Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finally, it’s their day

Leaplings look forward to Feb. 29 birthdays every four years



Jill Ellis is 84 years old today, but, for only the 21st time in her life, is celebrating her birthday on the actual day she was born. She was born Feb. 29, 1928 at the Marsh Clinic in Kingsport.

Most people can’t recall their first birthdays, or even their second birthdays, but Jill Ellis remembers both of hers.

Ellis is 84 years old today, but, for only the 21st time in her life, is celebrating her birthday on the actual day she was born.

Ellis was born Feb. 29, 1928 at the Marsh Clinic in Kingsport. Ellis’ parents both worked at Rotherwood Mansion at the time of her birth. Her mother was a cook, and her father was the chauffeur and butler.

“I remember my first birthday, when I was 4. My first birthday party was at Douglass School in the first grade room. I don’t know if the kids knew me or not because I didn’t know them. I didn’t play with them. I hadn’t seen them before. I didn’t go to school there.

“But I remember they had a party for me there, and there were kids everywhere jumping over tables and chairs.

“And on my second birthday I got a piano. I realized early on that every four years I probably got a little bit more on my birthdays than on the other years,” said Ellis, who was the guidance counselor at Dobyns-Bennett High School for almost 40 years.

This year Ellis, mother to seven children, says she won’t do anything special for her “21st birthday” except maybe just spend some time with her family.
People born on Feb. 29 are called leaplings, and the percent of the population born on Leap Day is just 0.274 percent.

More than 4.7 million people worldwide are leaplings, and around 10,800 babies are born in the United States on Leap Day.

So, Ellis isn’t alone.

The Times-News spoke to several other area leaplings and found out what it’s been like for them to celebrate an actual birthday every four years.

Barbara Lyons turns 48 today, though it’s only her 12th birthday, half the age of her twin daughters.

Barbara Lyons, who lives in Eidson, turns 48 today, and is excited about having her 12th birthday.

“This year, I’m half the age of my twin daughters who are 24,” she said.
Lyons said her most memorable birthday was the year she turned 28 and celebrated her seventh Leap Day birthday.

“I had a party like what you’d have for a 7 year old. We played Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I was 28 at the time, but we played all these little kids games. Everybody had a ball. It was so much fun,” she said.

“Having a birthday like this keeps you young at heart.”

Lyons is looking forward to the next Leap Day in 2016.
“I can’t wait to finally get my sweet 16 birthday party,” she said.

Pam Graybeal Cassanego, here with her husband, says she enjoys having an unusual birthday.

Pam Graybeal Cassanego says when she was born 44 years ago the doctor asked her mother if she wanted to change her newborn’s birthday to Feb. 28 or March 1 because he thought Cassanego would be teased about being born on Feb. 29.
Cassanego, who lives in Mars Hill, N.C. now, was born in Bristol. Her parents, Martin and Mary Graybeal, reside in Blountville.

“I have actually enjoyed having such an unusual birthday. When you go to places, (such as) restaurants that give you your meal for free on your birthday, you can get one on Feb. 28 and March 1 (on non-Leap Years).

“Or if you are an immature person like me, you can fall back on your ‘actual’ birthday and say it is because you are only that old,” said Cassanego, who celebrates her 11th Leap Day birthday today.

Most leaplings say they celebrate their birthdays in non-Leap Years on Feb. 28 rather than March 1.

They want to keep their birthdays in their birth month. But Cassanego says she tries to celebrate on whichever day falls on or closest to the weekend.
“Or whenever I get my presents or cards!” she said.

Every four years, Cassanego says she celebrates her birthday extra hard.
“This year I do plan on taking a vacation day for my birthday since it is falling on Wednesday,” she said.

Haley Griffith will definitely remember her fourth birthday. She’s getting her driver’s license and a car.

Haley Griffith doesn’t remember much about her first three birthdays. But, the 16-year-old Dobyns-Bennett student says she will definitely remember her fourth birthday.

“This one’s going to be the best. I’m turning 16. I get my license and I’m getting a car. I can’t wait!” she said.

She said to celebrate she and some friends may go to Gatlinburg.

