state Rep. Leonard Morris, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour must now set a date for a special election to fill the now-empty seat.

Morris, a Democrat, represented portions of Panola and Tate counties that composed the state’s District 11.

By law the governor sets the date of the special election and informs the state secretary of state by sending a Writ of Election, said David Blunt, press secretary for Secretary of State Eric Clark.

The secretary of state had not received the notice by Thursday, the spokesman said.

"The Writ will specify the date of the election," Blunt explained to The Panolian this week. "The governor has to give at least 20 days notice of the election, and the qualifying deadline for candidates will be 10 days before the day of the election."

The governor has absolute discretion about naming a date for the special election and does not work against a deadline, Blunt said. But the election date is often "compressed" when the state legislature is in session since citizens of the district are technically unrepresented.

The state’s House of Representatives and Senate convened January 2 to begin a 90-day session.

The District 11 territory stretches from Curtis and Tocowa in southwest Panola County to Como and communities north of Sardis Lake, connecting to both through most of west Batesville.

State Rep. Warner McBride, who represents eastern Panola County, said District 11 citizens who have concerns about issues can contact himself or Panola’s other state officials, Rep. Clara Burnett or Sen. Nolan Mettetal.

"We want people to know that we’re here and will be glad to help them," said McBride, who has been communicating with the governor’s office this week about the county’s empty seat.

Pete Smith, press secretary for Barbour, confirmed Thursday morning that the governor had not decided a date for a special election this week.

"At this time no decision has been made and all options are being reviewed," Smith said.

2007 is an election year for Panola County’s two House seats and Senate seat. The party primary is August 7. The general election is November 6.


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