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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Douglass Alumni Association Meeting Minutes: 5/30/09

Douglass Alumni Association Meeting Minutes: 5/30/09

PRESENT: President Doug Releford, Vice President Andra Watterson, Treasurer Sandy Wilmer, Chaplain Ethel Ruth Russell, Website Reporter Calvin Sneed, Sergeant-At-Arms Wallace Ross, Jr., and Board Members Pam Sensabaugh, Ozine Bly, Lillian Leeper, Linda Bly, Kathy Evans, Louetta Hall, Shelia Leeper, Virginia Hankins. QUOROM MET.

NEW ITEM: Postponing the ordering of dish towels.

OLD BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS: An amendment to change the Alumni Board by-laws to allow the news media and the website to cover Alumni Board meetings and events sponsored by the Board.

NEW BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS: Reaching out to the Kingsport Ebony Club.


Reading of the previous minutes, with changes from Linda Blye. Motion to accept with corrections by Sandy Wilmer, seconded by Pam Sensabaugh. Motion passed with one abstention from Wallace Ross, Jr.

Financial report from Treasurer Sandy Wilmer: total in treasury $5,325.24. Scholarship Fund: $1,822.71. Motion to accept by Virginia Hankins, seconded by Pam Sensabaugh. Motion passed.


Wallace Ross, Jr. wanted to know how many unsold Douglass cups were left.. Andrea Watterson said there are about 30 left. Ross suggested that we give those away to the first people who had registered for the 2009 Reunion, even though they had been sold as a fundraiser before. Several board members mentioned that everybody was getting pre-selected gifts, and that the cups need to continue be sold individually as before.

The discussion led to the fact the treasury has more money in it than it has had before. Doug Releford said, the reason for that is, people buying ads for the Reunion Souvenir Book, and that, without those extra funds, the board usually ends up trying to break even for the Reunion. Ozine Bly said that, before we give something away like the cups, we need to find out how much money we would need to pay for all of our expenses, THEN we could probably give something away. Andra Watterson said, with Meadowview, the board would not know how much our rented facilities would cost, until the nights of the Reunion.

Wallace Ross, Jr. then suggested giving away the Douglass School Books free to the alumni, even though they had been sold as a fundraiser before. That suggestion was not acted upon. Virginia Hankins said her understanding of the Douglass Reunion was, first to keep the alumni group together, and then to give away scholarships to the students of deserving alumni descendants.

Doug mentioned that the yearly Douglass Alumni non-profit charter with the State of Tennessee is expiring, and that it would cost $100 to renew it. He said, that renewal will be done soon, with funds from the treasury. He also mentioned that he had treasurer Sandy Wilmer break down the money coming in, and as of May 16th, the Board has taken in $2,918.00 in dues and $1,845.00 dollars in Souvenir Book ads.

Wallace Ross, Jr. mentioned that he had heard from some alumni that there were no rooms left at Meadowview. Andra Watterson, in charge of arranging the rooms, said the rooms were reserved for "Douglass Alumni," and that folks need to say that when they make their reservations, so they would get rooms at the special rate that has been arranged. Doug said that it had been an oversight on the Board's part, because that information was mistakenly not included in the Reunion letter that went out to alumni several weeks ago.

Doug said he had gotten quite a few emails from alumni, both in town and out of town, who had read the minutes of the previous minutes posted on the website, where it was mentioned that Linda Bly had called the IRS, to find out what information the board had to disclose from its meetings, that because of our tax code, we did not have to publicize our meetings. Doug read some of the emails he received, to which many alumni expressed concern that the news media, in particular, the Douglass Alumni website, would not be able to report board decisions that are made, how Alumni dollars are spent, and generally what the Board is doing on their behalf. All of the emails expressed a desire to keep the news media coverage as it is, including live webcasts on the website, and, as publications reported in the website's "News and Current Events" section.

Calvin Sneed then said that he had talked to the IRS, and public relations spokesman Dan Boone had told him that 990 Form information cannot be used to restrict alumni board information during meetings. He also stated that he had talked to the general counsel at the Tennessee Secretary of State's office, and, if the Board permits information from the Board meeting to be made public or not, and, if the Board also permits news media and website coverage of Alumni Board meetings and Alumni board-sponsored events or not, the Association by-laws would have to amended to reflect that.

Based on the widespread interest expressed in the alumni emails, Calvin made a motion to amend the by-laws of the Douglass Alumni Association to allow the news media to report on Alumni board meetings, to broadcast them live, to publish and broadcast information from the Alumni board meetings on the website, and to be able to report on and broadcast live, any Alumni board-sponsored public events. Motion was seconded by Andra Watterson. After discussion, motion was passed.

Later, Doug answered a question from Louetta Hall, about information she might consider "off the record." Doug told her that the law allows for boards to go into "executive session" to discuss "off the record" information not ready for public use, but that if a vote is needed from the Board to spend money or change policy stemming from that "executive session," then the "executive session" discussion would have to be revealed during a public meeting.

