Lasting Friendships

Gas cost 24 cents for a gallon, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president and the first Frisbee toy was released. There’s plenty to remember from 1957, including a high school class that still comes together to celebrate their friendships and memories.

Many have lived and worked in Wilson County their entire lives, while there are others who have planted roots in Kansas, Montana, Maryland and South Carolina. No matter, they are all members of the 1957 graduating class of Lebanon High School.

And in June, more than 50 of the original class of 134 gathered together to celebrate 60 years of post-graduate bliss at the Veteran’s Building in Lebanon.

While members of the class meet at least every other year, this year is special, says Bill Denton, a fellow graduate and reunion organizer.

“Sixty years? That’s a big number,” Denton says. “Oftentimes, several can’t make our regular reunions, but they always make a point to come to the big ones.”

Several of the classmates have remained lifelong friends, knowing each other for much longer than six decades. They have plenty to chat about, from their school days to current updates on grandchildren.

So, what’s the secret to friendships that span decades?

“Besides keeping in constant contact?” ask graduate Marilyn Garnder. “You realize we all go through the same things: marriage, births, parents getting older, kids graduating high school and college, illness. Being there for each other…that’s what fosters friendship.”

Celebrating 60 years is something all in the class can be proud of, as they look forward to hopefully even more reunions. And until then, they will continue to keep in touch and grow those lasting bonds.

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Five Degrees from Michelle Obama

Smith County’s Stewart family shares same great-great-great grandmother as the First Lady



As they witnessed the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama, Doreen Stewart and her three siblings had no clue about their kinship to the new First Family.

Five years later, in October of 2014, Doreen, her sister Anne Waggoner and their father Tom Stewart attended a funeral in Kingston, Ga.

“After the funeral of an uncle, our Aunt Jeannie Lovingood told us that we ought to take a look at the memorial in the same graveyard,” recalled Doreen, who lives in the Smith County community of Lancaster.

Engraved on a tall black granite tombstone they read the following words about the great-great-great grandmother they never knew.



1844 – 1938












Doreen and her sister were astonished to find they shared the same great-great-great grandmother as the First Lady of the United States.

Tom Stewart, 85 (center), who was wed to the late Jennie Elliott Stewart for 59 years, poses with his four children, (from left) Anne Waggoner, Dennis Stewart, Debra Smith and Doreen Stewart, who share the same great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia “Mattie” Shields McGruder, as First Lady Michelle Obama. They discovered the fact in the fall of 2014.

“When I read she was born a slave, that was a moment so defined for me. She had no idea her great-great-great granddaughter was going to be First Lady of the nation,” said Doreen. “Knowing my ancestors’ stories allows me to see how far God has brought my family. For me, God had a hand in it, from a slave to the White House.”

The bloodline from Doreen and her siblings goes through their late mother Jennie Elliott to grandfather Robert Elliott to great grandmother Alice Shields to great-great grandfather Talley Shields (a brother to Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grandfather Dolphus) to Melvinia, who died in 1938 at age 94.

“We just found out about a year ago that they were related. We’re just stragglers. We didn’t have a clue,” smiled Doreen.

Sister Debra Smith laughs, “We went to both of President Obama’s inaugurations, and we didn’t know it. We could have gotten closer.”

“My immediate reaction,” said Anne of the news about their ancestor, “is that I was impressed with her life history. It had no association with the new president. She had a legacy she never knew. I don’t know how she would have reacted. I like to think she would not have taken on airs. This was a personal connection for me to a woman who had been a slave and survived to live a long life.”

“I wish my mother had been alive to know this,” said Doreen of her mom, who died in 2011.

Tom and Jennie Stewart. Jennie’s was the direct blood line to the former slave from whom Michelle Obama also descended.

Born into a family of 10 children, Jennie Elliott moved to Smith County when she was 9 years old. She met Tom Stewart, her husband to be, when they were students at Turner Junior High School in Carthage.

The two married in 1952 as Tom pursued a 23-year career in the U.S. Air Force and served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. Their first three children were born in Austin, Texas, while Doreen took her first breath in Columbus, Ohio.

Anne, a retired Los Angeles school district administrative assistant, and sister Debra, share a home in Stewart Hollow. Debra was the first black cafeteria manager in the Smith County school systems and then became the first female black letter carrier in the county and had a 19-year career with the U.S. Postal Service in Hickman and Lebanon.

Dennis lives in Nashville and works for the state of Tennessee, while Doreen, who has compiled four cookbooks and won blue ribbons for her fried pies, is a health assistant and lives in Lancaster.

Tom lives in Stewart Hollow near his two oldest daughters on the same piece of land his father Will Stewart bought in 1945 in Elmwood. After retiring from the Air Force, Tom worked for 10 years at Smith County Memorial Hospital as a materials manager and then became the first black letter carrier in the county, a job he held for 15 years.

The military veteran also knows his way around the kitchen, garden and grill. At last summer’s Smith County Fair he captured blue ribbons for his jams, jellies and canned green beans and earned best of show for his smoked meats and first place for his ham and bacon.

About 20 relatives from Georgia came to Carthage for his 85th birthday celebration in November, and the Stewart-King family plans another reunion in Smith County on Memorial Day weekend.

Shields Monument VerticalAs for their famous ancestor, Melvinia Shields was born a slave in 1844 in South Carolina, and sent to work on a farm owned by Henry Shields in Rex, Ga., when she was 8. She gave birth at the age of 15 to her first child, Dolphus, in 1859 or 1860, with the father being Shields’ oldest son Charles.

The house slave labored as washwoman and maid. She bore four children, all of whom she gave the last name of Shields, and she lived on the Shields farm into the mid-1870s.

A second monument was dedicated to Melvinia in Rex, 21 miles southeast of Atlanta, on June 26, 2014, to honor the five-generation journey of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ancestry from slavery to the White House.

During the last 60 years of her life, Melvinia lived in Kingston (Bartow County), 55 miles northwest of Atlanta, where she changed her name to Mattie McGruder and worked as a midwife and seamstress and helped raise her grandchildren and other children in the community. She was once described as “a loving, spiritual woman seen often with her Bible and singing hymns.”

