Friday, May 22, 2015

Banking Questions? Get Them Answered Here!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Passing of Dr. Dana Swick


Dr. Dana F. Swick, passed away Thursday, May 7, 2015. He was the son of the late Thomas F. and Audrey F. Swick. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by sisters, Lucille Warner and Grace Wiley; son, The Reverend Dana Craig Swick; brother, Lewis. 

Surviving are his loving wife, Donna; sons, Brent (Carol), Kirk (Mary Dee); daughter, Janeen; 4 grandchildren; 4 great grandchildren; 3 nieces and 4 nephews.

Born in Berne, Ohio he worked for forty years in education. He earned his Ph.D. at Northwestern and was later invited to do post doctoral work at Columbia and Harvard. He taught in the Ohio Public Schools and in the Mathematics Department at Ohio University. Dr. Swick was a Superintendent and Director of Instruction in Kingsport, Tennessee, Director of Instruction for the Metro-Nashville public schools, Superintendent of Worthington Public Schools, Superintendent in Murfreesboro City Schools and a superintendent of schools for 23 years and head of the Division of Education at George Peabody College in Nashville. 

Dr. Swick was a Danforth Fellow, served as chairman of Florida committee to study public education in the state, worked for the U.S. Office of Education and did consulting work for various South Eastern U.S. School systems. 

Awards and honors also included President of the Tennessee Education Association, Chairman of the Tennessee Superintendents Study Council, Treasurer of the American Association of School Administrators, a member of the first Board of Directors of the A.A.S.A. National Academy for School Executives and invitation to the first three I.D.E.A. Conferences held for superintendents whose school systems were on the leading edge of promising innovative educational programs. 

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps for three and half years during World War II. Dana served his church as an Usher, Treasurer, and member of the stewardship and finance committees and was co-chairman of the administrative board. 

Dr. Swick will be buried in his home town cemetery at Berne Carlisle, Ohio.

Memorials may be made to St. Jude's Hospital, Memphis, TN, St. Josephs Indian School, Chamberlain, SD 57326 or to the Building Fund of the First United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro, TN.

Private arrangements were entrusted to Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, OH, where online condolences may be offered to the family at
- See more at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Douglass Alumni Fish Fry This Weekend & Big Reunion Meeting

Douglass Alumni and Riverview Residents... Please don't forget the fish fry this Saturday, May 16, 2015 at the shelter in the V.O. Dobbins field. We hope to get started about 11:00 a.m.

Also, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass will be the host for the 4th organizational meeting of former black schools for the Golden Gathering Reunion 2015.  We  will meet at the V. O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex in the Douglass Community Room, also at 11:00 a.m.

If you'd like to attend, please feel free to come and lend your voices to help organize what will be the largest Reunion of former black schools in upper East Tennessee and SW Virginia.  The meeting is open to every one.

Douglas S. Releford
Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Inc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blake Leeper delivers surprise for Mother’s Day

Kingsport Native, Mom Appear in Commercial


By Marci Gore

KINGSPORT - Mother's day came a little early for Edith Leeper this year.

Edith, a nurse at Holston Medical Group, is Blake Leeper's mom.  Blake was born without legs from the knees down and has worn prosthetics since he was 16 months old.

Blake has always credited his parents with instilling in him the strong mind-set he possesses today.

In fact, the 2007 Dobyns-Bennett graduate started intensively running in 2008 after the Challenged Athlete Foundation presented him with a grant with state-of-the-art blade prosthetics.  He won a silver medal in the 2012 Paralympic games and the gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the IPC Worlds in Lyon, France.

Blake is currently training for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he would become the first double amputee American to compete in the Olympic games.

"The day I was born, my parents had a choice.  They could let this break us or make us.  My disability would have broken most individuals and parents.  But they made me into the person that I am," he said.

Because Blake now lives fulltime in Chula Vista, California while he is training, he doesn't get to see his parents very often.

But a few weeks ago, he was given an opportunity to get to come home and surprise his mom,

Blake's agent ran Blake's name through a Mother's Day competition with Teleflora, a worldwide floral wire delivery service.

"My agent submitted my name and they went through a whole list of people, looking at their background stories, what they've been through, how far they've come.  And then they contacted me and said is this something that you'd be interested in and I said yes, of course!"

So, over the course of the next few days, a short video of Blake telling his mom what she means to him and how she has helped him be the man he is today.  Blake had to get his dad, Billy in on the surprise.