Linda Bly told the board she has pictures that she has selected to go in the Souvenir Book, and the absolute deadline to accept ads and ad money would be June 27th. She said if anybody wanted to help her finalize the plans, she would be setting up a committee meeting soon. Linda also wants a "patron's page" to acknowledge who had taken out ads in the booklet. Virginia extended an invitation to all the alumni listening to the live webcast, to take out an ad in the booklet.


Sandy Wilmer stated a desire for the Board to work with the Kingsport Ebony Club once the Reunion is over. She said many Douglass Alumni are passing on, and we, as a Board, need to work with the young people to continue the legacy, heritage and tradition of the Douglass Alumni Association. Virginia Hankins said we were working with them, but that they hadn't been to any of our meetings. Sandy said we need to notify them of our board meetings by contacting Jeff Faulkerson (organizer of the upcoming Kingsport Ebony Club Reunion).

Kathy Evans asked if we could order new dish clothes to sell as a fundraiser, that people had been asking. She said that it would take about 8 weeks to get them in. Most board members acknowledged that, while the dish clothes were a popular item, a motion on whether to order new ones failed, because they would not arrive in time to sell for the Reunion. There was discussion on exactly how much to charge for them, since the board did not make a lot of money off the sale of them.

Lillian Leeper asked permission of the Board to run the Board's advertisement in the upcoming Little Miss Vision Pageant's program free of charge. Permission was given.

Doug asked for volunteers to be on the Douglass Alumni Scholarship Committee, to read over the essays and resumes of the students applying for the scholarships, to be awarded during the Reunion's Memorial Program on July 5th. Ruth Russell, Ozine Bly, Lillian Leeper and Sandy Wilmer all volunteered to serve on that committee.

Louetta mentioned that the man she would be getting a tent from, for Field Day on the Douglass Ball Field is out of town, and that she would need money from the Board Treasury to rent that tent, and Doug said he would take care of the permit for that. He also mentioned that both shelters on the Douglass Ball Field have been reserved for the Alumni Association for Field Day, and if more electricity is needed than what the shelters currently provide, the city will run some electricity boxes for the extra power. The Splash Pad is not part of the reservations, and would remain open to the public during Field Day.



Friday, May 29, 2009

Pig Roast, ‘Stepping Out’ Fund-Raisers Set

• KINGSPORT — Two fund-raisers will be held Saturday by the Clinch Mountain Lodge No. 561 and Dunbar Temple No. 344, 1018 Martin Luther King St. (Elks Lodge). A pig roast will be held beginning at noon until sellout. Dinners will be sold for an $8 donation, and sandwiches for $5. Food will be delivered to plants or businesses for a $20 or more donation. Call 246-3282. At 9 p.m., the “Stepping Out in White Affair” will begin. Music and refreshments will be provided. The donation request for this event is $10. A basket of “May Funtime Cheers” will be given away.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daughters of Dunbar Fish Fry

• KINGSPORT — Daughters of Dunbar Temple No. 344 sponsored a fish and chicken fundraiser on Saturday May 16th Saturday at 1018 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the Elks parking lot. The event started at noon and lasted until the wee hours of the afternoon. The event was also continued the next Saturday, May 23rd.

See see more pictures, click Daughters of Dunbar Fish Fry

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stellar Students!


David Grace —
Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport who made the honor roll or who had perfect attendance were honored at the annual Honor Students Dinner at Texas Roadhouse.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Will Black America Allow Ebony and Jet to Go Out of Business?


E-mails that have been circulating through the internet the past few weeks about the financial collapse of Ebony and Jet magazines may have a small kernel of truth in them. The magazines have been impacted by the sour economy, but Johnson Publishing Company officials deny that there is a financial collapse.

Rumors of the magazines’ financial collapse began in early February, after word leaked out that three of the four managing editors at Ebony and Jet had taken the buyout that was offered to them in the first half of January. Three days after the inauguration of Barack Obama, Johnson Publishing held a staff meeting and informed staffers that positions at the company were being eliminated and that staffers would have to reapply for their jobs. It has also become public that reporters dispatched to cover the Obama inauguration were required to pay their own expenses, to be reimbursed later, and that they were forced to make the 11 hour trip from Chicago to Washington, D. C. by car and stay with friends while in Washington. There were also reports that freelance writers were not being paid in a timely manner.

Senior editor Sylvester Monroe, a former Times magazine correspondent who went to work at Ebony three years ago, left in frustration earlier this month. Mr. Monroe told Richard Prince’s online column Journal-isms ( , "We're asking people to write for exposure because we can't pay them, which I think is wrong. The nation is witnessing "the biggest story in black America since the Emancipation Proclamation (the Obama presidency) and we're watching it pass by.”

Another hint that the company might have been experiencing some financial stress was the fact that Jet, a weekly magazine, began combining issues.

