Strong winds on Sunday, May 3rd brought down a massive tree on Hassell Street, literally ripping the root system out of the ground. This was just another one of those unexpected wind storms that seem to rip through our county more often than ever before.
A Collinwood family lost their home and belongings to a devastating fire on Friday, May 15th. The billowing smoke from the fire on Depot Street could be seen and smelled all around town on Friday afternoon. The homeowner, Sherry Murphy, along with her mother and son, lost their residence and all of their furniture and possessions in the fire. Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported.
It almost seemed like the entire world came to a screeching halt when the coronavirus pandemic struck in the spring. Everything we knew as “normal” was changed. Although the terrible sickness and loss of life has certainly been the most tragic result of the pandemic, the disappointment of high school seniors not getting to finish their senior year struck a chord with students and parents alike. Three seniors from Wayne County were asked to write a little bit about how the virus has affected them and their senior year. Below is the letter that was submitted by FHS 2020 Senior Cody Warren:
“The Coronavirus Pandemic has affected us all in so many ways. During the time of year for Seniors to be living up their last days in high school, it is the exact opposite. In my opinion, it’s exactly like we’ve graduated and moved on and away to begin the next chapters of our lives. However, instead of being away from our friends and families, away at college or at work, we are still nearby to one another. Your friends are still close by at their homes just like you, but instead of being able to see them every day like at school or just go hang out like a Friday night, you can’t. Everything is closed. You’re not supposed to be within 6 feet of another human being. No groups larger than 10 together – while maintaining social distancing standards. Well, that pretty well crosses out your Senior Prom and your Graduation – at least at their original, scheduled dates. There is nothing normal about going back to campus in June for prom or *officially* graduating at Graduation. Of course I see that creating problems for many as well – specifically those entering the workforce straight out of school. The majority of jobs require at least a high school diploma, and everyone knows young people want to go for all they can as soon as they meet basic eligibility.
“For me personally, it threw a wrench in my plans for the rest of the year. Instead of enjoying the bus rides with my teammates for one last go-round in high school baseball, I’m enjoying the company of the cattle on our farm while I help feed or fix fences. However, quarantine hasn’t been the worst thing since I’ve been trying to keep busy. On the contrary, we can all say that it hasn’t been our finest time either. But instead of worrying about these uncertain times, we must remember that it has to rain in order to have a rainbow. These times are nothing but a storm with a large rainbow and pot of gold waiting on the other side for all of us.”
The City of Collinwood is now sporting a hand-painted mural on the exterior wall of the building next door to the Wayne County Welcome Center on Broadway Street. The colorful artwork was completed in one day last May by Eric Bass of Nashville, TN. Look closely at the letters in “COLLINWOOD” and you will see the historic Collinwood Depot painted into the letters. The mural background depicts the Natchez Trace as it meanders through the hills of Wayne County.
A special ceremony honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country was held on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25th, 2020 on the courthouse lawn in Waynesboro. The annual ceremony, hosted by American Legion Posts 130 and 254 from Waynesboro and Collinwood, featured greetings and remarks from officials including Tennessee State Representative David Byrd and Wayne County Executive Jim Mangubat. The Roll of Honor was read, which includes the names of all Wayne County service men and service women who perished during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The names of Wayne County veterans who have passed away since Memorial Day 2019 were read as well. The ceremony concluded with the placement of a wreath on the Veterans’ Memorial, followed by a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps,” and the raising of the national colors by the American Legion Honor Guard.
Generically, the term “pomp and circumstance” describes a ceremony of grandeur, a very formal celebration (according to the website ‘Grammarist’). However, in the United States, the term “pomp and circumstance” almost exclusively refers to graduation ceremonies from high school or college. Whatever the original meaning may be, the “circumstances” of 2020’s high school graduations in Wayne County, as well as other high schools around the country, were much different than any of us ever expected! Although delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, high school graduations in Wayne County were finally held in the first couple of weeks of June.
The Kaynen Butler family lost their home and most all of their possessions in a devastating residential fire on Monday, June 1st. The report stated that the homeowner’s wife, who was home when the fire began, saw a “glow” through the kitchen window and called 911 before getting out of the house. When firefighters arrived, the mobile home was fully engulfed in flames, and the fire was beginning to spread to the home next door, which is the home of Kaynen Butler’s grandparents, James and Mary Ann Butler. The fire that had spread to the James Butler home was quickly contained, but there was significant property damage. The Kaynen Butler home was sadly declared a total loss. The report stated that the cause of the fire was a faulty battery on a motorcycle parked just outside the home. There were fortunately no injuries to any people or pets as a result of the fire.
