Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Douglass-Riverview Museum: Do You Like the Idea?

Greetings, fellow Douglass Alumni and Riverview friends and neighbors!

The city of Kingsport is considering the establishment of a Douglass School-Riverview Community museum that highlights important people, dates, activities, families and items that have contributed to the history of the city's African-American neighborhood.   Museums of this type are all around Tennessee, the nearest to Kingsport is at the Nathaniel Greene Museum in Greeneville, where an entire room is devoted to African-American history in Greeneville and Greene County.  Another museum of this type highlighting Black community would be novel in East Tennessee.

The location for a Douglass-Riverview museum is under consideration, but the establishement of the museum is dependent upon three things.

1)  The enthusiasm of the Black community and its alumni for such a museum.

2)  The support in said community for a Douglass-Riverview Museum.

3)  The willingness of Douglass Alumni and Riverview residents to donate needed items to be on permanent display in a museum.

The last condition, #3 is the most important one.  All museums consist of donated items that have historical interest.  A committee consisting of members of the Douglass-Riverview community and the city would be established to determine which donated items are worthy of display and exhibit.  The amount of donated items will determine where a museum would be located.

What could be donated?  Pictures, household items, you-name-it, for example.. dig into the back of the closet where Granny so-and-so kept all of her pictures and letters.. go into the attic where Granddaddy kept all of his World War 2 stuff... go down in the basement where Aunt Tessie's old sewing machine is that she made choir robes for church... go in the garage and get Uncle Joe's old plow that he plowed up that empty lot on Dunbar Street with to make a garden... go find those hair curler and hair dressing things that Miss Tillie used to use, that Miss Ethel  Walton Daniels used to use in their salons, things like that.

If you like the idea of a Douglass-Riverview mueum, drop a line to and let us know if you'd like to participate by donating items.

The success of a museum of this type will depend on the enthusiam of the community.  If you have spirit for a Douglas-Riverview museum, let us know so that the city can hear from the Black community about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Come Home to Riverview: Historic Four-Day Juneteenth Celebration at V.O. Dobbins Ballfield


One of many events in the Douglass (V.O. Dobbins) Ballfield.  Imagine many more booths, exhibits, food vendors, tents and activities during this weekend's Juneteenth Celebration ONLY in the Riverview Community.

You're all invited to commemorate the upcoming Juneteenth celebration in Kingsport's Riverview community at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center and Ballfield.

For many years, our ancestors have always celebrated African-American events at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center.  It is our own Douglass High School and the Douglass Ballfield in our hearts.  We've honored our high school graduates, our neighborhood happenings, our church gatherings.. the heart and soul of the Black community is deeply rooted in Riverview.

All of the Riverview-Dobbins ballfield events are free of charge.  Free, free, free.  You will never be asked for donations.    Our Black community is worth that for the celebration of Emancipation Day.  There is also free parking in the nearby Eastman Headquarters parking lot.. you and your kids and grandkids are just a short walk away from fun, good food, great entertainment among your family and friends in the Black community.

You're also invited to begin Riverview's festivities by lining Kingsport's Main Street from Centennial Park downtown (corner of Main and Cherokee Streets) around 5:30 PM on Thursday.  The ONLY Parade celebrating Emancipation marches to Riverview on that day to our own Douglas Ballfield.  The parade launches at 6 PM.

The commemoration of the freeing of Black people from slavery is more than just one day that comes and goes.  Come celebrate FOUR days of entertainment and education in the Douglass Ballfield, from Thursday's educational presentation, all the way through Sunday's Gospel Fest.  Below is a handy itinerary of more than 15 events in the Ballfield and nearby Community Center on Saturday, PLUS more than 30 booths, exhibits, food vendors, arts & crafts, and individual activities all going on.

We've been through a lot in Riverview, Southwest Virginia, Hawkins County, Bristol and Johnson City in the past few years, the latest being shut up and shut down from COVID 19.  We've even lost some of our loved ones to that feared virus.  As African-Americans, we still have a ways to go to achieve full freedoms in this country, but by coming together in our Riverview, we can celebrate what we have with our loved ones.  Bring a lawn chair and celebrate Emancipation in the only place that lives in our hearts and souls.  Meet your friends and relatives in the Tri-Cities at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center Ballfield in Kingsport on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and catch the historical perspective in the virtual presentation on Thursday evening.  