In recent years, the magazine has undergone a facelift, which appears to have been successful. Sales of Ebony, as well as Jet, have increased, however, ad sales have declined. According to Publishers Information Bureau, ad pages for Ebony magazine fell 16 percent while Jet’s ad pages dropped over 22 percent.
Founded by the late John H. Johnson, Ebony magazine is the largest and oldest publication in the world targeted to African-Americans. After Mr. Johnson passed, his daughter, Linda Johnson-Rice succeeded him as President and CEO of the company.
In a statement e-mailed to Folio, Mrs. Johnson-Rice stated, “"Reshaping our organizational design will help ensure that we continue to evolve with the ever-changing media landscape.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Douglass Alumni Association Trustee Board Meeting Minutes


NEW ITEM: Board Member Questions Why Board Meetings and Information Are Covered by Sons and Daughters of Douglass Website

OLD BUSINESS HEADLINES: Souvenir Books Order Lowered from 150 Books to 100 Books
Board Allocates $200 Deposit to Order Souvenir Books

Update on Alumni Board Election of New Officers

Those in Attendance:

James Bly, Ozine Bly, Ruth Russell, Sandra Wilmer, Thelma Watterson, Calvin Sneed, Van Dobbins, JR, Judy Phillips, Linda Bly, Douglas Releford, Louetta Hall, Andra Watterson, Wallace W. Ross, JR.

Meeting was brought to order by President Douglas Releford, Prayer by Chaplin Ethel Russell.

Minutes of the last meeting was read. Motion to accept the reading of the last meeting with the necessary corrections was made by James Bly, second by Andra Watterson. One abstains.

Financial Report:

Sandra Wilmer - gave an update on the monies collected. Motion to accept the financial report was made by Calvin Sneed, second by Ethel Russell. Motion carried.


Linda Bly – called the IRS and explained the reason why she was calling them, she wanted to know the proper procedure for reporting news from a non-profit organization meeting. She was told that for our organization with the tax code we have we do not have to publicize our meetings. We are not an organization that is getting multi-million dollars in donations. Douglas Releford said that we can have an executive meeting and it doesn’t have to be recorded. Both Calvin Sneed and Douglas Releford stated that they would not be a part of any organization that was closed to the public.

James Bly – said that he felt that that everyone and the news being reported should be on a cohesive level before it is put on the internet.


Louetta Hall - talked to Mr. Blessings about what vehicles we would have in the July 4th Parade. She stated that we will have a convertible and possibly a van. Calvin Sneed presented some magnetic signs that could be used on the vehicles. Two people will be needed to carry the Douglass banner (possibly two young people).

Judy Phillips - interjected that she has been absent due to work etc, but now she is back and is ready to do whatever is needed.

Sandra Wilmer - made a motion to lower the amount of ad books to order from 150 to 100. The reasoning behind the motion is due in part to the low response thus far, it was decided that the books would be for those that have pre-registered. In other words first come first served. It was also decided that if more books were needed that Ricky Hancock said that it would not present a problem as long as it wasn’t a 100. Motion was second by Louetta Hall. Motion Carried.

Linda Bly – Ricky Hancock needs $200 deposit for paper etc., to get started on the booklets. The board agreed and Sandra Wilmer wrote him a $200 check. Ricky handed out samples of the type of paper that he would use (glossy) in the ad booklet. Ricky also stated that everyone should send their ads via (jpeg). The calendars were cancelled due to low response. The final payment for the Ad Books is due June 27th.

Louetta Hall - will take of the pens she stated that after the pens are ordered it shouldn’t more than a couple of weeks to come in.

Sandra Wilmer – suggested that a committee should be formed and from that committee set up a store to sell Douglass memorabilia. Calvin Sneed has ordered several articles that are of concern to many of the board members. It was also suggested that maybe we could have some articles to sell during Field Day.

Douglas Releford – read Article 5 Section 2 of our by-laws concerning election of officers. It stated that officers will be elected at the bi-annual meeting in July, 2009.


Discussion of letter Calvin Sneed was asked to write on behalf of the Douglass Alumni Association-Kingsport, joining the other non-profit V.C. Dobbins agencies in helping the City of Kingsport apply for grants for interior design, furniture and new infrastructure items for the upcoming V.O. Dobbins/Douglass renovations.

The next meeting will be May 30, 2009 at St. Mark United Methodist Church at 1:00pm.

Adjournment was made by Sandra Wilmer second by Andra Watterson. Motion carried

Respectfully Submitted

Thelma Watterson, Recording Secretary

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gospel Concert Benefit Set for May 30th

• KINGSPORT — A gospel concert and benefit will be held May 30 at Apostolic Lighthouse Church, 145 Shipps Springs Road, for the Tri-Cities Tarheels Boys Basketball Team’s trip to a national basketball tournament in Orlando, Fla. The benefit, which will start at 6 p.m., will include singing and instrumental performances from various groups including Oak Grove Baptist Church, Robbie Hale, Pastor Levi Turner, New Vision Youth, praise dancers and praise teams, “789,” and V-Struction. In addition to financial donations for the team, canned and nonperishable foods will be collected for Full Gospel Mission’s Kitchen of Hope.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Road Extensions In Kingsport; What Happened to Lincoln/MLK?

"I think we really need to look and see if extending Martin Luther King Drive to downtown Kingsport can be done."

