Monday, July 27, 2009

Location of Stormwater Runoff Leaves Resident "Across the Big Pond"

The location of the retention pond for the V.O. Dobbins Community Center renovations on Louis Street in Riverview has raised the eyebrow of a nearby resident.

Jack Pierce says one day, "right out of a clear blue sky," he noticed what looked like a long, rectangular ditch right across the street from his Louis Street home.

"We saw them digging it one day," he says, "but we didn't what it was for, or if they were going to leave it open like it was. When I asked one of the fellows working over there what it was, he told us it was for holding rainwater."

What Mr. Pierce saw, is the latest eco-friendly process to keep land from being flooded. It is commonly referred to as a retention pond, usually built to catch excess stormwater runoff from parking lots and construction projects. If it is working correctly, a retention pond holds excess storm water from a heavy rain just long enough so it will flow into a small pipe that connects it to the nearest storm water drain, whose pipe is much larger. The resulting "damming" effect holds the water in the pond for a few hours while it goes into the drainage system and not onto nearby land. Almost every municipality requires builders to install these ponds on the downslopes of new buildings and parking lots. Often, new construction will upset the normal flow of excess storm water, and often sends that excess water into previously unflooded places like nearby basements, crawl spaces, and low spots in streets.

When the Dobbins Center was Douglass High School, the building was "grandfathered" from having to install a retention pond. Once the building was approved for renovation though, that "grandfather" rule did not apply anymore, and new rules requiring a retention pond went into effect.

But it's not the pond itself that concerns Jack Pierce. It's an unwanted by-product of the standing water that may be left behind as the pond slowly drains into the stormwater drainage system.


"We're concerned that standing water that has not flowed out of the pond yet could breed mosquitoes," says Mr. Pierce. "We have not had any problems with the bugs yet because we haven't had that much rain, but if you give them a habitat like standing water, they're drawn to it. We're worried that we won't be able to enjoy our yards if the mosquitoes establish a breeding ground in any water that's left in the pond."

"And then, what about the appearance of the pond?" he wondered out loud. "Will we have to come outside and stare at that hole in the ground all the time?"

"Mr. Pierce has legitimate concerns about the retention pond," says Chris McCartt, Kingsport's Development Service Manager and Assistant to the City Manager. "I wish there were any other place to put that pond, but if you look at the lay of the land and the way the slope is, water flow from Lincoln/MLK and the railroad tracks, slopes downward through Riverview towards the Holston River. We had to put the pond down from the building in the direction of the river, but near enough to the construction site and the parking lot to catch the excess runoff from heavy rains."

"We will be monitoring for bugs, especially mosquitoes," he says. "One of the good things is, that this is a retention pond, not a detention pond. A detention pond normally holds the excess storm water and lets it seep into the ground without drainage into the stormwater system. As this water leaves, it might leave little pockets, but those will either evaporate or sift into the ground quickly."

"We are also considering landscaping for the retention pond," Mr. McCartt added. "Another good thing about retention ponds, is they lend themselves to landscaping with shrubs, bushes and decorative plants. A detention pond retains too much water for those types of plants to work."

Storm water runoff has always been problematic for Riverview. Longtime residents say problems with excess water after heavy rains date back to the early days of the neighborhood. The community was built over the site of a former chemical dump for nearby industries, and as some chemical wastes hardened, seeping water moving towards the water table was obstructed by the the new barrier. That water frequently seeped back to the surface and flooded backyards and storm drains.

Upgrades to the storm water drainage system along Carver, Louis, Dunbar, Lincoln and Douglass Streets helped to move the excess rain water along somewhat, but heavy rains still produced flooding. Wheatley Street was the last new street added to the neighborhood, and as a result, does not experience the standing water the other streets have.

Apparently, without the retention pond, the V.O. Dobbins renovations would intensify many of the flooding problems the neighborhood has suffered in the past.

"We may also be forced to build another retention pond on the other side of the building," says Mr. McCartt. "The other one may not be as big as the present one, but when you look at the additional parking lot we have to build at the new Headstart classrooms, you have to start figuring up your drainage calculations and once they hit a certain point, you have to start thinking of how to capture that water also."

What should local residents do, if they notice more mosquitoes than normal?

