Local News Articles

WJLE Mourns the Passing of Dr. W.E. "Doc" Vanatta

August 19, 2010
Dwayne Page
Dr. W.E. "Doc" Vanatta
Dr. W.E. Vanatta Receiving TAB Award in May 2008

He was not one of the familiar voices you heard on WJLE everyday. He never hosted a dee jay show, never served as a play by play announcer for any local sporting events, and never recorded a commercial, but he was a pioneer in local broadcasting.

Today, we at WJLE mourn the loss of Dr. W.E "Doc" Vanatta, the 91 year old founder, former owner and President of WJLE, who passed away Thursday morning at his residence.

The funeral will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Larry Green will officiate and burial will be at DeKalb Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Friday from noon until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at Love-Cantrell Funeral home and from noon until 2:00 p.m. at the church.

Dr. Vanatta was a Chiropractor and a member of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Dr. Vanatta was ordained as an Elder in 1950 and he had been an assistant Sunday School Superintendent since 1947 and a Sunday School teacher at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was one of the first members appointed to serve as director on the Smithville Electric System board when the utility was established in 1969 and he remained an active member and Vice Chairman until his death. He was also a talented musician.

Dr. Vanatta was preceded in death by his parents, Jasper and Amanda Elizabeth Estes Vanatta and his first wife, Louise Corley Vanatta. He is survived by his wife, Nell Vanatta of McMinnville. Two daughters and sons-in-law, Jeanne and Donnie Foutch of Old Hickory and Mary and Oscar Boyd of Smithville. Two step-sons, James Timothy and wife Ruth White of Atlanta, Georgia and Gerald Harvey and wife Charlene White of Georgia. Step-daughter, Marilyn and husband Tom Angelo of California. Two granddaughters, Renee and husband Eric Renner of Alabama and Robin and husband Jeremy Mahlow of Knoxville. Five great grandchildren, Camden and Mark Renner of Alabama, Eleanor, John and Oliver Mahlow of Knoxville. Special caregivers, Sherry Brannon, Linda Stahl, Ashley Beth Hobbs, Tammy King, Martha Fults, Rhonda Peet, and Mina Lyons.

Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. The family requests that donations be made to the Lighthouse Christian Camp and Gideon Bibles in lieu of flowers.

Dr. Vanatta was one of the original owners of WJLE, which was established in 1964, and he remained an owner until 2007 when he sold his interest to fellow partner and co-owner Leon Stribling.

In a 2001 interview with the Smithville Review, Dr. Vanatta explained how he helped bring DeKalb County's one and only radio station to Smithville. "I looked around in the early 1960s and saw we didn't have a radio station in Smithville and I thought, why not? I didn't know much about it, but I had some friends knowledgeable in radio and I assembled those together and we went on the air in April 1964".

In addition to Dr. Vanatta, the other original owners were Franklin H. (Chick) Brown, Aaron and Hal Durham, Dr. C.H. Cope, and Herman Spivey. After the original owners wanted to pursue other avenues, Dr. Vanatta rounded up several prominent local business and civic leaders to buy the station, including W.H. Smith, Jack Smith, McAllen Foutch, Dr. N.R. Atnip, John Bill Evins, and James Herndon. Many of them served on the WJLE board of directors until 1987 when Dr. Vanatta and Stribling bought all of the company's shares.

Dwayne Page, Station Manager, said Dr. Vanatta loved WJLE and it will always be part of his legacy. "Dr. Vanatta loved this station as if it were one of his own children and he took great pride in it's service to the community that he also loved. He enjoyed creating part time jobs for people, a lot of them high school aged students who got their first taste of broadcasting here. The names of them all are too numerous to mention. Some furthered their education in communication and went on to work in radio and television in larger markets. Some chose other fields after their time here. Others, as Doc would often say jokingly, went to "oblivion".

"I will never forget the first day I met Dr. Vanatta in November, 1979. Ralph Vaughn, who was manager at the time hired me but wanted me to meet Dr. Vanatta. After shaking hands with him and exchanging pleasantries, Dr Vanatta looked at me and asked, "Can you Read"?

Doc had a sense of humor and would often jokingly admonish us to always adhere to his credo to "stay on the air", stay in the black (financially), report the news and not make or become the news, and never get scooped by the weekly newspapers."

"Dr. Vanatta did not seek praise for himself but I was very glad to see him honored during the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters 60th Anniversary Gala in Nashville in May, 2008. He received the association's Lifetime Membership Award."

"The award is presented to distinguished broadcasters who have committed to a lifetime of learning, observing, and growing with the industry"

"Although he had sold the station three years ago and had been in failing health in recent months, we still kept in touch and he would sometimes stop by to visit us at WJLE. During our visits, he would often reminisce about good times we had all shared together over the years and reflect on his efforts to always keep the station up to date with the changing technology. After being in the business so long, he missed it when he left."

Born on September 20th, 1918 to William Jasper and Bessie Amanda Estes Vanatta, Willius Eugene Vanatta or "Doc", as he was affectionately known, never knew his father who was originally from Alexandria.

His father had contracted the flu while in the army and passed away. Dr. Vanatta was 10 days old when he attended his father's funeral.

Vanatta grew up in Smithville and graduated from DeKalb County High School in 1937. Thinking he wanted to be an engineer, he attended Tennessee Technological College in Cookeville. But he later changed his mind and decided to become a Chiropractor, so he went to Illinois where he graduated in 1942 from the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. He practiced with Dr. C.H. (Clyde) Cope in McMinnville for about six months after graduation, then went into the Navy during World War II.