“This birthday has to be extra special this year,” she said.

Twelve-year-old Jake Denton is a sixth-grader at Ross N. Robinson Middle School and is celebrating his third birthday today. The pre-teen says he doesn’t really remember much about his other two birthdays.

Jake’s dad, Chris Denton, says Jake’s birth came earlier than expected. “It was totally random. Just luck that he was born on Feb. 29. Jake doesn’t really think much about it. It’s probably neater for other people who hear that’s his birthday than it is for Jake, who actually has that birthday,” Denton said.

Denton said one of his friends who is an insurance agent told him that having a birth date of Feb. 29 could cause problems for Jake later on.

“He said the dates will mess him up. But we haven’t had any problems yet,” Denton said.

Denton says he will never forget what the doctor told them when he realized Jake’s birth date would be Feb. 29.

“He said, ‘Either you’ve got a real special kid here or an axe murderer,’” Denton said.
“I’m thinking we just have a real special kid.”

Mount Carmel resident Elsie Begley says her most memorable Leap Day birthday was the year she turned “16.”

“That year my granddaughter also turned 16. My husband told his co-workers that both his wife and his granddaughter were turning 16 in the same year. One of his co-workers asked him what an old man like him was doing with such a young wife,” she said.

Begley said she has had an instance where her birth date was questioned.
“My insurance man said, ‘February doesn’t have 29 days,’ when I told him I was born on Feb. 29, 1936. I told him as it happens, yes, February actually does have 29 days every four years,” she said.

Begley turns 76 today and says she’s just barely still a teenager at “19.”
Growing up, Begley says it could be frustrating at times trying to make people understand what day she was born.

“Nobody could understand it. There are still people that can’t understand it. My younger grandchildren can’t understand why I have a birthday every four years,” she said. Begley’s not the only one in her own family with this unusual birth date. “I have a first cousin who lives in Michigan and a second cousin who lives in Ohio with Feb. 29 birthdays,” she said. And she also has a friend who lives in Scott County, Va. who celebrates a Leap Day birthday. “I definitely feel a connection to other people who share my same birthday,” Begley said.

New Vision Youth Gets a "Swift" Lesson in Black History

"It's all about history, and it's all about preserving the past."

With that in mind, the New Vision Kids of Kingsport set off on a tour of the Price Public Community Center, which houses the Swift College Museum in Rogersville, Tennessee. The tour is part of the children's celebration of Black History Month. 56 children made the bus trip to Rogersville.

Click here to see a slideshow from Kingsport to Rogersville, touring the Price Public School-Swift Museum by the New Vision Youth.

The Price Public School's modern-day building was built in 1923, near to the Swift Memorial Junior College. The School was placed on the National Historical Register in 1988. One of the schoolrooms is devoted to a museum of Swift College and Price School memorabilia. The school closed in 1963 and its students integrated into the Hawkins County school system.

Swift College was founded in 1883 by the Rev. Dr. William Henderson Franklin of Knoxville, the first black graduate of Maryville College. The school was named for the Rev. Elijah E. Swift, president of Board of Missions for Freedmen. Swift College served the area until 1955, but remained open as a public high school for African-Americans. The lovely administration building has been torn down, but a number of the buildings remain and are used as offices by the Hawkins County Board of Education.

Leading the tour was Stella Gudger, Executive Director of the Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum. The New Vision Kids toured the grounds, listened to stories of the African-American students who gained a bountiful education there, and how the efforts to restore the heritage of the schools resulted in a multi-purpose building, borne of the past and ready for its future role of remembering history.

The children marveled at the artifacts in the Swift Museum, spotlighting more than 80 years of history, as the tiny Price Public School earned its place in the African-American education roll books in the small town of Rogersville, and Swift College brought black people from all over the country to better their own educations.

The tour came with good news.

"We finally raised 40,000 dollars and we're going to have an upgrade and bring the community center and museum up to a 21st century design level," says Mrs. Gudger. "We're going to have our open house on March 11th, and we invite everybody to come."