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington's 1789 inauguration. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force/Released)
With Michelle by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. The Stewart Family was among the thousands of people who gathered to watch that day. Photo public domain.

Bartow County historian and writer Sheri Henshaw is in the midst of composing Shoutin’ Down the Silences—A Folk-Life Play Based On and Around the Life of Melvinia Shields and the War-Torn Community of Kingston and Surrounding Northwest Georgia, circa 1844-1920. It will feature songs from the post-Civil War era that span Melvinia’s journey from slavery to freedom, using her story as the central theme.

Henshaw says, “Melvinia Shields was born a slave and became a free woman after the Civil War and lived much of her free life in Kingston, Ga. She left an amazing legacy—a family of accomplished, educated, and illustrious descendants, including her great-great-great granddaughter Michele Obama, First Lady of the United States. This incredible and complex woman has been silent for too long. Now she speaks.

“I hope to have the project completed for a work-shopped performance sometime in 2016, possibly as a part of the local Juneteenth celebrations in the area.”
That’s something Melvinia’s great-great-great grandchildren in Smith County, Tennessee, would have to see. Neither though they nor their late mother ever met the woman who connects them to the First Family, although they feel they are getting to know her better as more segments of her life are coming to light.

“‘From the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ These words speak such truth about my great-great-great grandma Melvinia, my great-great grandmother Rose, my grandmother Lula, and my mother, Jennie Bell Stewart,” said Doreen.

“She prevailed. She went on to raise her family, provide a living, a religious woman, often seen with her Bible. She was strong in her faith. It had to have brought her through. We had strong women in our family. Our mother, our grandmother, they may not have had a lot, but what they lacked they made up by loving their family.”



IMG_1969marshIn mid-January 2009 Doreen Stewart, her sisters Anne and Debra, brother Dennis, nephews Perry and Thomas and a friend made the 630-mile road trip from Carthage, Tenn., to Washington, D.C., with one goal in mind: They wanted to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black man elected president of the United States.

Doreen recalls that on that cloudy day, moments before the new president took his oath of office, the sun broke through and shone upon the thousands of people gathered.

“It was so amazing,” she said of the historic event, “we were all one.”

“We were about 300 feet away from the president,” Anne said, “close enough that we could see him without monitors.”

Doreen kept a journal during the trip as she wanted to preserve her memories for a lifetime.

“People near us were telling their stories,” she said, thus she put her journal into the hands of family members and strangers and invited them to record their thoughts.

The words below were penned in her memory book between Jan. 18-20, 2009.


“I stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to Queen Latifah speak about how the famous opera singer Marian Anderson sung on these steps because she had been denied access to an inside venue. Later, another entertainer reminded the crowd that Dr. King, Jr. spoke to thousands from these steps and encouraged people to learn to respect each other and treat everyone as equals. Tomorrow our nation will swear in our first black president. To be able to be here and see this historical event is proof that anything is possible because this is America and change really happens.” —Doreen’s sister Anne Waggoner


“A very great historical moment. To be here, to see it, to hear it, and to live it. Words can’t put it in the right place. “The Dream—Yes We Can!” —Doreen’s brother Dennis Stewart


“Although very surprising, this day is a day very memorable moment in history, not only just for African Americans or myself alone but for all people everywhere.” — Jason Scott, a black man who worked at the American Historical Museum in Washington, D.C.


“What a monumental moment. It’s so incredible to see how far our country has come, and Obama truly gives us more hope for the future. Seeing all these people come together is unbelievable. Blacks, Whites, Asians, etcetera. No more — WE ARE ONE” — Katherine Freniere and Chad Samijan, who flew from Orlando, Fla., to Dallas, Texas, to Boston, Mass., to Washington, D.C.

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Lebanon cover

Images of Yesterday

Lebanon cover

Bill Conger and Kim Parks give us a visual experience of local history

Story by Randy Rudder and Tilly Dillehay

The two people who were signed for two similar book projects with Arcadia Publishing last year couldn’t be more different.

He works as a school counselor, with a long history as a radio personality, a writer for entertainment publications, and book author. She is the Executive Director of Historic Lebanon, a nonprofit that works for historic preservation, community revitalization, and economic development.

What do they have in common? A love of local history.

And because of that, they were both invited to join the Images of America team. Over the past year, Bill Conger was signed to write Images of America: Mt. Juliet, and Kim Parks was signed to write Images of America: Lebanon. These books are local editions of a huge series that focuses in on photographic history in local communities across the country. There are over 7,000 editions so far.

Continue reading “Images of Yesterday”

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lebanon high super fans.img 1

Meet the LHS Football team’s most loyal fans



lebanon high super fans.img 1Lebanon High School superfans James and Barbara Manning have seen almost every Lebanon High football game since 1966. Barbara holds their lifetime passes, good for admission to every Lebanon High School sporting event, and James holds a 1972 football program, plus the season tickets they used from 1972 until now. Their home overflows with sports memorabilia representing many of their favorite teams and sports. Photo by Ken Beck

There are sports fanatics and there are sports fanatics but going way over the top are super-duper sports lovers James and Barbara Manning, whose passion for their Lebanon Blue Devils knows no out of bounds.

James, 72, a 1961 Lebanon High grad, has missed but two Lebanon football games, home and away, since 1966, and Barbara, class of 1964, has failed to show for about 15 games (due to work and illness) during that same 48-year span. Not counting their years as students, the couple has rooted for the Lebanon gridiron squad at more than 500 contests and counting.

And that number doesn’t begin to touch the hem of their “Once a Blue Devil, Always a Blue Devil … Forever” T-shirts when you consider the Lebanon basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball and cross-country events they have observed across the decades.

And, lest we be remiss, the duo are ardent fans of Cumberland University Bulldog sports teams, and attend practically every home football, baseball, basketball and softball game. So that raises the question, which comes first: Lebanon High or Cumberland University?

“Lebanon comes first!” the couple chimes in unison from their home, which overflows with sports souvenirs and memorabilia reflecting their ardor for almost any sport that involves a ball.

“Lebanon is No. 1. I’ve always said that,” emphasizes Barbara. 

