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franklin county times

Year in Review: Franklin County Times’ top stories of 2017


With New Year’s Day under their belts, many people are looking forward to a new year. The Franklin County Times, however, is taking a look back, with a review of some of the top headlines from the county in the past year.

Although these stories provide only a taste of the busy year Franklin County had, they are hopefully representative of 2017 and provide an overview of this year’s happenings.


Palmer opts to stay in FC

After a couple days of deliberation, Franklin County engineer David Palmer decided to turn down an offer from Lawrence County and remain in Franklin. His decision came after the Franklin County Commission voted to offer him a hefty pay raise in October.

The 3-1 vote resulted in a salary increase for Palmer at the beginning of FY2018 (October 2017) to $163,200; at the beginning of FY2019 (October 2018) to $166,464; and FY2020 (October 2019) to $169,793, through December 2020, representing a four-year contract beginning January 2017. The last three years will put Palmer’s salary in line with the offer from Lawrence County.

Vina teacher earns national Teacher of the Week nod

American Paper & Twine Co., the Tennessee Titans and Georgia-Pacific Communication Papers announced that Jessica Hamilton, a teacher at Vina High School, was selected as Teacher of the Week for the home opener of the Tennessee Titans 2016 football season. Vina High School parent and coworker Karen Scott nominated Hamilton.

EFJHS wins $10K in sweepstakes

East Franklin Junior High School PTO President Jamie Duboise has made a hobby of entering sweepstakes. When she came across the Campbell’s Grand Stand for Schools $1,000,000 giveaway, she put her sweepstakes skills to work for East Franklin students and teachers.

“At first, whenever they called, we didn’t really know if it was real,” said Principal Nancy Hallman. But the school sent back their tax ID information, and a big “Christmas gift” – a $10K check – soon arrived. “When we got it in the mail, we were really excited.”

Community Spirit Bank opens Tiger Branch at RBHS

Red Bay High School became the latest school to offer a bank branch on campus, with the introduction of its new Community Spirit Bank branch. Establishing the bank required closing in a breezeway at the school, and the construction, CSB marketing director Emily Mays said, represents “a significant financial investment on behalf of the bank that will aid the school, its staff and students for generations to come. We are grateful to the Franklin County Schools superintendent, school board and Red Bay school administration for giving us the opportunity.”

Gas fire burns in Franklin

A gas fire exploded on Highway 724 near the Newburg community in Franklin County Jan. 20 and continued to burn for a week.

Three men with Gentry Drilling Company were drilling for water when their equipment hit a natural gas pocket, causing a fiery explosion. The drilling was taking place at a group of new chicken houses on the property in Newburg.

Almost instant ignition set fire to the three men. All suffered burns to their faces and hands and were airlifted to the University of Alabama Birmingham burn unit

According to Tharptown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Doug Coan, firefighters watched the fire every minute to monitor the threat to local residents, both from the fire as well as the gas.


$9k grant brings new RPD tasers

A $9K grant funded some new equipment for the Russellville Police Department. Russellville City Council members approved the submission of the grant, which came through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, to enable the replacement of some of the RPD’s Tasers. The RPD will purchase the Taser X26P, which is endorsed as the company’s smallest and most compact model of its kind, having been recently redesigned.

Archaeological dig comes to Red Bay

The City of Red Bay got some “new digs” – literally. Beginning March 1, an archaeological dig took place at Cypress Cove Farm, directed by Red Bay resident Jamie Morrow and Dr. Virgil Beasley. The dig was a follow-up to two that happened around ten years ago at the same area, and with educational grant funding from Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, students from across Franklin County got the chance to participate.

Addie’s Flip, Tip, Tap students score big

Members of Russellville’s Addie’s Flip, Tip and Tap Dance Company traveled to Nashville to compete in Showstopper’s 2017 Regional Dance Competition held at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center. AFTT Company brought several entries to the show. Eight girls from the company entered divisions such as jazz, hip hop, tap, musical theatre and lyrical jazz.

After celebrating individual solo success, the entire company competed in the Super Jazz Category. This group was the only super performance group that scored platinum. They were first place in their division and Top 1st Platinum in group overalls among 30 entries.

State board reverses John Pilati pardon

According to information provided by the Alabama Attorney General’s office, the State Pardons and Paroles Board decided Feb. 22 to deny pardon application for convicted former Franklin County District Attorney John Frederick Pilati.

The denial extended back to previous partial pardons granted in 2012 and 2015 and voids those pardons. Pilati was convicted in federal court and sentenced in 2008 to 42 months in prison for five civil rights offenses related to sexual assaults on young men who ranged in age from 16-20.


FCBOE approves $2.5M for Tharptown schools

Expansion appeared on the horizon for Tharptown Elementary and Tharptown High schools, with the Franklin Board of Education approving a contractor bid for renovation and addition to TES and THS – with the bid going to RDT Enterprises, in the amount of $2,495,425, with a unanimous vote. The planned addition/renovation includes renovating the current cafeteria, which is used by all Tharptown students, into classrooms for the elementary grades, to limit the need for mobile classroom units – which were made necessary by an explosion in enrollment, both from steady growth of the school over the years as well as an influx of students from the Russellville City Schools system following RCS’ implementation of a tuition policy – as well constructing a new, larger cafeteria for use by all grades.

RFD firefighter saves life with quick action

Russellville fire fighter Shane Mansell quickly transitioned from bass fishing tournament director to trained EMT when he started talking with a man who was having chest pains during a tourney Mansell was directing. “I could tell he was having an active heart attack,” Mansell said. Although 911 had already been dialed, Mansell called again to request air evacuation and then began to perform CPR.

Mansell was later commended by the Russellville City Council.

Thursday storms rip down College Avenue wall

Sometimes, “breaking down a wall” is a positive metaphor for building community among different people. In this case, breaking down a wall was literal destruction in Russellville.

The retaining wall bordering the Old College Avenue School and Limestone Street collapsed, with debris spilling out into the roadway, during severe storms in March.

Street superintendent Shannon Wilson said the wall has been leaning for years, and it seemed the rush of water from quick rainfall was finally the final straw.

The city and Russellville City School collaborated to replace the wall with grassy green hillside instead.

Local woman receives NAACP award

Danyelle Hillman was speechless when she was named the recipient of the 2017 Bringing Out The Best Award, given by the NAACP. “I was flattered that someone would think so highly of me,” she said. “I was at a loss for words. It was quite an honor.” The state-level award recognized her “leadership to change the world one child at a time,” and was presented at the NAACP Gala March 3, held at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery.


State dismisses ethics complaint against Shewbart

It was in November 2016 that Red Bay director of operations Mike Shewbart faced an ethics complaint stemming from actions during his campaign for mayor of Red Bay. April 6, Shewbart was cleared of any wrongdoing.

A letter from the State of Alabama Ethics Commission stated that after investigation, the commission “concluded, upon review of the evidence from the investigation, that there was not probable cause to believe that you violated the Alabama Ethics Law. Accordingly, the complaint has been dismissed.”

Hotel Red Bay reopens business

“We’ve all been waiting for this day for a long, long time.”

Mayor Charlene Fancher shared the sentiments of many in the Red Bay community as she welcomed the crowd gathered around the entrance to the Hotel Red Bay for its official grand opening.

The hotel was purchased by Mark Dempsey and brought to new life by Emily Strickland.

Grand reopening attendees took the opportunity to amble through the hotel and peek into chic, comfortable guest rooms, all decorated with Strickland’s keen eye for design and boasting meaningful touches that honor the people – past and present – of Red Bay.

EF-0, microburst hit Franklin

Strong storms over the weekend escalated with National Weather Service-confirmed reports of an EF-0 tornado and a microburst in Franklin County. Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Director Jody Hitt said the EF-0 came in western Franklin from Mississippi, crossing the state line and affecting Pleasant Site, Pogo and Freedom Hill communities before leaving the ground around Burnout. In the eastern part of the county, on Highway 43 around Spruce Pine, a microburst of 95 miles per hour winds was recorded. Hitt said about a quarter mile of trees were damaged in this microburst, with multiple trees being snapped and even uprooted.

RHS’ Lorraine Perez wins state science teacher award

Each year, the Alabama Science Teachers Association selects one elementary, one middle and one high school teacher from across the state to honors with the Outstanding High School Science Teacher Award. This year, the high school recognition went to Russellville High’s Lorraine Perez. “I was really excited,” said Perez. “It just makes me really proud.”

The statewide recognition also came with a $1,000 cash prize for Perez. The award was presented in Birmingham at the McWane Center at the ASTA conference. A testament to her dedication to teaching, Perez was unable to attend the presentation – because she was dedicated to helping her biology students through the AP mock exam, held the same day.


New facilities make splash at Red Bay Fun Park

It sometimes seems it’s more common for construction projects to finish late than on time – but that wasn’t the case in Red Bay, where a targeted 100-day construction project wrapped up with a month to spare. The city officially opened the doors on its new pool house facilities with a celebratory ribbon cutting at Red Bay Fun Park.

Mayor Charlene Fancher thanked the Red Bay City Council for approving the construction and credited the council of eight years ago for refinancing debt that created a pool of capital improvement funds.

Russellville claims third consecutive state championship

For the third consecutive year, Russellville High School came away with that blue map as the Golden Tigers defeated the Faith Academy Rams in the best-of-three championship series to claim the state title. Russellville took game one at Paterson Field May 17 by a 9-1 score behind the usual dominating performance on the mound of eventual 5A series MVP Cody Greenhill. On the following day, the scene shifted to Riverwalk Stadium, the home of the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League of Professional Baseball. Russellville looked to be on the way to finishing off the Rams for the second year in a row, but the team from Mobile had other ideas. Trailing 7-5 in their last at-bat, the Rams scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to force a game three. The final game saw RHS jump out to a 7-0 lead, and the Golden Tigers held on to win by a 7-4 final score.

County approves move of polling sites

In a special called meeting Monday, the Franklin County Commission voted to approve the move of two voting sites – within their respective precincts – in Franklin County.

For those who vote at Newburgh Masonic Lodge, new polling place will be Macedonia Baptist Church, 37050 Highway 724 in Russellville. For those who vote in East Franklin/Trapptown, the voting location will move from East Franklin Junior High School to Cornerstone Fellowship, 1 Block Church Road in Phil Campbell.

Russellville utilities rolls out new modern billing system

In the early 1970s, Russellville Utilities relied on the billing company Central Service Association to provide billing service to Russellville Utilities customers. After 32 years of doing billing in-house on the same decades-old mainframe system, Russellville Utilities opted to return to using a contract billing service – contracting again with the Central Service Association.

Russellville office manager Pat Seal said the return to working with CSA represents a big leap into the 21st century for Russellville Utilities. It’s an upgrade that will soon allow Russellville Utilities to offer online bill pay and will improve effectiveness and productivity in the office, with an eye toward increased customer service.

FC ‘Rocks’ painting effort sweeps county

In February on a family trip to Florida, Tom and Christina Hamm and their son Hunter were strolling a local park when they happened across a few painted rocks. What was initially an idle curiosity turned out to be a project they realized they just had to replicate in back home in Red Bay and Franklin County. That’s the short version of how the FC “Rocks” came to be.

The “rules” are simple: Paint a rock. Hide the rock in the community. On the other side of the project: Go look for painted rocks. Post pictures of the rocks you find on the Facebook group (if you want). Rehide the rocks (if you want).

Families weren’t the only ones getting involved. Local businesses joined in by hiding prize rocks, promising treats and even cash prizes to those who found and returned specially-marked rocks.


Georgette Jones performs at Gathering in Red Bay

Georgette Jones, the daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, was in concert in Red Bay at Community Spirit Bank’s Weatherford Centre June 9-10 in conjunction with the annual Tammy Wynette fan event called The Gathering. This was the fourth year for The Gathering and the event’s first year in Red Bay.

