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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Almost A Century of Trust: Central Baptist Church of Kingsport Celebrates 90 Years! 11 AM Service


--Let's go back 90 years.. only a few of our elders can remember back that far.


**In 1919, the Federal Dyestuff and Chemical Corporation on the site of what is now Riverview, went bankrupt. It later became the Union Dye and Chemical Company, which went bankrupt in 1920.

**There was no Tennessee Eastman, now Eastman Chemical Company yet. That company didn't come along until 1920.

**There was no Kingsport Press yet. That company started in 1921.

Only the Kingsport Pulp Mill (later Mead) and the Clinchfield Portland Cement Company (later Penn-Dixie Cement) were the largest companies in Kingsport, fueled by the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railroad (later the Clinchfield, now the C-S-X). The city itself was only a year old in 1918.

But in the year 1918 on May 27th, the Lord touched the hearts of a group of black citizens in the Sullivan-Dale-Maple-East Walnut Street area, and together they formed the Central Baptist Church. The church met in two separate locations, before eventually locating in the new "Riverview" neighborhood in 1941 on Carver Street in Riverview.

90 years later on May 25, 2008, two days shy of the actual date, Central Baptist commemorated a wealth of heritage as Kingsport's first African-American church.

The theme of the event was "The Past Meets The Present."

At the 11 A-M service, which was packed with visitors and Central members, Linda Kincaid presented a video presentation, showing the history of the church (only 10 pastors have guided the congregation--a milestone among other churches almost a hundred years old). Sister Kathy Evans gave words of welcome, followed by a selection from the Central Baptist Praise Dancers, and Sister Ollie Perry gave the Offertory Prayer.

Then, a special trip down the church Memory Lane, as Sister Earnestine White and Brother Van Dobbins, Jr. gave tributes and recollections of various memorable people in the church.

Sister Linda Kincaid presented a moving video tribute to the church's history, spotlighting people, places and events that moved the church forward through the years.

Special notice was paid to Reverend William H. Stokely, who moved the church through many years of trials and tribulations--the "big boom era" of the 1940's, 50's and 60's, the Civil Rights movement, and the iniative of giving Riverview's children more religious training, a huge undertaking. "Reverend Stokely always placed the good of the people above anything else," remembers Van Dobbins, Jr. "He was always there most of the time for the congregation, and many of his programs are still in place today. He has never gotten the recognition he deserved."

After the Spoken Word and prayer from Minister Joseph Powell, Deacon Paul Montgomery introducted the special speaker for the service.

Spruell Driver, Jr., Esq. gave a most inspirational talk, as the guest speaker for the morning service. Mr. Driver first came to Kingsport as a U-T co-op student working at Eastman Chemical, and when he sought a church home, he chose Central. He's now an associate with the Waller Landsden Law Firm in Nashville, specializing in commercial real estate transactions and secured loan transactions involving banks.

Below are excerpts from his speech.

"As a people, we must have perserverance," he told the congregation, noting a scripture verse. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith," he said, "who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning it's shame and sat down at the Right Hand of the Throne of God."

Mr. Driver also mentioned perserverance by the late Wilma Rudolph, who attended one of Douglass High School's last athletic banquets in 1964. "Central Baptist Church, just as Ms. Rudolph's great relay team from 1960, had some great forerunners, looking down on us today, imploring us to run the Christian race with perserverance."

"A great legacy has been handed down to us over the decades from Reverend W. E. Blake and Sister Leola Richardson," Mr. Driver told the group. "For me, whenever I am down, I am encouraged by the reminder given to me by Papa Sneed (Horace Sneed, Sr.) from 1 Peter 2:9--"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him, Who called you out of darkness into His Wonderful Light."

"Whenever I am disappointed," Mr. Driver relayed, "I am encouraged by the song given to me by Deacon Wyman Johnson: This joy that I have, the world didn't give it to me! The world didn't give it, and the world can't take it away!"

"Whenever I am tired, I am given the inspiration of second wind just by recalling the perseverence of Reverend William H. Stokely, " he said. "I first saw him in the 36th year of his pastorate, and I shall never forget how he continued to run the Christian race with perseverence. For he did not grow weary and did not lose heart!"

"When Spruell first came here as a college student," remembers Lina Bradley, "he was a long way from home, and didn't know anybody. Imagine being 19 or 20 years old, coming to a strange, faraway place, and not knowing a soul. But once Spruell found Central, the folks greeted him, nurtured him, counseled him, and accepted him as one of the church family."

Minister James Snapp gave the Invitation to Discipleship, followed by the benediction to a wonderful look back at Central's history.. a fine prelude to the afternoon's activities coming up.

After the 11 A-M service, parishioners and visitors went to the Fellowship Hall, where, like in the old days, they were treated to dinner. "It reminded everybody of the times when we used to have dinners outside on the lawn for special events," says Van.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

90 Year Old Church Is "Central" To Riverview-South Central Kingsport! 4 PM Service

The spirit of Central Bapist Church is alive in Kingsport on its 90th anniversary!