“I’m lucky. I only missed two games since 1966,” said James, also lucky that he found Barbara one day in April of 1966 at the Southland Bowling Alley where she was in need a bowling partner.

Afterward he asked her, “Can I carry your bowling ball to the car?” Barbara answered, b“You sure can.”

Then he asked her if she had a date that night.

“She said, ‘Yes,’ and I thought I had struck out,” recalled James, but soon afterward he asked again, and she agreed.

After courting for five months, the Lebanon natives were wed Sept. 18, 1966. Their wedding shower cost James from seeing his Blue Devils play Carthage in an away game.

“The game was rained out on Friday night and rescheduled for Saturday when we had the shower scheduled,” he says.lebanon high super fans img 2June 1966-Here, James and Barbara stand on the front porch of Barbara’s parents’ home located in Lebanon just a few weeks before they wed.

Barbara recollects that they occasionally broke away from their guests to catch up with the game via a radio turned on in another room. Did we mention these two like Lebanon High football?

James’ only other miss was an away game in Shelbyville in 1979 when he had to work late. And there was one game he attended that, work be blasted blasted, could easily have cost him his job.

“I didn’t know that Barbara even liked football,” James said. “A few weeks before we married, I told her, ‘I’m going to the football game Friday night.’”

“I said, ‘I’m going too,’” said Barbara. “I saw the first game at Nokes Field in 1965 and the last game at the old stadium. ” Until Lebanon moved into their new high school and stadium in 2013, the Mannings could be found sitting in Section B, second row from the top, overlooking the 50-yard line

at every home game. The couple possesses a lifetime pass to every Lebanon sporting event, a gift from William Porter in 2009.

Still, they purchase six season tickets every year so they can carry along friends and family. Their stash of memorabilia includes football season tickets dating back to 1972.

Bobby Brown, who served as head football coach at Lebanon High from 2002 to 2010, describes their passion for sports saying, “It’s amazing. You could probably go back 40 years, and they probably have every article from ‘The Wilson Post’ and ‘Lebanon Democrat’ about Lebanon High School sports in their house. It’s not unusual to find them at Walter J. Baird football and basketball games, and they even go to some Lebanon High bowling matches.

“Wow, here are two people that don’t even have a son or daughter, and they go and support every sport-ing event that they can for Lebanon High School and Walter J., and you even find them at Cumberland University games. That is what’s amazing,” said Brown, now assistant principal and athletic director at Walter J. Baird Middle School.

These days the couple does have Manning family members for whom they can root at Blue Devil sporting events. Nieces Danielle, a junior, plays softball; Lindsay, a freshman, plays volleyball and softball; and Bailey, an eighthgrader, performs with the Walter J. Baird dance team. Friend Randy Sallis sits beside the Mannings at most Cumberland University baseball games and sees them at the Lebanon High football games.

“They’re always there,” he noted “They’re quiet. They’re not cheerers, they’re supporters. Every coach would know them when they see them. ‘They’re that couple at every game,’ but they might not know their names. They don’t interject themselves. They wear their Lebanon or Cumberland gear.

“James makes a calendar every year for all the games. Going to a ball game almost every single night—that’s their perfect week.

“James is almost like a packrat when it comes to memorabilia. He has stats, newspaper articles, he catalogs them,” Sallis said. “In high school football, if Lebanon is not in the playoff brackets, they will pick out the best playoff game and go, not to root for anybody, but just go to the game.

lebanon high super fans img 3Barbara and James Manning clap for their beloved Lebanon High Blue Devils during the 2014 football season opener at Mt. Juliet High School. The duo has followed Lebanon High sports since they were students at Lebanon High in the 1950s and routinely follow their alma mater’s athletic squads in practically every event. Photo by Becky AndrewsJames estimated that he and his wife have seen 80 percent of Lebanon High basketball games since they were married. The only school sport they have never observed is golf.

The pair began attending Cumberland football games in 1990 when the university started back its football program. “We see all the home games and a few of the away games and about all their home baseball games,” said James.

“I will walk back and forth from the baseball and softball games,” Barbara said. “Now we’re going to some Cumberland University soccer games. We enjoy it but don’t know anything about it.”

“We know when they score,” said James, who played basketball for Lebanon High in his prep days. “I’ve been lucky enough to bowl two perfect games and make a hole in one at golf,” shared James, who spent 40 years at Precision Rubber as a scheduler and expediter.

“I’m not an athlete, just good at watching,” said Barbara, who worked at Hartmann Luggage for 26 years.

James, who began attending Lebanon football games with his father in the late 1940s, has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He recalls once spending his haircut money for bubble gum and 120 baseball cards. The result was a whipping. He still has some of those cards but is not sure if it was worth it.

One of his favorite articles of Lebanon football memorabilia is a pennant from the 1965 season that belonged to his father. While James was serving in the Army in Panama, his dad penciled in the score of every game of a season that went unblemished but for a final game loss to Sparta.scoreboard lebanon high img 1

Barbara too has a memento of the 1965 season, a gift passed along by her mother.

“My mother caught a little football thrown into the stands by cheerleaders at the 1965 Clinic Bowl when Lebanon played Donelson. And then 25 years later she caught a little football when Cumberland University started back its football program. I wouldn’t take anything for this football,” she says of the Clinic Bowl souvenir.

James and Barbara have an barchives filled with newspaper clippings, sports book and magazines and Lebanon High football programs that date back nearly 50 years. They also love baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the NBA Boston Celtics.

lebanon high super fans img 4In front of her refrigerator, plastered with stickers and magnets in support of Lebanon High School, Cumberland University, the Atlanta Braves and Tennessee Volunteers, Barbara Manning clasps her Lebanon Blue Devil doll. Photo by Ken Beck

Pennants on the walls, team towels on their couch and stickers and magnets on their fridge reflect those favorite teams. However they do come to a rare parting of paths when it comes to college football.

“I’m a Tennessee fan. He’s a Vanderbilt,” said Barbara.

Enough said.

The couple proves to be big tailgaters, especially before Lebanon football games. Barbara favors packing fresh tomatoes, roast beef sandwiches, chips, sausage balls, pecan sandies, peanuts, Snickers, Three Musketeers, M&Ms and Dr Pepper.