"Just call City Hall," Mr. McCartt says. "Let us know, and if we find out the mosquitos are coming from the retention pond, then we will act quickly to spray for them. There is also a tablet you can drop into standing water that poisons the larvae immediately. Residents just need to let the building manager Mark Kilgore know, and he'll take a look at it and do the right thing if they're coming from the pond."

Mr. McCartt visited the pond to personally hear Mr. Pierce's concerns.

"I feel confident that Chris will take care of any problem we might have," says Mr. Pierce. "They've always been pretty good about looking into anything we have a problem about. I realize the pond has to go someplace and we were surprised to see it right across the street from us, but I feel the city won't let us down if problems come out of it."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

V.O. Dobbins Renovations Comparison Pictures

A month ago during an interview with the main architect for the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Center renovations, design specialist Dineen West said, every major construction project in the renovation would be started during the month of July.

She was right.

The 3-story tower steel framework is almost complete, the block walls for the Headstart expansion on Wheatley Street are up, ground has been broken for the new gymasium and the new KHRA offices, and walls on the first floor are ready to be busted out for the new Douglass Alumni Association offices. And we have pictures of it all.

To see pictures of the latest construction on the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Center, click
Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Update, July 25, 2009. I think you'll be surprised at the progress workers are making to our building. Direct comparision pictures and the date of the photos are below:

Below is a sequence of photos from the beginning of July until July 25, 2009, and as you can see, the project is really progressing.

JUNE 2, 2009
VIEW FROM WHEATLEY STREET TOWARDS BAYS MOUNTAIN First picture is from June 2, 2009, Second is from July 13th, and Third is from July 25th)

NEW HEADSTART CLASSROOMS (First picture is from July 2, 2009, Second is from July 25th)

CARVER STREET LOOKING AT OLD AUDITORIUM SITE (First picture is from April 23, 2009, Second is from May 30th, Third is from July 25th)

Artchitect Dineen West says, all of the construction on the project should be underway by the end of July, and indeed it is.

2009 Summer Block Party

The annual REsident Block Party on Saturday, July 25, 2009, sponsored by the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, brought out friends and neighbors in the South Central Kingsport communnity.

To see pictures from the event, click KHRA Summer Block Party 2009.

The event that featured pizza, soft drinks, music and fun and games for the children, was sponsored by the Kingsport Housing and Revelopment Authority.

Back to School Celebration in Riverview

The Kids Back to School Celebration on Saturday, July 25, 2009 was a rousing success.

The annual event was held in the Douglass Ballfield next to the Riverview Splash Pad, because its usual home, the V.O. Dobbins Community Center gym is undergoing renovations.

To see pictures from the celebration, click Riverview Back to School Celebration 2009.

The celebration is sponsored every year by the Kingsport Weed and Seed office of the South Central Kingsport Community Development Corporation.

"Every year during the summer, Weed and Seed gets a supply list from the Kingsport city school system," says Jeannie Hodge of the local Weed and Seed office. "It's a list of what every student will need to at least start every grade level from kindergarten to 12th grade. The Weed and Seed office then goes out and either purchases those materials or tries to get them donated, so our students will be ready for classes."

At the event, kids get pizza and soft drinks. The kids enjoyed that, and they also liked getting to know their fellow students, some of whom they hadn't seen all summer long. The kids and their parents filled out forms, picked up their school supplies and then hit the pizza and drinks.

They also got a tee-shirt and a backpack with all of their supplies inside.

Also joining in the celebration with exhibits were the local Headstart office, whose classes have temporarily been relocated to the old Dickson School while the Dobbins Center renovations are being done... and the local Drug Task Force walk-through trailer, whose displays and demonstrations on illegal drug use and prevention is always a big hit with visiting children.

With the Splash Pad so close by, the kids could not resist getting wet. "Those that were dressed for swimming, went from the pizza to the water," says Jeannie. Plenty of them were not dressed for it, but if their parents didn't mind, it was hot enough for them to get wet fully clothed. When the clouds came in and the wind blew a little, some of the kids got cooled off with their wet clothes, but they sure did enjoy it."

Douglass Alumni Board Trustees Meeting

The Douglass Alumni Association will have its next meeting at 1:00 p.m., at St. Mark United Methodist Church on August 1, 2009. It will be "POT LUCK".

Details to be announced. Please make plans to attend.
The meeting will also be televised on the Douglass Website,

--Board President Doug Releford

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pastor Ricardo Dorcean: Taking the "Central" Message to the Community

He is relatively young, by today's ministerial standards..