"It's been our vision, and the vision has come true," she says. "We're really thrilled. It's not for our benefit, but for the whole community. There are so many people who went to Swift College, Morristown, Greeneville, Kingsport, Virginia, all over.. The Alumni Association will be very pleased."

"If those memories are lost, they're gone forever. It's important to remember history, from generation to generation that these memories not be lost."

The Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum is located at 203 Spring Street in Rogersville, Tennessee (2 blocks from U.S. Highway 11-W). For mail correspondence, the zip is 37857. To reach the center, call 423-921-3888, or email:

Tours like the one the New Vision Youth took are available, free to the public.

The hours the center is open are Monday through Friday, 10 A-M to 2 P-M and Saturday, 12 Noon to 2 P-M.

The large assembly room can be rented out for parties, receptions, reunions and meetings, simply by making a reservation.

Stella Gudger, Executive Director, Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum
Norma Bowers, Price-Swift Museum Board Member
Alberta Gardner, Volunteer
Rodney Bradley, Price-Swift Museum Board Member

H.O.P.E Springs Eternal for Area Kids for Black History Month

Black History Month 2012 proved to be both educational and fun for the children of the community.

In addition to the New Vision Youth events and field trip, many children took part in events at the Renaissance Center in Kingsport. H.O.P.E (Help Our Potential Evolve) organized the events, with 53 kids signing up, but more than 200 children came out to take part.

There were workshops featuring drumming, face painting, an art class, with the most exciting event, a Michael Jackson Wii Competition.

Click here to see the winners of the Michael Jackson Wii competition.

Each child played the Michael Jackson Wii game, and the child with the highest points was the winner, in age groups from 1st - 5th grade,
6th through 8th grade, and high school players. The 1st place player in each group won $150, and 2nd place was awarded $100.

The group Art 4 Kids also did a workshop teaching about Michael Jackson and his dancing.

Click here to see a slideshow of the Black Professionals Exhibit at the Renaissance Center.

Also at the Renaissance Center, H.O.P.E. also sponsored the "Wall of Black Professionals." Featured were African-American professionals in the business, entertainment, music and arts, news and public affairs, community activism, medical, and legal fields.

The events were put on by H.O.P.E Tri-Cities, in cooperation with sponsors Eastman, Wal-mart, Food City, Carew Cuts, the city of Kingsport, and Dr Tom Rogers.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Football standout Johnson grew up in a segregated Kingsport


Contact Vince Staten at vincestaten@ or via mail in care of the newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at

It was a different time, when downtown water fountains were labeled “White” and “Colored,” when a laundromat on West Sullivan had the sign “White Patrons Only” in its window, and when Kingsport’s black youth went to a “separate but equal” school of their own, Douglass. Equal meant textbooks were 10-year-old hand-me-downs from the city’s white schools and the football team’s uniforms were passed down after the Dobyns-Bennett football team got new uniforms.

That was the world Bobby Joe Johnson grew up in, lived in, and played in.

Bobby Joe, who died earlier this week, was raised in a segregated Kingsport.

The last time I talked to him, at an event at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Center, he told me about how the great Douglass football teams of the late 1940s overcame that adversity to win two state Negro championships. Bobby Joe was the star quarterback on those squads.

Their uniform jerseys were passed down from D-B, maroon and gray shirts, D-B’s school colors. Bobby Joe told me the Douglass coach, John Cox, didn’t want his team wearing maroon and gray. Douglass’ school colors were blue and gold.

Douglass didn’t have a budget to get the jerseys dyed. So coach Cox took a barrel of blue ink — at the beginning of each school year the school board gave Douglass a quantity of ink for the inkwells on the student desks. Cox dipped the jerseys into the blue ink until the gray had turned blue and the maroon had a blue tinge.

Bobby Joe said it worked just fine. In cold weather.

“Sometimes it got pretty hot in those September games.”

Bobby Joe said he would pull up his jersey to wipe the sweat off his brow.

“I’d look down, and my belly was blue from where the ink had come off in the heat!”

Most seasons Douglass had fewer than 20 players on the team. Bobby Joe said they’d have to go out in the neighborhood to round up a couple of guys just so they could scrimmage.

But the team never let these obstacles hold them back.