"I had my dad scrambling around, looking for photos of my mom and me together.  They asked me 'Does your dad have a big mouth?  I said, well......" Blake said with a laugh.

But Blake said, in the end, his dad was good with the surprise.  "We had to make sure she was home and at the right time.  My dad did a wonderful job of not telling anybody," he said.

And surprise Edith they did.

"Blake called me a couple of days before and said "Mom, there's a couple of people coming by the house that are going to talk to you about me growing up and those sorts of things," Edit said.  "He said just a couple of people.  But two vans full of people and three or four cars pulled up and I said I thought he said just a couple of people!"

What Edith didn't know what that Blake was also in one of the vans.

In the Teleflora commercial, which can be found on YouTube, a Teleflora delivery person gives Edith a tablet so she can watch Blake's video message to her.  When the message ends, Blake appears from behind the van with a bouquet of flowers for his mother.  When she sees her son, Edith's cries are probably heard all over the Leeper's Church Hill neighborhood.

"When I saw Blake, I just lost it," Edith said.  "We don't get to see him very often.  I try to commit him to at least one of the holidays at the end of the year and we try to go out to California maybe a couple of times a year.  And that's about it, unless we get to go to one of his events.  This was wonderful"

Blake says he knows he doesn't thank his mom enough for what she has done for him and that making the Teleflora commercial was a great opportunity for him to do something special for her.

"It started from the day I was born, those decisions she and my dad made that, regardless of my situation, I was going to be somebody special and not be defined by my disability," he said.  "Every day I wake up, I put one leg on at a time, I thank the Lord for me being here and I go get it.  And you know what?  I'll always be my Mom's baby boy."

Blake and Edith's video is one of several Mother's Day videos that were released by Teleflora last Friday.  The videos show unexpected reunions between moms and their children.

You can view Blake's Mother's Day tribute to his mom by clicking here on "Blake's Unforgettable Mother's Day Delivery to Mom."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Big Reunion & Homecoming: "Golden Gathering 2015"

Plans are underway for all alumni of the former African-American schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, to have one huge Reunion, called "The Golden Gathering 2015."  

The reunion commemorates the 50th golden anniversary of the closing of our black schools in 1965. We hope to honor the traditions we practiced, the educations we shared, the athletic/academic competitions we loved, and the social lives that bonded us together over the years.

The date of the Golden Gathering 2015 event is Saturday, August 29, 2015, place and the program to be announced. All programs on that day will revolve around a huge banquet on the night of August 29th.

Alumni and descendants of the following schools are invited:

Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, VA
Douglass High School, Bristol, VA
Slater High School, Bristol, Virginia
Langston High School, Johnson City, TN
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, TN
Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Jonesborough, TN
Douglass High School, Kingsport, TN
George Clem High School, Greeneville, TN
Swift High School, Rogersville, TN
Tanner High School, Newport, TN
Morristown West High School, Morristown, TN
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, TN
Austin High School, Knoxville, TN All elementary schools who sent children to the above schools

The organizational committee for the Golden Gathering 2015 has been meeting since March, to plan the individual programs for the event. Below are minutes from the meeting of April 11, 2015:

Big Reunion Progress Meeting:
Carver Recreation Center, Johnson City, TN
April 11, 2015
Persons Present: Calvin Sneed; Carolyn Trammell-Cox; Georgia Gillespie; Sandra (Dawson) Nuttall; Nancy Rhea Robinson; William (Bill) Coleman, Jr.; Barbara Love Watterson; Henry Wisdom; Carla Forney; Michael L. Young; Brenda A. Charles; Nancy G. Howard; Norman Howard; Roland Dykes, III; Elva L. Morrison; Sue Gilispie;  Renea G. Hall; Lawrence R. Bell, Jr.; Shirley Gammon Bell.
Meeting opened at 11:15 AM, April 11, 2015, with prayer by Carolyn Cox.
Calvin Sneed advised that last meeting (March 7, 2015) notes have been posted on the Website.  He has called J.C. Press to speak with Johnny Malloy about tracking progress/history of schools and upcoming 2015 combined reunion.
Robert Dykes III (Tanner High) spoke of efforts to reclaim/restore Tanner HS, which was damaged during a past tornado.
Calvin related that Langston, Clem, & Tanner are all attempting to reclaim their buildings. City leaders are not concerned, so we must keep these visions in the forefront.  He gave info as to how Kingsport was able to get Douglass Community Center.  Douglass was a Rosenwald school, as was Tanner and the Langston Gymnasium.  These buildings represent histories of the Black community.  This Big Reunion is about rekindling our histories, preserving them, and passing them on to our descendents.