But 28-year-old Ricardo Dorcean is on a mission, and he's following in the footsteps of his elders.. that is, to continue leading followers of the Gospel to understand the true meaning of God's Word.

Reverend Dorcean has just ascended to the pastorship of the Central Baptist Church in Kingsport, Riverview-South Central's oldest church, and although he says he cannot predict the church's direction, his plans are to keep it wherever the Lord leads it.

The Haitian native sat down with the Douglass website, for his first interview, right after his very first sermon in Central's pulpit.

Click here to see a slideshow of the historic event.

"I am so excited about coming here," says Reverend Dorcean. "It's something that I feel God himself ordained, especially from the way it occurred. I am looking forward to whatever God wants me to do here."


Born in Haiti, Ricardo Dorcean grew up and graduated high school on the tough streets of East Orange, New Jersey, outside Newark. He remembers those streets as being very straight-forward, in-your-face and strict.

"Where I was raised," he says, "it wasn't the popular thing to do, to read the Bible and lean on its teachings. Sometimes, I would even try to avoid it, because most classmates and friends just didn't believe it, or buy into it, and they would tease you a lot about it. But I always had a sense that the calling was there, that an inner voice was saying, 'trust in me, and I will give you peace.'

"I really got depressed," he says. "I felt under-appreciated for what I was going through. I even thought about just ending it all, because of the emptiness I was feeling, and my friends that I grew up with, weren't helping. I felt that I wasn't appreciated for who I was. But somewhere in the depths of despair, the Holy Ghost spoke to me CLEARLY, and said 'your time is not yet, there is work for you to do. I wasn't sure what that work was."

"The first thing I thought, was 'man, I can't believe that He's calling me to do this."

"What was strange to me," says Reverend Dorcean, "was, the more I tried to move away from it, the more I started hearing the message, and finally I just stopped resisting because for me, it was the right thing to do."

"And then, God started putting me in positions where I had to speak on his behalf, I had to minister to others," he says. "I had to speak God's Word to people. Everywhere I would turn, I was ministering to somebody. As time when on, the Lord was sharing with me what he needed me to do."

"You know I was raised in the church," he says, "and I would think 'Lord, I still can't believe that You're choosing me. It was overwhelming to be, being God's Servant in that fashion, handing that responsibility of speaking for God was, in a sense, exciting. It was fearful sometimes, too, with the emotions I went through."

Reverend Dorcean continued finding his faith and his calling at Virginia Union University in Richmond.


"When I was in school," Reverend Dorcean says, "I heard one of my professors, Dean John Kinney preach during class..he's the Dean of Theology there. During his teachings, he used all these words which I had never heard before. It immediately caught my eye and ear. But as he was preaching, he also gave you examples of what the words meant. I was fascinated by that, I was intrigued by what he was saying. Even though I had never heard the words before, the fact that he was explaining them as he was going along was just fascinating. You were able to understand everything he saying.. the most amazing thing I had ever heard."

After graduation, armed with a Bachelors degree (2003), and eventually a Master's degree in Divinity (2006), Reverend Dorcean found his plate full.


"At the St. James Baptist Church, Pastor Kevin Sykes spread my name around, really helped me out a lot. I was always preaching somewhere on Sunday. He really helped me get started. My parents had moved to Virginia, and I became very active in the ministerial spotlight in the area, since I already had my license to preach."


"Then, when I moved to Washington, D.C., I was introduced to Pastor Terry Streeter at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, and man, we just connected. From Day One, it seemed the Lord brought us together. I don't know why Pastor Streeter found favor with me, but he pushed me to the limits of what a minister is supposed to do..he also put my name around the D.C. area. I was only in D.C. for a couple of months, but it was a very busy couple of months, ministering and preaching quite a bit. He saw where I was going and realized I needed to be ordained. He doesn't ordain easily, but he must have seen something in me because he got the pastors together in Washington, we had a service and man, it was awesome. The Spirit of God was moving through that service, no hindrances, no blocks..the Holy Spirit guided us through the entire service. We all then just waited for the divine call."

"And then, I was called to Central."

Rev. Dorcean and his new wife Chaka just completed their move to Kingsport.

So, what kind of preacher is Reverend Ricardo Dorcean? Click Reverend Dorcean's First Central Sermon to hear an excerpt of Reverend Dorcean's very first sermon at Central.