Vanatta, in his Smithville Review interview, recalled his time in the service, " I stayed on an aircraft carrier for 27 months in the Pacific. This aircraft carrier was involved in 10 major engagements and two typhoons. The typhoons were worse than the naval engagements because the typhoons lasted 36 hours and torpedo attacks or kamikaze didn't last but a few minutes. We survived two typhoons, the Phillipines in 1944 and Okinawa in 1945. That was a harrowing experience. That was one time I thought I'd never see DeKalb County again."

After serving in the Navy for four years, he returned to practice with Dr. Cope in 1946 and continued to practice until his retirement in 2000. From 1946 until 1992, Dr. Vanatta's office was in the Walling Arcade in McMinnville. In 1990, Dr. Jeffrey McKinley joined him in practice. In 1992, they relocated the practice to 604 North Chancery Street in McMinnville. Although his office was in McMinnville, Dr. Vanatta would occasionally treat a patient at his home in Smithville.

Dr. McKinley said Dr. Vanatta had been a mentor to him even before he began his practice." He gave me the opportunity to begin my career and has continued to support me. I often time joke with patients that ask about him that Dr. Vanatta stops by the office from time to time just to make sure I am doing it right."

"Dr. Vanatta was always learning and asking questions. Whether it was about chiropractic, computers, or the internet, he was always learning. I was amazed at the anatomy and physiology facts that he could remember."

"On a more personal note, there are two things that he would always do with my girls when they were young and come to visit him at the office. He would keep gum in his desk that came in a long roll, and would let them unroll a piece."

"What he would do that would keep both him and my girls entertained was to place a piece of tape on the back of their hand and leave a length of the tape hanging. My daughter would reach and grab the tape, and pull it off of her hand. But then it was stuck to her finger, so she would pull it off her finger with the other hand. Now it was stuck to another finger. This would go on and on with my daughter giggling and Dr. Vanatta giggling right along with them. This would keep both of them entertained until the "sticky" wore off."

Dr. Vanatta inspired and influenced many people in his 91 years. Perhaps none so much as Ralph Vaughn, former WJLE Station Manager, who worked with him during the 1960's, 70's and through 1985.

Vaughn recently reflected on his time here at WJLE and his association with Dr. Vanatta. "There were many people who greatly influenced me during my 21-year career in radio broadcasting. But, Dr. W.E. Vanatta, whom most of us called "Doc", was the most influential. I really got acquainted with Doc during the almost 15-years that I managed WJLE; from 1971 until mid-1985. He was my boss, but more importantly, he became a friend and a confidant.

Doc was a steady-hand in guiding me during those years; along with direction from the entire WJLE Board of Directors. He was the president. It was Doc that I could really talk to; man to man, heart to heart. He would always listen to my point of view, never condescending or raising his voice. In his always-soft spoken manner, he would express his point of view, never making me feel rejected even when his opinion differed from mine.

During those 15-years while working almost hand-in-hand, Doc and I discussed practically everything from business, politics, personal issues, religion, to the humor found in daily living. He even gave me chiropractic adjustments at his home.

I remember the day, almost like it was yesterday, that I told Doc I would be leaving WJLE to pursue an opportunity with a radio station in Murfreesboro. Tears welled up in his eyes as he responded with, "What would it take to get you to stay? We've given you almost everything at WJLE, except the deed to the property. I would sell you some of my stock if you want it, even finance it for you, because I know that you have always wanted to own a part of WJLE."

In closing, I can honestly say I have never met a man that I believe was more representative of a Christian than Doc. I believe that he personally knew and followed closely in the steps of our Lord Jesus. His integrity, his character, his conversations, and his manner in dealing with others were always on the "high road".

"Doc, in my opinion, was a man among men; someone to model as a mentor, and someone I could count on if needed. I thank God and Dr. W.E. Vanatta for all the sweet memories."

Dennis Stanley, another former WJLE employee and now Administrator of Elections, also remembers Dr. Vanatta fondly. "'Doc was a first class citizen. He was very loyal to the people who worked for him and was always fair and honest. He genuinely cared for people. The time I spent at WJLE in the mid to late 1970s was some of the most enjoyable times in my life. His community and civic contributions may not have always been highly visible, but many of us know firsthand just how much the town will miss him and his service."

Tom Duggin began working at WJLE while still in high school. Today, as editor of the DeKalb County Times, Duggin gives credit to Dr. Vanatta for giving him his start in this business. "Dr. W.E. Vanatta has been a pillar of this community for many years; one that may not always be recognized for what he has done, but one who has done a tremendous amount of work not only for the community itself, but for the citizens who live here. His vision, along with those who worked with him to found WJLE Radio in 1964, brought this community a resource that we have all come to depend on as part of our daily lives.

"On a personal note, I owe a vast amount of credit and thanks to Dr. Vanatta for helping me become the person I am today, both personally and professionally. His willingness to take a chance on a 16-year-old high school kid several years ago led me into a field of work that I have had the opportunity to enjoy for a number of years now. He was more than a friend, but like family to all who have known and worked for him. He will be deeply missed."

Dale Carroll, a current employee of WJLE, remembers Dr. Vanatta as a caring and generous man. "Doc Vanatta was a friend to a lot of people including myself. He gave me a job when I needed one. He was a very kind and caring person. I recall a time when I was in the hospital in Smithville and he came twice to visit me and offered anything he could to help me. It was the encouragement he gave me that mattered the most and I'm thankful to him for that."