Discussion pursued regarding the mission for Committees:
Members should take information from meeting(s) and disseminate amongst our Alumni Associations.
Event:  Saturday, August 29, 2015 = Banquet.. What would be a good venue?  What should we set as the Cost ($)?.
We need to form a Site Committee...
Nancy Howard suggested that each School Reunion Group provide a list or numbers of attendees at their last Reunion... some sort of poll for each of our groups to determine about how many persons "might" attend.  Norman Howard stated that we need to work through our standing community structures, i.e.; the Black Churches.
Calvin urged that we need to set up Committees today: Marketing/Public Affairs; Location/Site, Finance; Entertainment; etc...
Volunteers (?) were appointed for the Location/Site Committee: Doug Releford (Kgpt), Henry Wisdom (Bristol/Slater), and Mary Alexander (Langston).  Site recommendations are needed within the next two weeks (by May 2nd.).
Norman Howard related that we need to think about this being a Family event - to plan for bringing kids, and entire families.
Nancy Howard noted that we need to focus on celebrating those who attended one of the Black institutions, Maybe other activities could be incorporated to others from the larger community.
Henry Wisdom stated he had already called Mary Alexander... they will meet within this week to work on the location/site... He also agreed that we need to use the Black churches to help promote the event.
Carla Forney suggested that perhaps we can work through the Ministers Alliance.
Nancy Howard added that we do need to focus on Our stories as a region, but perhaps we could plan a series of events for each city to bring the individual impact on those specific cities.
Calvin stated we had originally thought about one day, but it seems like we need to think about two days (Sat/Sun)... maybe a picnic and a Banquet on Saturday, then a large Church event (?) on Sunday...?
Nancy responded that she agrees with a Saturday gathering to celebrate the 50th year, but each city/school should focus on their own activities in their individual cities and communities.
Calvin related that the original idea was to celebrate what we all had experienced together from the entire region.
Barbara Watterson thinks we would have better success in bringing all the schools together.
Calvin asked; let's get our Entertainment Committee together:  He appointed Carla Forney, Barbara Watterson, Brenda Charles, Vivian Releford, and Stella Gudger as members of this committee.
Norman Howard stated that our history has been an oral history.  Perhaps we could get media to document historical storytelling, interviews, etc...
Calvin related that we could go to the JC Press and WJHL to see if they will support the effort.  We could also consider asking this business to sponsor a part of the Reunion.
Calvin stated that he would work with Norman Howard on the Marketing Committee.
Nancy Howard thought that we should develop a script or memo to ensure that we are all speaking from the same sheet.  Calvin agreed, We need to have a script in place by the end of April, to send out to Churches...
Carolyn T. Cox stated that each Reunion Group needs to (soon) get a head count of potential attendees to forward to the Location/Site Committee.  Calvin replied that we intend to ask Churches, Alumni Groups, etc., to develop potential attendees.  We will need to have a firm number by the 1st of July.
Carla Forney asked if there are officers for this group (Big Reunion)?.
Calvin Sneed was nominated as Chair.
Finance/Treasury Committee: B. Watterson, N. Robinson, Carolyn Cox
Sue Greenlee asked how are we going to get the word out and will it be via a letter, flyers, etc.?
Mike Young suggested that perhaps we can send out an Introductory Letter to announce the event... advise the planned event., then follow up with a Detailed Letter.  Calvin agreed - he will do that - he'll send out the Intro Letter to the Ministerial Alliance, etc...
Next Meeting date: Saturday May 2, 2015, at 11:00.  All Committee Reports are due on this date.
Closing prayer was offered by Henry Wisdom.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 Douglass Reunion Plans Progressing

Plans for the Douglass Reunion are progressing.

The event is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 3rd, 4th and 5th in Kingsport.

Plans are for a meet-and-greet for returning Douglass alumni and alumni in the community for Friday night, July 3rd.  The event will be held in the Douglass Community Room at the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex.

Instead of a gathering in the Douglass Ball Field, the Reunion's Field Day will be a picnic at the Eastman Cabin at Bays Mountain Park on the Fourth of July afternoon.  Efforts are also underway to have a barge tour on the Kingsport Reservoir at the Bays Mountain Planetarium.

That night features a banquet with music, also held in the Douglass Community Room.

Sunday's events on July 5th include attending the church of your choice that morning, then the Douglass Memorial Service in the Douglass Community Room.