"I am expository, very demonstrative," he says. "I like to use life experiences, as lessons in faith. I'm very structured, and I have certain structures that I use when I'm preaching. If you have good structure, it helps the followers, the listeners, the Believers in the Word, to follow more succinctly. I love to follow the Word of God, to sense what he wants to say, even in the midst of the structure. I'm passionate, excitable and easy to follow, especially if your faith is wavering. Even today, I still make the sermon easy to understand, just like Dean Kinney in school. I want to invite people to learn and provide them vocabulary, then break that down into examples so they can understand the Word. It's an excellent teaching tool that Dean Kinney taught."

Reverend Dorcean also uses prayer as power. Click Reverend Dorcean's First Central Prayer to hear Reverend Dorcean's first prayer ever at Central.

"Prayer is the basic key that unlocks the Doors to the Kingdom of Heaven," he says. "It's not just me speaking about him, it's also about Him speaking through his followers. The prayer line, the devotional, the meditation is so very important. Prayer is the Power Source, how you communicate to God and how he responds through the Holy Ghost. There's a story in the Bible where the disciples couldn't cast out the demon from a boy, even though they kept trying. And Jesus told them, they had not spent enough time in prayer and fasting. It's communication with God that strengthens you, and gives you to strength to cast out demons or whatever comes your way. If the church ever gets away from praying, I feel it automatically loses its power, in my opinion."

"If we don't do anything else, we have to maintain that lifeline of prayer in the church."

In what direction does Reverend Dorcean see Central Baptist Church going?

"Where we go, is dependent upon God leading us there," he says. "I will follow God's Plan, because upon this rock his church was built. We have wonderful ministries, particularly the Manna ministries..that is an amazing ministry the church does. Central Baptist has a devoted following, and one of the things they do best is be active in the community. Every community needs the church to be the beacon of light, the main support system that people can lean on. I automatically knew how connected these folks are to God, when, during the process of coming here, one church lady told me 'Reverend Dorcean, I think God's gonna get you here whether we like it or not, and then she smiled at me. That was a clear indication to me that this connection is not human, it's divine orchestration. I thank God for their faith and their inspiration to let Him work his will, calling me as Pastor."

"I feel that we will work well together," says Reverend Dorcean. "As God leads us, we will follow, and rally others around us. Continuing to meet the spiritual needs of people."

"I feel that is our calling."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tarheel of the Week: Wake Star Left Basketball for Bank



Simpson O. "Skip" Brown Jr.

POSITION: President and CEO, TriStone Community Bank in Winston-Salem

BIRTHPLACE: Kingsport, Tenn., Jan. 21, 1955

EDUCATION: B.A. in sociology, which Brown jokes is "the art of making the obvious sound profound," and M.B.A., both from Wake Forest University

DEMON DEACONS BASKETBALL CAREER: Played point guard; four-year starter, 1974-1977; two-time All-America; fifth in all-time scoring with 2,034 points; second in career assists with 579; holds school record of 43 consecutive free throws.

CAREER: Former senior vice president at Bank of America; vice president of consumer loans at First Federal Savings & Loan in Winston-Salem

FAMILY: Wife, Minda Brown; daughters Maya Elizabeth, 16, and Samantha Anne, 15.

CIVIC ACTIVITES: Chairman, N.C. Bankers Association; serves on the boards of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Winston-Salem Business Inc. and CycleSafe.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Bicycling -- his goal is to bike 150 miles a week -- and golf.

Wake star left basketball for bank

WINSTON-SALEM -- Skip Brown displays numerous photos of his wife and daughters in his modest office at TriStone Community Bank, but not a single memento from his years as an All-America basketball player at Wake Forest University.
"I think he wants to be recognized as a banker, not as a ballplayer," says Mark Evans, the bank's executive vice president.

And so he is. Brown, the founder and CEO of TriStone -- a young, up-and-coming Winston-Salem bank with two branches -- recently was elected chairman of the North Carolina Bankers Association, which represents 144 banks.

"He is very well-liked and respected," said Paul Stock, the association's executive vice president. "That's a big piece of how you become chairman of an organization like this."

Brown's goals include raising bankers' awareness of -- and participation in -- the association, which leads the industry's lobbying efforts. "Collectively, the NCBA is the voice that can make things happen," he says.