Bobby Joe was the star of the 1948 game that secured the “State Championship for Negro high schools,” as this newspaper called it. Because of segregation black schools were prohibited from playing white schools.

This newspaper reported that even though he was tightly guarded Bobby Joe pulled down a “sleeper pass” in the end zone from halfback Buddy Bond that gave the Tigers a 14-13 win over Knoxville’s Austin High.

To get to that championship game, Douglass had to beat two powerhouse Chattanooga teams, Booker T. Washington and Howard.

More than 3,000 turned out at J. Fred Johnson Stadium to see Douglass upend Washington 19-7.

Douglass traveled to powerful Howard, a school that was three times the size of Douglass.

Bobby Joe told me that the Douglass team took a rickety old school bus down to Chattanooga.

“We got off the bus in front of Howard. That was a big school. We were all looking up at how big the building was with these tall columns. A couple of their players were standing on the front steps. One of them looked down at us and said to his friend, loud enough for us to hear, ‘I wish somebody had told me the circus was coming to town. I wouldn’t have come to school today.’ ”

Bobby Joe laughed as he told me the story. Because Bobby Joe and Douglass got the last laugh that day, defeating Howard 26-13 with Bobby Joe catching two touchdown passes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Black History Community Unity Day

South Central Kingsport Community Development Corporation presents the 17th Annual "Community Unity - Black History Program"

Saturday, February 25th, 4:30 PM
Dobyns-Bennett Little Theater (Nancy Pridemore Theater)
Free of charge

Come hear choirs, singers, soloists and praise dancers from the area!

Bobby Joe Johnson: "He was one of a kind....."

"I still can't believe he's gone."

When Jack Pierce thinks of his good friend Bobby Joe Johnson, he can only think of the good times.

"I don't think I ever heard him get angry," Mr. Pierce says. "Nothing ever upset him.. you couldn't even make him mad about anything."

"Especially when we played football together."

Jack Pierce and Bobby Joe Johnson played on the Douglass High School football team, that won the state championship in 1948. So did Nate Smith, Buddy Bond, Johnny Johnson and Bobby Graves. Not that many players from that championship team are with us now.

Including Bobby Joe Johnson. He passed away this week, and his passing leaves a void in the hearts of his teammates.


"We played basketball together for about a half-year," says Nate Smith. "Oh, he was a good player.. fast.. sneaky. He was a good ball handler, and what most people didn't know about his play, was that he didn't hog the ball.. he always shared it. He wasn't afraid to pass the basketball around, and if he saw you open in the lane, he'd pass it to you and expect you to score. That expectation was always there. He was a very smart player. He always waited to see who had the best chance to score."


Both Jack Pierce and Buddy Bond thought Bobby Joe was a better FOOTBALL player, than basketball player.

"I was a couple of grades ahead of him," Mr. Bond remembers. "He was just fast on his feet, running forward and zig-zaging. Nobody could do it better. Coach (C.C.) Kizer had us playing a double-quarterback system, a "double T" formation. It's where two men would line up behind the center, and the defenders never knew who was getting the ball. I was a better passer than Bobby Joe, but he was a better scrambler."

There's one football play during the championship game, that does not escape the gaze of the Douglass Tigers and their alumni. And it always provokes a grin, even outright laughter from people who remember it.

"It was the championship game.. we were playing Austin High School," says Mr. Bond, "and it came down to the very last play. Austin was ahead and their people thought they'd already won."

"What they didn't know was.. we had a secret weapon."

Bobby Joe Johnson.

"It was just a regular pass, to the right, nothing spectacular," says Mr. Bond. "Just the last play of the game. Bobby Joe was well defended, and once the ball left my hand, I thought, 'well, this is it.. we win or lose the championship right here. I never saw what happened once the ball went down the field."

Bobby Joe caught the ball and skipped in for a touchdown. Bingo. Game over. The championship belonged to the Douglass Tigers.

Back then, it wasn't until Buddy Bond heard the other Douglass players laughing on that end of the field, that he realized that something had happened.

Bobby Joe bumped the defender, in fact, nudged him out of the way.

That left a short path open to the end zone.