Thanks to everyone who have notified the Alumni Board of their plans to attend, and a reminder that if you haven't done so, please let the Board know so that enough food can be ordered.  You can do that by emailing our Board Secretary Vicki Smith at

Also, a reminder that dues for the upcoming operational year for the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association are payable now.  Please don't forget that the Board needs all former Douglass alumni and all descendants of Douglass alumni to pay dues and maintain the Association's programs.
Please mail your dues to:

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association
301 Louis Street, Ste. 104
Kingsport, TN 37660

Thank you!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tribe track teams pull off sweep of Big 7/IMAC titles


KINGSPORT — On a night when one of the greatest track athletes in Dobyns-Bennett history was honored, the D-B girls and boys swept the team titles in the Big 7/IMAC track meet at the Dan Crowe/Tom Coughenour Track.

Friday saw the return of former Indians standout Andre Releford, who was the Tennessee 100-yard dash champion in 1971, ’72 and ’73. He helped lead the D-B to boys state track championships in 1971 and ’72.

“Coming back here is such a thrill,” said Releford, who now lives in Blacksburg, Va. “I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who supported me when I was here at Dobyns-Bennett.”

The Tribe girls won the team title with 114.5 points. Morristown West (110) was second ahead of third-place Science Hill (109). D-B’s boys posted a 114-105 win over Science Hill with Daniel Boone third (102).

D-B’s Bryce Barrett — after a Releford-like outing — was named the meet’s most outstanding performer. Barrett won the 200 (22.51), and 400 meters (49.68) and finished second in the 100 (11.06). He also ran a leg on the Indians’ winning 4x400 relay.

He posted personal-best times in all three of his individual races.

“The competition was really good in all the races tonight,” Barrett said. “I was just trying to beat whoever I was running against.
“To earn this award is an extreme honor considering all the good athletes here tonight.”

Morristown West’s Jessica Lord was named the meet’s most outstanding female runner after victories in the 400 (59.24) and 800 (2:24.75). She also ran the anchor leg on the Lady Trojans’ winning 4x800 r e l a y.

“I was really happy for our relay team,” said Lord, a sophomore. “In the 400, I just had a burst of energy and that got me through that race. In the 800, I just got mad at myself because I thought I could be running faster. I started kicking and just went for it.”

Daniel Boone standout Adam Barnard, the defending state 1,600-meter champion, put on a show from start to finish in his specialty. Barnard blistered the track to easily take the event title in a stellar time of 4:14.14.

“It was a little different strategy tonight,” said Barnard, who also won the state cross country individual crown last fall. “Usually I just hang back and use my kick at the end. Tonight I went hard from the very start. That pace pulls my teammates along and they run fast, too, so that’s a good thing.”

Barnard was named the meet’s most outstanding male runner.

The Indians’ Alijah Dunn exploded off the board and had a leap of 46-7 in the triple jump. That distance was the best recorded in the state so far this season.

“My first jump was 46-3 so I knew I had it in me,” said Dunn, named the meet’s most outstanding male in field events. “I moved to a shorter board and felt more comfortable. That was the key.”

D-B’s Sasha Morrisette was named the meet’s most outstanding female in field events after winning the long jump (15-5) and triple jump (35-4¼). She also finished fourth in the high jump.

Science Hill sophomore Halle Hausman had another showdown with the Wilson twins from Morristown West. Last Saturday, Hausman outkicked Cherie and Chantal in the 1,600 meters at the Frank Carver meet for an impressive win, and she repeated the performance Friday night.

Using a withering kick over the final 200 meters, Hausman crossed the finish line first in a time of 5:11.50, ahead of runner-up Cherie Wilson (5:13.15) and third-place finisher Chantal Wilson (5:14.11).

Friday, April 17, 2015

"They are Just Like Us": Ministers' Fashion Show in Johnson City

It was a fashion show, more unique in the terms of the models themselves and not so much their what they were wearing.

Local ministers were the featured attractions at the first annual Ministers Fashion Show in Johnson City.

The idea of a fashion show focusing on local preachers, grew from an idea at the St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Johnson City, where Barbara Watterson is a member.

"We were meeting at the church one day in the Missionary Society," she says, "trying to figure out 'what kind of program could we do that we haven't done before?'  I thank God that the idea just popped into my head 'well, why don't we do a fashion show with the ministers.. maybe let them model their finest clothes?'  The other church members looked me like I was crazy.  I reminded them that we were looking for something that had never been done before."