"I recall the many emails he sent me. Many of them were funny little jokes
but most of them were of a political nature."

"Many times when he would come by the station for a visit, he'd come back to the control room where I was and lean against the console and tell me how much he appreciated me and sometimes hand me a $20 bill. He'd say this is just a little extra for you, for doing a good job."

"I miss you Doc. And the good thing is, I'll see you again someday", said Carroll

Kathy Crouch, traffic director for WJLE, remembers how Dr. Vanatta welcomed her to the staff in November, 1991. "When I was hired by Dr. Vanatta he said that WJLE employees were a team. I remember him saying, you don't work for me, you work with me, and he always made you feel that way. Doc came by the station almost every day. Sometimes he only stayed for 30 minutes or so and other times, he sat and talked for an hour or two. I got to know him very well. He was a kind man, intelligent, and also very funny. He was one of a kind and he will never be replaced. Doc, for all the advice you gave me, all the times you cheered me up when I was sad, and for being not an employer but a friend, I love you and I will miss you."

Dana Cantrell, the last employee at WJLE hired by Dr. Vanatta , says he values the short time he worked for him. " I was looking for a job and got a call from Ricky Arnold, a WJLE employee at the time, letting me know that they were looking for someone. I applied and spoke with Dwayne and Dr. Vanatta, and as it turns out I was the last person hired before Dr. Vanatta left the station, as owner. Although my time knowing Dr. Vanatta was short, I will always be grateful to him for his valuable advice and encouragement. He was kind and courteous and cared about all the employees who worked for him."

Dora Estes, another WJLE employee and a relative of Dr. Vanatta, also shared a few memories. "Until November 1991 when I started working for WJLE on a part-time basis, Doc was Gene to me as he was the oldest grandchild of William and Dora Estes and I was the youngest. During the years prior to that, Doc was the cousin that taught the Wednesday night Bible study I attended, the elder who served communion along with my father, and the neighbor that my father loved to visit. After I began working at WJLE, he became Doc to me as he was to all of the other employees. He was a good and fair boss and was open to all of the latest technology. He and I went to McMinnville to buy the first computer and software for the station. After this purchase, he bought the first of many personal computers as he loved the Internet and the knowledge that he would have access to it. "

"After I started working at WJLE, I realized just how much Doc was like my father. I told him that again recently when I visited with him and said that this was the highest honor I could pay him. "

Dr. Vanatta was a man of faith, a deeply religious man. For many years, he was an active member of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church. E.H. Denman, Jr., a former minister there, said Doc was always very supportive of him and the church. ‘When I first came (in 1973) he let me know that anything I wanted to do, he was confident that he could stand behind me and help do it and he did all the way through my years here. I found out that he was the most influential man in the church but that he wanted to do what was good for the church. He always agreed with me on what I felt was good and I usually always agreed with him. When it came to raising money for buying property and building a building that we built and a lot of things like that, he would always say,"make me chairman of the finance committee because I'm going to give a considerable amount of money and I'll tell a couple of other men in the church that are able to give and this will enhance their giving so let me be chairman of the finance committee". He said "I want to work with you every way I can" and he was very cooperative with me. And in the session meetings, I felt like he was very willing to cooperate with everybody else too. He was just good natured and a good man who was very faithful to the church, very faithful to his friends, just a good solid man you could count on who wanted to do the right thing and the thing that was best for the church and best for the community."

In addition to his involvement with the radio station, Dr. Vanatta served his community in other ways. Both he and John Robert Nixon were among the very first men appointed to serve as directors on the Smithville Electric System board when the utility was established in 1969 and over the past 41 years both men have remained on the board with Mr. Nixon serving as chairman for the entire 41 years and Dr. Vanatta as Vice Chairman for 40 years. They were recently honored by SES for their service to the city and the utility.

In reflecting on his service to Smithville Electric, Nixon said Dr. Vanatta always had the best interest of the utility at heart. "We have worked very closely together and I have always found Dr. Vanatta to be one of the finest, honest, caring persons that I have ever come into contact with. He was an excellent board member and for the right purpose which was good service, at the lowest price. He was always for the right thing. He did not care for accolades for himself or for anybody except the people of Smithville. He was very concerned about people that was less fortunate than some of the rest of us. I think he was a complete man, an honest person. A person who had integrity. If he couldn't help you, he certainly would not harm you in any way. I don't know of anybody in all of these years that I have been associated with Dr. Vanatta that has ever said a bad word about him. He was always very positive. He was honest as the day is long and would do anything for anybody that he could."

"When we started Smithville Electric System all we got was a debt and a manager. We didn't get any frills of any type. Money was tight. We had to borrow an extra quarter of a million dollars before we ever got this thing going back then. They had an old typewriter in the office that was terrible. They needed to buy a typewriter. It was only going to cost three hundred to four hundred dollars. I remember Dr. Vanatta saying to the office staff, if you need a typewriter, then you need to get a typewriter, but we've only got a limited amount of money so you had better prioritize whatever that is because we can't buy two or three things, we'll just have to buy one thing at a time. That's where we started. We just didn't have enough money hardly to get along. In fact, the city let us have an old wore out police car for the manager to drive around over town. I give Dr. Vanatta a lot of credit for the success of Smithville Electric. He was my good friend and I'll certainly miss him."