We start first, and we go longer.


6:00 PM - Virtual presentation on Juneteenth, the Constitution and Civil Rights with Dr. Stewart Harris, associate director, Abraham Lincoln for the Study of Leadership and Public Policy, Lincoln Memorial University.



6:00 PM - Juneteenth Parade from Centennial Park, downtown Kingsport to the Dobbins Ballfield, Louis Stree & MLK Drive, Riverview

5:00 PM - National Guard Drug Stash Mobile in the Ballfield
8:00 PM - Outdoor movie:  "The Nutty Professor" (PG), Dobbins Ballfield (free popcorn and cotton candy)



10:00 AM - Opening ceremony, Special Letter of Welcome - Calvin Sneed
                "Amazing Grace" by Abey Hensley

10:30 AM - Purpose of Juneteenth:  Eastman Connect - Bishop Ron Collins and Karen Ellison
               - Juneteenth Proclamation from Pat Shull, Mayor of Kingsport
               - "Kingsport" from Chris McCartt, Kingsport City Manager
               - Words of Unity from Miles Burdine, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce CEO
               - Remarks from Dale Phipps, Kingsport City Police chief and Deputy Chief Tracey Kittrell, Sullivan County                         Sheriff's Department
               - Reading of Tennessee State Legislature Resolution by Kingsport City Alderman Paul Montgomery
               - Remarks from Hunter Locke, Sullivan County Commission

               - TOLLING OF THE FREEDOM BELL to begin the Juneteenth Celebration Events:  Kingsport City Alderman Betsy Cooper

NOON - 8 PM:  DJ Jimmy Jam

11 AM - 1 PM:  DB Double Dual Wrestling Camp, featuring coach Wesley Idlette and Trey & Clint Morrisette

NOON - 1 PM:  Unity Drum Circle

1 PM - 2 PM:  DB Football Camp, featuring former coach Graham Clark, current coach Joey Christian, former players      Teddy Gaines and Malik Foreman
Unity Food Tasting - Douglass Community Room, V.O. Dobbins Community Center

2:00 PM - 4:00 PM:  DB Basketball Skills and Drills, featuring former players Dimingo Hale and Travis Sensabaugh 

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM:  Juneteenth Band from Washington, DC

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM:  Demonstration by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department K-9 Unit

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM - Concert by Dove Award-winning singer rap artist Aaron Cole

5:00 PM - 5:30 PM:  School Supplies Giveaways by the Vic Danger Legacy Bikers

5:00 PM - 5:30 PM:  Holloway Dance Hip Hop (V.O. Dobbins large gymnasium)

5:00 PM - 5:45 PM - Kaifa African Fashion Show

5:30 PM - 6:00 PM - Door prizes

5:45 PM - 6:15 PM:  Fraternity Step Show by Phi Beta Sigma members

6:20 PM - 7:00 PM: Juneteenth Band selections

7:15 PM:  Closing Remarks on day's events, information about tomorrow

Additional on-going booths and information at the Dobbins Ballfield all day:

Balloon Art by New Vision Youth
Beach Hut
Mona's Food Factory
Eastman connect Resource Group booth
Joe Bradley Inflatables
Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association
Central Baptist Church Voter Registration
Job Corps - Shiloh Baptist Church
Northeast State Community College - Drones and Helicopter
Sullivan County Health Department - SCAD
KT - Notary Mobile Tina Thompson
United Healthcare
Girls, Inc.
Appalachian Literacy Initiative - Book Giveaways
Northwestern Mutual Finances and Insurance
Clark Funeral Home
Sack Races in field
Kid's Center
Johnson City NAACP/UMOJA Face Painting
Dancing on the Stage
Food Booths and Vendors (fish, wings, bologna sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks)
Lamplight Theater
Creations by Tish and Angie
Friends & Neighbors
New Vision Youth & Children of the Community Free T-Shirt Giveaway
Sullivan County Sheriff's Department Youth Fingerprinting (must have parent present)
Marsh Blood Mobile Unit
Kingsport Fire Department
Sister's Cravings
KHRA Life Skills
Farmasi by Radiance Skin Cosmetics
Soloist rap artist Zacharias Dukes
Operation HOPE/First Horizon Bank National Community Outreach