Wayne Countians were shocked when Rocky McElhaney Law Firm issued a press release last June stating that they had filed a claim of sexual assault on behalf of their client, Mrs. Kiersten Rainey, City Finance Officer for the City of Clifton, against John E. Hickman, City Manager of Waynesboro. The alleged assault occurred on September 11, 2019 during a Tennessee Energy Conference held at Nashville’s Renaissance Hotel. The incident allegedly occurred in a hospitality room associated with the conference during a card game among a group of city employees. The lawsuit named both Hickman personally and the City of Waynesboro, TN, as Hickman was working in his official capacity while attending the conference. The lawsuit has not yet been settled at the present time.
Ovilla Volunteer Fire Department had quite a day on Thursday, June 18th, 2020. Their morning began with a structure fire on Suckstem Branch that resulted in a total loss. Later in the day, they responded when that fire rekindled, causing concern to a passerby. Shortly after clearing the scene from Suckstem, Station 1 was dispatched to Matney Road off South 48 Creek for a report of a trackhoe that had overturned, and the driver was stuck in the pond with the equipment. Station 9 responded as mutual aid due to the nature of the call. Ovilla Chief Kevin Slone arrived to the given location to find an overturned trackhoe on the edge of a pond. It appeared the bank had caved in, causing the equipment to fall into the water. The driver of the trackhoe was pinned underneath the hydraulic system for the boom of the trackhoe, and was trapped in the water up to his shoulders – pinned within the support bars of the cab.
Station 1, Station 7, Station 8, and Waynesboro City responded to the scene to assist with the extrication. Shortly after more equipment arrived, the trackhoe operator was able to be safely removed from under the equipment with assistance from a JAWS unit. Wayne EMS responded to assess the driver’s medical condition, and he reportedly suffered no major injuries. Fortunately, due to the effort of all the responders, what could have been a tragic outcome to this accident had a much better and happier ending!
Jeff and Theresa Edwards, who reside at 2002 Green River Access Road in Waynesboro, were suddenly awakened, and unfortunately injured, when a 2011 Ford F350 crashed into their bedroom at approximately 1:39 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 28th, 2020. The Tennessee Highway Patrol reported that the driver of the truck, a 17-year-old juvenile from Waynesboro, was traveling southbound on Highway 13 when he swerved to miss a deer and ran off the roadway, striking a guardrail and a fence before crashing into the Edwards home. Both Mr. and Mrs. Edwards were transported to Wayne Medical Center for evaluation and treatment. Mrs. Edwards reportedly suffered compression fractures of the vertebrae in her back, while Mr. Edwards sustained severe bruising and contusions. The driver of the truck was reportedly uninjured. THP reported that no alcohol or drugs were involved.
The Independence Day Celebration at the City Park in Waynesboro on Friday, July 3rd brought out big crowds once again, possibly even topping years past in the number of attendees. City officials estimated that at least 4,000 people viewed the fantastic fireworks display, which never fails to be an amazing show. The headlining act for the evening was the band Parmalee. They kept the crowd entertained with a great performance of their own country hits, along with a few other contemporary songs mixed in. The guys seemed to feel right at home here in Waynesboro, and talked about growing up in the small town of Parmalee, North Carolina. Billy Lawson and his band Wishbone opened the night’s performances, and the always-spectacular fireworks display ended the night.
In July 2020, Wayne County Executive Jim Mangubat received a call that no one wanted – a call from the corporate office of Lincoln Brass informing Mr. Mangubat that they would be closing multiple facilities, including the one in Waynesboro. The Lincoln Brass executive said that their location in Waynesboro, which has been in operation for decades, would be closed by April of 2021.Lincoln Brass executives cited decreased sales of the products they produce as the reason for the closings. The four facilities that they currently own will be consolidated into one facility, which is located in Ohio.
The building which houses the facility in Waynesboro is owned by the county. Lincoln Brass has paid a low monthly rent to the county for many years, with the county justifying the minimal rent amount by the employment opportunities and tax revenues the company has provided.
“The closing of Lincoln Brass is a horrible blow not just to our county, but to the individuals who have spent decades working at the facility,” said Mangubat. “This is just another example of an American company losing business to China, where the products can be produced cheaper.”
Kenneth “Cotton” Sanderson, age 66, of Cypress Inn was tragically killed in a single-vehicle crash on Sunday, July 12th, 2020. The Tennessee Highway Patrol stated that Sanderson was westbound on Pumping Station Road at approximately 3:35 p.m. when he lost control of his vehicle, went down an embankment, and overturned. His vehicle also reportedly struck a light pole at some point during the crash. The THP reported that Sanderson was partially ejected from the passenger side of the vehicle, and sustained injuries during the course of the accident that proved to be fatal.
The Wayne County Museum Committee worked hard for several months on the new “Music Walk of Fame,” located at the north side of the courthouse on the square. On Friday, July 3rd, 2020, the first three stars on the Walk of Fame were revealed: Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery, Ralph Davis, and Neal “Tywop” Jones. The Museum Committee plans to continue to add stars to the Walk of Fame to represent all of the truly great musical talent that has come from Wayne County.