About this time during our interview, Jack Pierce started laughing.

"I was down on that end of the field," says Mr. Pierce. "The referee didn't see Bobby Joe bump the defender. Yeah, he sorta pushed off of him. I think there were players in the way and the ref never saw it. It wasn't a big bump, just a nudge. But had the ref seen that, he'd have called offensive pass interference and nullified the play. He just didn't see it. Instant replay would have done us in, but in 1946, we didn't even have television," he laughs.

Oh, the Douglass players saw the play.. and so did the Austin fans.

"We like to never got out of there," laughs Mr. Pierce. "We got on that bus and hunkered down, while the Austin people were banging on it and rocking it back and forth. We were praying that bus wouldn't tip over, you know."

"Every time I have seen Bobby Joe in recent years, first we'd talk about the good ole days and who is still with us, and then talk would get around to football plays that we'd seen on TV lately. We always chuckled about the play that won Douglass the championship."

(To his credit, Bobby Joe never admitted to this reporter that he bumped the Austin defender. Whenever I'd press him on it, he'd poke me in the shoulder and say 'we won the game, didn't we?' and start grinning).


"I remember some of the other games, where we'd just drive it down the other team's throat," Mr. Pierce says. "Bobby Graves was the team workhorse. Whenever he'd get the ball from Bobby Joe, he'd struggle for yardage, just churning up the field. 3 yards here, 5 yards there with at least three defenders hanging on to him. Every once in a while, he'd shake 'em off and get 10 or 11 yards, but they were hard-fought yards, a lot of sweat."

Pretty soon, the Douglass Tigers would find themselves in the red zone.

"When we got down to the 5 or 10 yard line to the end zone," says Mr. Pierce, "quarterback Bobby Joe would call 'OK fellas.. quarterback 2." That meant he would carry it in. Bobby Graves wasn't having none of that. He'd go 'oh no, no. I'M making this play right here.' Bobby Joe wanted to get his name in the paper the next day, and Graves would say, 'no, no, no. I've carried it this far.. I'm taking it in.' Well, back then you just didn't argue with Bobby Graves. He was big and you did not want to mess with him. Bobby Joe would hand him the ball, and he'd lumber over the goal line, again with 2 or 3 defenders hanging on to him."

"We laughed about it after the games, because Bobby Joe didn't want to have to deal with Graves after the game, because it would stretch into practice the next week and on up to the next game."


That was the biggest part of Bobby Joe Johnson's personality. He was always able to diffuse a situation and have you laughing about it. It was easy to laugh around him, and that's what everybody remembers about him.

"We were such good friends that one time back in the 50's when I was driving to Washington, DC, I asked Bobby Joe to go with me," says Jack Pierce. "Along the trip, my car broke down in Radford, Virginia on old Highway 11. I got it into one of those old filling stations, and I was in the garage talking to the mechanic about how much it would cost to fix it. Well... I got to missing Bobby Joe. Looked around, didn't see him. Went outside, and there he was, asking people when the next bus to Bristol and Kingsport was coming through."

"He just wasn't gonna help me pay for that car," Mr. Pierce chuckled.


Fast forward to late February, 2012.

Even as Jack Pierce, Nate Smith, Buddy Bond, Johnny Johnson and Bobby Joe's relatives, friends and fellow alumni in the Riverview community gather to give him up to the Lord, everybody wants to remember the good ole times with him in Riverview.


Bobby Joe Johnson always attended all of the community events if he could, and took part in many neighborhood activities... he was a regular fixture at the Douglass Reunions, and anything going at his home church of Bethel A.M.E. Zion. Bobby Joe never left the neighborhood where he grew up for long.

"I did visit him while he was sick a few weeks ago," Mr. Pierce says. "As usual, he wasn't complaining... in fact, he never complained around anybody. I never even heard him say a cuss word. He was never down on himself about anything."

"Just a happy-go-lucky guy."


A 'happy-go-lucky guy' who just happened to help carry the heart and soul of Douglass High School in Kingsport to heights it had never been to before.

"He always did his best," all three of his former teammates said.

"That's what made him such a good friend, because his best is all anybody could ask of him."