Although the industry's image has suffered some body blows -- blame heavy losses by some banks and the subprime mortgage mess -- Brown says he isn't overly concerned.

"Banks do an awful lot of good in all the communities we serve, particularly community banks," he says. "We help individuals and business reach their goals."

It's been a steep climb from the public housing projects of Kingsport, Tennessee, for Brown, who is 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, just 10 pounds heavier than when he was setting scoring records as a Demon Deacons point guard in the mid-1970s. He long ago shed the Afro he sported then, and at age 54 his short-cropped hair sports just a tinge of gray.

After nearly 20 years as an executive at Bank of America, Brown chose to strike out on his own and raised more than $16 million from investors to form TriStone in 2004. "I've always enjoyed being in leadership roles," Brown says. "When I played basketball, I was in a leadership role."

But TriStone's days as an independent bank could end soon. TriStone's board of directors decided to solicit acquisition offers late last year and, in April, Virginia-based First Community Bancshares agreed to purchase TriStone for stock valued at $9 million.

"I'm very proud of what we accomplished," Brown says. "At the same time, you have to think of the long-term.

"The management and the board made a strategic decision to partner up with a bank that would generate the long-term returns that we think our shareholders deserve," he says. "The regulatory environment is very difficult, and it is going to get more difficult. The economic environment, I don't think we have seen the worst of that yet. The bigger you are, the better it is going to be when you try to weather these storms."

Brown would become a regional president at First Community if the acquisition wins shareholder approval.

Unfortunately, the Virginia bank deal has put Brown at odds with his mentor, William B. Greene Jr., chairman of the Bank of Tennessee's corporate parent.

Greene's bank is TriStone's largest shareholder and last month sent fellow shareholders a letter arguing that the price is too low and urging them to vote against the deal. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the deal July 30.

Greene said he loves Brown -- "I would take a bullet for Skip" -- but hates the deal.

TriStone wasn't profitable in its early years, as is typical for a start-up, but Greene argues that the bank recently turned the corner and is being sold at a time when bank stocks, including TriStone, are at an ebb.

"They just made $132,000 in the first quarter," he says. "Why would you sell now? This is the worst time to sell."




Mark your calendars!

Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday - Aug 7-10, 2009

Be sure to check for specials!

For details on Tennessee's tax holiday, go to:

Wrestling Event to Benefit Shriners Hospitals’ Efforts

Wrestling promoter Jeff Tankersly was inspired by the efforts of 9-year-old Savion Jamar to collect money for the Shriners.



KINGSPORT — Savion Jamar cherishes a tackle in a football game or a hit in T-ball probably more than his teammates. The fight to walk, then run, defines his stand in life.
Savion, 9, of Kingsport was born with a clubfoot and has gone through several surgeries at the Lexington, Ky., Shriners Hospital since he was 1 year old.

Photo by Kevin Castle —

Savion Jamar, 9, and his grandmother, Veronica Kemp, have collected thousands of aluminum pull tabs to help raise funds for Shriners Hospitals. Savion has undergone several operations to repair a clubfoot, and he collects the tabs as a way to pay back the organization.

Now his physical condition has improved dramatically, and his mental capacities are totally focused on helping kids who have to go through the same things he did and the organization that took him back and forth to surgery and doctor’s visits.
“I’m paying them back for what they did for me, and I want other kids to get the help I did,” said Savion, who is away at summer camp this week.
For several years, Savion has been collecting aluminum can pull tabs for Shriners Hospitals, which recycle the tabs for money that goes directly back into patient care and equipment purchases.
“I’ve seen him dive into trash cans for them,” said his grandmother, Veronica Kemp.
“He sees somebody with a pop can, he makes sure he gets the tab off of it. I just can’t believe the drive he has to do this. He’s just so passionate about it, and him only 9. I guess it just says a lot about what kind of kid he is. He’s my baby, but there’s more to him.”
Savion caught the eye of local businessman and wrestling promoter Jeff Tankersly last week during Fun Fest when the youngster was out finding and collecting can tabs, so Tankersly has decided to help the fourth-grader and Shriners financially.
An evening of professional wrestling featuring World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Ric Flair at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center on Friday will have a portion of the gate re- ceipts donated to area Shriners officials, Tankersly said Tuesday.
“I just thought it was such a great thing that Savion was doing that I wanted to help him someway. Wrestling is what I do, and I know our fans are the best at helping people out, so we hope people will come out because it will help these kids,” Tankersly said.
Children who come to MeadowView on Friday between 3 and 5 p.m. with 15 or more pull tabs will receive a ticket good for free admission at the Shrine Circus coming to Freedom Hall in Johnson City in October.
For more information on Friday’s show, visit: www.jtsport
More information on the Shriners Hospital/Aluminum Can Pull Tab Drive is available at: Springfield/Aluminum_Tab_ Collection.aspx.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Local Kingsport Athlete Qualifies for U.S. Paralympic Team