Another Lebanon High alumnus who has seen the friendly faces of James and Barbara over decades at

Lebanon sporting events is veteran “Wilson Post” sports editor Tommy Bryan.

“James and Barbara Manning are fixtures at Lebanon High athletic events. They watched me play football in the mid-1970s, and they watched my son Taylor (class of 2014) play. I’ve seen them at track meets, baseball and softball games, volleyball games and cross country meets,” said Bryan.

“They exemplify what it means to be ‘true blue.’ Rain or shine, win or lose, James and Barbara are there supporting the Blue Devils. They attend every pancake breakfast, yard sale, car wash—anything that the LHS athletic department puts on you can count on the Mannings to be in the front row.

“Barbara was in attendance at the very first game played at what became Nokes-Lasater Field, and she was there for the very last one when Lebanon beat Portland in 2011.

“The term ‘great’ gets tossed around way too much in this world, but the Mannings are great fans and even better people,” Bryan said. The Mannings find it difficult to explain their fanaticism for all things sports related to Lebanon High, but agree that football is their favorite sport.

 “Why? I don’t know. We just love Lebanon. Winning gives me joy. I just love to support the kids. I think they deserve it,” Barbara said.

Concludes James, “I guess I would feel lost if I didn’t go to then ballgames on Friday night. We’ve been all across the state from Bristol to Memphis.”

But their favorite place to watch their favorite football team play?

Well, by now you know that answer is obvious.

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The Snow White Drive In Diner 1960

Lebanon Landmark Here To Stay

By Tiffany Cunningham

Snow White Drive-In, a Lebanon tradition for over six decades, has been “the place to be” for many locals, for going on two generations. Many still fondly remember spending their teenage years cruising through the parking lot, while others reminisce about their parents taking them there for ice cream and milk shakes. Today, these same adults are taking the grandkids to Snow White and it looks like that tradition is here to stay.

The Snow White Drive In Diner 1960This old photo was taken of the Snow White Drive-In in 1960 when there were no indoor dining facilities. Patrons could place their order with a car hop or walk to a window. Few walked.

Earlier this year the iconic diner was in jeopardy as a gas station was in negotiations to purchase the land from the owner. However, just recently, Snow White owner, Billy Wyatt, received word that, for now, that isn’t going to happen. With much relief of the owners, staff and patrons this means business as usual and the signing of a new lease for Snow White.

Snow White was built in 1951, by Wesley and Myrtle Vantrease. Jerry Vantrease, their son, remembers that the first order his parent’s business ever received was when “I was running the curb service myself; the order was for four hamburgers, four orders of French fries and four Cokes. It was $2.12. They almost went nuts. They thought that was high.” After the Vantrease family, Lindell Poitevint, a retired Air Force Sargent known for cleanliness and running the joint with his military training in mind became the owner. After which Don Hall leased the restaurant in the 1970’s, then Glen Taylor, before local businessman Jimmy Reed purchased it in 1979. He owned the property for more than a quarter of century until late 2008. There were one or two more short term property owners in the mix until the latest owner, Greg Dugdale. He continues to lease Snow White to Billy Wyatt’s family. Between Ann Birdwell, Edie Oats and Billy, Snow White has been in his family almost 20 years.

Reed noted he didn’t change a thing when he purchased Snow White in ’79. “Ran it just like it was. It made money the first day. It still looks like the 1950s, and so many people have gone down there and dated, drove around. People would come in and act like they had known me their whole life. And the kids I served, who were once babies are now grown, married and bringing their own kids. Reed notes, “It was good to me. I worked hard, and I helped a lot of young kids with their first job.”

Snow White Drive InSnow White Drive In

Before she passed away, Ann Birdwell spoke fondly about her days at Snow White, considering many of the patrons to be family, Ann worked for Reed for many years before owning the restaurant herself and before selling it to her daughter, Edie. It was evident that the patrons loved Ann as much as she loved them, packing in the entire Drive-In and parking lot for her Celebration of Life party in 2013.

Keeping with the Drive-In’s 50’s theme nothing has changed with Wyatt’s ownership. Billy remarked, “We get people in everyday that had their first date here and they’ve got there grandkids with them now. It holds a lot of memories for a lot of people”. It was evident how many people care about the drive-in with the outpouring of support during the past few months but especially with the announcement they would not have to relocate. The Drive- In’s Facebook page received over 16,000 views and 600 likes with 147 comments. Billy posted, “Myself, my wife Kathy, our family and the Snow White family thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for all the support y’all showed during this crazy time we’ve been going through” The 50’s diner has held true to its family oriented roots and serves as a part of Lebanon history. It is also a source of notoriety for the community. Several movie scenes and commercials have been shot at Snow White. Wyatt joked, “If this old building had been torn down I would have to have it posted in the local obituaries”.

Currently, Snow White features cruise-ins where vintage cars are showcased on weekends through the summer. Billy says of the big announcement its back to business as usual. “Y’all come on down, we need to celebrate, I’m one happy camper”.

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A Love for the Ages



There is something special about southern women; classy and graceful, imbuing manners and tradition, while at the same time, known for being smart, sassy and tough as nails.

The day young Joe Frank Bryant first laid eyes on Ms. Patsy O’Neal, he knew he was done for – with her dark hair, broad smile and infectious laugh – whoLove wouldn’t have been. They were high schoolers, in the early 1950’s, in the heart of Mississippi and they were in love. Times were so different then and yet, when it comes to young love, not that different than now.

Wanting to be together and not about to wait for anyone to tell them differently, at 17 and 21 they eloped. The young couple from the little town of Dyersburg, Tennessee chose the big city of Memphis as their honeymoon destination, at the time not knowing they would soon return and make Memphis home, for a time.

Together they embarked on a life of love, family and community that would take them across the globe, the memories of which have lasted a lifetime.

“We didn’t have much money,” chuckles Mrs. Bryant rememberingthe early days fondly. “But we didn’t know it and thought we would be just fine, and you know, we were. Joe always made sure of it.”

From Dyersburg, to Martin, to Memphis so that Joe could finish college and then UT Medical School, Dr. Bryant made education a priority, as well as service to country.