That was the "Central" message, as parishioners, friends and neighbors gathered for the 4 PM celebration at the church on Carver Street on Monday, May 25th, 2008.

After an afternoon meal reminiscient of the familiar down-home dinners served on the church lawn years ago, many folks filled the sanctuary for the activities planned for the special 4 o'clock service.

The City of Kingsport recognized Central's 90th birthday, with a visit from Kingsport City Alderman Jantry Shupe. He brought with him a special proclamation from Mayor Dennis Phillips. The proclamation acknowledged that "on May 27, 1918, the Reverend W. E. Blake and 21 devout souls came together for the purpose of worship and enhancing the spiritual well-being of our community," and that on May 25, 2008, "Central Baptist Church is celebrating 90 yeaers of actively glorifying God and the betterment of our community." The day was proclaimed "Central Baptist Church Day in Kingsport, for the continuing spiritual strengthening of our community."

Many pastors of Central exhibited the same qualities of pastoral care, spiritual leadship and outreach builder. Speaker for the service was Pastor Frederick Gordon, who served as Central's pastor from 1983 to 1992, right after Reverend William H. Stokely.

"It was an exciting moment to come back to," Pastor Gordon says. "It means a lot to celebrate 90 years in one city, especially in the African-American community. In this part of the country, you find very few of our churches that have been established that long, and it was especially meaningful by the City of Kingsport sending a representative to recognize that 90 years."

"My message to the congregation came from II Samuel, Chapters 24 and 25," said Pastor Gordon, "and the benefits of having a place to worship. Central has always been a place that people can come to, no matter how life was, they could always come on down to the Church, for the opportunity to worship. If there was trouble in their lives, they could find assistance "restraining the Wrath of God" off their shoulders. Our mission as ministers, deacons, trustees, singers, youth counselors, and parishioners were directed in the prayers of many old saints that worshipped at Central long ago."

"I noticed a lot of changes in Central while visiting," says Pastor Gordon. "The removal of the housing (the Riverview Apartments) and the attitude of the people is different than it was, years ago. Everyone has a different mindset, that is much more immediate, much more NOW. That's not really a bad thing, because Central seems to be adapting to the new needs of its congregation."

"I see a lot of retirees coming in," he says, "that gives the community a different flavor, too. I spoke to several people, one of whom had lived in Savannah, Georgia for many years, that moved back to Riverview, and a few others who also lived in other larger cities that have now come back."

"The most wonderful thing I saw," says Pastor Gordon, "is the large number of YOUNG people at Central. Those young people are looking back to the older saints for guidance. They seem to be bringing a younger, youthful perspective into the church and they're participating in the worship service. That's nothing but good VIBES!"

"That's actually the fulfillment of Scripture that most of us were taught as children by our elders," Pastor Gordon says. "Train them and challenge the way they should go, and they will not depart. We're seeing these young people coming back, because when they were smaller, their parents and grandparents taught them about the church and how it should grow.. they may have left for a while, but they're finding their way back home."

"That is a good thing.. a blessing from God."

Although Central is in search of a pastor to continue the traditions, Pastor Gordon sees that as a natural progression in the evolution of the church. "The older saints that are long gone now, did a great job educating the younger ones who have now been called to step up and take their places in the church leadership," he says. "The younger ones have what they need to move Central forward, with whomever they select, to lead them to that 'promised land' the Lord has promised us all."

At least one follower believes that.

"Pastor Gordon is right," says Lina Bradley. "Our feet are firmly planted on this ground, these are our roots. We are well on our way in that new direction to finding a true Man of God, that has the community and the church as the center of his focus."

"Right now, it's an exciting time to be at Central."


V. O..Dobbins Loses A Non-Profit Neighbor; Red Cross Pulls Out Of Center

‘Financially to commit to the nonprofit center is not the best choice for us at the time.’ — Luke Bell



KINGSPORT — A decision by the American Red Cross to not relocate its Kingsport office to the city’s new nonprofit center will not kill the project, but it may scale back its size, a city official said Tuesday.
Kingsport is planning an $8.7 million renovation and expansion project at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center. Construction is expected to begin in the late fall and take approximately 18 months to complete.
The project calls for demolishing 13,600 square feet of the existing building, renovating the remaining 46,000 square feet, and adding just over 50,000 square feet of new space — 30,900 of which will be a new nonprofit center.
“We were presented with a draft lease, and our board met on May 19 to review it. At that point, we really looked at the utilization of our resources.. Financially to commit to the nonprofit center is not the best choice for us at the time,” Luke Bell of the Red Cross said. “Donations are not as strong as we would like them to be to make a large commitment to move into the nonprofit center.”