When Lincoln Street in Riverview was renamed in honor of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior a year-and-a-half ago, Mayor Dennis Phillips enthusiastically proclaimed the need to investigate extending the street to Cherokee Street at the CSX-Clinchfield Street Crossing, beside the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. Right now, the street dead-ends at its intersection with Dunbar Street. That route, the only one possible, would take a direct path through the General Shale Brick property, which is now wrapping up its operations in preparation to shut down the plant permanently.

"It brings back downtown and gives those who are leaving Eastman an ability to go downtown, to Netherland Inn or wherever they're trying to go," said Rev. Ronnie Collins with the Tennessee-Virginia Fellowship against Racism, for a Kingsport Times-News article. In the article, Mayor Phillips also said the extension has been talked about for a long time, and that he'd be in favor it it, if the city could possibly do it.


A poll recently taken by the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website for the Douglass High School Alumni Association, shows overwhelming support for extending the street through the General Shale property. 117 people voted in the unofficial poll, with 84votes, or 72% of those voting, saying the city should extend Lincoln/ML King through what alumni used to call the "Brickyard" to downtown. There were 16 votes, or 14% of the total votes, to extend a new road where the Underpath is right now, from Lincoln/ML King to the corner of Main and Sullivan Streets across town. There were also 9 votes, or 8% of the total vote to not extend the street at all and save the city's money. Only 1 person, with 1% of the total voted to forget extending Lincoln/ML King, but build more streets in Riverview.

Now, on the other side of town, comes news that the city is exploring new routes to connect Stone Drive West with the new development along Netherland Inn Road (see following article). Any route chosen would cross the railroad track on the west side of town. The most traveled route is a grade-level crossing at Lilac Street, and improving that crossing or even an idea to tunnel under the railroad track is being considered, at a cost of millions of dollars.

So with all that planning work being looked at.. what's happened to the proposed extention of Lincoln/M.L. King?

"It's my understanding that we are still in the conceptual stage," says Chris McCartt, assistant to the Kingsport City Manager. "Even though General Shale is no longer making bricks at its plant, any street extensions onto their property would have to be with their permission. It's my understanding that the mayor has had some conversations with General Shale, but nothing definite has been decided yet."

"It would be easier if we knew what Shale plans to do with its property," he says.

There is another issue that Kingsport has to look at, with any kind of street extension, and it involves a business partner that's been in the city, longer than the city itself.

The C-S-X Railroad, formerly the Clinchfield.

The city says, C-S-X Railroad has made no secret that it would like to close the Clinchfield Street crossing that, right now after a sharp left turn, only leads to the General Shale plant after the rail crossing. That only leaves two alternatives to extending Lincoln/ML King to downtown.. either a bridge over, or a tunnel underneath the tracks near Clinchfield Street. Either of those would cost too much money for this kind of project, McCartt says, with other things considered.

"It wouldn't make sense to bridge over the tracks," he says, "because you have to consider a bridge that would be as tall as some of the buildings downtown. It would definitely be on the skyline, and you have to consider how that would change the historic look of downtown. A tunnel underneath the tracks would require a lot of room for down and up approaches, and while it wouldn't change the skyline, tunneling would take up a lot of space that just isn't available."


"Keeping the crossing at Clinchfield would seem to be the only feasible option," he says.

Calls were made to the C-S-X Railroad headquarters in Jacksonville for this article, and none of those calls were returned, specifically about the future of the Clinchfield Street crossing.

One thing that makes a Lincoln/Ml King extension into downtown more important, is the forthseen increase in vehicular traffic into Riverview, once the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center is renovated into Kingsport's non-Profit center. Presumably, people from all over the city will flock to the center, through Lincoln/ML King and Wheatley Streets, the only two streets that come into Riverview right now.


"We are definitely not giving up on extending Martin Luther King Drive into downtown," McCartt says. "As far back as anybody can remember, nobody can ever remember when Lincoln Street ever connected to downtown, even though an extension seems an easy thing to do. We haven't moved it to the front burner, because we have a backlog of roads that have not had a lot of attention. It's traffic congestion in other parts of the city that had top priority, but I do expect that to change."

"Any time you create a demand, that demand increases the number of cars you have on the road," says McCartt. "Once that happens, the road system has to adapt to meet the changing needs of the area. You saw that happen with the mall, you saw that happen with the hospital, and you're seeing that happen with the Netherland Inn area right now. The renovated Dobbins Community Center will definitely increase the congestion into Riverview, and it also increases the need for better access into there."

"Extending MLK into downtown will be something that has to be considered. The timing has just not caught up with the need yet."

Crossroads: Kingsport Eyes Better Route from Stone Drive to Netherland Inn Road



One option would make the crossover at Union Street, with the second option coming in from Granby Road.


KINGSPORT — With the growth along West Stone Drive and future development along the river in mind, the Model City is in the early stages of looking at creating a better route from Stone Drive to Netherland Inn Road.
Kingsport Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds gave a presentation on the proposal to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week outlining the history of the project and the two options under consideration.

David Grace — A CSX train crosses Lilac Street behind Netherland Inn on Friday. The railroad crossing could be removed under options Kingsport officials are considering as they look to create a better route from West Stone Drive to Netherland Inn Road.