4:00 PM - 5:00 PM:  Welcome and Prayer from Minister Tanya Foreman
                              Scripture by Pastor Barry Braun
                              Musical Selection from Abey Hensely
                              Atlanta Gospel Soloist Bonita Williamson
                              Juneteenth Poem by Sister Donna Morrisette
                              Why Juneteenth by Bishop Ronnie Collins
                              Music by Christian singer Tobias
                              Closing Remarks by Bishop Ronnie Collins
                              Benediction by Rev. Kenneth Calvert

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Kingsport to Celebrate Juneteenth with Events at V.O. Dobbins Community Center and Douglass Ballfield


KINGSPORT -- Freedom is still ringing in upper East Tennessee, and it's about to sound off loud and clear in Kingsport.

For the first time, the Model City joins other Tennessee communities in celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation that freed American slaves 156 years ago.

"The get-togethers were always a festive atmosphere with music, food, kids' activities, with one difference," said Kingsport's Johnnie Mae Swagerty, who attended many local events out of town as a child. "The older ones would always talk about why the celebration was important to Black people."

The event is technically called Juneteenth, an African-American reference to June 19. On that day in 1865, a Union general rode into Galveston, Texas to announce that President Lincoln had freed the slaves in the Confederate states on Jan. 1st, 1863.

At that time, the law freeing the slaves did not apply to Tennessee, but that was solved by then-military Gov. Andrew Johnson, who freed his personal slaves on Aug. 8th of 1865.  For years, African-Americans in the Volunteer State, particularly in Greeneville where Johnson was from, officially commemorated Aug. 8 as Emancipation Day with huge celebrations, with a nod to Jan. 1 and June 19.

One of the slaves that Johnson freed was Vannie Van Buren Elizabeth Johnson Crum, Swagerty's great-great grandmother.

Vannie Van Buren Elizabeth Johnson Crum, Johnnie Mae Swagerty's great-great grandmother holding President Andrew Johnson's daughter Margeret

"She was the nanny to Johnson's daughter Margaret," Swagerty said. "To me, it was difficult to think she was a slave because it's come down through the generations that the Johnson family treated her extremely well. She stayed with the Johnson family even though she no longer had to.

"Years later, we always celebrated August 8th with the Greeneville folks, and that's why we want to make Kingsport's Juneteenth successful," she says.

Swagerty is making good on that promise. She's the organizer and administrator of Kingsport's four-day Juneteenth events being held at Riverview's V.O. Dobbins Ballfield and Community Center.

Riverview is the ancestral heart of Kingsport's African-American community.  It's fitting that the Kingsport celebration to a national tradition be held at the one place that holds a special place in the hearts of the city's African-American community.

The Juneteenth observance begins on Thursday, June 17th with a virtual Facebook presentation by Dr. Stewart Harris, associate director of the Abraham Lincoln Institute for the study of Leadership and Public Policy at Lincoln Memorial University. 

Dr. Harris will speak on Juneteenth as it relates to the Constitution and civil rights. The discussion is sponsored by Eastman. Tonya Foreman is the company's education initiatives manager and a member of Eastman's Connect group.. she also co-chairs Eastman's community outreach program.

"There are many issues involving Juneteenth that prompt questions" Foreman said. "It always opens up avenues for understanding. Any time we can fellowship in a festive atmosphere and enjoy each other's culture and heritage is a great time to learn from each other."

The Juneteenth Parade on Main Street to MLK Drive on Friday, June 18th will remind you of the Douglass Alumni Reunion Parades like this one from June, 2007

On Friday, June 18, the holiday kicks off with a 6 p.m. Juneteenth parade from Kingsport's Centennial Park to the V.O. Dobbins Ballfield in Riverview, where an outdoor family movie features "The Nutty Professor," starring Eddie Murphy at 8 p.m.

Swagerty says that's only the beginning of exciting activities in the community over the weekend. She says get ready for some good entertainment by bringing your lawn chairs to the outdoor movie.

"We are furnishing free popcorn on Friday night," she says. "It kind of gets you ready for Saturday's big activities."