The Red Cross’ lease would have been $45,000 a year, and conceptual plans had the agency taking up the entire first floor (12,900 square feet) of the three-story nonprofit center. In fact, Red Cross officials had met with city officials and architects about their space needs. McCartt said the architects designed the first floor based on comments from the Red Cross.
Last week, Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, gave a presentation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on the project and said several nonprofit organizations were committed to relocating to the nonprofit center, including the American Red Cross.
After McCartt’s presentation that day, the board of directors for the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee voted unanimously not to commit to the city’s offer at this time, according to Bell, chairman of the board of directors.
Bell said the Red Cross drafted a letter of support for the concept of a nonprofit center, but the organization never gave the city an official commitment.

“We had put together a design for them to go in there,” McCartt said. “They continued to give us the assurance they were going to go in there. They were a key player all the way up to my presentation to the BMA on May 19.”
McCartt said the city hopes the Red Cross will reconsider, but adds the decision by the agency will not jeopardize the project in any way. McCartt said he knows of a couple of smaller nonprofits that are interested in relocating to the nonprofit center.
“We feel like we can make modifications if we have to, to still build the site. At the same time we feel fairly confident we have other tenants that can go in there to fill the space,” McCartt said, adding the city could build the center as proposed, or look at scaling it back. “Potentially we could (scale it back). We’re going to be sitting down with the architects and looking at that as we look at the path forward and decide what the best option is. We’re several weeks away from making that decision.”
If the Red Cross is financially able to move into the nonprofit center, Bell said that is something the board would entertain investigating.
“I’m not certain it would be in our best interest for our service delivery needs,” Bell said.
The American Red Cross office is located on Wilcox Drive and has been there since at least the early 1960s. Bell said the agency is in need of a new facility due to space needs and the age of its current facility.
Other organizations committed to the nonprofit center include the United Way, American Legion and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency. In addition, Kingsport is allocating space, computers and furniture for the nonprofit Douglass Alumni Association and the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Web site, free of charge.
The V.O. Dobbins Center is a city-owned community center located between Louis and Wheatley streets in Riverview. The building served as Kingsport’s “blacks only” school from 1951 to 1966.
For more information on the facility, go to

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dobbins Center Work Set for Late Fall

The American Red Cross, United Way, American Legion and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency have committed to locate their operations in the new nonprofit wing of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center.




KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport has determined the construction and operating costs for the new V.O. Dobbins Community Center and recently announced which nonprofit organizations have committed to the new project.
The V.O. Dobbins Center is a city-owned community center located between Louis and Wheatley streets in Riverview. The building served as Kingsport’s “blacks only” school from 1951 to 1966.
City and community leaders have talked about renovating the building for years, but recently the city put the project on its five-year capital improvement plan. Kingsport officials have budgeted approximately $5.7 million in city funds and plan to apply for $3 million in federal funds to make the project a reality.
During a recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, city leaders received an update on the project.
The project calls for demolishing 13,600 square feet of the existing building, renovating the remaining 46,000 square feet, and adding just over 50,000 square feet of new space. Conceptual drawings show a new 30,900-square-foot nonprofit center (a smaller, one-story nonprofit building is shown beside it), a new 10,000-square-foot gym and a new 9,000-square-foot two-story wing.
Improvements coming to the center include new windows, roof, HVAC system, restrooms, a new sprinkler system, paint and flooring, new lighting fixtures, and a new entryway into the building. A new playground is called for near the existing ball field, and James Street would be closed and converted into a parking lot. The plan calls for 153 parking spaces to be built for the center.
Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said the cost of the project has been determined to be $8.7 million, which includes the city obtaining $3 million in new market tax credits.
The operating costs in the nonprofit wing of the center are estimated to be $5.10 per square foot, while the operating costs in the remaining part of the center will be $3.50 per square foot.
“I feel comfortable with these operating costs moving forward, and I think we have a very good project,” said City Manager John Campbell. “The big unknown is the final financing.”
McCartt said the city has commitments from four local nonprofits to locate their operations in the new nonprofit wing of the center — the American Red Cross, the United Way, the American Legion and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency.
Up next will be for the architects to complete the final design and have the project reviewed by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. In August, McCartt said staff would return to the BMA with the findings of the new market tax credits.
Construction is expected to begin in the late fall and take approximately 18 months to complete.
“The subject has been discussed for a long time, discussed too long,” said Alderman Larry Munsey. “It’s time we stopped talking. We need to get on with it.”
Van Dobbins, whose father the center was named after, said the new center would be something for the future and for the youth of the community.
“It’s a good thing in our history right now. The city has been very supportive of the center from the get-go and ... everybody in the community has been supportive of what’s been going on,” Dobbins said. “We had some reservations, but the city has come on board great to support all the things that are necessary to help us move forward on this project.
“The way things are geared now, all we want to do is make sure that it benefits the people that live there and the city of Kingsport.”