“Morocco was one our favorite places that we called home. Joe was a Naval Lieutenant and we were stationed there when Laura was born. We were two young people from Tennessee in the middle of such amazing culture. That’s when we first realized we would be traveling forever.”

Adventures would take them to many far away places including Africa, England, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, China and India (to name a few) but they would always return to their final home of Lebanon.

“We came here because of Joe’s medical practice, but stayed because it felt right. It felt like home. There is something about southern people, be it those from Tennessee, Alabama or Mississippi, they know how to make you feel at home. We quickly realized Lebanon was the perfect place to raise our daughter, Laura and son Frank, and in my younger days being a homemaker was my top priority.”

Love“That’s one of the many things I love most about Grandmother,” notes Patti,  Frank’s daughter. “She’s always so kind and family has always been her first love. And she has always created such a comfortable home. She is an excellent cook and caregiver. Yet, she makes everything she does look effortless.”

And while Joe’s career as a surgeon and later as owner of the local television station, was always at the forefront of the young family’s life, Mrs. Bryant had her own aspirations.

“In the 70’s I received my BA from Cumberland in History and Geography and then my BS in Geography at MTSU. I have always believed there isn’t anything a woman can’t do – raise a family, run a business, run the country even. Women are strong like that, we just manage to do it all, sometimes not all at the same time but when we can, we do.”

“Statements like that,” Patti remarks, “are why I admire her so. Grandmother has always had so much energy and determination. She’s always on the go, involved in the community while at the same time, knows how to savor the important things, tending to her flowers, visiting the sick, sending a kind note to someone for no reason at all. And my grandfather, he just adored her.”

“My grandparents were always very affectionate towards one another. They would hold hands, laugh and joke. When I was little my grandfather would always ask me ‘how did you get so smart or pretty or sweet,’ and when I would say ‘I don’t know,’ he’d say ‘Granny!’

As I got older, he would ask me the same question, but instead of saying ‘I don’t know,’ I would say ‘because of Granny’ and he would just smile.”

It was this type of love that Patti was looking for when she happened upon a southern gentleman of her own, Jeff Stinson. “We are doing what grandmother and grandfather did, eloping, but instead of just the two of us, we are taking the whole family to Las Vegas, getting married at the Little Chapel of the Flowers. And no, Elvis won’t be officiating!” she laughs. “After the wedding, we’ll celebrate with a small reception at the Venetian Hotel. Before we leave we’ll take photos inside the chapel in Lebanon, built in honor of my grandfather, who passed away last year.”

Many remember Dr. Bryant as both a surgeon and television station operator, but very few are aware that Dr. Bryant was a strong supporter of all LovePatti Bryant and her grandmother, Patsy Bryant standing inside the Bryant Chapelpreachers, regardless of their denomination. He was a firm believer that they should each have a new suit and new tires for their cars, and he insured they had just that. At his funeral, four different preachers spoke, each wearing the suit they had been given by Dr. Bryant.

“The chapel seemed the perfect way to honor his memory. Grandfather’s grandfather was a preacher and built “Bryant’s Chapel” in Newbern, Tennessee, that later burned and was rebuilt.

My grandfather always had such a deep respect and love for the church, that we knew this was the best way to remember him. Taking pictures in that chapel, with mygrandmother by my side, would have made him so happy. He may not be able to be at the wedding in person, but no doubt, he will be there in heart.”

“You know,” Mrs. Bryant remarked listening to Patti discuss the upcoming article with WLM, “I just don’t understand why you want to write about us, we are not special, we had difficult times like everyone else, but we did love each other to the end and we were happy.

That’s all I want for Patti and Jeff; love each other and be happy. It can be that simple.”

And that special.


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Made In the Glade



When I chose Gladeville Baptist Churc for WLM’S “Living In the Past”, I had an Easter on my mind. The church’s grassy side-yard served as my playground for the first 14 years of my life. The Glade Church, as it is now known, has grown tremendously since those days of my living across the street. I spent most every day playing with the pretty colored rocks in their small prayer garden, jumping my remote controlled Barbie Corvette off their front steps and riding my bike up and down their sidewalk. On occasion, I even went inside the building that was then half the size it is today. Although not a member, I remember attending Sunday-School classes and many services there with friends.

It was a simple time, a simple church. Since those days, there has been an explosion of growth and renewal in this town’s once “sleepy” Baptist Church. Gladeville Baptist, has turned into a dynamic regional church serving six counties.

The church was formed in 1879, four miles east of Gladeville in what is now part of Cedar Forest State Park. Located on the Gladeville square since 1880, the church steeple is a noteworthy landmark and can be seen towering proudly over the community from Interstate 840.

The building has seen various incarnations from its humble beginnings in a log cabin. For many years it was a “comfortable sized” church with just a few hundred members and then grew steadily in more recent years to over 3,000 members and a campus that encases most of the block. Advances include a new worship center in 2008 and the additions of a new student’s center, children’s area, automotive ministry garage and new chapel.

Expansion in both building and membership has been credited to a specific plan focusing on 8 areas of growth. The church is looking forward to seeing great things come to fruition through their Vision 2020 plan. It includes many outwardlyfocused ministries as well as offering excellent programs for infants to high school aged children.

With such an expansion and a sense of excitement in the community this congregation must be doing something right. Four outreach programs stood out as Pastor for Vision & Purpose, Craig Webb, gave me a tour. The Automotive Ministry, he explained offers a unique service to the community. Not found in many outreach programs, the church has its own garage on campus where they accept donated vehicles, repair them and give them to families in need.

The Sewing and Quilting Ministries serve to make quilts for those suffering with cancer and other illnesses as well as for creating Welcoming Quilts for newborns.

The Food Ministry is one I simply must experience one Wednesday evening. This program offers full training, under the direction of a real chef, to those seeking employment in the food industry. The C.H.E.F.’s Ministry is overseen by Chris Cox and led by Chef Vito Randazzo and judging by the menu board, he prepares meals that are more like a wonderful night out at a restaurant rather than that of the usual large group church fare.

Another ministry that sparked my interest was a satellite clinic for Charis. Located on the Glade Church campus, this is an excellent addition to the community for those needing medical care. Charis assists low income families with basic medical needs on a sliding pay scale and is a real necessity for many.

Since it’s inception in 1879, to my childhood days playing on its front steps, to today with its over 3000 members, Gladeville Baptist Church has continued to serve the needs of our community. To experience all that the church has to offer, they invite you to come for a visit…and then stay a while.


Sunday Mornings

8:00 am – Connect Groups

9:15 am – Celebration Worship & Connect Groups

10:45 am – Celebration Worship, Wee Worship (Age 3 – K), & Kidstuf (1st-5th Grade)

Wednesday Evenings

4:30-6:00 pm – Fellowship Meal (view menu)

6:15-7:30 pm – Activities for babies through high school

6:15-7:30 pm – Connect groups for adults

Pastor Bruce Grubbs and The Glade Church staff may be contacted at (615) 444-9550 or by visiting

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DeFord Bailey – The Harmonica Wizard


DeFord BaileyFebruary is Black History month, a time that we reflect upon the great achievements of African Americans. This region has a very rich African American history. People such as the noted educator W.E.B. Dubois, Maggie Porter and Thomas Rutling, the original members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and Howlin’ Wolf the great blues singer who influenced everyone from Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones, have called this region home.

Last February the Wilson County Black History hosted a fundraiser for the Roy Bailey African American Museum. The theme of the event was a Celebration of the Arts. One of the people featured at the event was an African American named DeFord Bailey. DeFord Bailey was a harmonica virtuoso that many people proclaim to be the first star of the Grand Old Opry. Before Charley Pride sang “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and Darius Rucker sang “Wagon Wheel,” DeFord Bailey was singing songs such as the “Pan American Blues,” and the “Fox Chase” on the Grand Old Opry.

On November 28, 1925 the WSM Barn Dance began broadcasting in Nashville on the 5th Floor of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. It wasn’t renamed the Grand Old Opry until December 10, 1927. That night the Barn Dance followed NBC’s classical music show entitled the Music Appreciation Hour, which featured selections from the Grand Opera. The Barn Dance announcer and program director George D. Hay came on the air and introduced DeFord Bailey. “For the past hour, you’ve been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the ‘Grand Old Opry’.” Bailey then stepped to the microphone and played “The Pan American Blues.” He became the first African American to perform on the Opry.

Deford Bailey was born in 1899 in the small community of Bellwood. Bellwood straddles the Wilson County and Smith DeFord BaileyCounty line, located near the old Rome Road and Bellwood Road. Bailey was a grandson to a freed slave who had fought for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Bailey stated to researcher David Morton, that he began learning harmonica as a young child: “My folks didn’t give no rattler, they gave me a harp.” His family was very musical consisting of several members who played a wide array of musical instruments.

During Bailey’s early years he became very schooled in traditional folk songs of the day. He later called this type of music “Black Hillbilly Music.” He popularized classic songs such as “John Henry” and “Lost John.” These are songs that were passed down from generation to generation. Bailey is known for his harmonica playing but he was a multi talented instrumentalist. He was able to play banjo, guitar, mandolin, and violin.

Bailey’s big break came when he met Dr. Humphrey Bate, a country doctor from Castellian Springs, Tennessee. Bate was a harmonica player and string band leader who performed on the WSM Barn Dance in 1925. Bate persuaded Bailey to play with him one night on the Barn Dance.

Soon thereafter Bailey was making regular appearances and became one of their most popular performers. George D. Hay gave him his famous nickname, “The Harmonica Wizard.”

In 1932, WSM radio signal expanded to 50,000 watts stretching their audience from the Rocky Mountains to the eastern seaboard. With the added exposure, Bailey became a huge star. In addition to the appearances on the radio, he performed all across the South and Midwest in traveling shows sponsored by the Grand Old Opry. He was known as quite the showman, as he often played the guitar in an upside down style, he performed yo-yo tricks, and would play percussion with sticks and bones.

DeFord BaileyDeFord Bailey inducted into the Country Music Hall of FameUnfortunately, Bailey’s radio career ended in 1941 after a dispute over the licensing royalties between ASCAP and the radio industry. Due to the contract dispute, radio stations were not able to play ASCAP songs without facing large fines. When Bailey insisted upon playing the audience favorites, WSM let him go. Bailey occasionally played the harp but he made only rare appearances throughout the rest of his life, dying on July 2, 1982.

Posthumously, Bailey has received numerous awards and honors. In 2005, Bailey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with such notables as Glen Campbell and the group Alabama. Aditionally, there is the DeFord Bailey Garden at the George Washington Carver Food Park in Nashville. Nashville Public Television even produced the documentary “DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost.” The Encyclopedia of Country Music called him “the most significant black country star before World War II.”

Mayor Phil Bredesen declared that every December 14 on Bailey’s birthday it would be DeFord Bailey Day in Nashville, Tennessee.

This Black History month when we are honoring the great achievements of African Americans lets remember our own local pioneer, DeFord Bailey “The Harmonica Wizard.”

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Cookies, Ornaments and Traditions

2009 L-R Melody Harmon, Cathy Brindos, JoAnna McLaughlin, Amanda Williams, Barbara Allison

By Elizabeth Scruggs

Cookie Swap

For most of us, as Christmas draws near- time becomes a precious commodity.

We are pulled this way and that- commitments, parties, school plays, church festivities- the list goes on and on. We complain that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. We want to make everything just right; to create that Norman Rockwell picture-perfect memory in our mind. The truth is though, that it is rarely the over the top party or perfectly decorated house we remember. It is the traditions that we hold dear to us.

Time will fade our memories, but the things we do remember are the traditions we hold- the people, the sounds, and the tastes that make up those faded memories. We all have that certain smell that will take us right back to Christmas as children. The excitement we felt as we got ready for whatever annual event it may have been.

Now I must begin this by saying that Christmas has long been a favorite holiday. I will confess that I go a bit heavy on the décor, and I enjoy each and every aspect of it. One might say that Christmas trees in November are a tad early? Bah Humbug to you, I say!

Cookie Swap1996 – Marty Hodges, Peggy Bay, Melissa Littman, Carol Bohrman, Nancy Hunt & Catherine AgeeSo as a young wife, I wanted to start traditions that would carry on through the years for my family and friends. My cousin Millie Sloan and I were talking about this one day while her children were still little. She also wanted to start some traditions for her children- something they would always remember. Our conversation turned from our family traditions, to starting something fun to do with friends. That’s how our cookie swap began. Neither of us had been to one before and we really weren’t sure how to do it, so we just made it up as we went. This was way back in the day before you could just Google something. Now if you Google “cookie exchange” there are 1.9 million results!

We invited our collective friends, and asked that they send their recipe over so we could make sure there were no duplications, and also so we could create a recipe booklet.

We declared the first Saturday morning in December “Annual Cookie Swap Day” so none of our friends would plan anything else. What we forgot was that there is also another annual event that has always been the first Friday night in December– The Birthday Girls’ Party.

Now The Birthday Girls’ Party has been going on as long as I remember- really not sure how many years, but I’d guess around 25-30. The problem with this little scheduling dilemma is that most everyone in our cookie swap also attends this party. And, assuming everyone would be type-A like Millie and myself and already have their cookies ready before Friday night was the wrong assumption.

We planned for each participant to bring one dozen cookies per person; (we had 13 people the first year) so you can do the math on that. Needless to say that first cookie swap had some tired and testy guests!

Through the years we have had confessed store-bought cookies, non-confessed store-bought cookies, and husbands who have stayed up through the night making cookies. We ask that each dozen be packaged separately, and over time, it has been quite a contest to see who has the cutest containers each year. There’s always a race to get the holiday containers purchased first when they start appearing in the stores – but the best part is the memories with friends.

Another long standing cookie swap in Lebanon is here in our neighborhood of South Fork. This year will be the 24th gathering of friends and neighbors. This swap is also always on the first Saturday in December.

My neighbor, Beulah Garrett, began the swap after moving here from California. They had a similar one there, and she thought it would be a good way for neighbors to connect. She sent invitations to everyone – and there are over 80 houses here! She asked that each person also bring a covered dish.

That first cookie swap was in 1990 and it is still going strong today! There are usually between 15-25 guests, and we gather, eat brunch, and then swap our cookies. There are two rules in this cookie swap though: no men, and NO store bought cookies.

Now, if you’re not into cookies or baking, you may want to try an ornament swap with your friends. This is another easy and fun way to get into the holiday spirit and create a fun tradition. The great thing about these types of get-togethers is that they cost very little to host since the guests are bringing the “party favors” and you can serve as little or as much food as you’d like. No matter which you choose to organize or attend, the fun of these swaps is getting together with friends and family.

When Millie and I began our cookie swap all those years ago, we just wanted something fun for our friends to look forward to- but we actually created a tradition our children will always remember.

Since then, Millie’s children have grown up, and I have had children of my own. But grown or school-aged, it doesn’t matter. They ALL look forward to the cookie swap each year! Millie’s girls and my girls even help with the baking sometimes. And of course our boys don’t mind sampling them all!

Special thanks to my neighbor and friend Mrs. Marty Hodges. She is the keeper of all things South Fork and was able to supply these photos from our past cookie swaps from her scrapbook

Cookies1997 – Marilyn Gurgiolo, Carol Bohrman, Tonyia Watson, Evan Watson, Lou Ann Hutto & Robbie Farmer

If you’d like to organize a cookie swap or ornament exchange for your friends, here are a few tips.

• Set your date early, so you can get on your friends’ calendars

• Send out invitations through e-mail or on Facebook or E-vite to save the cost of printing and mailing

• In a cookie swap, package your cookies separately, I recommend a half dozen cookies per person

• With a cookie swap, around 15 people is ideal. With an ornament swap, the more the merrier!

• At a cookie swap, the hostess should have many large bags on hand for guests to take their cookies home

• In an ornament swap, set a dollar amount on the ornament to exchange

Just remember to have fun, take pictures, and enjoy the season!

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In Search of the Lost Sheriff

SheriffSheriff David Lemons and his family, circa August 1921.
Standing (L-R): Bernice Lemons (Hendrickson), Mary D. Lemons (Sweatt), and Will Lemons Seated (L-R): Bess Lemons (Tomlinson), holding Nettie Lemons, David Lemons and Halie Lemons (Price)




Family histories and knowing who your people are is a common thread among most cultures, but we Southerners tend to declare ourselves more readily in touch with the ghosts of our pasts. For me and my family, however, there has always been a missing portion of our family story. In June, 2013, thanks to a little investigative work on my part, what was once lost was found and after eighty years, we were finally introduced to Sheri David Lemons, my paternal greatgrandfather.

Nettie Lemons Tomlinson, my paternal grandmother, or “Grandma” as we called her, was born the fifth and final child of Elizabeth “Bess” Lemons and David Lemons on June 6, 1921. Some of my happiest childhood memories are intimately connected with the stories she would tell about her own childhood growing up in Tucker’s Crossroads. My favorite stories though were about her daddy. Her face would light up when she talked about him, and I was convinced from her tales that he was a giant of a man. His name was David for whom she named her only child, my daddy, David M. Tomlinson.

SheriffSheriff Robert Bryan, finally has the opportunity to include Sheriff Lemons to his place of honor, within the halls of Wilson County Sheriff’s OfficeDavid Lemons was the elected “high sheriff” of Wilson County and following his election, he moved his family from their home in Tuckers Crossroads to the living quarters in the county jail (which was then connected to the old courthouse on the Lebanon square) in keeping with the custom of the day. Grandma told me about coming home from school each day to her daddy’s oce in the jail, and she recounted how her mother, “Ms. Bess,” cooked and laundered for the inmates. I knew that her daddy had died shortly after her 16th birthday, but she never talked about his death to me, and even as a little girl I recognized in her a lingering grief with regard to his death.

I always wished I knew more about her father, and as luck would have it, earlier this year, while having a conversation with a friend, I mentioned in passing that my great-grandfather was a former sheriff of Wilson County.

Shortly thereafter Captain Kent Beasley reported there wasn’t a picture or any mention of “Sheriff David Lemons” on the memorial wall at the Sheriff ’s Department. Sheriff Robert Bryan, being the son of former Wilson County Sheriff, Cecil Bryan, expressed an interest in tracking down information and bringing a piece of county law enforcement history to light.

And with that…the investigation began and would uncover a history, a great-grandfather and a missing piece of our family puzzle and that of Wilson County’s as well. Within the halls of Cumberland University and the pages of an old 1934 Lebanon Democrat, we were finally introduced.

“Mr. Lemons is recognized by citizens of the county generally as a man of strict integrity and strength of character. It is generally conceded that Mr. Lemons will take office under unusual difficulties because of two diverse elements in his support. But there is general agreement that Dave Lemons is the kind of man who can overcome difficulties. Confidence in his ability to make a good sheriff is general, and quite as much so among those who opposed him as among those who supported him in the race.”

Intrigued to be sure, and after a few mishaps with the microfilm machine (none of which I believe to have caused permanent damage to Cumberland University property), my digging continued.

His first nine months in office went largely unremarked upon until an article appeared on May 9, 1935, with a front page caption entitled, “Sheriff May Not Feed Prisoners.”

According to the article, by Private Acts of 1923, inmate food and board payments were apportioned by the Wilson County Road Commission, and commensurate with this private act, the road commission paid at the rate of .60 cents per day per jail inmate, and then paid the elected sheriff on a monthly basis [about $600 per month in 1935] for the feeding (i.e. expenditures for groceries, supplies, labor in food preparation, etc.) and maintenance of workhouse prisoners (including salaries for deputies and jailors).

Wilson County Judge E.G. Walker (who was also superintendent of the county road commission) requested a letter of opinion from the state attorney generalSheriffPictured with Sheriff Bryan are Joe Price and David Tomlinson, both grandsons of Sheriff Lemons shortly aer Lemons’ election as to whose duty it was to feed the prisoners confined in both the jail and the county workhouse, and whether the county road commission was liable for feeding workhouse inmates at the actual cost rather than the day rate allowed the sheriff in feeding jail inmates.

Controversy immediately arose following the judge’s requested opinion letter.  The sheriff and his supporters declared the county had not previously made distinctions in the costs for feeding jail inmates and workhouse prisoners, and that it was improper for the judge to not only have the ability to sentence inmates to the county workhouse, but as chairman of the county road commission to also utilize unpaid inmate labor on county road crews.

Ultimately the attorney general ruled in favor of the county road commission, and on May 23, 1935, the Lebanon Democrat ran a response letter from Sheriff Lemons in which the sheriff said he did not recognize the authority of the county road commission to take over the feeding of inmates in the county workhouse, nor did he recognize a distinction between jail inmates and workhouse prisoners, and that any attempted assumption of control by the commission or its agents would be necessarily “resisted.”

Sheriff Lemons countered that in all of the sixteen years prior to his election, the sheriffs of the county had always fed all of the inmates as a collective group without “one word of protest” from either the county judge or the county road commission. He further challenged that nothing good could come from dissolving the month-to-month accounting of what, if anything, was actually spent on day-to-day care, maintenance, and food services for workhouse inmates.

Tensions went from bad to worse during the summer of 1935 leading to a Chancery Court complaint for injunctive relief led against Sheriff Lemons and his deputies. Among other things it was alleged that Sheriff Lemons had “stationed armed deputy sheriffs on the workhouse property, and that he continued to keep them on the premises and that they have occupied beds at the workhouse, and that the sheriff has frequently stationed himself there armed” in an effort to thwart the attempt by the commission to take over the feeding of workhouse prisoners.

On June 20, 1935, the Lebanon Democrat, reported that Chancellor J. W. Stout ruled against Sheriff Lemons, but obstinate in the face of that ruling, Sheriff Lemons took his case all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

On December 19, 1935, it was reported that the Supreme Court had affirmed the Chancery Court ruling and determined that the county road commission, and not the sheriff, was rightly charged with the “feeding” of county workhouse prisoners based solely upon the Private Act of 1923.

However, the court expressed doubt as to how the commission could “actually” feed the inmates without the oversight, cooperation, and supervision of the elected sheriff, and expressed interest as to why the Private Act of 1923 had not been followed by the road commission in the act’s previous years on the books. I was equally intrigued by the report that Sheriff Lemons was represented by Lewis S. Pope, of Pikeville, Tennessee, during the entirety of the litigation. I wondered what the draw of an attorney from East Tennessee would have been for him.

As it turns out Mr. Pope was a 1900 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, state senator, assistant U.S. District Attorney for Eastern Tennessee, and two-time Tennessee gubernatorial candidate (1928 and 1932). In 1923, Pope was appointed by then- governor Austin Peay as the first commissioner of what would ultimately become the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Pope spent most of his career going after corruption in state government, and on March 13, 1934 (fourteen months before taking on Sheriff Lemons as a client), he was appointed as investigator of departments of state government by Governor Gordon Browning. Apparently Sheriff Lemons’ case against the local government was in keeping with Pope’s crusade against corruption, misuse, and marginalization within state and local correctional facilities.

On Thursday, March 27, 1936 Sheriff Lemons suffered a stroke after returning to his office from lunch. Chief Deputy R. L. Haralson took over following his illness, and Lemons never returned to work. He died on Sunday, August 30, 1936 at the age of forty-eight hours before the end of his term.

As a result of his death, Wilson County actually had three sheriffs in three days – Sunday (David Lemons – who remained sheriff until the time of his death), Sunday night through the following Tuesday morning (county coroner, Tal Major automatically became sheriff upon Lemons’ death), and Tuesday morning (newly elected sheriff, Perry Burnett). The article offered “probably no other county has had so rapid a turnover in chief peace officers.”

Time has a way of moving itself forward. Some stories fall away with the passage of time, while others wait to be recovered and told once more.

As a young attorney whose office sits in the shadows of the original “old” courthouse, I find a particular sense of comfort in knowing that nearly eighty years before, my great-grandfather served the people of this county, and fought for what he believed to be right and just, and I am happy to share his story…no longer living in the past.

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