Imagine the activities on the Douglass Ballfield during Rhythm In Riverview being three or four times BIGGER... that's what the Juneteenth celebration will be on the ballfield in our home neighborhood-- THE ONLY PLACE TO BE ON SATURDAY, JUNE 19TH!

Keep those lawn chairs handy.  Saturday is a community unity day on the Dobbins ballfield beginning at 10 a.m. with proclamations, letters and declarations of welcome by Kingsport city officials. 

There's plenty to do on Louis Street at MLK Drive with on-going activities like information booths and food vendors, and face painting, inflatables, sack races and finger painting for the children.

All of the events and concerts in the Dobbins ballfield are free of charge.  "The pandemic hit folks hard in the pocketbook," Swagerty says.  "We wanted to make things easy by making things free and not asking for donations."

At 11 AM, Juneteenth turns sport-oriented with a free double dual Wrestling camp, hosted by DB Coach Wesley Idlette, two-year region standout Clint Morrisette and his twin brother Tre Morrisette, the Super 14 TSSAA Wrestler of the Year, 160-pound class (pre-registration requested).

Former DB Coach Graham Clark

              Teddy Gaines                            Malik Foreman

A football camp hosted by former DB Coach Graham Clark and current DB Coach Joey Christian kicks off at 1 p.m.  It features former DB and NFL player Teddy Gaines and former DB and UT player Malik Foreman teaching the basics to aspiring players.

Past Soul Food Gathering in Riverview

Take a break also at 1 p.m. to get your taste buds on with food tasting in the nearby Douglass Community Room.  Everything from soul food and southern food, to Hispanic, Puerto Rican and South African dishes will tempt the palate.

At 2 p.m., the sports competition continues with a DB basketball skills and drills demonstration by former DB stars Travis Sensabaugh and DiMingo Hale.  It involves skills and competition for basketball players of the future.

Parents and spectators are encouraged to watch and cheer on the sports participants.  Everybody taking part will get certificates of participation and there'll be door prizes given away in the field all day long.

Saturday really gets wound up at 3 p.m. with the Juneteenth Band from Washington, DC with some rousing selections. 

Then, attendees can see law enforcement officers of the four-legged kind get put through their paces with a K-9 demonstration by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department.

At 4 p.m., one of the Tri-Cities' favorite sons takes the stage in the ballfield.  Singer Aaron Cole of Bristol, Virginia is a Dove Award winning artist, whose Christian rap has been bringing young people to Christ for years. 

He's eager to perform in front of the home folks.  "Everything I sing about is built around hopefulness," he says. "Juneteenth is a hopeful holiday about all people coming together, treating each other as equals. It means a lot to me. It's important to educate people about parts of history that they may not know about."

Click on the video to hear a personal message from Aaron Cole to the folks coming to the Douglass Ballfield on Saturday, June 19th:

"Aaron's rap artistry helps kids make meaningful Christian decisions in their lives," says Swagerty. "His music just makes you feel good."

Three events are scheduled for 5 p.m. Motorcycles roll onto the ballfield when the Vic Danger Legacy Bike Riders will give away school supplies and back packs to area students and visit with seniors in the Riverview community. The late nationally renown bass guitar artist Vic Danger grew up in Riverview, and the giveaway is part of his legacy of helping local youth achieve their educational goals.

Also at 5, the Holloway Dance Studio holds a hip-hop show in the nearby Dobbins community center gym, and the latest designs will be on display in a fashion show held outside, sponsored by Doris Kaifa of Johnson City. Women's and men's clothing from Europe, America and West Africa will be modeled in the show.

As the Saturday activities wind down, the latest fancy "steps" will be stepped off in a "step show" by members of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and then the evening ends with musical numbers from the Juneteenth Band.

On Sunday, the Juneteenth Celebration Gospel Fest kicks off at 4 p.m. with spiritual songs from Abey Hensely, Atlanta's Bonita Williamson, and headlining music from Christian singer-songwriter Tobias.

As Kingsport gets ready to join the chorus of communities commemorating the end of slavery in America, comes a nationwide effort to make June 19th-Juneteenth a federal holiday. Ron Carson, the co-founder of the Appalachian African-American Culture Center in Pennington Gap, VA welcomes the idea.

Ron Carson of the Appalachian African-American Culture Center relaying Black History to the New Vision Youth in March, 2020

"With January 1st and June 19th in many states, plus August 8th in Tennessee, it's too confusing," he says. "June 19th makes more sense because more people around the country consider the day when the official announcement was made in Texas that worked its way back east. The celebrations came down to when each state received the news by horseback back then. Today's effort is to try and get everybody on the same page."

That sentiment is echoed by Bishop Ronnie Collins, organizer of Kingsport's annual Martin Luther King Day March. "A national celebration of freedom for any American is a celebration of the ideals that make our country what it is today... a place of diversity, equality, inclusion and justice for everybody."

Both civic leaders agree that "Juneteenth is not just Black history, it's American history."

Meanwhile, Johnnie Mae Swagerty says she has an idea on how Tennessee could decide whether Jan. 1, June 19 or Aug, 8 is better to celebrate in the state.

"Pick June 19th and call it June-Aug-Teenth-the First," she laughed. "How's that for compromise?"

Friday, May 28, 2021

Gilbert Mack Price remembrance

Gilbert Mack Pride entered this world on October 26, 1942 in Stonega, Virginia. On May 20, 2021 Gilbert fell asleep at the age of 78, with Mary Cathy by his side who is awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Predecessors in death include his father, Coffee Pride; mother, Damaruis Paraseta Walker, and siblings; Benjamin Hardin, Nannie Clark, Bathis Billingsley, Wilhelmina Jackson Saffell, and Paul Walker.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Cathy; sister, Wanda Lynn Jackson, and niece; Marissa(Stephen).

He lives through his bloodline: Son, Matthew Paul Pride and stepdaughter, Toya La’Tece Ruffin. And his Grandchildren: Malachi, Zachariah, Milton Cloud, Kasia Kai, Idriis Osaze Muata,and Gabrielle Michaela.

A man after God’s own heart and a steadfast devotion to faith and family, he was blessed with a smile and laugh so infectious and genuine that those around would be touched by the joy of his soul. Gilbert was kind and calm. He walked, loved, and acted in the likeness of Jesus Christ. He literally shook with the power of the Lord.

In and through, he was an advocate, warrior, and provider. One whose door was always open, and whose hospitality, humility, and compassion was reflected through his culinary hobby of making cakes. A healer that provided love and household support to a multitude of people and families around the world.

Gilbert was a man of consistency and faith with the ethos, ethics, and morals that compelled him to share his faith across the world through many mission trips from India to Africa. His faith journey was shared through his routine of beginning each and every day with prayer and journaling. The family still has and will cherish his collection of daily writings and poems. Every evening, Gilbert blew his shofar as a token of love and protection.
He graduated in 1964 from Xavier University in Louisiana, served in the US army as a medic, and ended his journey serving as the person who brought all of us here together today.

Mary Cathy’s buddy, Daddy to his son, Grandaddy Gilbert- we’re so happy and grateful for you bringing us all closer together. To celebrate your love and life.1 Corinthians 15:50-55.

The family will receive friends on Monday, May 31, from 1:00 until 1:50 pm at Morris Funeral Home, 304 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801. Mr. Pride’s Celebration of Life Service will follow at 2:00 pm in the Chapel. Burial will be private family only at a later date.

Morris Funeral and Cremation Care of Asheville, North Carolina, is serving the family.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Gilbert Mack Pride announcement

 Mr. Gilbert Mack Pride, age 78, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend to many, went home peacefully Thursday morning, May 20, 2021 to be with his Lord. 

Gilbert was the son of the late John Coffeey Pride and Demariarus Walker Pride. He was married to Mary Cathy Pride, of the home for more than 39 years.

A full obituary will follow soon.

The family will receive friends on Monday, May 31, 2021 from 1 PM to 1:50 PM at Morris Funeral and Cremation Care, 301 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801.

The Celebration of Life for Gilbert Pride will be held on the same day, May 31, 2021 from 2 PM to 3 PM in the funeral home chapel.

Page Morrison Lyon announcement

The family is currently planning a memorial service for Page LeJean Morrison Lyon.

Page LeJean Morrison Lyon passed away unexpectedly on April 28, 2021 at her home in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, at the age of 65.

Page was born on March 28, 1956 in Kingsport, Tennessee to Betty Louise Smith Morrison and Arthur Freeman Morrison, Sr.

Page was a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1974.  She moved to Alaska, where she worked in Administration and then moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to open a dive shop with her then-husband Jonathan.  Page was currently working as a caretaker for the elderly in St. Croix.

She is survived by her daughter Amanda Lyon (Matthew Montcalm) and granddaughter Matilda Montcalm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania;  second husband Jonathan Lyon of Wasilla, Alaska;  and brother Arthur Freeman Morrison, Jr. (Margaret).

Details of the memorial service will be posted as soon as arrangements are made.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Mary Carpenter!

Happy birthday to Mrs. Mary Carpenter of Dale Street, Kingsport, celebrating 87 years of life!

The family threw a big party for her and a good time was had by all.  (click on the pictures to make them bigger)

Friday, May 21, 2021

Michael Wayne Williams remembrance


Michael Wayne Williams departed this life early Saturday morning May 15, 2021 at Ballad Holston Valley Hospital and Medical Center, Kingsport.

Before his passing, Michael worked at Hutchinson Sealing in Hawkins County.

He was preceded in death by his father Michael Williams; fraternal grandmother Magnolia Williams; maternal grandfather Jim Tarter; aunts Wanda Daniel, Venita Tarter and Sissy Hale; and uncles Stevie Williams and James Williams.

Michael Wayne leaves to mourn, his daughter Makayla (Fletcher) Weisel; sons Brodric Williams and Caden Williams; two grandchildren; mother Valerie Williams; sisters Renae Sales, Erica Williams, Tina Williams and Venita Williams; brother Chris (Whitney) Williams; grandmother Joyce Tarter; aunts Palmyria Tarter, Truda Hall, Patricia Skaggs, Shelia Johnson, Mia Bradley, and Dana Skaggs; great aunt Sara Ann Ford; uncle Michael Tarter; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins; and special friends Misty Byrd and Ryan Smith.

Services for Mr. Michael Williams will be conducted on Saturday, May 22, 2021 at 1 PM at the Powerful New Life Church of God in Christ, 1300 Riverside Avenue in Kingsport.

The family will receive friends from 12 PM until the hour of service.

Clark Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service, Kingsport is in charge of arrangements and care of Mr. Michael Williams.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

James Williamson remembrance

James Leland Williamson, 58, Gate City, VA passed away, Saturday, May 15, 2021 at his residence after a courageous battle with cancer.

James was born in Kingsport, TN on February 10, 1963, and was the son of Mable Ruth Williamson and the late Jay Releford.

He was employed as a chemical operator with Eastman.

In addition to his father, his sister, Jeanette “Cookie” Releford and brothers, David Releford and Ronnie Releford preceded him in death.

Surviving is his wife, Marie Williamson; daughters, Jala Williamson, Brittany Frazier and husband, Seth, Whitney Anderson and Ali Kasongo; son, Eli Williamson, all of Gate City, VA; eight grandchildren; mother, Mable Ruth Williamson, Kingsport, TN; sisters, Tina Releford, Sheila Releford, Alesia Williamson, Truda Tarter, all of Kingsport, TN, Bonita Williamson, Gracie Falls, and Sabrina Stradford, all of Atlanta, GA; brothers, Douglas Releford, Kingsport, TN, and Byron Williamson, Knoxville, TN; along with several nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends.

There will a “drop-in” visitation from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 19, 2021 at the Gate City Funeral Home. Funeral services will be conducted at 12:00 p.m. in the Gene Falin Memorial Chapel of the funeral home with Brother Mark Harbison officiating. Music will be provided by Bonita Williamson.

Burial will follow at Holston View Cemetery, Weber City, VA. Randall Releford, Michael Tarter, Roger Beaman, John Alton, John Pierson, Seth Frazier, and Ali Kasongo will serve as pallbearers. Pete Shoemaker, Mike Hale, and David Wolfe will serve as honorary pallbearers.

Those attending are respectively asked to wear a face covering and practice the social distancing protocol.

The family would like to send a special thank you to Elite Hospice for their love and care.

An online guest register is available for the Williamson family at 

Gate City Funeral Home is honored to be serving the family of James Leland Williamson.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Terrell Leeper first Dobyns-Bennett student in ETSU Access program


Terrell Leeper signed into the two-year Access ETSU Tuesday morning at Dobyns-Bennett High School.  Shown from left to right are Shelia Leeper, grandmother of Terrell Leeper;  Bucky, the East Tennessee State University mascot;  Terrell Leeper;  and Terry Davis, Terrell's father.