Douglass Football Flashbacks: Bobby Joe Johnson, Douglass '52


"It was some of the best fun I ever had."

57 years ago, Bobby Joe Johnson (at left) was the star quarterback at Douglass High School on East Walnut Avenue (now East Sevier Avenue) in Kingsport. Please go to the PHOTO GALLERY under "Douglass School Sports" for a picture of the Douglass High School football team Mr. Johnson played on. Although he also played basketball for the Tigers, he remembers the Riverview neighborhood school spirit at the football games the most.

"We alway played hard when we played football against the schools in our league," Mr. Johnson says, "and our fans always came to the games. They were always loud and boistrous, but still courteous and mannerly, given the upbringing we all had in Riverview.. polite, but proud." The all-black schools that Douglass played against were Austin High School in Knoxville, Langston High in Johnson City, Slater High in Bristol, and the African-American schools in Greeneville, Tennessee, Bristol and Big Stone Gap, Virginia. "We always played them twice in the same year, because we were not allowed to play the white schools in the area."

"We always followed our coaches' instructions, Coach Kizer and Coach Cox," says Mr. Johnson says, "because there were consequences if we didn't. They'd make us work in the school garden as punishment for doing something wrong or not following directions." The garden was down where the old Oklahoma Grove School was, down between Center Street and Main Street at the railroad "Y". "Work in that garden, digging those rows, culling out weeds, piling up all them rocks.. do that a few times, and you'll never want to do anything else wrong the rest of your life," he laughs.

Mr. Johnson started playing football when he was just eleven years old, and his natural scrambling ability earned him the quarterback position at Douglass. That ability came in handy in the early 50's, when Douglass High beat Knoxville Austin to be crowned Tennessee state champions. "We were the only Kingsport football team to ever win a championship," he says, "because Dobyns-Bennett hadn't won one yet." The distinction was ironic, since the Douglass players wore the old uniforms, pads and football equipment handed down by Dobyns-Bennett. "We didn't even wear the shoulder pads when we practiced," says Mr. Johnson, "so we wouldn't wear them out further."

"We were very proud of our trophies," he says, "which were prominently displayed at the school on East Walnut Avenue. The trophies made the move to the new Douglass School in 1951, and when the school closed in 1966, all the Douglass trophies we earned in all sports were moved to Dobyns-Bennett. "I'd sure like to see them come back to the old Douglass School someday," Mr. Johnson says. "We didn't win them just for the school, we won them for the neighborhood. It was a big achievement for us, and a source of great pride to our little community."

"We had some special plays during the games," Mr. Johnson laughs about now. "We had a 'triple reverse fielder's run play, which meant, on kickoff return, reverse the direction you're running a few times, pass the ball off to several guys scrambling, and they just couldn't catch us once the ball got into fresh hands. We'd just run away from them." "Another of our famous plays involved simply hiding behind the referee," he says. "If you ever looked at the referee, he'd think you just did something wrong and he'd blow that whistle, so the other team tried not to look at him. Well, if we were hiding behind him, the other players were afraid to look at him, and so they never knew what we were going to do," Mr. Johnson laughs. "We'd score every time."

"We'd always played our games at the Dobyns-Bennett field on East Center Street when Douglass was located down the street on Center at East Walnut, " Mr. Johnson remembers. "My class was the first one to graduate from the new Douglass School when it moved to Louis Street in Riverview in 1951. We'd only been there a year." Although he understudied veteran basketball player Vernell Allen, who went to Tennessee A & I (now Tennessee State) in Nashville and eventually joined the Harlem Globetrotters, Mr. Johnson received a football scholarship from Swift College, a small Presbyterian school in Rogersville, Tennessee. "Even though I had scholarship offers from Tennessee A & I, Florida Normal, and several other universities, the Swift college personally recruited me personally at Douglass to play football and basketball for him. I took that one so I could stay close to home," Mr. Johnson says.

"I never played baseball in high school," Mr. Johnson says, "but we did have a neighborhood team we formed that played visiting black teams from time to time that came to town. One of those visiting teams was the Homestead Braves, the all-black team out of Washington, D.C. We probably played against some future major league players and never even knew it."