19-year-old Blake Leeper is one special athlete.

The Kingsport native, D-B alumnus and rising U-T student is making a name for himself in national track and field competition, and he's doing it, without the two things an athlete needs.

Legs, below the knees.

Blake is a bi-lateral, below-the-knee amputee from birth. In runner's language, he is considered a T-43, the official classification for a Paralympic amputee, and that's where Blake has begun making a name for himself.

Recently, Blake Leeper competed in the 2009 Endeavour Games at Edmond, Oklahoma, and the son of Edith and Bill Leeper and grandson of Lillian Leeper, and his time of 11:96 not only won the 100-meter race.. his running time in that single event has placed him on the Paralympic Team.

For the entire United States.

"It was wonderful.. just awesome," Blake says. "I did not know what to expect or how it would go, it being my first race. I had so many butterflies in my stomach, and man they were huge."

To see Blake's interview with the Kingsport Times-News, click Blake's Interview.

He had some formidable competition. In the 100-meter race, there were three competitors already on the national Paralympic Team. "You could see it in their faces, they were professionals..they do this all the time," said Blake's father Bill. "Blake kinda looked intimidated by them and he finally told me later that he was. He felt threatened by the fact that they did this professionally, where they'd traveled to, where they'd been. This being his first meet, I felt for him. It was something new for him and I thought he handled it great."

But Blake wasn't finished. He also placed first in the 200-meter race AND the 400-meter race. Only the 100-meter qualified him for the national Paralympic Team. "I did not expect to come in first in the other two races," he says. "The competition was just too great. I felt really blessed to be triumphant in all three."

In the 100-meter race, "he came off the block and just flew," Bill Leeper says. "It took a 12:19 to qualify, and he scored the 11:96. The second place Paralympic guy ran a 12:06, and the third one did 12:33. My wife Edith and I just looked at each other.. we wanted to scream out 'he did it!' but we didn't. We WERE asking ourselves 'did he do it, did he really do this? He beat the best."

Blake's older brother Chris attended the event with their parents, but then there was the proud grandma back home in Church Hill. "We called and told her (Lillian Leeper), and she was Praising the Lord and everything. She told us to tell Blake that she was proud of him, and to continue taking the Lord with him. She said she had been praying for him, and knew he would do well."

But now, the U.S. Paralympic Team has a "diamond in the rough" they did not know about.

"As soon as he came off the track with that time and those medals," Bill said, "the coach came over and told us 'now we have something to work with.' We've been watching him race since he was 4 years old, and never dreamed this would happen. He ran cross-country in middle school, but this is the first time we've ever seen him compete on the same level as national paralympic athletes."

Oscar "Bladerunner" Pistorius, himself also a T-43 double-amputee, ran the 100-meter in 11:06, and he is considered one of the fastest runners in the world. Blake's 11:96 places him in some good company.

"Oscar Pistorius also ran an 11:17 in the 100-meter in Manchester, England last month," says Bill. "He's considered the man, the golden child in paralympic running around the world. The United States Para-Olympic Team doesn't have anybody that can compete on his level. Blake has both limbs missing, and they classify him as a T-43.. on the Olympic teams, they do not have any T-43's, they're all T-44's meaning they're just missing one leg. They've got one good leg and one prosthetic leg, and they have nobody that's a T-43 like Blake. They were just really excited that they have finally found a T-43 that can compete on the level that Oscar Petorius competes on. There was another T-43 there, but Blake beat him in all the races.. he was good, but the coach said Blake's take-off speed was just too much."

So where does Blake go from here?

"I think this was the last qualifier for the year," Bill says, "so we'll have to wait and see what the coaches has planned for Blake, now that he's on the U.S. team."

Blake's focus is a bit more narrow.