KINGSPORT — Terrell Leeper will forever be a Dobyns-Bennett Indian, a faithful football fan of his alma mater, but he’s about to become an East Tennessee State University Buccaneer, too.

Leeper, who will turn 22 on July 29, this fall will be the first D-B student to become part of the Access ETSU program, which will in a way be a continuation of his time in a transition from a school-to-work program at D-B.

He’s a special education student who dreams of becoming a security guard or working in health care.

The ETSU program will give Leeper classes and experience in his chosen areas of study. He signed to attend ETSU during a ceremony Tuesday morning in the Nancy Pridemore Theatre with faculty, staff, former classmates, and current students. ETSU mascot Bucky; Leeper’s grandmother, Sheila Leeper; and father, Terry Davis, also attended.

“It feels good Dobyns-Bennett supports me,” Leeper said after the event.

“I’m very proud. I’m trying to accomplish my goal of going to college and getting one of my dream jobs,” Leeper said, adding that he would like to be a security guard or possibly a paramedic.

“When he graduated, they didn’t have this program,” Ben Robertson, head of the Transition School to Work Program at D-B, explained before the event got underway.

Dr. Dawn Rowe and Daniel Scherer-Edmunds of Access ETSU said the two-year program provides young adults with intellectual disabilities a college experience similar to their peers. Rowe, director of the program, said Leeper will have a combination of courses and internships at ETSU.

Access ETSU students participate in all typical campus academic and student life activities. They also engage in high quality and fully inclusive work-based learning experiences aligned with their career interests, strengths and needs. Rowe said the program has two students now but by the fall is to have 14, including two Volunteer High School students.

“I think he is excited,” Davis said of his son, who took a campus tour about two weeks ago. “He seemed to love it.”

Davis said he’ll drive his son to campus from their home until Leeper is comfortable enough to bicycle there. Leeper said he also might ride a bus sometimes.

“Everyone knows Terrell,” said Jimmy Burleson, a special education teacher who taught him at D-B.

“My hope is Terrell is the first of many D-B students who get to attend ETSU,” Burleson said, adding that Leeper has more friends than anybody else he knows.

Sonja Bennett is one of those friends. She, her husband, and family take Terrell to D-B games and other trips from time to time.

“I love him so I’m very emotional,” she said during the ceremony. “I think that God kind of knew I needed him in my life.”

Assistant D-B Principal Richard Brown, who oversees special education, said the transition to work program grew from students going to a couple of businesses to a program with two teachers, five job coaches and more than 10 participating businesses.

“His dad said earlier he’s a handful of joy,” Barrett said at the ceremony. “ETSU is never going to be the same.”

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Robert Estes "Sparky" Hale remembrance

Robert Estes “Sparky” Hale Jr. departed this life on April 7, 2021, after a brief illness. He was born on May 24, 1952, in Pennington Gap, Virginia, to the late Rebecca M. and Robert E. Hale Sr.

His life was full of excitement, laughter, and craftsmanship. He loved to spend time traveling, working, and sharing his gifts and talents with anyone he encountered. He was musically inclined (self-taught), learning to play the bass guitar, drums, piano, and other instruments he could get his hands on. He was also skilled with woodwork, but his life’s work as a Steamfitter helped fulfill his occupational goals as part of the Steam-Fitting Union.

Robert E. Hale Jr. was preceded in death by his late wife, Brenda Simpson Hale; father Robert E. Hale Sr; mother, Rebecca M. Hale; sisters, Delores Singleton and Linda Wade; and son Sean Cornett.

He leaves to mourn, his daughter Jaquetta Hale of Kingsport; sons, Jason Hale (Alicia Phillips-Hale) of Kingsport; DiMingo Hale (Sara Reynolds-Hale) of Kingsport; Kimario Hale (Tameisha Khahaila-Hale) of Fairburn, GA; stepchildren, Russel Cuberson (Glenikka Cuberson) of Atlanta, GA; and Shonda Cuberson of New York; brothers Reddie "Tank" Hale (Carolyn Dulaney Hale), Carl "Twig" Hale (Chynet Bond-Hale), William "Tarik Hassan" Hale; friend and neighbor "Bink"; and several grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and cherished friends.