Watterson says, a few minutes went by, "and then something must have clicked.  Somebody said 'well, let's try it, let's go for it."

"I guess the rest is fashion history."

Although scheduling and frequent problems with the weather abounded, the idea of showcasing ministers in a setting other than the church pulpit, was something that made the fashion show concept an intriguing one.

"We see them when we need prayer, we see them when they're preaching the Gospel," Watterson says, "we see them comforting the families at funerals, and joining couples in holy matrimony.  But we never see them as people, as human beings.  Don't forget.. that was the beauty of Jesus.  He was the Son of God, sent down from Heaven to walk among us, to live among us, to be One with us.  He rejoiced with us, He cried with us, He suffered with us.  He did that while he was ONE of us."

"Our ministers are people, too," she continued.  "They want to get out and be amongst the people and be involved in things in the community, but we don't ever think to ask them.  We don't ever want to bother them with things in the community because we don't think they would be interested, but they just might be.  They have lives, too.  I think it's beautiful when we can showcase our ministers in a positive light away from the church."

The fashion show was just the ticket for that.

Participating were the Reverend Irving H. Greene, pastor of the Robinson Memorial AME Zion Church in Bluff City...... the Reverend George Kukubor, pastor of the White Memorial AME Zion Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky.... Bishop Dr. Amos W. Gbaq, Sr., of the International Christian Fellowship of Johnson City..... Pastor James Reddick of the Hood Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and Presiding Elder of the Johnson City District.... and the Reverend Dr. James A. Snapp, pastor of the Jones Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greeneville.

Reverend Greene was first on the runway.   His first ensemble consisted of a pure wool black business suit by Oleg Cassini, surrounding a gray dress shirt by John W. Norstram.  The tie was a 100% silk handmade tie, with a polka-dot pocket piece.  His black dress shoes were made by Stacy Adams, and he was supported by a brass duckbill cane.  Reverend Greene topped it all off with a short bring black felt hat, from Knox of 5th Avenue.

To the delight of the audience, he proclaimed that he "is about His Father's Business."

Next on the runway, Reverend Kukubor is a native of Ghana.  His dress outfit is a Soldier of Ashanti Golden Stool, him being a Holy Man of the Golden Stool.

Ghana is one of Africa's most developed countries, with a predominately Christian religious background, with Muslim also practiced.

The audience was mesmerized by the strikingly beautiful suit modeled by the Middlesboro minister.

Next up, Bishop Gbaq claims the African nations of Liberia and Ghana in his history, as well as Johnson City, Tennessee.

The audience was astounded and excited to learn that the Bishop "made everything that he wore in the fashion show."

Pastor Reddick's ensemble consisted of a single-breasted suit with brown stripes.  It was complimented with matching tie and matching shoes.

The suit is by Alan Lebow, tailored for Blakely Mitchell.

The special shoes are from Allen Edmons by Winhall.

Pastor Reddick considers himself "fit to be a part of the crowd."

Finally, the Reverend Dr. Snapp made his way down the runway.  He wore a black and grey long coat suit, made by Giorgio Capella.

His hat was fashioned by Lite Felt, and the custom shoes were made by Nunn Bush.

Reverend Snapp took time to thank the audience for coming out and more so, for allowing all of the preachers to be themselves.  That was representative of all the members of the clergy in the fashion show.

An extra added treat for the event, was the "presentations" by "T.D. Jakes" portrayed by Eric Black...  "Creflo Dollar" played by Anthony Hill, and "Fred Price" was Angelo Newman.  All of the "presentations" were about money, and all of them created laughter and "amen's" from the audience.

"We didn't want ministers playing ministers," says Watterson.  "These are just lay people, hard workers in their churches.  We wanted to have a little levity that folks could identify with, during the break while the ministers changed into their other fashions."

The ministers in their second set of clothes were also hits with the group as well.  Afterwards, a wonderful meal awaited the audience members in a spirit of fellowship remeniscent of many church gatherings.

All in all, a wonderful, different kind of gathering that Watterson wants to do again, given how well received this first event was.  She wants to involve the women leaders in the churches for the next one.

"Our ministers looked so good in their robes and their dress outfits," she says.  "They're sharp dressers because of their upbringings."

Given the weather reschedulings, "the Lord just makes a way," she proclaimed. "If He wants it done, it just gets done in His Way. The people enjoyed the fellowship and seeing their ministers as people."

"Let them be in the limelight.. let them be seen as people just like everybody else."