Wayne County was shocked and saddened on July 21st, 2020 to learn of the passing of Billie Jo “BJ” Eaton, the first death in Wayne County attributed to the COVID-19 virus. BJ was a wife and mother, and a long-time employee of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office where she served in the position of Administrative Assistant. Although BJ had been hospitalized for a few weeks leading up to her death, it was still unexpected, and certainly gave Wayne Countians a new perspective on the impact of the COVID-19 virus.
Two Dixie Youth girls’ softball teams made up of primarily Wayne County players competed last August in the World Series in Oxford, Alabama. The Team Tennessee Dixie Angels 10 & Under brought home the 2020 World Series Champions trophy1 This awesome group of girls, coached by Ron Smith, Adam Todd, and Nicole Smith, won the World Series Championship after defeating Team Louisiana on Tuesday. Team Tennessee rallied after being behind by four runs in the bottom of the last inning, and ended up winning by a score of 8-7. The members of Team Tennessee Dixie Angels were Ava Kate Bryson, Lakelynn Creasy, Brinlee Gaston, Sarah Creecy, Brinn Crews, Mae Ricks, Julie Roden, Aubrey Todd, Londyn Rippie, Presley Stone, Shylynn Smith, and Sadie Van Heusen.
The Team Tennessee Dixie Belles 15 & Under brought home the 2020 World Series 1st Runner-Up Trophy after suffering a devastating loss to Team Louisiana. This talented group of young ladies fought hard, and represented our state and our community in an awesome way! The members of Team Tennessee Dixie Belles were Kelsey Carroll, Isabel Luedeke, Ella Van Fleet, Kenzie Griggs, Jaylee Warren, Olivia Chase, Jac Keaton, Gabby Davis, Addie Quillen, Delaney Burns, Hannah Wright, and Kellie Hallmark. They were coached by Blake Quillen, Jason Griggs, and Phillip Carroll.
The Wayne County School System was able to reopen in August 2020 after months of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus. Schools began, and are continuing to operate, on a staggered schedule with students divided into groups and only attending in-person two days per week. Students are offered three learning options this year: traditional in-person at school, distance learning, and virtual learning. Teachers and staff have been working diligently to clean and disinfect classrooms, and to follow all the protocols for COVID-19.
The Tennessee Historical Commission announced in August 2020 that the Wayne County Courthouse had been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The THC described the Wayne County Courthouse, saying, “Designed by the Nashville architectural firm of Yearwood and Johnson and completed in 1975, the Wayne County Courthouse exemplifies the character defining features of Brutalism design. The large-scale angular building is notable for the exposed “raw” concrete/masonry exterior, large areas of formed concrete and limited fenestration. The combination of voids and solids of the design give the building a unique appearance. All these features of Brutalism are extant in the building and part of the original design. Features of Brutalism inside that remain are the exposed concrete and marble with no embellishments. A comparison of the building with the few Brutalist designs in the state reveals that the Wayne County Courthouse is unique in design due to the relationship of the solid rectangles, sloping rooflines, and tall clock tower.” Our courthouse may not appeal to everyone, but it was very fittingly described as “unique!”
The Wayne County General Election, the Waynesboro Local Election, and the State and Federal Primary Elections were held in Wayne County on August 6th, 2020. The two seats on the Waynesboro City Commission were filled by current Commissioner Jeff Davis and newcomer Lynn Warren. Current Wayne County Property Assessor Dustin White ran unopposed to retain his seat.
Five seats on the Wayne County School Board were on the ballot, with all but one seeing candidates running unopposed. Andy Yarbrough retained his District 1 seat; Charity Horton was re-elected to her District 3 seat; Greg Eaton remains in the District 7 seat; and newcomer Debbie Brown was elected to the District 4 seat. District 6 had two candidates on the ballot, Camryn Eaton and Kevin Kelley, with Eaton winning the vote.
In the Tennessee State Senate District 28 primary race, Republican Joey Hensley ran unopposed for his party. No Democratic candidate qualified to run, so Senator Hensley went on to run unopposed in the November general election.
Tennessee State Representative for the 71st District, David “Coach” Byrd, was up against two other candidates on the Republican primary ballot, Austin Carroll and Garry Welch. Representative Byrd won the Republican ticket, and as there were no qualifying candidates on the Democratic ticket, Representative Byrd also ran unopposed in the November general election.
In the primary election, Republican Mark Green won the primary race for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Republican Bill Hagerty and Democrat Marquita Bradshaw won in the primary to be able to face off in the November election.
Be sure to watch next week’s edition of The Wayne County News for Part 3 of 2020 – The Year in Review.