Memorial services will be conducted Saturday, May 1st, 2021 at 1 PM at the Mt. Zion Church, 386 Dunbar Street, Kingsport, TN. The family will receive friends from 12:30 PM until the hour of service.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Barbara "Mama Jean" Lyons Clark remembrance

Barbara Jean Clark, 87, departed this life peacefully on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 and is now in the presence of the Lord.

A native of Bristol, Tennessee, Jean, affectionately known in the Riverview community as "Mama Jean", was Martin and Mary Lyons' daughter.

Jean was a Christian and a faithful member of the Central Baptist Church, Kingsport for more than 50 years, serving in many church ministries.  She retired from Sears, Roebuck and Company.  Jean was a devoted wife, mother, sister and friend.

In addition to her parents, Jean was preceded in death by her husband, James Henry Clark, Jr.;  daughter, Kimberly Jeanne Clark;  one sister, one brother, five sisters-in-law and six brothers-in-law.

She is survived by her daughter, Sylvia Ann Davis;  son, Sidney (Delia) Lyons;  six granddaughters, Angela Edwards, LaSonya (Jamie) Johnson, Kathy (Lenzie) Williams, Vickie (Bryan) Queen, Tonya Lyons, and Jeanna Davis Blanco;  three grandsons, Ricardo (Ricky) Lyons, Joey Razon, and Reginald E. (Roberta) Davis;  23 great-grandchildren;  numerous great-great-grandchildren; four sisters-in-law, Martha Davis, Frances Graves, Constance Clark and Barbara Ann Smith;  one brother-in-law, Steven (Peggy) Machen;  one Godchild, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and special friends.  

Services for Mrs. Barbara Clark will be conducted on Saturday, April 17th, 2021 at 1:30 PM from the Central Baptist Church in Kingsport.  

The family will receive friends from 12:30 PM until the hour of service.  Pastor Perry Stuckey will be officiating.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Elizabeth Maxwell remembrance


CHURCH HILL – Elizabeth Maxwell, 93, went to be in her Heavenly Home on Monday, April 12, 2021 at Holston Manor.

Elizabeth was a lifelong resident of Church Hill and was a member of the Lyons Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church.  She formerly held the positions in the church as the Mother of the Church, President of the Deaconess Board, member of the Missionary Society, secretary of the Church, a member of the Sunday School, an usher, and a very faithful member.

She was preceded in death by her father, William H. C. Gentry; mother, Dovie M. Gentry;  husband, Douglas V. Maxwell;  siblings, Bettie Flowers, Evelyn Cleveland, Barbara Turner, Joe L. Gentry, William H. Gentry, and Patricia Braden; grandson, Preston Peters.

Elizabeth is survived by son, Gary (Charlotte); granddaughter, Kimberley M. Wilson (Ali) of Trenton, NJ, and Stephanie E. Maxwell of Dallas, TX;  great granddaughters, Victoria, Ava, and Genevieve Wilson of Trenton, NJ;  great grandson, Malachi, Dominik, Giovanni, and Giancarlo Peters;  close friend, Zeola Leeper; one niece and several nephews.

A visitation will be held from 10:30 – 11:30 AM on Friday, April 16, 2021 at the Johnson-Arrowood Funeral Home, 320 Grandview Street in Church Hill, TN. 

A funeral service will be held at 11:30 AM with Rev. Joseph Commage and Rev. Pam Hoard, and Rev. James Whiteside. 

The funeral service will be live streamed at 11:15 AM. 

The burial will follow to Mountain Home National Cemetery in procession. The graveside service will be held at 2:00 PM.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the family requests no food or visits to the home and to please follow the CDC guidelines and to wear masks when visiting at the funeral home.

Pallbearers will be nephews, Ronnie Cox, and Bobby Cox. Honorary Pallbearers will be Randy Leeper and Anthony Leeper.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Lyons Chapel AME Zion Church; P.O. Box 1117, Church Hill, TN 37642

A special thank you to the staff of Holston Manor, nurses Daisy Phillips and Allison George and the staff at Smokey Mountain Hospice.