SPECIAL NOTE: Please see the previous story on the BMA meeting..there are some additions to this article. The non-profit Douglass Alumni Association is also a new tenant in the V.O. Dobbins Community Center. The DAA is being alloted space in the community room for its offices, computers and furniture at no charge. Many Riverview and South Central residents were present at the BMA meeting last Monday afternoon.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008 D-B Graduating Seniors Picnic at Warriors Path

Today is the beginning of the rest of their lives.

Our graduating African-American seniors from Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport got off to a rousing start, by attending a picnic in their honor, held at the Warriors Path State Park.


The event was co-sponsored by the Ebony Club Alumni Association, which is now a part of the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport. A special thanks to Dawnella Ellis, former teacher sponsor of the D-B Ebony Club, whose former club helped with funds for the event. The graduating seniors' picnic is the first of many collaborations together, as the legacies of our Douglass High School are passed down to the future Ebony Club members just finding out about their Riverview heritage.

"Douglass-Kingsport is well represented today," says Monica Lewis-Patrick, who, along with Octavia Hampton, organized the event for the graduating D-B Seniors. "We've got pretty much somebody from most of the large families that went to Douglass."

"There's nothing finer than being in the hills of Tennessee with these proud Dobyns-Bennett graduates," says Ms. Lewis-Patrick. "We had a phenomenal turnout, and it's been a great day to celebrate their accomplishments. It's been a difficult four years for some of them with parents not always being available, but today, we wanted them to know they are loved, appreciated and celebrated, not just by their parents and friends, but by the alumni of Douglass."

Douglass Alumni Board of Director Vice-President Andra Watterson represented the Douglass Alumni Association, along with past president Virginia Hankins, and also board members Judy Phillips and Van Dobbins, Junior who helped with the food concessions.

Many of the graduating seniors are going off to college.. Jordan Patrick has been accepted at North Carolina A & T, Terrance Blye has been accepted at Northeast State, Faith Mbarathi is going to the University of Memphis, Tremmell McGue has been accepted at both the University of North Carolina AND the University of Tennessee, East Tennessee State is also represented with incoming D-B graduates. "A lot of the D-B graduates won't see each other for a long time," Ms. Lewis-Patrick says. friendships will continue, but the separations among the friends will be hard to deal with."

Many of our seniors are graduating with honors. The National Society of High School Scholars has selected Jordan Patrick for membership. The NSHSS recognizes top scholars and invites students who have achieved superior academic excellence, according to a news release announcing Jordan's acceptance. The membership entitles her to benefits like scholarship opportunities, academic competitions, free events, and members-only resources, publications, and participation in programs offered by education partners, online forums and publicity honors. Jordan is in good company.. right now, there are more than 300,000 society members in more than 120 countries.

Those folks at the picnic enjoyed good barbeque pork, beef and chicken, catered by The Red Pig Barbeque in Johnson City, along with cole slaw, baked beans, hot dogs, hamburgers, tea and soft drinks. "We're excited about the potential of making this an annual event," says Ms. Lewis-Patrick. Our partnership with the Ebony Club Alumni and the Douglass Alumni Associations goes a long way to preserving the wonderful traditions and legacies of the Riverview-South Central neighborhood."

"It's great for these graduating seniors to be able to sit down with the Douglass Alumni and hear the stories of friendships, survival, and friendships that held us together as a community," she says.

A BIG CONGRADULATIONS to our graduating D-B graduating seniors: Brittany Sensabaugh, Jessica Hampton, Terrance Blye, Faith Mbarathi, Mercedes Huff, Jamikia Beatty, Adrian Sensabaugh, and Jordan Patrick. Not present for the picture above, but proud D-B graduates all the same, were Adam Lytle, Jeremy Turner and Tremmell McGue. If your graduating D-B senior could not attend the picnic, or was not present for the pictures, please send that information to: or, so we can include them in the congradulations.

"Hopefully, the graduating seniors can learn from their elders' experiences, and never forget the community they came from," says Ms. Lewis-Patrick.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Eastman: Vapor release posed no threat

Remember years ago on Lincoln Street, when you could go from one end of our next-door neighbor Tennessee Eastman to the other, and smell several different, distinct smells? You can't anymore, so any smell in the air is now considered unusual. Ah.. the good ole days....

• KINGSPORT — Eastman Chemical Co. officials on Thursday explained a smell in Kingsport that resulted in numerous calls to the company and public safety organizations.

According to an Eastman press release, about 9 a.m. Thursday a relief valve opened due to a pressure buildup in the polymers manufacturing area. The equipment responded correctly, but as a result vapors were released. This created a strong odor in the surrounding area. The odor is from a material known as DowTherm, which is a heat transfer fluid used to heat up reactors. The material has an aromatic odor (some described it as flowery). When handled properly and in low doses, there is no danger to human health, Eastman said. But even at low concentrations, DowTherm can be smelled. Given the short period of time in which the release occurred, the concentrations smelled beyond Eastman’s property were quite low.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's A Big GO For The DouglassSchool/V.O. Dobbins Center Renovations!