One of the biggest things Mr. Johnson says he remembers from those days, was the fellowship of the players and the community. "It's important to have more than one talent. Capitalize on what you do best, and try to always do it well, " he says simply.

Another piece of advice Mr. Johnson, now 75 years old, says, would help the younger people cope with the stresses of their uncertain futures. "Never forget the past.. always remember your roots," he says.

"It will come back to haunt you if you don't"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Board Meeting Postponed

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass meeting for this Saturday, February 25th, has been postponed, because of the deaths of 3 of our Riverview brothers and sisters, Joe Davis, Naomi Vinson and Bobby Joe Johnson.

Please watch the website for updates on when the meeting is re-scheduled.


Gentle Reminder about Website Pictures

A gentle reminder that all of the pictures on your Douglass website are licensed by the website administrator.

Please see the note about that in the left-hand column.

The pictures are for your private use only, and cannot be copied and used in a public setting or on another website, without express permission from the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website administrator.

Permission is grantable, as long as credit is given to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website.

The reason we do this, is so that our pictures will not be found on questionable websites for unscrupulous purposes. The licensing is as legal as a copyright, and only includes the pictures taken by the website photographer, and historical photos in the possession of the administrator. The Douglass website owns the pictures it takes, and permission to use them in a public setting, has to be given before they are used, with credit given back to where they originated.

The licensing DOES NOT include pictures that come from social media like Facebook.

The licensing of pictures also does not include photos from the Kingsport Times-News, which has its own copyright on its pictures, of which, we have the paper's permission to reprint their pictures and stories.

Violations will be.... well, let's just say, they will be addressed promptly.

Please contack the administrator at if you have any questions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And the beat goes on ...

At right, students play the drums at the Black History Workshop Monday at the Renaissance Center. In addition to drumming, the workshop featured African cuisine, face painting, a Michael Jackson Wii dance contest and a painting class. Bottom left, Nicole Vashon Hanlon plays drums with her daughters Raynna and Cedar. Bottom right, Jessica Kerney paints Aashieauna Blye’s face.

Joe Davis Passing

One of Riverview's own, Joe Davis has passed away.

Details to come shortly.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Soul Food Gathering kicks off Black History Month events

Other events include a bus tour to the Price Public School in Rogersville and performances at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Kingsport.


Times-News file photo - Johnnie Mae Swagerty serves up some traditional chitterlings to Tony Morales during the annual Soul Food Gathering at the Riverview Boys and Girls Club Community Center in this file photo. The V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex on 285 Louis St. will host the event today beginning at 4 p.m. inside the Riverview Residents Community Room. The banquet promises traditional soul food meal items.

KINGSPORT — Centuries of accomplishments and pride culminate with multiple events celebrating Black History Month beginning tonight with a special dinner in Kingsport.

The V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex on 285 Louis St. will host a “Soul Food Gathering” beginning at 4 p.m. inside the Riverview Residents Community Room.

The banquet promises traditional soul food meal items ranging from the old-fashioned to new twists on tastes, and the event will last until the last diner is served.

A trip to history highlights Saturday’s event. “Get on the Bus with New Vision Youth” is an excursion from Kingsport to the site of the first African-American elementary school in Hawkins County, the Price Public School in Rogersville.

The bus is scheduled to depart from the Dobbins Center parking lot at 11:15 a.m. and return at 3 p.m. Participants are asked to pack a lunch.

In March 1868, Alexander Fain, Jordan Netherland, Albert Jones and Nathaniel Mitchell purchased property for a schoolhouse specifically built for educating African Americans.

The original school was constructed from logs two years later and consisted of two classrooms. Then in 1923 following the demolishment of the original log dwelling, the current Price school — which contained two large classrooms, an assembly area, and chapel constructed of handfired brick — was opened and still stands today.

A bill was passed in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2000 to construct historical markers near the school’s grounds.

The festivities culminate Sunday with an event at St. Mark United Methodist Church at 929 Maple St. in Kingsport at 4 p.m.