Dr. Vanatta loved music and was a talented musician. Donnie Kelly, former minister at the Smithville Church of God remembers Doc's musical abilities with the saxophone.

"When you think about "Doc" as most referred to him, you think about a devoted Christian, a student of God's word, a family man, a successful business man, a good neighbor and friend. When you think about Doc you think about a caring doctor who would go out of his way to care for his patients. Certainly Doc is to be remembered in each of these ways. However, I was privileged to know him in a way that many did not. I knew him as a skilled and talented musician."

"I will never forget the day when Doc met me at the Smithville Church of God to rehearse for a performance at a special fellowship gathering at The Presbyterian Church. He had asked me if I would accompany him on the keyboard. He came into the church carrying a case that had seen a few years. When he took the saxophone out of the case it was obvious that the instrument was not new. I did notice how carefully he held it and even took a cloth out of the case to wipe it down. A special appreciation was visible as he held the instrument. After tuning up, Doc blew a few notes and I immediately began to appreciate how well he could play. He told me that he had not played in a while but it didn't take long before melodious sounds of music filled the church. After that day Doc and I played many times together: church fellowships, revivals, senior activities and sometimes just when we could find the time to jam."

"I was able to learn and appreciate some very outstanding attributes about Doc during those times. He loved music. Maybe that was the reason for his ownership of WJLE. He always gave his best. He always wanted to rehearse until he felt we were prepared to perform. Doc never did anything in a haphazard way. If we ever did mess up (how could we with all the practice) he would just laugh. He was never selfish. He would always insist that I would play a verse or two even when it was his show. Doc was like that. He loved doing things he felt would bring pleasure and enjoyment to other people. With all the great memories I have, I guess the most memorable is after we would play one of those beautiful Christian songs: "He Touched Me", "Amazing Grace", or "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", Doc would just hold that old saxophone and you knew that the music had come from his heart in worship. His music had just expressed his love for his Lord."

"My life was touched and inspired by this great man and his many talents. Doc was my musical friend."

DeKalb School System Gets Two New Buses

August 18, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeKalb School Transportation Manager Peggy Pursell
School Transportation Foreman Orlando Guzman pictured with New School Bus
School Transportation Foreman Orlando Guzman  with New School Bus

The DeKalb County School System has two new buses in the fleet.

Peggy Pursell, Transportation Manager, says one them is a 54 passenger bus which will serve as a special education/regular ed bus on routes in the Holmes Creek/Cookeville Highway areas while the other is a 90 passenger, which will replace a 78 passenger bus on a route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area.

The new buses, which were ordered earlier this year, have just arrived. According to Pursell,the special ed bus (#42) has already passed inspection and is now ready for the road while bus #24 is to be inspected and should be in service by later this week. "I'm glad we've got them. We ordered them in March. We've been waiting for them and we're just real fortunate to have them. Bus #11-42 is our special ed bus and we certainly were needing that bus because the one we're taking off the road has been on for several years. The air conditioner had gone out on that bus so we really needed this new bus. It's (#11-42) is the biggest special ed bus we've got now. It's a 54 passenger and it came equipped with temporary seats that we can set out with the tracks for the wheelchairs. So we can take seats out, put seats in as we need to. Right now we have one wheel chair on that bus so we took two seats out to accommodate that one wheel chair. We had to get that sized bus (54 passenger) because this bus is doing double duty as a special ed bus and a regular ed bus. Karen Adkins will be driving that bus (#11-42) and Freda Johnson is the aid assistant. All our special ed buses have aid assistants on them to care for the children."

Pursell says the new 90 passenger bus is larger than the one it is replacing, but since these buses are good for up to fifteen years, it can accommodate more students should there be more growth in population. "Bus #11-24 is a 90 passenger and it will run the route in the Blue Springs/Bethel area. Melissa Hicks will be driving that bus. We had a 78 passenger bus on that route but we replaced it with this 90 passenger bus because our county is growing and we want to be ready for it. This is also a fifteen year bus. In fact all these new buses we're ordering have to last fifteen years so we want to be ready for our routes to grow when more people move into our county."

Before they are put into service, Pursell says all buses are checked out at the school bus garage and then they must undergo a state inspection. "All buses have to be inspected before we put them on the road. Our shop foreman, Mr. Orlando (Guzman) inspects them first and then we get the tags, registration and everything on them. I then call Mr. Ronnie McBride who is our state inspector. He comes and makes sure everything is right on the buses and puts the state sticker on them that says these buses are ready to roll. Then we can put them on the road."

Pursell adds that more new buses will be ordered next year. "In January we will be getting specs together to order new buses. We order every year in order not to have a situation where we have to order a whole lot of buses in one year, because if you do you've got a bad situation."

The two buses being taken out of daily service can still be used as substitute buses until they turn fifteen years old. Then they have to be retired from service.

The school system has a total of forty five buses in the fleet including substitute buses to run about thirty routes in the county. Five of the buses are classified as special education buses.

Happy Days Celebration Saturday for Habitat for Humanity

August 17, 2010
Dwayne Page
Habitat for Humanity Happy Days Celebration Committee

A Happy Days Celebration to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is set for Saturday downtown.

Ralph Vaughn, one of the organizers of the event, says the day's activities will include a classic car show, lots of music, fun things for kids to enjoy, and a sock hop, among others. "We have three major reasons for doing this event. To celebrate the completion of the newest home on Hayes Street. To recognize and further promote the idea that Habitat for Humanity is truly important in any community. To raise some money for the continuation financially of the program and we're hoping to raise several thousands of dollars this coming Saturday."