"I'm planning to say in school," he says. "I plan to finish my bachelor's degree at U-T in physics. That's number one. I'm also pre-med at U-T and I will be going to medical school."

"Talking to the coach and everything, she said there's a really good chance of making a name for myself with the running for the U.S. Parylympic Team, winning more medals and really competing. It may open up another chapter in my life, and the sky may be the limit."

Blake's sponsors are Pro-Balance of Kingsport, and the Challenge Athletes Foundation of San Diego, California. Both sponsors paid for the Leeper family's trip to Oklahoma, and for Blake's prothetics.

Blake does spend time, talking to other paraplegics. "I always tell them, they can do it, too," he says. "We all have disabilities and challenges to life, and we just have to overcome them. I feel like when they see me out there giving it everything I've got on the track, or I'm in class giving the brain a good workout, I want them to know there are better days coming for them, too."

"God has Blessed me to peak in my life, and do the best that I can. That's their goal, too, that no matter what, you, too can overcome the obstacles and accomplish the hard parts and the challenges."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Featuring: Tim Hall, Riverview's King of Comedy!

Posted for your enjoyment and amusement are two masterpieces from Tim Hall, Riverview's King of Comedy and Kingsport Ebony Club Alumnus..

Tim performed a special show at the Rascal's Club in Kingsport during the 2009 Ebony Club Alumni Association's 1st Reunion on July 3, 2009.

We have posted he and his posse's performance of "It's My Perogative" and most of Tim's monologue to the audience from that night (There's only one naughty word in the monologue, so I would rate it PG).

To see and hear the song performance, click Tim Hall's Posse "It's My Perogative".

To see and hear the monologue, click Tim Hall's Monologue.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rhythm in Riverview Concert: Pictures & Video

The Rhythm in Riverview Concert at the Douglass Ballfield was wonderful, with lots to do. Plenty of things for the kids to do, lots of socializing, and of course, plenty of good music from the WestSound Band of Asheville, N.C. The band surprised lots of listeners by playing many of their favorite tunes, the way they originally heard them from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's.

A camera failure prohibited the Douglass website from broadcasting the event live, but I did record one of WestSound's songs via camcorder. Click WestSound Song, to hear sample of their music from Rhythm in Riverview. I also recorded many other songs via the webcam, which I am transcribing into video for your enjoyment.

Pictures from the event are being processed and will be in the PHOTO GALLERY shortly. I will also post a link in this column for the pictures.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fond Memories of Michael Jackson

"He seems to be more popular in death, than I ever knew him in life."

The sudden death of the undisputed "King of Pop" was especially poignant for Riverview and Kingsport resident Linus Griffin. His father, legendary writer, reporter and scholar Dr. Junius Griffin, was Motown's Vice President of Public Relations in 1968, when five brothers and their parents from Gary, Indiana strolled into Hitsville, U.S.A which had relocated from Detroit to Hollywood. From those humble beginnings, musical history was made.


"The first memory I had of this kid named Michael Jackson," says Linus, "was that my dad had missed my birthday party in 1968, because he and Diane (Diana) Ross (Diane is her real name) Ross had flown from Hollywood to Gary, Indiana to sign the contract to hire these five brothers, who called themselves "The Jackson Five."

"The Motown family that included Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes immediately took the Jackson Five into the fold," says Linus. "The Jacksons were a true family, just like Diane (Diana) Ross and her brother, a musician at Motown, and Stevie Wonder, whose brother worked in the supply room at Motown."

"In those days of the late 60's and early 70's, I knew Michael's brother Jackie better than I knew Michael or the other brothers, " says Linus. "Jackie was the oldest, seven years older than Michael, and he was the quiet one of the group. I would talk to Jackie a lot, maybe Jermaine from time to time. Michael was much younger, and I didn't talk to him much, but he was fascinated by all the pictures that Mr. (Berry) Gordy put up on the walls. Michael used to roam those halls, looking up at the pictures of Motown's great singers and musicians. But you couldn't miss what he was doing.. he was soaking it all in. He was very shy when someone focused on him directly, but always just a little kid when he was around his brothers."

Linus remembers an impish moment he says, was typical of Michael "gotta be startin' something."