Co-sponsored by Kingsport Parks and Recreation, the event features performances by the St. Mark Praise Team, Kingsley United Methodist Church, Full Gospel Mission Church, Tiara Jordan from Central Baptist Church, Hayden Thompson “Gospel Mime” from Bethel AME Zion Church, and the New Vision Youth Drama Team.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Exhibit pays tribute to Black History Month


David Grace —

LaDonna West, whose ‘Planted by the Stream of Water’ is pictured at right, and William Fields, whose work is pictured below, are among the artists represented in the Black History Month exhibit at the Renaissance Center.

The Kingsport Art Guild is marking Black History Month with “Passion Revisited,”agroup exhibition by African-American artists in the main gallery of the Renaissance Center, 1200 E. Center St., Kingsport.
The exhibit, featuring the work of LaDonna West, William Fields, Ann Woodford and Franchell Mack Brown, will hang through Feb. 24.
Admission is free.
West grew up in the rural Midwest and became fond of the rustic and simplistic beauty of the vast countryside, taking particular interest in its intricate patterns and brilliant colors. She began merging the aspects of contemporary design with traditional landscape and still-life painting and eventually developed a technique that became the eminent feature of her work. She calls this technique “mosaic maché”painting, a cross between mosaic art and paper maché and a process that yields a variety of textural and visual effects resembling things like tree bark, leather and natural stone.
Now a resident of Piney Flats, West has a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design from Howard University and has been a practicing artist for more than 20 years.

Fields was born and raised in Chilhowie, Va., prior to, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation from Chilhowie High School, he attended the Virginia Art Institute in Charlottesville. Today, he works as student government advisor/leadership coordinator at the Blue Ridge Job Corps Center in Marion.
Woodford is a business person, a fine artist, a craftsperson and a grants writer. She is the founder and past executive director of One Dozen Who Care Inc., an organization whose mission is “to strengthen our leadership abilities and to create community bonds through common cultural interactions.”

Brown grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. A fiber/jewelry artist now living in Radford, Va., she loves to create, and to take what seems like nothing and make it something.
For more information, call (423) 246-1227 or send email to

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Douglass Board Meeting Notice

To the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board, and all other alumni with February business before the Board:

There is a notice about the next called Board meeting for February, posted at the RIVERVIEW FEATURES-OPINIONS-LETTERS TO THE EDITOR link.

On the main page, please go to the link that says "Click here for our Riverview Funnies - Op Ed Page" (it's being changed to reflect that).

We need you all to also please visit all the other links on the website's main page, too. I work hard to keep those pages updated with new items.

Please visit the other links by going through the website's main page. You'll find some interesting articles, including occasionally, some RIVERVIEW NEWS AND CURRENT EVENTS stories.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Benefit Planned for Kingsport's King of Comedy Tim Hall

Coming soon, the community will be putting on a gospel benefit for Xavier Tim Hall for his medical, therapy and household bills, because of his recent brain surgery. If you would like to participate, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty at 429-7553, Donna Morrisette at 677-7871 or Michelle Turner at 817-3293.

We'll keep you posted on when and what time the benefit will be. Please come out and support Tim and his family.

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Board Meeting Notice

To the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board, and all other alumni with February business before the Board:

There is a notice about the next called Board meeting for February, posted at the RIVERVIEW FEATURES-OPINIONS-LETTERS TO THE EDITOR link.

Please go to that link to see the note.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Information on the Passing of Donnie Morrison

Donald (Donnie) Larry Morrison, Douglass High School, Junior Class, 1965

Please stand by for the obituary for our brother and Douglass Alumnus Donnie Morrison. His wife Lala says, the funeral will be Friday, February 10, 2012 at the Travelers Rest Baptist Church, 1533 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, OH 43211.

Visitation will be from 10 AM to 11 AM on Friday, with the funeral right after.

The Morrison family is in the care of the Schoedinger Funeral Service, Columbus.

Donnie will be buried in the Dayton National VA Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

Please watch for the obituary at the PASSINGS AND OBITUARY link.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family Movie Day - Black History Month 2012


Family Game Night - Black History Month 2012


2012 Black History Month Events