Georgette, who has been referred to as “The Princess of Country Music,” sang some songs in tribute to her mother Wynette, “The First Lady of Country Music,” as well as songs she has written herself.

FCSO nabs man wanted by U.S. Marshals

A high-speed chase June 7 ended in one arrest by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Franklin County investigators were in the area of Mountain Star when a white pick-up truck flew by at high speed. Officers pursued the vehicle and attempted to make a traffic stop.

The sheriff’s office arrested J.K. Abbott Jr., formerly of Phil Campbell, on charges of reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. In addition, FCSO investigators discovered an old meth lab, used ingredients from meth production and all the necessary ingredient for meth production upon searching the suspect’s truck and also charged him with manufacturing of a controlled substance first degree.

FCSO found out later that Abbott was also wanted by U.S. Marshals.

Northwest Alabama RC&D celebrates $72K in grants over two years

The Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development distributed $71,910.47 to Franklin County in 2015 and 2016 in 19 projects – an achievement coordinators wanted to highlight. NW RC&D representatives and grant recipients gathered in June to celebrate the thousands of dollars dedicated to Franklin County projects, marking the occasion with a “big check” to represent the two years of grants awarded.

Downtown loft apartments open to community Sunday

After seven months in the making, Russellville’s first loft apartments were completed in June – and the community was invited to come give them a look.

When Mayor David Grissom first began contemplating the revitalization of downtown Russellville, he said he quickly began to envision loft apartments in the second story of downtown businesses. Once the new zoning guidelines were established downtown to permit loft apartments, he said he decided it was time to put his money where his mouth was. Grissom teamed up with Chris Wallace and, together as Made in USA Properties, they purchased what once-upon-a-time was Reed’s General Store – Grissom’s great-uncle’s store – and began to renovate, with an eye toward developing two apartments on the second floor.

Return to Toyland

Holiday traditions are often what make the season come alive. The Franklin County Arts and Humanities Council spearheaded the move to bring a beloved holiday tradition of yesteryear back to the spotlight this December.

The musical extravaganza set to take the stage was a reincarnation of “The Legend of Toyland” production that took the stage at Northwest-Shoals Community College for three decades. Playwright Lanny McAlister retired the show after the 2011 performance – but when Hillary Hall and Chase Sparks approached him about doing a rewrite of the show for the Historic Roxy Theatre, they said he readily agreed.

Lanny McAlister’s “The Roxy’s Legend of Toyland” took the Roxy stage in downtown Russellville Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, with ten showings planned, including several performances set aside for schools.


2017 Watermelon Queen crown goes to Chloe Erin Brown

The annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival Beauty Pageant took place at the Russellville High School auditorium July 22 and produced this year’s Watermelon Queen. Chloe Erin Brown, a 2015 graduate of Phil Campbell High School, was declared the 2017 Watermelon Festival queen. As queen, she received a $500 scholarship and was responsible for awarding prizes and cutting the first watermelon at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Watermelon Festival.

Newspaper earns APA awards

The Franklin County Times brought home 15 awards in the 2017 Better Newspaper Contest and Advertising Contest through the Alabama Press Association.

The Better Newspaper Contest and Advertising Contest are statewide competitions in which Alabama newspapers are divided based on circulation and submit their best editorial and advertising publications for judging. The annual contests represent the highest recognition for Alabama newspapers.

The FCT earned first place Best Niche Publication for “Franklin Living,” as well as third place in Creative Use of Multimedia for “Franklin Living” and third place Best Magazine Periodical for the same. Additionally, the Franklin County Times took first place for Best Local Economic coverage, first place for Best Local Education coverage and third place for the First Amendment Award, given for the Times’ coverage of “Knowing Your Neighbors,” the annual sex offender special feature.

Three attempt FC jail escape

“It could have been worse” was the thought Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jordan Seahorn was left with following an attempted escape from the Franklin County Jail.

Three inmates, Scott Hawkins, 52, Russellville, Joshua Hollimon, 33, Russellville, and Tony Welborn, 34, Spruce Pine, forced their way past the jailer in a Sunday attempt to escape from the jail, Seahorn said. According to investigators, the jailer was letting Hollimon out to make a phone when, in what investigators said was clearly an orchestrated maneuver, Hawkins and Welborn also forced their way out of the cell, wrested the jailer’s Taser from her and also managed to procure a knife from a secured inmate property area.

Seahorn said the inmates took control of a computer used to access jail doors. The inmates were successful in opening the inner door, but the secondary outer door, Seahorn said, had to be operated by a different computer system. The inmates were unable to activate it – a safety measure, Seahorn said, that operated just the way it was supposed to in order to prevent just this sort of incident.

Inmates allegedly exited the inner door and were apparently going to try to force their way through the outer door when other jail personnel responded to the scene. At that point, according to investigators, Hawkins deployed the Taser at the oncoming officers but did not hit any of them. All three were taken back into custody.

CB&S Bank president, CEO retires

At the end of July, CB&S Bank President and CEO Dennis Upchurch traded in long hours at the bank for travel, bike rides and a slower pace of life, retiring from the bank after 29 years in his then-current role.

Upchurch came to CB&S Bank as president-elect in 1988 from Valley State Bank, which he had moved to Russellville to help organize.

The Bank announced Mike Ross, a native of Montgomery, as the new president and CEO.


State names FC Cattlemen’s Association largest in Alabama

The Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association chapter was named the largest in the state during the 2017 membership year, according to the state association.

Each county across Alabama is home to a Cattlemen’s chapter. Franklin County finished the year with 582 members, followed by Limestone (502 members) and Lauderdale (350 members). To honor this achievement, the ACA awarded an outdoor tent and a “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” banner for use at county events.

The Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association is led by President Steven Smith, Phil Campbell; Vice President Caleb Beason, Russellville; and Secretary/Treasurer Jack Hargett, Spruce Pine. The leadership team is also backed by an actively-involved board of directors.

Alison Bryant wins Distinguished Young Woman nod for FC

The annual Northwest Alabama Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program was held Aug. 5 at Norton Auditorium on the campus of The University of North Alabama. Franklin County’s 2018 Distinguished Young Woman is Alison Bryant.

Twenty-eight young women from Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale counties competed in the categories of scholastics, interviewing, fitness, talent and self-expression. One participant from each county was selected to represent her county at the state program, which will be held in January 2018.

Solar eclipse draws all eyes Monday

North Alabama was outside the “path of totality” for August’s solar eclipse, but that didn’t stop people across Franklin County from stepping outside to view the unique astronomical spectacle.

Students at Russellville City Schools were among those to witness the cosmic occurrence. Superintendent Heath Grimes called the eclipse “a great educational opportunity for our students.” The school system provided eclipse glasses, thanks to a donation, to all students.

Eclipse glasses were flying off the shelves across the nation, including at Russellville Public Library, where a free glasses giveaway drew people to line up down the block.


Russellville hosts AP Celebration

Since its beginnings in 2008, the A+ College Ready Program has massively impacted students’ lives, nowhere more so than in Alabama, which is No. 1 in percent growth in qualifying scores in Advanced Placement math, science and English.

Russellville High School has seen exemplary progress over the past three years from using the program. In 2017, students earned 60 qualifying scores. In honor of RHS’ growth, A+ College Ready recognized the school as a School of Excellence and chose it to be the location of a statewide AP Celebration Sept. 21. Students, faculty, staff and community members attended in support of RHS’ success.

G&G constructs for NASA

It’s not always common knowledge what local industries are doing and creating, but a recent project for G&G Steel garnered wide exposure, as the local industry completed a product for NASA through a contract with Dynetics. G&G Steel vice president Bret Gist said this is the first time the company has ever contracted with Dynetics on a project. The final product is a full-scale model of a Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage, called the Core Stage Pathfinder.

“The size of this project falls in line with many of the USACE projects we do that last about one and a half to two years,” Gist said. “This is a NASA project with a lot of attention.”

RCS ‘adopts’ victims in Lumberton, Texas

The entire Russellville City Schools system made an effort to provide relief to Hurricane Harvey victims by “adopting” the Lumberton Independent School District in Lumberton, Texas.

Superintendent Heath Grimes came up with the idea to “adopt” a school district to help. Grimes said he decided the best way to help would be to take up monetary donations that will be used to purchase gift cards to be given out to those affected by this tragedy.

Car crashes into Vina school

Vina High School received a shock Aug. 13. At approximately 2:15 p.m., a white Chevrolet Equinox crashed into the back of one of the classroom buildings.

The point of contact was the outside wall of first grade teacher Monyca Guinn’s classroom. Guinn happened to be in the room when the crash occurred. She said she heard a loud boom and thought it was an explosion. She dropped to the floor and hid under her desk. When she thought it was safe again, she peeked over her desk and saw the white car outside the window.

Senator highlights Constitution Day at Tharptown

Sen. Larry Stutts visited Tharptown High School in September to help the school celebrate Constitution Day. Stutts spoke to the 360-plus students who make up Tharptown High School about the importance of the Constitution and told some stories that don’t usually make it into history textbooks. He brought pocket Constitutions for the students and met with the school’s Student Government Association after the event was over. He spoke to the SGA about the importance of being good leaders in the school and in the community.

Tractor Supply opens in Russellville

Tractor Supply Company, located next to Foodland in Russellville, had its soft opening Sept. 30 and an invitation-only preview party Sept. 29. Mayor David Grissom and several council members were among those in attendance at the preview party showing support for the new business.


New inn, restaurant comes to downtown Russellville

Another step toward revitalizing Russellville’s downtown area got underway this year. The Bricks Inn and Restaurant began construction with expectations to be finished by December.

Trent and Michelle Stephenson are the owners of The Bricks, which gets its name from the interior exposed brick walls throughout the building.

Broadband interest meeting comes to Franklin County

A Broadband Meeting in Phil Campbell High School’s auditorium introduced Franklin residents to Steve Foshee, president and CEO of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative – a company with an original goal to get electricity to the rural areas of Marion, Lamar and Fayette counties. Today the company is actively working to bring high-speed, affordable Internet to rural citizens through fiber optic cables (what the company calls freedomFIBER), according to state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow. Morrow is part of the Franklin County Broadband Task Force, which has been leading the charge for affordable broadband in the county for several years.

Schools band together to help two families

It’s a rare sight to see mascots from opposing teams shaking hands and rallying together, but not quite as rare as the genetic disorders Xia-Gibbs and SIOD. The Muscle Shoals Trojan and the Phil Campbell Bobcat united in their efforts to boost support for three students dealing with these disorders, coming together Oct. 19 to kick off a fundraiser.

Students and faculty from both campuses joined together at Phil Campbell, after a separate event earlier at Muscle Shoals, to show support for these students who are afflicted with Xia-Gibbs and SIOD. Jackson Garrard, an eighth-grader at Phil Campbell, is one of only 32 children in the world diagnosed with Xia-Gibbs Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder caused by a single mutation in a gene.

Red Bay hosts MLB camp

Since 1996 the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association has hosted free youth baseball camps coached by former Major League baseball players. For the first time in 21 years, Alabama – more specifically, Red Bay – was the host of one.

Oct. 28, the first-ever Olan Cunningham Youth Baseball Camp took place in Red Bay. The camp’s namesake is former Red Bay Coach Olan Cunningham. State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow introduced the opportunity to Red Bay and also suggested the name of the camp.

Randy McGilberry, a member of the MLBPAA, was Morrow’s contact to bring Red Bay the opportunity to host such a monumental event. McGilberry is a former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.


Murder suspect in custody after 11 years

Eleven years ago Dionicio Bahena was shot multiple times outside of Greg’s Trailer Park on Franklin County Road 48. He died later that day. The suspect was Vincente Soto, who fled to Mexico after the incident occurred. Nov. 9 the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office took Soto into custody at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, after he was extradited from Mexico. “He fought the extradition for a while, but eventually it was granted,” an investigator said.

Author, Big Al visit Russellville library

The scent of freshly-popped popcorn filled the Russellville Public Library Nov. 10 as children and adults anxiously awaited the arrival of author Missy Richey and Big Al, the University of Alabama mascot.

Library director Ashley Cummins introduced Richey, a former kindergarten teacher of West Elementary School in Russellville. Richey is now a second- and third-grade teacher at The Capitol School in Tuscaloosa. Those students helped Richey illustrate her book, “Big Al, Big Al, What Do You See?”

Richey said she doesn’t get the chance to do a lot of events like the one at the library because of her teaching career, but she was excited to be back in Russellville for this opportunity.

Big Al made his entrance as the crowd finished up a big “Roll Tide Roll!” He sat on the floor for hugs, jokes and pictures with the children. Richey and Big Al took the time to sign copies of Richey’s book.

NW-SCC President Humphrey Lee announces retirement

Northwest-Shoals Community College President Humphrey Lee announced he will retire Dec. 31 after leading the college for the past 14 years.

Lee turned 66 earlier this month and will finish his 14th year as president of NW-SCC in December. Prior to his time at NW-SCC, he served more than 29 years at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Lee holds a doctorate in higher education administration, master’s degree in counseling and guidance and bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Alabama.

Phil Campbell teacher receives award

One Phil Campbell High School student, Justin Branch, decided it was time one of his teachers was recognized for her hard work and dedication to her students and the school. As a part of his efforts, English teacher Susan Holt received the Tools for Teachers award from WHNT Channel 19 News.

The Tools for Teachers award is given out weekly by the news station and, according to their website, is based on the teacher’s ability to make learning interesting and thought-provoking; face challenges with ingenuity and enthusiasm; and demonstrate a willingness to take action and get results for his or her students.

PCES fourth grade receives unique opportunity

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season made it into the fourth-grade classrooms of Phil Campbell Elementary School the week after Thanksgiving as students prepared for a special field trip. More than 100 ornaments and 50 T-shirts were made by the students in just three days. Nov. 30 they donned the special shirts, loaded up the handcrafted ornaments and headed to the Alabama state capital.

PCES students had a special role to play upon arriving at the capitol building. The school had received a call Nov. 21 asking them to visit the capitol and decorate one of the Christmas trees there, according to Principal Jackie Ergle.

Their ornaments now bedeck a 7.5-foot tree in the capitol, one of four trees that were decorated by selected groups.


Red Bay Pharmacy celebrates opening

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new business into its fold, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Dec. 1. Bill and Donna Weatherford have opened Red Bay Pharmacy after spending a year reconstructing the building’s interior.

KFC Foundation selects three RHS students for scholarships

This year, 500 restaurant employees at KFC restaurants across the country received a combined $1.2 million in college tuition assistance from the Kentucky Fried Chicken Foundation – including three students who work at the Russellville location.

Through a competitive selection process, Russellville High School students Allyson Deras, Amanda Antunez and Karem Bailon-Luna were chosen as winners via the REACH Educational Grant Program, and each received $2,000 for the 2018-19 academic year.

RCS celebrates five decades of creativity

The City of Russellville marked the 50th year of art in Russellville City Schools. As Mayor David Grissom said in his official proclamation Dec. 4, “Throughout the years, the students have had many opportunities to showcase their talent.”

Grissom signed said proclamation for the Russellville Middle School art students and art teacher Melissa Grissom at city hall as part of a special field trip. The students were invited to city hall to eat lunch and view the tree that stands in the lobby of city hall – which was decorated by hand-painted ornaments the students made themselves.

The proclamation recognized that 2017 marks the 50th year RCS has had an art program and declared Dec. 4 as Russellville Middle School Art Day and Dec. 5 as Russellville High School Art Day.

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