"A lot of the entertainment is free. There will be a modest $5.00 registration fee for those who participate in the classic car contest and there will be a $5.00 donation to go to the sock hop that evening."

"We've got something for practically everybody from about 2:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Saturday. In fact, the whole festivity kicks off at two o'clock with the car show. Imagine about seventy classic antique automobiles around the public square downtown. We'll have an opening ceremony at two o'clock. Members of the DCHS marching band will be performing on the square. They will kick off the ceremony."

"We'll have an outside stage which will be on the east steps of the courthouse. We'll also have an inside stage at the 303 building on the north side of the public square. So at two o'clock we'll have the opening ceremony outside with the DCHS band performing. At two thirty p.m. on the outside stage, we'll have a Garth Brooks tribute artist performing. He'll perform for about thirty minutes and then at three o'clock outside we'll have a Frank Sinatra tribute artist performing. And then at three thirty until five thirty p.m. outside we'll have a combination of many artists performing country, rock n roll, jazz and blues. Then from five thirty until six p.m., the famous Nokes brothers bluegrass band will be performing. All of this will be outside during the car show."

"During the afternoon, fun things will be available outside for children of all ages, including inflatables, slides, jumps, a train, etc."

"Inside in the 303 building starting at two thirty p.m. we'll have a youth dance group performing. From three until four p.m., there'll be a variety of music including country, jazz, blues, etc. At four o'clock inside, the Nokes brothers will be featured and then from four thirty until six o'clock inside Garth Brooks and Frank Sinatra tribute artists will be performing. Around six o‘clock we'll bring the festivities to a momentary halt and recognize the Habitat volunteers who have been working on the home. We will be ceremonially passing the key to the new homeowner and recognize the top car owners in the classic car show. Then at seven o'clock, we'll be inside the 303 building for the opening of a 1950's sock hop. A group called "Debi and the Doo Wops" from Lebanon will be performing for thirty minutes from seven until seven thirty p.m. Then at seven thirty we'll have two professional dancers who will demonstrate the real way you're supposed to do the bop and other dances of the 1950's and 60's. We'll be having dance contests, hula hoop contests, an old fashion pie supper and cake walk, a LIVE auction, etc."

Entertainment schedule:
Outside Stage:

2:00 – Opening Ceremony

2:10 – DeKalb County High School Band (the only performance at this time)

2:30 – Garth Brooks tribute

3:00 – Frank Sinatra tribute

3:30 until 5:30 – A variety of artists performing Country, Rock, Jazz and Blues

5:30 until 6:00 – Nokes Brothers (Bluegrass Band)

NOTE: Inflatable toys and games for children in downtown during the entire afternoon.

Inside Stage -- 303 Building:

2:30 – Youth Dance Group

3:00 until 4:00 – A variety of artists performing Country, Jazz and Blues

4:00 – Nokes Brothers (Bluegrass Band)

4:30 until 6:00 p.m. – Garth Brooks tribute and Frank Sinatra tribute artist

6:00 until 6:30 – Closing ceremonies on the outside stage with recognition of Habitat Volunteers, presenting keys to the home owner and honoring the top Classic Car owners.

7:00 until 7:30 – Sock Hop begins in the 303 Building with Debi & the Doo-Wops performing

7:30 until 9:00 – dance contests, hula hoop competition, cake walks, live auction, concessions and more.

(Photo -- Left to Right – standing in front of the newest Habitat home on Hayes Street in Smithville:
Billy Joe Cripps, antique car owner
Wanda Wallace, Suzanne Williams, Ken Robinson, Ralph Vaughn and Sharon Evans, committee members for Happy Days Celebration. Not pictured: Phillip (Fluty) Cantrell
Dwain Young, antique car owner)

Student Enrollment More than 3,000 in DeKalb School System-Up Over This time Last Year

August 17, 2010
Dwayne Page
Clay Farler

Student attendance is up in the DeKalb County School System after the first ten days of school compared to the same time period last year.

Clay Farler, Attendance Supervisor, says more than three thousand students are currently enrolled system wide, an increase of from fifty to one hundred students over last year. "All the schools have more students at this point in the year than they did last year. We had a large kindergarten class to register this year and also in pre-kindergarten we've had more qualifying pre-k applicants this year that registered on the first day of school than we have ever had so we're full in those rooms. Of course we have four pre-k classrooms at Smithville Elementary School and each of those (classrooms) has twenty students. We have one pre-k classroom at DeKalb West School and that room also has twenty students. We have one hundred pre-k students just in our regular program."

"At the high school at the present time, we have approximately 836 students, which is quite a bit above what we were at this time last year. We had 815 students on the tenth day of school last year."

"At DeKalb Middle School, we're also up. We're up more there than at any other school and part of this has to do with the size of the grades going from school to school. At a school you might have a smaller number in a grade leaving that school and a larger number in a grade coming into that school. This year at the Middle School we're showing 544 students. Last year, on the tenth day there were 509 students."

"We're up a little at Northside Elementary. We have a very large fourth grade at Northside and overall right now they're at 607 students, which is about eleven more than they had at this time last year. They had 596 last year."

"At Smithville Elementary School we're up quite a bit. Like I said, we had a large kindergarten class to enroll and we're at approximately 613 there now, although that's probably a little bit higher than the actual final number will be there. But even at that, it's about thirty more than last year at this time."

"At DeKalb West School, we're up a few students there. We've been growing at DeKalb West School for the last couple of years. Last year at the West School, they were up quite a bit from the previous years. This year we're up again by about ten or twelve students there. They've got somewhere between 430 and 440 students."

"Overall we have over three thousand students and last year at this time we were showing 2942. The year before that there were 2992. Now we're over three thousand. Probably around 3,040. So we're quite a bit over last year and the year prior to that."

Hill Makes Brief Court Appearance on Violation of Probation Charges

August 16, 2010
Dwayne Page
Craig Hill

38 year old Craig Anthony Hill, charged with aggravated robbery of Liberty State Bank in Liberty on August 3rd, made a brief court appearance in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday for violation of probation, but the case was continued until September 20th.

The violation of probation against Hill apparently stems from a sentence he received earlier this year in which he was to be on probation for a term of four years.

On Monday, March 22nd Hill appeared in criminal court and pleaded guilty to burglary, theft over $1,000, forgery, and two counts of theft under $500. He received a two year sentence on the burglary charge, suspended to supervised probation after serving 120 days. He was given credit for time served. Hill also received a two year sentence for theft over $1,000 on DOC probation. Hill received a one year sentence on DOC probation in the forgery case and a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on probation in each of the theft under $500 cases. Almost all the sentences were to run concurrently.

In the burglary and theft, Hill and another man, Eddie LeRoy Taylor were charged with breaking into a tool trailer at 340 Floyd Drive on November 17th, 2008, taking bolt cutters and cutting the lock off the trailer and then removing items totaling approximately $2,800 in value including several Dewalt drills, Dewalt skil saw, and Dewalt router.

Hill was arrested again on July 8th, 2009 for theft of property over $500 and forgery. Hill allegedly took jewelry from a residence on Hurricane Ridge Road without the owners consent and sold it to a local jewelry dealer. Hill also allegedly took checks belonging to the victim and forged them on June 29th and June 30th, 2009 in amounts totaling $313

The warrant against Hill for violating his probation was taken by probation supervisor Jessie Rucker on August 4th, 2010. Hill is accused of violating his probation in that he "has not provided any proof of employment, is no longer living at the last reported address, has not reported to his probation officer as instructed and has not provided the correct address and contact information, and he currently owes $5,085 in court costs/restitution" which he has agreed to pay but has not."

Hill will make his first General Sessions Court appearance on the aggravated robbery charge on Thursday, August 19th. He remains incarcerated under a $100,000 bond for aggravated robbery and he is being held without bond on the violation of probation charges.

In other cases, 44 year old Eddie LeRoy Taylor pleaded guilty to five charges of passing a forged instrument and received a suspended sentence of two years each case to run consecutively with each other and consecutive to other sentences in DeKalb, Rutherford, and Warren County. He will be on good behavior probation. Taylor was given jail credit for 567 days from January 26th, 2009 to August 16th, 2010.

20 year old Timothy Walker pleaded guilty to worthless check over $1,000. He received a two year suspended sentence. He must perform 100 hours of community service, make restitution of $3,500 to the victim, and pay $150 to the economic crime fund. He will receive the bike upon complete payment of restitution.

42 year old Michael Lawlor pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended except for 48 hours to serve. Lawlor will be on supervised probation. He will lose his license for one year and he must pay a fine of $360. Lawlor must also complete and alcohol safety education program.

32 year old Lavar Bass pleaded guilty to a second offense of driving on a revoked license. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days. He will be on supervised probation and he must pay a fine of $50. Bass was given jail credit of 78 days

26 year old Ryan L. Walden pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and received a two year sentence on probation. He was given credit for time served from March 1st to August 16th, 2010

48 year old Berna Dean Barnes pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended except for 45 days to serve. She will lose her license for one year and she must pay a fine of $360. The sentence will run concurrently with a DeKalb County violation of probation case against her.

Hilton Conger Re-appointed Smithville Municipal Judge

August 16, 2010
Dwayne Page
Hilton Conger

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night re-appointed Incumbent City Judge Hilton Conger to a new two year term, effective September 1st. The vote was 5-0.

Conger's current two year term expires August 31st.

Conger's salary as City Judge is $1,000 per month.

The Municipal Court, up until 2002, had the same jurisdiction in city criminal cases as the General Sessions Court, and the City Judge held court several times each month with the City Attorney serving as Prosecutor.

After changes were made in the City Charter, the City Court's jurisdiction was reduced to mostly minor traffic offenses and city ordinance violations. The court now convenes usually once per month.

The City Judge, previously elected by city voters to an eight year term, now serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, appointed to a two year term.

Conger was last elected as City Judge in 1998. He was named to his first appointed term in 2006 and re-appointed in 2008.

The changes in the City Charter, regarding the City Court, came following a State Attorney General's opinion in the fall of 2001 that only the District Attorney General and his staff had the responsibility of prosecuting state criminal action in municipal courts.

In other business, the aldermen voted 5-0 to employ Riley Bullard as a full time employee in the sanitation department now that he has completed a 60 day probationary period since his initial hiring on June 7th at $9.33 per hour. His pay will increase to $10.66 per hour.

The aldermen have delayed passage of the new budget again. Mayor Taft Hendrixson said another workshop is needed in preparation. "We're still kinda trying to tweak the budget a little bit on a wage scale revision and we need to have another workshop on the budget so we can get it passed as quickly as possible. We may have to call a special meeting."

The aldermen voted to have the workshop on Monday, August 23rd at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

Mayor Hendrixson also briefed the aldermen on a news release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation announcing approval of an aeronautics grant in the amount of $46,308 for the Smithville Municipal Airport. "We put in for a grant, I believe the total expenditure was $61,000 for airport maintenance equipment including a tractor, bushhog, and mowers."

Mayor Hendrixson said the grant funds will be put to good use. "There's a lot of maintenance at that airport. We mow 75 feet of runway and it's 4100 feet long, and 75 feet on each side figures over 15 acres, just the sides of the runway, that doesn't include anything else. If we spend $61,000 and get $46,000 back, that's a bargain."

The aldermen voted to accept the grant.

The following is the TDOT news release about the grant:

Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that an aeronautics grant in the amount of $46,308 has been approved for the Smithville Municipal Airport in DeKalb County.

"From moving people to moving freight, the airports in Tennessee are vital pieces of the state's overall economy and travel system," said Bredesen. "Tennessee's airports are often the front doors to our communities, welcoming visitors from across the globe, so it's important to keep them up to date in order to stay competitive and efficient at meeting the needs of both businesses and travelers."

Funds from this aeronautics grant will be used for the purchase of the new grounds maintenance equipment.

The grants are made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division.

"This division administers federal and state funding to assist in the location, design, construction and maintenance of Tennessee's diverse public aviation system," reported TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "We are pleased to be able to provide millions of dollars each year for the betterment of our airports through these grant programs."

Except for routine expenditures, grant applications are reviewed by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC), which is a five member board charged with policy planning and with regulating changes in the state airport system plan.

TAC Chair Fred Culbreath explained, "As Tennessee's communities continue to grow, the airports must keep pace. These grants are vital to many airports in Tennessee and our board examines the applications carefully to ensure the proper state and local matching funds are in place and that the grants will be put to good use."

The TDOT Aeronautics Division has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing the state's 126 heliports and 75 public/general aviation airports. The Division also provides aircraft and related services for state government and staffing for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.

Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver helped secure these funds for the Smithville Municipal Airport.

Sparta Bail Bonding Barred from Making Bonds in 13th Judicial District

August 16, 2010
Dwayne Page
District Attorney General Randy York

The Sparta Bail Bonding Company can no longer make bonds anywhere in the 13th Judicial District including DeKalb County.

The company had been accused of using unlicensed agents to make bonds in Putnam County and Judge Leon Burns, Jr. issued the ruling last week following a hearing over that matter in Criminal Court.

The company, which had been in business for about eighteen years, has recently been in trouble financially, having filed for bankruptcy.

District Attorney General Randy York told WJLE Friday that his concern is that the integrity of the court system is protected. However no criminal charges are expected to be brought against anyone associated with the company. "In April of this year, it came to the court's attention that they were using unlicensed individuals to help make bonds in Putnam County and at that time the court suspended their privileges of making bonds in Putnam County. Then it came to the court's attention that a petition and bankruptcy had been filed by the owner of Sparta Bail Bonding and at that time the court put down an order suspending their right to make any bonds anywhere in the 13th Judicial District. So a hearing was held last Thursday and the court found that they had in fact allowed unlicensed individuals to make bonds in Putnam County and also that they were insolvent. As a result, Judge Burns issued an order prohibiting them from making any additional bonds throughout the 13th Judicial District. I was impressed with the fact that our courts are very interested in preserving and protecting the integrity of the courts and moving forward with this."

Three Arrested on Charges of Manufacturing Meth

August 16, 2010
Dwayne Page
Michael Eugene Lattimore
Amanda Kay Farless
Michael Shone Saylors
Sebrena Michelle Wright

Three people were arrested Saturday after officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department found meth lab components while serving a state warrant at the residence on Andrew Street in Smithville.

27 year old Michael Eugene Lattimore and his wife 25 year old Amanda Kay Farless, both of Andrew Street, and 31 year old Michael Shone Saylors of Village Place, Smithville were all charged with manufacturing a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine).

Lattimore is also charged with evading arrest while Farless and Saylors were charged with prevention or obstruction of service of legal process.

Bond is $30,000 for Lattimore and $27,500 each for Farless and Saylors.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, the discovery of the meth lab components was made on Saturday, August 14th as two deputies went to the Lattimore home on Andrew Street to serve a state warrant on Lattimore in a separate matter. "When the deputies knocked on the door and identified themselves as being deputies from the sheriff's department, no one came to the door. A deputy then looked through the window and saw Saylors looking right at him. He instructed Saylors to open the door but again no one answered the door. After about ten minutes of knocking, another officer was called to the scene. That's when Lattimore ran out the back door of the residence." He was later arrested.

Sheriff Ray says Farless later said the reason she did not answer the door was because Lattimore had told her not to. Farless gave officers consent to search the premises and they found a bag under the kitchen sink, which contained components used to manufacture meth. According to Sheriff Ray, Farless admitted to making meth .

Among the items found were jars of tri-layer liquids, a jar of blue liquid, a two liter plastic bottle with a white binder, lithium battery strips, wet coffee filters, four turkey basters, two funnels, bottles with ph solution, bottles with sulfuric acid, four razor blades, bottles of water, plastic bag with ammonium nitrate, rolls of black tape, gloves, drain opener, about 60 coffee filters with a white residue powder, cold compresses, and four empty pseudoephedrine packs

All three will make a court appearance on September 2nd

25 year old Sebrena Michelle Wright of Lower Helton Road, Alexandria is charged with Introduction of drugs in a penal institution where prisoners are quartered. She is under a $5,000 bond and her court date is August 19th.

Sheriff Ray says Wright was trying to smuggle pills into the jail on Monday, August 9th. "She came into the sheriff's department and dropped off an item for an inmate that was here. She signed in the item she was dropping off. One of the correctional officers checked the item and found a baggie that contained some pills. One was a small green pill believed to be oxycontin. Three other pills, orange in color, were believed to be suboxone. A note signed by her was also in there."

In another case, 44 year old Tony J. Reeder of East Main Street, Smithville is charged with evading arrest, a fifth offense of driving under the influence, and resisting arrest. Reeder was also issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law. He is under a $12,000 bond and his court date is August 26th.

Sheriff Ray says a deputy, while on routine patrol on Midway Road, spotted a vehicle that was setting in the road. Reeder was standing beside the vehicle near the driver door talking to another person. "Upon pulling behind the subject's vehicle, the deputy observed, Mr. Reeder flip off another vehicle that was wanting to pass them. The deputy approached Reeder and began speaking with him. Reeder had slurred speech and his eyes were very blood shot. There were passengers in the vehicle and they were asked to get out . At this point Reeder got back inside the automobile. The officer ordered him twice to get out of the vehicle but Reeder refused, saying he was going to his house. Reeder then drove away. The deputy pursued him, got him stopped, and placed him under arrest. Reeder, who had a strong odor of alcohol on him, refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

Craig Anthony Hill Arrested for Aggravated Robbery of Liberty State Bank

August 15, 2010
Dwayne Page
Craig Anthony Hill

The man believed to have been responsible for the bank robbery of Liberty State Bank on Tuesday, August 3rd has been arrested. More than $6,000 was taken in the robbery.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 38 year old Craig Anthony Hill of Holmes Creek Road, Smithville turned himself in at the DeKalb County Jail Saturday for a violation of probation.

According to Sheriff Ray, Hill had been a suspect in the bank robbery since the day of the offense, and he allegedly confessed to the crime during questioning on Saturday. Hill was subsequently charged with both violation of probation and aggravated robbery. Hill is under a $100,000 for the robbery but he is currently being held without bond for the violation of probation

He will make a court appearance Monday, August 16th on the violation of probation and Thursday, August 19th for the aggravated robbery

In a brief statement, Sheriff Ray said "On August the 3rd, through an investigation into the robbery, Hill was identified through (bank surveillance) video tapes and other investigative tools to be the person responsible for the robbery. Lawmen had been searching for Hill ever since. Hill, who had been living out of town since this incident, came to the DeKalb County Jail to turn himself in on a violation of probation warrant. While there, he was questioned by Sheriff's Department Detectives about the robbery and admitted his involvement in the robbery of Liberty State Bank.

The warrant alleges that "On or about the 3rd day of August 2010, Craig Anthony Hill did enter the Liberty State Bank in Liberty Tennessee presenting the teller with a note stating "Give me the money in 20's and 100's, I have a gun" thus putting the teller in fear of her life. The teller at that point took the cash from her drawer and gave it to Craig Hill as instructed. The amount of money taken during the robbery was in excess of $6,000."

On that day , Sheriff Ray said the robber was described by witnesses as a white male, wearing an orange plaid shirt and blue jeans. He was also wearing a camoflagued hat with sunglasses on the cap. The man had no covering over his face. He was approximately five feet, five inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds.

The man did not display any weapon during the robbery and no one was injured. After he left, a bank employee called 911 at 1:18 p.m. Within a minute of the call, an officer of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who was on Highway 70 in Liberty, arrived at the bank.

Officers and detectives of the Sheriff's Department rushed to the scene. Sheriff Ray says he also contacted the FBI and two agents came over. Constable Mark Milam arrived as well.

Reeder Indicted for Vehicular Homicide in Fatal SUV Crash

August 15, 2010
Dwayne Page
Dwayne Reeder

A 31 year old DeKalb County man has been named in a grand jury sealed indictment for vehicular homicide in an SUV crash at Dowelltown last December that claimed the life of another man.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Dwayne Allen Reeder of McMinnville Highway, Smithville was arrested on Friday evening after being served with the indictment. His bond is $50,000 and he will appear for arraignment on Monday, August 16th in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

According to information released at the time by Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Reeder, 39 year old Walter Redmon, 27 year old Courtney Paris and 41 year old Troy Edward Bain were traveling east on Highway 70 in a 1997 Ford Expedition. Reeder was operating the vehicle when he apparently fell asleep. The SUV went off the left side of the road and embankment. The vehicle overturned and plunged almost straight down to the creek below.

Among those responding were members of the DeKalb County Fire Department Extrication and Rescue Team, the Liberty Fire Station, DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb EMS, and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Reeder, Redmon, and Paris were injured and transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. Bain died in the crash. According to Lieutenant Maynard, Bain and Redmon, back seat passengers, were ejected. They were not wearing their seatbelts. Reeder and Paris, in the front seat, were apparently wearing their seatbelts.

The indictment alleges that on or about December 22nd, 2009, Dwayne Reeder did kill Troy Edward Bain, by the operation of an automobile, the killing of Bain being the proximate result of Dwayne Reeder's conduct which created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person, constituting the offense of Vehicular Homicide.


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