It's full steam ahead for renovations and improvements to our beloved Douglass High School building.

At its work session Monday afternoon July 19th with many Riverview and South Central residents in the audience, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave its approval to proceed with the renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center, also known as the old Douglass School building.


At their retreat back in February, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen got most of the specifics of the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Center renovation. At the work session on Monday, Alderman Larry Munsey, one of the longest-serving members of the BMA, told the group "we've been talking about and working on this project for years, and I'm ready to move forward with it." Other comments from the aldermen suggested that the renovation stay on track, and the timeline that has been presented.

Architect Dineen West, along with designers and planners, will now move forward with the construction design for the project, review the recommendations from the State Fire Marshall's Office, and explore ways to fund the project with New Market Tax Credits. A recommendation on funding the project with those, will come in 60 days.

"Our objective was to present the project to the board, with four objectives in mind," says Chris McCartt, Kingsport's Development Services Manager. "First, we wanted to bring the mayor and the aldermen up to speed, present the leases that prospective tenants (the United Way, the American Red Cross, the American Legion and others) have agreed to, show a timeline for construction, and present the financing options available to fund the construction."

"As far as financing," McCartt says, "we have three options for that. Number one, we can borrow bonds.. number two, we could have someone come in, purchase the building, pay for the renovations, and the city could buy the building back from them.. and number three, we could use New Market Tax Credits to fund the construction costs, which would be the most economical way. The BMA expressed a real desire to see something come back on the New Market Tax Credits within the next 60 days, and we are now working on that full steam ahead."


The New Market Tax Credit Program, established by Congress in December of 2000,
provides tax incentives to induce private sector, market-driven investment in businesses and real estate developments located in economically distressed communities across the nation.

Riverview and South Central Kingsport is considered an economically distressed community, thus qualifying for inclusion in the New Market Tax Credit Program.

"Our mission now is to bring in a consultant on the New Market Tax Credits," says McCartt. "Now that we have the board's approval to continue, we can move forward with design plans, which keeps it on pace with construction, which is scheduled to start this fall."

Many Riverview and South Central residents were present at the Board's work session. Wallace Ross, Jr. was concerned about funding, which was explained would come mostly from the New Market Tax Credits. He and others also mentioned that they had seen several times the renovation being called in public "The Kingsport Non-Profit Center," and were quite concerned the name "V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center" would not survive the renovation.

Mayor Dennis Phillips stressed that the name of the building would not change, and the building would always carry the name of former principal and community statesman V.O. Dobbins, Sr.

When Douglass closed as a school in 1966, most of the building stood empty. It faced an uncertain future until the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency moved in, and Headstart classes were established there. Prior to that, Headstart classes were scattered in classrooms all over Kingsport. When the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department moved many of its programs into the old Douglass gym, the building was named the V.O. Dobbins Community Center, named after the distinguished Douglass principal who devoted his life to educating the area's black children.

Johnnie Mae Swaggerty inquired about the status of the Douglass Auditorium, and was told it would have to be demolished because the asbestos clean-up inside of it, would cost too much. She was quite pleased that Alderman Larry Munsey noticed the contingent of concerned residents from Riverview and South Central Kingsport, and invited them to speak.

Louetta Hall said most of the group listened with interest, as the BMA discussed the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Center remodeling. "The BMA also talked about the multi-purpose area, that would also be the home of the Douglass Alumni Association," she says. "They mentioned that we would have part of the area, much like the shared rooms are in the Kingsport Rennisance Center."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Please Be There To Show Your Support!

Part of our heritage as Douglass Alumni and descendants will soon be decided on Monday, May 19th at 3 PM, in the City Council Room of the Kingsport City Hall.

That will be the meeting when Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips, Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote, and Aldermen Ken Marsh, Larry Munsey, Pat Shull, Valerie Joh, and Jantry Shupe will all listen to discussion, and then decide whether to renovate our beloved and historic Douglass High School building, also known as the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center, named after native statesman V.O. Dobbins, Sr.

Professor Dobbins was a principal man, but he was also a man of principle. He believed that, despite getting hand-me-down books and equipment, that deficit could be best managed if our children of Riverview and South Central Kingsport be taught with love and respect. Of the proposed renovation of Douglass, he would probably say "it's probably a good thing, but only if such renovation would benefit and be supported by ALL of the community, and not just part of it."

The countdown is about to end, as you can see above. Please plan to show your support for renovating one of the historic cornerstones of our community, by attending the meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen when they bring the matter up for discussion on Monday, May 19th at 3 PM, in the City Council meeting room at City Hall in Downtown Kingsport. Hearing the board's decision for our neighborhood is a privilege for anyone hoping to take part in government, but even if you can only stay for a few minutes, your presence will be appreciated.