"As I did a lot, I was talking to Jackie about music and politics," he says. "My father had this public relations gimmick going on.. he had some gold cigarette lighters on his desk that he would give out to the Hollywood big-wigs that came to his office at Motown a lot. As I was talking to Jackie, Michael and Marlon were snatching lighters off my dad's desk, thinking nobody was seeing 'em do it. They were always getting into something."

As everybody knows, Michael formed a special attachment to Diana Ross, who had just left the Supremes for a musical career of her own.

"It doesn't surprise me that Diane hasn't had too much to say about Michael's passing," says Linus. "If she were still in the Motown family and my dad were still Motown's P.R. person and still handling her, he would have her on ice, just like she is now. There is nothing for her to say publically. If she were to say anything, so many people would take it out of context, and the moment of his death is still a very sensitive subject. She's doing the right thing."

Linus Griffin attended Morehouse College in Atlanta with Ross' brother "T-Bone" Ross, and both got kicked out of the school because he says, "our civil rights attitudes were too radical at the time. But the first house I lived in when I moved to Hollywood to wait on my parents to arrive, was Diane Ross' house. To think about Motown is to think about how much of a family we all were, and how Michael left his real family and the Motown family to start out on his own, just like Diane did."

Linus Griffin says, Michael Jackson will probably stay in the news for quite some time.

"My dad once showed me a book called 'Media in America,' which explains what's going on right now," he says. "Behind the name 'Michael Jackson,' you've got these mega-corporations and far-flung businesses that make a ton of money off his name, his image, his songs and his performances, so you're going to get a lot of dis-information before you get REAL information about what's happening in the Michael Jackson empire. I'm a trained person in public administration and I can tell you it's going to take a long time to get everything straightened out, every aspect of his life, because his life was so big. You and me, it wouldn't take long at all, but for Michael Jackson, we're looking at perhaps, years. It's starting with the autopsy report, which takes 4 to 6 weeks in Los Angeles County."

"Even if he did die of medications, he is still great," says Linus, "he is still an icon. He has more power around the world than Elvis every dreamed of. People talk about how big the Elvis estate is, and Michael's is much bigger. I will give Elvis his due, though.. he was more about American folklore and Michael was more about American culture. They both changed the scope of American music, but I think Michael had more of an influence."

"His music will not be missed," Linus predicted, "because, even now he still has two of the top-selling albums of all time. But keep your eye on 'We Are The World.' That's going to be the one that is going to truly take off. There is a reason why nobody is talking about that particular song right now, but everybody in the music industry is watching to see what it's going to do, and just look at the major backer of the song: Diane Ross."

"I would hope the world remembers Michael for himself, but also as part of a family, the Jacksons. We always considered him part of the Motown family."


Junius Griffin was born January 13, 1929 in Stonega, Virginia, a small coal mining community near Big Stone Gap. At the age of 16 he enrolled at Bluefield College, but he decided he was not ready for an advanced education and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served for 12 years, and for 4 1/2 of those years he acted as the Taiwan Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes.

Following his departure from the service c. 1957, Griffin returned to the United States to begin a career with the New York Times, where he remained until 1962. During this time he also was employed as the first African-American reporter for the New York rewrite desk of the Associated Press.

In July 1963, Junius Griffin, Relman Morin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and six other Associated Press reporters published a 13-part series describing racial prejudice and segregation in the United States. Initiated by Relman Morin and entitled "The Deepening Crisis," the series attempted to illustrate the social, economic, political, and educational inequalities that were experienced by African-Americans. Griffin's two contributions described the new "Negro" militancy that was emerging throughout urban America and depicted the diversities between northern and southern racial prejudices from the perspective of the black American. The series' immense impact eventually lead to its nomination for the 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference asked Junius Griffin in 1965 to work for them writing speeches for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Griffin continued working for the King organization until 1967, when he took a position as vice-president for Motown Records Industries, as Motown owner Berry Gordy, who had purchased the recording rights to Dr. King's speeches, exercised his option to release the recordings.

Suffering from acute ulcers in 1982, Griffin resigned his position at Motown Records and entered Johnson City's Mountain Home Veteran's Hospital. During his stay he became interested in pursuing his college degree and in 1983 enrolled at East Tennessee State University for a bachelors degree in English and mass communications and later a masters degree in English under the direction of Dr. Robert (Jack) Higgs. Griffin received both his bachelors and masters degrees from East Tennessee State University in December 1987. By 1988 he had left Tennessee to become public relations advisor and a board member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia.