Fire fighters from all over Greene County rush to fire at roofing plant in Eutaw

When the call to the Eutaw Fire Department came in at approximately 3:31 pm. on Thursday, May 12, that United Roofing on Finches Ferry Road was on fire, volunteer fire departments from all over Greene County and even as far away as Livingston rushed to the site to offer assistance,
Co-owner Judy Livingston said the fire was confined to one production warehouse. “The fire was extinguished due to the outstanding efforts of five local volunteer fire departments contributing manpower and equipment and manpower from a sixth volunteer fire department. No one was injured in the fire or thereafter during the stabilization and clean up efforts. Production resumed at 7 a.m Friday morning and we have been running and shipping product around the clock since then.”
Eutaw Assistant Fire Chief Stanley Lucius said that volunteer fire departments from Eutaw, Union, Forkland, Boligee, Lower Gainesville Road, Dollarhide, Springfield and Livingston were all there as quickly as possible to battle the blaze. The engines stayed on site, because there were materials inside the plant that could have caused explosions.
The water hoses were also used to cool down equipment and bins containing chemicals.
Despite the size of the fire and possibly due to the quick response to the call, the plant was saved and no one was injured.


Sam Isaac retires as deputy sheriff with 34 years of service

Sgt. Sam Isaac and wife Carzella Isaac enjoy a private moment at Isaac’s retirement gala.

Sgt. Sam Isaac of Forkland, AL was honored by family and friends for 34 years of service in the Greene County, AL Sheriff’s Department. Isaac’s retirement gala was held Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Eutaw Activity Center
Isaac served as a deputy sheriff under the administrations of eight county sheriffs, beginning his tenure in 1977 under Sheriff Thomas Gilmore and continued serving through current Sheriff Joe Benison.
Special tributes were presented by the Greene County Commission, the Greene County E-911 Communication District, the Towns of Eutaw and Forkland, longtime colleagues from the sheriff’s department as well as family members, church members and friends.
Rev. Joe Webb lifted Sgt. Isaac for taking young boys, including Webb’s son, under his tutelage as part of the New Gospel Singers group. Isaac engaged the youth at the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival as well as at other gospel music venues.
To the delight of all present, Sam Isaac, who is known for his melodious voice, was asked to lead other family vocalists and youth singers in song as part of the retirement gala.
Sgt. Sam Isaac’s special recognition day concluded with humble words of appreciation from him and his wife, Mrs. Carzella Isaac. Everyone present shared good food and fellowship.

Pictured with Sgt. Sam Isaac (far right) are brother Johnny Lovell Isaac, and sisters Veronica Isaac and Beverly Tyree. On behalf of the Isaac family, they presented Sgt. Isaac with a special tribute in recognition of his contributions to Greene County, his family and his church.

2,000+ bingo machines stored in Greene Co.

Pictured with some of the bingo machines stored at the Poole warehouse are L-R Greene County deputies Jeremy Rancher and Jimmie Benison; Greene Co. Sheriff Joe Benison and Assistant Eutaw Police Chief Luther Davis.

Over 2,000 electronic bingo-type machines were discovered stored at the former Hasson-Poole warehouse properties on Wilson Ave. in Eutaw on March 19.
According to local law enforcement officers, the driver of a transfer truck was stopped by a deputy sheriff on Finches Ferry Road late Saturday morning when the driver was seemingly lost. The truck driver indicated that he was trying to find a warehouse location to pick up some machines. The driver identified Poole’s warehouse as the property housing the machines.
The officers accompanied the truck to the Poole site and discovered the 2,000 plus bingo machines which, upon closer examination, did not contain servers or software. These machines were not operative as stored.
The trucker was allowed to load his capacity of 108 machines on the transfer vehicle and proceed to drive these out of state. The city and county law enforcement officers present indicated that Jimmie Poole informed them that his facility was leased out one year ago as storage for the machines. No official information has been released to date on the origins of the bingo-typed machines or the identity of the person or company leasing the Poole properties. A source indicated that the machines must be moved out of state within 60 days.
Apparently Eutaw City officials were aware that the Hasson-Poole warehouse was being leased to house the unused bingo machines.
Neither Davis nor Sheriff Benison could be reached for comment. However, informed sources told the Democrat that the mere storage of inoperable electronic bingo machines does not constitute a crime.

Greene Co. Sheriff makes changes in personnel and assignments

Greene County Sheriff Joe Benison
Greene County Sheriff Joe Benison has announced some changes in personnel and assignments in the sheriff’s office.
“I believe that the over-whelming vote of the people mandate the changes,” said Benison.
“The task of making personnel changes at the beginning of any new administration is sometimes difficult, yet this is a task that has occurred in many past administrations; and more than likely will occur in future adminstrations as well. These and future changes are not only in the best interest of the department, but the citizens of our county as well. Nevertheless, I believe through my knowledge and experience, we have the right people in place to protect the citizens of Greene County.”
New assignments include:
Chief Deputy – Henry McWhorter, a former insurance investigator with the Birmingham law firm of McNamee and Liddon and a consutant with Attorneys’ Investigative in Birmingham, AL.
Patrol Lieutenant – Jimmie Benison
Chief Investigator – Hubert Finch, Jr.
Patrol Sargeant – Jeff Grant
Patrol Corporal – Curtis Rice
Patrol Corporal- Melvin Smith
Corporal Investigator – Jeremy Rancher
Jail Administrator – Barbara Collins
Chief Deputy McWhorter is white and all the other new appointees are Black.
Employees who were dismissed by Benison included:
Mary Snoddy – Jail Administrator
Deputy Sheriff Sam Isaac
Lula McClure – office worker
Marvin White – part time correction officer
Keturah Gibson – correction officer
Lonnie Glenn – temporary correction officer
Anastashia Rice – correction officer

Caravan for Justice will be held to protest unjust sentencing of killer of Jimmie Lee Jackson

Jimmie Lee Jackson

Several months ago District Attorney Michael Jackson extracted a guilty plea from James Bonard Fowler, the killer of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Fowler pleaded guilty on November 15, 2010 to a lesser charge in the shooting death of Jackson. He subsequently was sentenced to serve 6 months in jail, not in Perry County where the brutal killing took place, but in Geneva County, the county of his residence.
Jackson was shot dead in a restaurant in the city of Marion. On the night of February18, 1965, approximately 500 people left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County Jail about a half a block away where SCLC field worker, James Orange was being held. A line of Marion City police, sheriff’s deputies and Alabama State Troopers met them. Streetlights were abruptly turned off and the police began to beat the protestors. Then 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson with his mother and grandfather ran into Mack’s Café behind the church and were pursued by Alabama State Troopers. When the troopers began to attack them in the restaurant, Jimmie Lee tried to protect his mother. Fowler shot him twice in the abdomen. Jackson died at Good Samaritan Hospital eight days later.
Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death prompted the call for a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. It ended when Alabama State Troopers attacked the peaceful voting rights marchers. That day became known as Bloody Sunday and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
District Attorney Michael Jackson, who in 2005 became the first black prosecutor elected to serve Selma and surrounding counties including Perry Co., reopened the case and took it before a county grand jury, which indicted Fowler on a murder charge in May 2007.
Chapters of the SCLC, New South Coalition, Grass Roots Democracy and other groups will gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on February 18, 2011 in protest. Justice was not served in the sentencing of James Bonard Fowler.
The group, The Caravan for Justice, will take a slow ride to Geneva County and hold a vigil around the jail where James Bonard Fowler is serving his “sentence”.
The jails are filled with Black men accused of far less hideous crimes whose sentences are far greater.
Forty-six years after the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson and Bloody Sunday, The Caravan for Justice will high light the injustices that still exist in the Criminal Justice System.
The Caravan will begin at the Foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on February 18, 2011 and culminate with Jimmie Lee Jackson Day in Marion on February 20th at 2 p.m. at the Marion Baptist Academy.
President Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be the featured speaker for this event.
There will also be demonstrations of concern at the annual Bridge Crossing march reenactment on Sunday, March 6, 2011 leaving Brown Chapel Church at 2:00 p.m. (See Jubilee Schedule on Page 6 of this issue).
We invite all who are willing to join us in The Caravan for Justice at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on February 18, 2011.
For more information contact Faya Toure’ at (334) 526-2626.

Circuit Clerk arrested on Grand Jury indictment

This accident involving a pick-up truck and a tanker carrying flammable gas occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Wilson Avenue in Eutaw on Friday, January 28, 2011. The driver of the pick-up truck was taken to an area hospital.

On January 26, 2011, Greene County Circuit Clerk Etta Edwards was arrested by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. Edwards had been indicted by a recent Grand Jury in connection with funds in the amount of $138,120.72 which allegedly were unaccounted for in the Circuit Clerk’s office.
According to a document issued on June 4, 2010, by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts:
“A cash count was performed on June 30, 2009 on monies that should have been on hand for collections of all divisions of the court. The cash count indicated that funds totaling $147,416.62 should have been on hand for receipts in the Criminal Division dated April 2009 through June 2009; however only $9,295.90 was on hand. Therefore, there was a cash shortage in the amount of $138,120.72. The charges against Edwards resulted from amounts collected but not deposited to the official bank account. An official demand was made on Edwards to pay the charges, but she declined..
“These charges remain due and unpaid and will be certified to the Attorney General for collection.
“The Attorney General has four options: doing nothing, writing a letter asking for repayment, filing a civil suit or prosecution.”
The examiners’ report also said, “During the testing of bank reconciliations for the Child Support Division, a shortage in the amount of $589.56 was noted on the May 31, 2008 reconciliation. This included both receipts that appeared not to have been deposited and deposit shortages. The Circuit Clerk repaid this amount.”
Following her arrest, Edwards was released on a $25,000 bond.
Other arrests made by the county included:
1/26 – Brian Knox, 31, of Knoxville was arrested for FTA assault and escape,
1/26 – Katina Glover, 38, of Forkland was arrested for contributing to the truancy of a minor. She was released on a $500 bond.
1/28 – Marcus Small, 36, of Akron was arrested for FTA driving while suspended and FTA failure to display insurance.
1/29 – Justin Dunlap, 18, of Boligee was arrested for possession of marijuana and receiving stolen property, i.e. a pistol.
1/30 – Michael Merritt, 28, of Clinton was arrested for FTA burglary III
1/31 – Aaron Brown, 31, of Faunsdale was arrested for FTA burglary.
Incidents reported included:
1/26 – Tanya Clay reported someone stole two TVs from her valued at a total of $1,249.
1/27 – Ingrid Curry reported some stole his 1986 Grand Am valued at $400.

Eutaw Police Report

The Eutaw Police Department made the following arrests:
1/28 – Derrick Maurice Allen, 30, of Epes was arrested for domestic violence assault.
1/29 – Louis Powell, 57, of Eutaw was arrested for public intoxication.
1/29 – Akeem Olayiwola of Boligee was arrested for F TA driving while suspended.
1/29 – David Simmons, Jr., 32, of Eutaw was arrested for FTA driving while suspended and FTA DUI.
Incidents reported included:
1/29 – Jonquise Brewington reported that someone shot at him following an argument at the Oak Tree Lounge. As he was running away, he fell and injured his shoulder.
1/30 – George Moore reported someone stole $80 from his home on Constantine Street.

Bingo and politics dominate news in 2010

*Greenetrack and electronic bingo dominated the news, not only in Greene County, but also in most of Alabama in 2010.
In 2009, the Eatman Alumni Association obtained a bingo license and entered into an agreement with Sidetrack LLC to open such an establishment.
This quickly became a moot point when Alabama Governor Bob Riley established an Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The first head of this organization was forced to resign when it was revealed that he won a $2,300 jackpot at a slot machine in Mississippi.
Riley appointed John Tyson. Mobile District Attorney, as the head of his Task Force.
Throughout the month of February, electronic bingo was the main topic of discussion.
On February 23, 2010, over 1,000 people, many of them from Greene County, gathered near the Alabama State House in Montgomery to urge the Alabama Senate to pass a bill for a constitutional amendment to legalize, regulate and tax electronic bingo. The amendment passed on March 30, with 21 senators voting yes. However, the Alabama House never took a vote on this amendment.
Nevertheless, Riley continued his anti-bingo campaign.
Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway foiled a planned raid on June 18 by issuing injunctions against the state.  Tyson appealed this move to the Alabama Supreme Court and on Tuesday, June 29, Alabama State Troopers surrounded Greenetrack, as hundreds of citizens gathered outside the gates. Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn, two county commissioners, State Senator Bobby Singleton and several Greenetrack employees formed a human barricade inside the doors of Greenetrack to prevent the troopers from entering.
However, Riley’s Task Force, aided by the numerous state troopers, finally succeeded in closing the establishment and confiscated all the electronic bingo machines.
The people who had stood inside the door were arrested and charged with obstructing a government organization. They were all later found not guilty in Greene County District Court.
On July 28, 2010, Civil Rights Attorney Jim Blacksher filed a class action suit on behalf of voters of Greene and Macon counties against Gov. Bob Riley and Task Force leader John Tyson in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division. This suit was based on Riley and Tyson’s use of Executive Order 44 to raid and subsequently close down bingo operations in both counties.
The loss of electronic bingo at Greenetrack created a great deal of hardship in Greene County. Almost 400 people lost their jobs and funding for many organizations and governmental entities ceased. Although Greenetrack itself could remain open since parimutuel wagering is legal in Alabama, the revenue generated was not nearly enough to provide jobs and benefits on the same level as electronic bingo did.
The year ended with no change, although many protests were lodged and mass meetings were held.
*The other major story of 2010, this one affecting the entire state, was the Republican victories throughout Alabama on the local and state level in the November General Election.
A second Republican governor, Robert Bentley, was elected and Republicans took control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time in 136 years.
Terri Sewell became the first Alabama Black female elected to Congress. Sewell, a Democrat, serves the 7th Congressional District
On a local level, there were few Republican votes cast in Greene County.
There were two new Democratic faces on the Greene County Commission – Elzora Fluker defeated incumbent Donald Means in District 3 and Allen Turner, Jr. replaced Bill  Johnson, who retired, in District 4.
The Greene County School Board selected Frank Smith to fill the District 3 seat vacated by Fluker. He will serve her unexpired term.
There was some good news in 2010 in Greene County.
*The U. S. Senate finally passed funding for $1.5 billion Pigford II Black farmer class action suit. This opens the door for many farmers in Greene County who filed too late in the Pigford I case to receive the $50,000 settlement or any other type of settlement under the original lawsuit.
Many farmers hope to benefit from this second settlement, but it is strictly for those who had already filed in the initial suit, but filed too late.
The next step is that the settlement must be approved by the Federal District Court in Washington, D. C.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that it could be at least a year before any payments were made and it’s highly unlikely anyone will get money until some time in 2012.
*During the year 2010, Greene County had a total of four sheriffs – Ison Thomas, Ronald Kent Smith, George Cook and Joe Benison.
Thomas was elected Greene County Sheriff in 2006 with a historic write-in campaign and was respected by most of the citizens of Greene County.
Thomas died on April 3, 2010 from complications of cancer. Alabama law provides that on the death of a sitting sheriff, the county coroner takes the office. This made Smith the new Greene County Sheriff.
In the June primary, Joe Benison was elected sheriff, but despite that Riley appointed George Cook as Greene County’s sheriff. Cook was an ABC officer who had never held a position of leadership.
Cook resigned his position in December and Gov. Riley appointed Joe Benison as sheriff. Benison officially took the oath of office on December 22. This made four sheriffs in the county in less than a year.
Benison will be sworn in again on January 9, 2010 in a public ceremony to begin the term he was elected for.
*The City of Eutaw also lost its lead law enforcement office when Police Chief Tommy Summerville died on December 9th. Summerville has not yet been replaced, but Asst. Chief Luther Davis is serving as interim chief while the city goes through the application process.
*On Friday, February 26, 2010, the Greene County High School Tigers Basketball team easily beat Madison Academy 61-44 to win the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Championship. The entire county celebrated their victory.
*The Eutaw City Council has dealt with some thorny problems this past year. A resolution brought up in to create an Industrial Development Authority was tabled for the fourth time in six months in the March meeting. This authority would have replaced the existing Industrial Development Board. To create the authority, the council would have to transfer its 45% of the land in Crossroads of America Industrial Park to the Authority. Danny Cooper, then chair of the IDB, said he could not understand their hesitancy to support the resolution since most of them had told him in private they did support it.
He said that Greene County had already lost one business to another town because they were unable to act swiftly to provide a land option.
The creation of this authority was was approved at a later meeting.
In March, the council removed Mayor Raymond Steele from signing checks on any city account. Instead they designated two of three persons – city clerk Peggy Stripling, Councilwoman Hattie Edwards and Councilman Ralph Liverman as signees.
Elam Properties requested an ordinance change to allow them to open a recycling plant in Eutaw. The Zoning Board recommended that the Eutaw City Council deny this request. However, the council voted 3-1 to support a new ordinance to change the zoning of the former Sumer Veneer site from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry), which could allow Elam Properies to locate in the city.
In May the council questioned why SouthFresh Catfish Processers only paid the city $500 per month for water and sewage. This was resolved before the end of the year, with an agreement that Southfresh would pay $3,000 per month for the next 12 months, which will help city finances.
On a more positive note, Dr. Arnaldo Sanchez, a doctor of internal medicine, joined the staff of the Greene County Hospital and Physicians Clinic.