I have also prepared a short DVD presentation that the BMA will see, that will detail the support I have heard in the community about the proposed renovation. It's a short history of the school, from what people have told me, is the RIVERVIEW point of view.

If you cannot be there, please email a quick note of support for the renovation project. Please send them to City Manager John Campbell at:

And copy the email to:

Jeff Fleming, Assistant City Manager for Development:
Chris McCartt, Development Services Manager:

Knowledge is Power, and the more people we have at City Hall with knowledge, the more that people in power will listen to us, and consider things that are important TO us.

Next Door To Riverview: What's Planned for An Old Neighbor?

City planners study rezoning of Kingsport Foundry site

Rezoning would help improve one of the gateways into the downtown area and prevent the owner of the foundry property from putting a metal reclamation facility on the site.



KINGSPORT — Mayor Dennis Phillips is still pushing for the Kingsport Foundry property to be rezoned and has sent a formal request to the city’s planning department to explore that possibility.

Earlier this month, the Kingsport Economic Development Board voted to ask the city to rezone several properties downtown from M-2 (general industrial) to B-2 (central business district). The properties are bounded by Main, Sullivan, Market and Unicoi streets and include the Kingsport Foundry and old Jack’s Restaurant property.
Phillips sent a formal request to the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission on Thursday, asking planners to initiate a study to determine the appropriate land use designation for the property in that area of downtown. During its regular meeting Thursday night, planning commissioners voted to accept the request and directed city planners to look at the industrial areas of downtown.
Alan Webb, Kingsport’s planning manager, said the department would treat the request as a rezoning request.
“We’ll notify all of the property owners and let them know their property will be discussed,” Webb said.
The study will look at the existing land use, changes in the area, and the recommended land use for the property. Webb said he hopes the study will be complete by the Planning Commission’s June meeting.

The reasons behind the rezoning — as discussed at the KEDB meeting — would be to help improve one of the main gateways into the downtown area and to prevent the owner of the foundry property from putting a metal reclamation facility on the site.
“If we’re looking at the downtown area we’re slowly seeing a change, manufacturing leaving the downtown area. In that block it’s not been used for its zoned purpose for quite some time,” said Larry Estepp, chairman of the KEDB. “We should try to start using it for a better purpose in today’s environment.”

Estepp said the KEDB plans to purchase the old Jack’s restaurant located on Main Street and would like to buy the foundry property and an adjacent 0.6 acre site, where the old E.J. Smith Oil Co. stood. The KEDB made an offer on the foundry property last year but never heard back from the owner.
Estepp said the KEDB has no plans for those properties, other than to clean them up and sow some grass on them.
Although the city can rezone a property without the owner’s permission, there is at least one unknown in regards to the foundry p r o p e r t y.
Webb said the city’s legal department is investigating whether or not the existing business would be grandfathered and not have to comply with the requirements of the new zone. Webb said if a nonconforming business stops operation for 30 months, it couldn’t be re-established.
“They would have to have a plan on what they propose to do and meet today’s ordinances with landscaping and paved parking areas or tear down what’s already there and clean it up,” Webb said. “(The owners) should not be able to haul something onto the property. They have to present a plan to the building department.”
Webb said he thinks the property should be zoned B-2, adding that the city’s land use plan, completed in 1998, shows the property as B-2.

“Our long range plan is basically to eventually turn the industrial part of downtown into the B-2 central business district,” Webb said.
Jeff Fleming, assistant city manager for development, said the city has had some discussions with the owners of the foundry property and will continue to try and forge a working relationship.
“We’d very much like to have a positive and productive relationship with the owners, and obviously there has been some miscommunication over a period of time. I just think we need to continue to talk and see where we can mutually benefit from working together,” Fleming said.
The foundry closed in late 2003 after failing to emerge from bankruptcy reorganization.
The New Shenandoah Co. LLC acquired the foundry property in December 2004 for an undisclosed amount. Since then, most of the building and equipment have been removed, but the frame of a large building still remains.

The Kingsport Foundry had operated on Main Street since 1927. A manufacturer of steel castings, the foundry ran into financial problems a few years ago when foreign competitors started dumping cheap steel imports onto American shores.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Vic Danger (a.k.a. Victor Simon): Local Musician Makes Good

Our own Victor Simon is coming home for a concert at Fun Fest's Rhythm in Riverview on July 14th.

My good friend Vince Staten (right), popular columnist with the Kingsport Times-News has written several stories about your Douglass Alumni website, that help portray a positive image of Douglass High School and the Riverview-South Central Kingsport neighborhood. Vince knew personally and has talked to many of our residents over the years, and has also written a story on Victor Simon, a.k.a. Vic Danger. With Vince's permission, I have posted the Victor story here for you to read:


Kingsport native Victor Simon played at Jenna Bush's wedding last weekend as part of the Tyrone Smith Revue. I profiled Vic in the Times News two years ago. Here is that column from March 4, 2006:

Victor Simon was in the seventh grade at Sevier in the mid-1960s when his older brother talked him into going out for football. "My cousin Tony Horton came running over with his helmet off and a big cut on his lip. He said, ‘You coming out for football?' I took one look at him and I said, ‘No, I'm going out for band.'"

And that's how Vic came to be the first black member of the Sevier band. And it's also how Vic launched his musical career, a calling that has found him traveling the world with Harry Belafonte, playing with the Drifters and Mary Wells and Larry Coryell, and endorsing a signature line of bass guitars for Waterstone Guitars as well as amps for Madison Amp and guitars for Dean Guitar.

But it all started at Sevier on that fall afternoon 40 years ago.


Kingsport had just integrated its schools, and Vic was in the first group of students to come over from Douglass. "Things were pretty tough at first, but then I met Mrs. Gail Shields." She was his first musical mentor and the mom of Jim Shields, who would soon be one of his best friends and a band mate.

"She took her time to let me know I was good enough to do something with my music. She was a white lady that took an interest."

Music began to overshadow integration, and Vic was soon settled in. "That's when I made some of my best friends."

He was playing drums in the Sevier band, but on the side he was working on his first love, the bass guitar. Then a friend from the neighborhood, Arthur Flack, invited him to join his group, Kingsport's legendary party band The Scat Cats.

Vic says he and Arthur formed a bond. "He told me how to project. If it feels good and sounds good, go with your instincts. It was a good education, and I got that R&B feel."

There would be other inspirations in Vic's musical career: local bass player Ray Horton; Marshall Davis of the Drifters; childhood pal Skip Templeton ("We never thought about black and white, just the music we made together"); sax player Thomas Jackson; singer Curtis Springs ("one of the greatest singers I've ever heard"); and Mark McMillan.

But Arthur Flack, who died two years ago, was his first inspiration.

After graduating from D-B in 1971, Vic knocked around in various bands. "I had the opportunity to be in all sorts of crime." He chose another direction. He enlisted in the Navy where he was a corpsman and played in Triple Threat, a Navy band.

His big break came in 1992 after he had left the Navy and moved back home to work as an electrician. "I was working at Tennessee Eastman. I got home from work, and there was a message on the answering machine. This guy said, ‘This is Norman Riley. I work for Harry Belafonte Enterprises.'"

Riley said he had seen Vic play bass, and they wanted him to join Belafonte's world tour. "At first I thought they were joking. The next day I told my foreman, ‘I've got to make an important phone call to Harry Belafonte.' They laughed me out of the shed."

He sneaked off and made the call during his lunch break. "They told me, ‘We want you to join the tour.' They told me the pay scale, and I started shaking."

When his wife, the former Greta Maxwell, got home that night, "I told her, ‘Honey, I made that call and I'm going to be playing with Harry Belafonte.'"

He toured the world with Belafonte for a year. When that ended, he signed on with the Tyrone Smith Revue, an 11-man group that is one of the hottest party bands in the South. That was nine years ago. He's still with the Revue performing under the name Vic Danger.

Vic was in town earlier this week for the funeral of his mother-in-law.

He hopes to come back this summer for Fun Fest. It's a matter of matching up his band's style with another act.

Vic really wants to play for his old hometown. Not just to show what he can do. But to show what can be done. "I want young people here to know what they are capable of doing. I feel like I'm highly favored by God. He has thoroughly blessed me. That's the reason I'm here talking to you now. I know the power. Get in there, and Jesus will get your back."

Posted (via Blogspot) by Vince Staten

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Change in Time for the Historic Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Renovation Vote!

The countdown continues to the decision on the Historic Douglass High School Renovation, but the time it comes up before the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen has now been moved back 90 minutes from its original time.

We just received this note from Chris McCartt, the assistant to the Kingsport City Manager:

"Please note that Monday's BMA Worksession has been moved up to 3:00 pm in
order to allow time at the end of the meeting for budget discussions."

The Kingsport BMA will be deciding whether to fund about eight million dollars to renovate the building, also known as the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Community Center.

I have put together a short video DVD presentation of the historic Douglass building from a Riverview point of view relating what the building means to the community, that will be shown to the Board of Mayor and Alderman during their work/discussion session before the vote. The BMA will also hear from interested citizens and potential building tenants at that time.

Please spread the word and make plans to be there this coming Monday, May 19th at 3 PM in the City Hall Council Room, located on the Second Floor of City Hall on Center Street for this historic discussion and vote.

Pastor Thomas R. Turner Passing

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Pastor Thomas R. Turner, 46, went home to be with the Lord Sunday (May 11, 2008) at Medical College of Va. in Richmond, Va. after suffering with an illness for a year.

Born in Bluefield, W.Va., he moved to Kingsport as a child. In 2004, he moved to Martinsville, Va. to pastor a church.
At Mt. Zion Tabernacle Holiness Church, he was the assistant pastor, treasurer and Sunday school superintendent. At Temple of Christ, he was the pastor and president over the Western District Region #1 Jubilee.
He was preceded in death by his father, Elder James C. Turner; and his sister, Barbara J. Turner.
Surviving are his mother, Pastor Lillie R. Turner of Kingsport; wife, Mrs. Lucy Turner of Martinsville, Va.; daughters, Mandie N. Turner and Brittany M. Turner of Winston-Salem, N.C.; six sisters, Lelia M. Latta (William) of Columbus, Ohio, Ruby T. Gaylord of Morristown, N.J., Tempie R. Mc-Connell (Al) of Toledo, Ohio, Dorothy Partridge and Susie Schofield, both of Columbus, Ohio and Janet E. Parks of Nashville, Tenn.; three brothers, James E. Turner (Margaret) of Kingsport, Lester L. Turner (Robyn) of Marion Va. and Brady A. Turner of Columbus, Ohio; brother-in-law, Nathaniel Woods of Kingsport; a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.
Visitation will be from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at Central Baptist Church. Friends may visit or call at the residence of: 408 Dunbar St., Kingsport.
Funeral services for Pastor Thomas R. Turner will be conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday at the church with Bishop Kelvin Cash officiating. Interment will follow the service at Church Hill Memorial Gardens, Church Hill, Tenn.
Expression of love and online condolences can be sent via e-mail at
Pastor Thomas R. Turner and family are in the care of R.A. Clark Funeral Service, Inc.

Fine-tuning: Little Big Town, Gavin DeGraw, Rodney Atkins To Headline Fun Fest Concerts

General admission tickets for each evening concert go on sale June 21 at the Fun Fest Store in Kingsport Town Center.


KINGSPORT — Gavin DeGraw, Rodney Atkins and Little Big Town are among the scheduled concerts for this year’s Fun Fest celebration, organizers announced Wednesday.
The three main concerts will be held at Dobyns-Bennett High School’s J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
The three headlining concerts are a cross-section of country and contemporary music, from the piano-driven alternative sounds of DeGraw to the lofty vocal stylings of country quartet Little Big Town.

Country music chart-topper Atkins will perform on Thursday, July 17, presented by AGC Flat Glass. Atkins was named Top New Male Vocalist in 2006 by the Academy of Country Music. His current album, “If You Are Going Through Hell,” has produced four No. 1 singles. His country-minded song titles include “Wasted Whiskey” and “A Man on a Tractor.” Country artist Ashley Gearing will open.

Singer-songwriter DeGraw will perform on Friday, July 18, presented by Domtar and Eastman Credit Union. DeGraw’s first album, “Chariot,” went platinum with more than 1 million sales. A 2008 eponymous release was the top seller on iTunes during its first few days in stores, when it dropped early last week. The prime-time television crowd may recognize DeGraw’s single, “I Don’t Want To Be,” as the opening song to the teen drama “One Tree Hill.”
Opening for DeGraw will be Saving Jane, a return performer to Fun Fest, and local artist Brinley Addington.

Little Big Town, a 2007 Country Music Association Horizon Award winner, will perform on Saturday, July 19, presented by Eastman Chemical Co. The country vocal quartet has been nominated for Top Vocal Group at the 2008 Academy of Country Music awards. Their second album, “The Road to Here,” produced four top 20 hits, including the country single “Boondocks.” Little Big Town will follow opening act Trey Hensley, a Jonesborough native.
General admission tickets for each evening concert go on sale June 21 at the Fun Fest Store in Kingsport Town Center. Prices for the three headlining acts will be $7.50 in advance through July 10, and $10 beginning July 11. Online sales begin June 21 for $10 per ticket.

“These are great concerts at a price that would be hard to find in other venues for the same entertainment,” said Fun Fest Chairman Olan O. Jones Jr.
Friends of Festus packages are a value-added option for concert goers. Friends of Festus seating packages are $100 for two seats, chairs provided, for one concert night or $200 for those planning to attend all three evening concerts.
The package also includes a reserved parking area close to the stadium and a $15 Fun Fest merchandise gift certificate. Friends of Festus packages are available now at the Fun Fest office at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, 151 E. Main St.
Fun Fest concert goers will also be treated to the sounds of New Orleans during the celebration. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Boys will perform at Hot New Orleans Night on Friday, July 11, in Glen Bruce Park. The event is free to the public.

Kingsport native Vic Danger — also known as Victor Simon — will play with his band the Voodoo Doctors on Monday, July 14, at the newly renovated V.O. Dobbins Park. The Zulu Connection, a stilt-walking troupe, will also perform.

For those seeking a quieter night on the town, eight-time Dove Award-winning pianist Dino Kartsonakis will perform at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center on Saturday, July 12. Tickets for