The existing connection from Stone Drive to Netherland Inn Road is down Lilac Street, which McReynolds said is a dangerous corridor with an at-grade railroad crossing.
“It is a heavily used passageway, and as it stands now, that is not a good passageway,” said McReynolds.
Back in 2001, a downtown corridor study was conducted that looked at enhancing connections from Stone Drive to the downtown area. One project to come out of that study was the Gibson Mill Road improvement; another one was a connection to Netherland Inn Road.
“It’s always been somewhat of a desire to connect to Stone Drive, whether it was from Netherland Inn Road or to enhance the connection from Center Street,” McReynolds said.
Kingsport then enlisted the engineering and consulting firm of Mattern and Craig to study the passages farther on the west end of Stone Drive and return with recommendations. Last week, the BMA heard the two options of improving the route from Stone Drive to Netherland Inn.
The first route is from Union Street, improving the intersection at Fort Robinson and tying the road into the intersection at Netherland Inn and Ridgefield.
This option includes creating an above-grade crossing with the railroad tracks and removing the Lilac crossing. The cost is estimated to be $4.8 million.
The second route is from Granby Road, improving the intersections at Stone Drive and Netherland Inn. This option includes tunneling under the railroad tracks and removing the Lilac crossing. Its cost comes in a little higher at $6.3 million.
McReynolds said the staff recommends the Union Street option with the potential of an upgrade of Granby to Fort Robinson.
“Union is a heavily traveled passageway, and what we want to do is improve it to more of a safe condition,” McReynolds said. “Our desire is to move these into the long-range (traffic) plan and move from study to a more preliminary design stage.
“The work is still a few years out on whether to construct them or not.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Save Me A Seat:" Association Saves Seats From Auditorium


Contact Vince Staten at or via mail in care of the Kingsport Times-News. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at

When the city decided to tear down the old Douglass School Auditorium (part of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center), it asked the Douglass Alumni Association what it wanted saved. “Seats from the auditorium were tops on the list,” said association member Calvin Sneed, “followed by the stage draperies, the door signs, the school bell from the front of the balcony — which was one of the original bells from when the school opened in 1952 — the custombuilt light fixtures from the ceiling, and the spiral staircase from behind the stage.”
Some of the items weren’t salvageable. The lights were embedded in asbestos. The staircase — known to many Douglass students as the “stairway to heaven” — was anchored in concrete.
But the group got the other items. Except for the seats.
Then group members read in the newspaper that John Sevier Middle School had gotten 122 Douglass Auditorium seats.
Still they weren’t worried: There were a couple of hundred more seats.
But next came heartbreaking news from the city. During the asbestos removal, almost all the seats had been ripped from their concrete moorings and couldn’t be saved. They were taken to the landfill. Only one block of four remained.
“The news, as you can imagine, was indeed devastating to the Alumni Association. Those old seats probably didn’t mean much to anybody else, but to former Douglass students, they were the seats from which we heard symphonies from the Douglass Band, recitals from the Douglass Choruses, plays from the Douglass Elementary School children, speeches and rallies from teachers, principals, neighborhood clergy. Those seats were symbols of wonderful times, spent in what former Principal V.O. Dobbins Sr. once called the most acoustically perfect auditorium in all of Kingsport.”
Then a miraculous discovery.
“After the asbestos was removed from the building, I accidentally discovered one single auditorium seat sticking out from underneath all the stuff that was piled up on the stage and bound for the landfill. You should have seen my mouth drop open when I maneuvered around all the junk to that one seat and saw others buried underneath all the garbage.”
After much pulling and tugging and moving bricks, wire and trash, Calvin began stacking what he’d found.
“The result was about 30 salvageable seats in need of refinishing, but still standing proud. I spent the next four hours hauling those seats in my Honda down to where the KHRA has loaned us storage space. I had seats hanging out the back, seats hanging out the open passenger car door. But I was bound and determined to get those seats out of the auditorium and away from destruction.”
The Douglass Alumni Association has plans for those seats.
“Some of them will grace the Douglass Riverview Community Room in the renovated Dobbins Community Center. Others will be placed around the building as resting ports for folks waiting on others visiting the nonprofit offices. We’re even proposing memory dedication plaques for each one, with donations helping with the refinishing and upkeep of the seats.”
Calvin says those seats will help the community keep the spirit of Douglass High School alive in the renovated building.
“My goal is to help us go much farther than other communities have done for their former African-American schools. I have visited them all, and right now, there are no big memorials to the George Clem High School in Greeneville, none for the Douglas School in Elizabethton, none to Bland High School in Big Stone. None to Swift Memorial in Rogersville. None to Tanner in Newport. Only token remembrances are there to Langston-Johnson City, Douglass-Bristol, Virginia, and Slater in Bristol, Tennessee. Kingsport has put forth a large commitment to keep the memory of the Douglass High School alive for everyone who visits its former building, and I’m proud to help in that effort. I’ve not seen that kind of commitment to any former black school anywhere in East Tennessee, and Doug Releford tells me those alumni are jealous of what we’re doing in Kingsport.”

Kingsport Day of Prayer


‘Prayer. America’s hope.’

Kingsport observes Day of Prayer


KINGSPORT — Nearly 100 Model City residents gathered on the grounds of City Hall Thursday afternoon and prayed for the community, their family and the church as part of the National Day of Prayer.
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. President Ronald Reagan fixed the event on the first Thursday of May.


Erica Yoon —
Bernice Horton (left) and Pauline Norman sing the national anthem at the beginning of the event at Kingsport City Hall.

The theme of this year’s event was “Prayer. America’s Hope.”
Kingsport held its prayer event Thursday at noon on the west side of City Hall with nearly 100 in attendance — many seniors, some mothers and their small children, and a few city employees and officials.
“I think we need prayers now more than we have in a long time,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “We have so many things ahead of us, and this economy is something we all need to join forces and pray about and hope we can overcome this.”
The 45-minute event featured five pastors from local churches, who took turns praying about a variety of topics — family, the community, our schools, the church and the economy. Attendees gathered in small groups, holding hands or with their arms on others’ shoulders, praying to one another about the various topics.
The event was also patriotic, with a 30-foot-high American flag flown from the ladder of a city fire truck and attendees saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem and “God Bless America.”
The Rev. Clark Jenkins, pastor of First Broad Street United Methodist Church, led off the prayers with one for the country, the state and the city.
“We gather from across the nation on this National Day of Prayer. We have put our trust in a lot of things. It is now time to put our trust in you,” Jenkins said. “This prayer is for our nation, for Tennessee, our county and for Kingsport.”
Andrew Amodei, assistant pastor of First Broad Street UMC, said a prayer for the economy and our families.
“This past year we have seen how hard times can become. We have seen how our dependence upon the things of this world can weigh us down, can cause us to fear and become anxious,” Amodei said. “Our prayer this day is we do not succumb to fear, that we would not despair and our trust would be in you and you alone.”
The Rev. Richard Dice, pastor of King’s Highway Temple, prayed for our schools and for God to raise up godly teachers.
“We pray for the schools of today, the teachers, the professors, the instructors. All of those involved in the educational process of this great nation,” Dice said. “We ask you from the depths of our heart Father to give us godly teachers, godly influences for the young men and women of this nation.
“Bless the school systems, the men and women who are teaching, and give them courage to teach that child an example of a godly life.”
The Rev. Paul Becker, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, prayed for the families of America, asking for God to restore and strengthen the family.
“We pray for the families in the Armed Services. Those who are putting their lives on the line, the families of police, fire and emergency personnel and all those who love and serve their neighbor,” Becker said. “We bless all aspects of family in the name of Jesus this day. We lift up the institution of the family to you Lord, because it came from you.
Doug Tweed, pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church House of Prayer, said a prayer for the church.
“For this noontime here in the city of Kingsport, we are the church. We are your sons and daughters. We are here to be a part of the family business, of redeeming this world,” Tweed said. “We lift up your name and we declare as your church, we stand on the truth. You are the savior of all creation, and we thank you Jesus.”
Alderman Larry Munsey, who is also an ordained minister, closed out the event and included a prayer for a woman in attendance experiencing some health problems.
“Father we are so thankful for the privilege of service to our God, to our community and to our fellow man. We pray you will endow us with knowledge that will help us make decisions that are in keeping with your will for us and wishes of our citizens,” Munsey said. “We love you as a community, we love you as a nation, and we ask that you go with us and bless us Lord in all we do.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A message to all members of The Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association

Members and Friends:

The registration deadline for the 2009 Reunion Weekend has been extended to Friday, June 6, 2009. If you have yet to mail in your registration form and full payment, I encourage you to do so now. Close to 40 people have already sent in their payments, so this July 4th weekend will definitely be one to remember. Mail your registration form and payment in TODAY, because I would hate for you to miss out on all the fun. We won't do it again until 2011.

During last night's Planning Committee Conference Call, the decision was made to open up the "Old-School Music After-Party" to both members and friends of the DBHS Ebony Club. If you send in your full payment today, your admission to the party and the other paid events (i.e., Comedy Hour with Tim Hall, Ebony Club Banquet) is covered. However, because we anticipate that there will be a number of our friends in Kingsport and elsewhere wanting to celebrate with us at the July 3rd After Party, we will access a $10 admission fee, which can be paid at the door.

I look forward to receiving your payments. Please SPREAD THE WORD to persons who have yet to join our network.


Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
DBHS Class of 1986
(919) 604-4585

Visit The Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association at:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Meadowview's Phone Number for Reunion Reservations

An oversight on my part, for folks wanting to make reservations at the Meadowview Conference and Convention Center in Kingsport, for the Douglass Alumni Reunion on the 4th of July weekend.

The hotel's number is 423-578-6650 and the fax number is 423-578-6600

Just let the people know that you want a room under the Douglass Reunion Association.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Are You Coming to the Douglass Reunion?

Douglass Alumni President Doug Releford wants to get a head count on how many folks are coming to the Douglass Reunion this coming 4th of July weekend.
Please send him an email at:

to let him know that you plan to attend the Reunion.

Douglass Auditorium: Please Take Your Seats!

A miracle has happened..

After being told for weeks that all of the remaining seats from the Douglass Auditorium were pulled out, destroyed and taken away to the landfill..

We have seats from the now-demolished auditorium.

The seats were accidently discovered, after the news came that no more seats were available.

Back in February, 122 seats were removed from the Douglass Auditorium and installed at John Sevier Middle School at the school's request. Those seats are there now in the Sevier Auditorium. The request, and seat removal that followed, was reminiscent of the wholesale confiscation of items throughout the Douglass School, that occurred when the school closed in 1966. A lot of hurt feelings were left in the Riverview Community after other city schools came in and simply took what Douglass equipment they wanted, much of that reportedly in the faces of upset former Douglass students and teachers.

In March, the Douglass Alumni Association Board of Trustees was asked to put in writing, anything the group wanted out of the soon-to-be-demolished Douglass Auditorium, part of the now V.O. Dobbins Jr. Community Center's upcoming renovation.

The single most requested item that came from almost every board member was seats from the auditorium, many of which at that time, were still bolted down to the auditorium floor, awaiting the hum of the demolition equipment.

"Those seats were very important to us," says Board Vice President Andra Watterson. "We saw a lot of activities on the stage from those seats. Our parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, just the whole neighborhood.. everybody sat in those seats."

But a few days later, came the devastating news from the demolition company, that no more seats had been saved. A shaken Assistant City Manager for Development Chris McCartt said it was some of the worst news he'd ever gotten.

"I remember sitting by myself here in the office," says Mr. McCartt, shaking his head. "I had this sick feeling in my stomach.. of all the things that could have happened, 'why weren't we able to save some of those seats.' As a city development officer, I could have handled anything but that."

The news hit some Douglass alumni hard.

"We were hurt when we were told all the seats were destroyed," said Andra Watterson. "You promise us something and then you take it away."

"It was just devastating," said Board member and Treasurer Sandy Wilmer. "Nobody really knew what to think."

And then.. a miracle discovery.

Board Member Calvin Sneed, on a mission to move newly-discovered school books to a storage location and out of the path of the renovation work at the Dobbins Community Center offices, accidently stumbled onto about 30 discarded auditorium seats on the stage before it was torn down, underneath bricks, trash, wire, plaster and other debris from the auditorium bound for the landfill. "After the asbestos removal, I was going through the stage for one final look before the walls came down, and I saw a half-seat sticking out from under the debris on the back side near the auditorium side doors. It had been sawed in half, and as I stepped over stuff to get to it, I saw that it was still connected to a couple of good seats, buried all the bricks, plaster and debris."

"As I kept looking and pulling stuff back, I kept discovering more and more buried seats," Calvin says. "I started pulling them out, and of course, the dust, bricks and debris starting falling. After we were told no seats were left and I found seats buried under all that stuff, I was determined to pull out as many as I could find."

"You're kidding."

"You actually found some seats?"

Those were the first excited words from Chris McCartt, when told of the find. "Man, that's great," he said. "That's like getting an early Christmas. We were told by the demolition company that no seats were salvageable, that they were all gone. When the community has a special feeling for something and you see it slip through your fingers.. this was so close to their hearts."

"That's just fantastic," he said of the find. "Now, those seats will continue to tell the story of Douglass for years to come."

The discovered auditorium seats were moved and taken for safekeeping to the place where the newly-found Douglass schoolbooks are being stored. The Douglass Alumni Board of Trustees recently visited the storage location. Mouths dropped open in surprise at the find.

"When we went to the place and there were the seats," says Sandy Wilmer, "it was so good to see them. I was expecting to see the books because I knew we had those, but when I saw the seats, I was surprised and overwhelmed at the same time."

"Some people might wonder 'well what do you want with those seats anyway?' she says. "Those seats are pieces of history.. that I once sat in one and saw good programs on the stage. It makes me feel good to know they're not gone. History may be gone, but we've got a piece of it."

"Just unbelievable," says Board President Doug Releford, as he surveyed the seats. "We were all under the impression that the seats were all gone and destroyed and that was the end of it. Seeing the seats and the condition they're in, is a blessing in disguise that they're still available. I'm hoping we can find a place in the new building for them."

Sandy Wilmer expressed the same optimism for the seats' usage. "It makes me feel good to know they'll be used somewhere."

That was the question we also put to the city. What can the seats be used for?

"I know some of them will have a permanent home in the Douglass-Riverview Community Room," says Chris McCartt. "We definitely want some of them there. I also see some of them being utilized in other parts of the renovated building in the common areas, as resting places for folks waiting on someone who might be visiting one of the non-profit offices. We want people to know the historic significance of these seats, because they're a part of the school, the neighborhood, the people."


Calvin Sneed suggested that alumni be able to help the refinishing and refurbishing of the found seats, by dedicating a seat to a deceased Douglass alumnus. The dedication would include the purchase of a small memorial plaque in that person's name similar to the ones pictured here, to be mounted on the back of the seat, towards the top, that would read something like, "this chair dedicated in memory of..."

"We definitely need to have the idea of a plaque on the seat back with the building architects and interior designers," says Mr. McCartt. "That's a great idea, and keeps the historic significance of the seats alive for the folks who use them. Anybody who has never been inside Douglass School, nor knows the history of the school, would understand why the seats and the school heritage is so important to the community. It also gives alumni a way to honor their own."

"I hadn't thought about a small dedication plague.. that is a good idea," says Doug Releford. "In one of the city meetings I went to, they were talking about green spaces in the renovated building, benches out in the hallways and breezeways.. obviously they'd already heard about the suggestion. I think the auditorium seats would be an enhancement to the building and have them dedicated in memory to a loved one who was a Douglass alumnus."

"I'm just really glad that you found them."

"I'm just tickled to death," says Chris McCartt. "Again, it's just like the Christmas present you didn't know was behind the tree. You're the hero in this thing. I'm trying to tell as many people as I can about this find."

"Those seats are like family heirlooms that you pass down," says Sandy Wilmer.

"I think God meant for us to have them, and the other items we asked for."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Douglass Alumni Board had also requested the blue curtains from the auditorium stage, the lighting fixtures, the historic bell from the front side of the balcony, and the spiral staircase located off the stage. To date, the front curtain banner is the only other confirmed item saved, and is in safekeeping right now. Efforts are underway to identify and confirm the existence of, and the safety of, the other items.

Bids to Renovate V.O. Dobbins Center Come In Under Budget

Low bid is around $1.5 million less than the $8.4 million original estimate.



KINGSPORT — Bids for the renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center came in $1.5 million under budget, with work expected to begin this month on the expansion.
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 and was named Douglass High School.

Kingsport plans to expand and renovate the center, demolishing 13,600 square feet of the existing building, renovating the remaining 46,000 square feet, and adding approximately 50,000 square feet.
Due to cost, the auditorium is being demolished and in its place a new 28,000-square-foot, three-story nonprofit wing will be built. Nonprofits slated to go into the new wing include the United Way, Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency, Mountain Region Speech and Hearing, Kingsport Tomorrow, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, American Legion, the regional branch of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, ALS and the Palmer Foundation.
Six construction firms bid on the project, with the low bid coming in at $5.9 million.
The remaining five bids ranged from just over $5.9 million to $6.2 million. After adding in $480,000 for architectural fees and $400,000 for the demolition, the bid is around $1.5 million less than the $8.4 million original estimate.
“We have been saying for some time as a result of the regional and national economy, you’ve got contractors who are looking for work, and we’re seeing regional contractors coming in and looking at jobs they’ve not looked at in the past,” said Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager. “And the cost of material is down from when we did the last estimate in September 2008.”
Earlier in the process, Kingsport sought $1.4 million in New Market Tax Credits to help offset the cost of the project. McCartt said the city opted to not seek those credits but is looking at them for other projects.
“We didn’t see it working for this job. A lot of it was timing. You’ve got a certain time to get the applications in, and we were having to wait until the new allocations came in. It just did not fit in with our schedule.”
Kingsport bonded $7 million for the project, and due to the low bid the city has about $300,000 to $400,000 in unused funds, which could be used for other amenities at the center.
“We’re weighing out the options. There are some things in the project that were not included in the bid package — additional cosmetic enhancements to the building, ceiling tiles, new flooring, doors, various little amenities,” McCartt said. “We might repaint the existing gym and replace lights. We’re looking at green space, resurfacing the tennis courts and do work on the basketball courts.
“We’re working on estimates for those.”
Demolition on the auditorium should wrap up in the next two weeks, and then the project will be handed over to J.A. Street and Associates, which will begin construction by mid-May. Kingsport hopes to open the new facility in July of next year, just prior to the beginning of the Head Start classes in August.

Other highlights of the new center include Kingsport’s Head Start education program being located in the new education wing, a community computer lab will be located at the Carver Branch Resource Center, a new basketball gym will be built with the existing gym refurbished, and a branch of the Kingsport Senior Center is expected to open in the building.
The city is allocating space, computers and furniture for the nonprofit Douglass Alumni Association and the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Web site free of charge.
McCartt said $60,000 is also available for public art at the new center.
“There could be a sculpture on the campus, or one idea being explored is the spiral staircase from the auditorium. ... We’ve made an attempt to salvage that piece.”

Program on Internet Safety Offered by Weed and Seed

• KINGSPORT — South Central Kingsport Weed and Seed will launch a Project Safe Neighborhood program on cyberspace with an initial meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the HOPE VI Fresh Start Center, 1140 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The program, designed for 30 students age 10 to 15, will look at various issues related to safety on the Internet including cyber bullying, the positive and negative aspects of social networking sites, the increased presence of pornography, and the need for continual family oversight of Internet use. The program will be facilitated by Penny Mosowski, a school resource officer; Raylene Stewart, a student at Milligan College and employee at Northeast State Technical Community College; and graduate students from East Tennessee State University. For more information call Mary H. Alexander at 392-2578.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Coach Ballard Lee Passes Away at 64

Ballard Lee the former long-time Virginia High boys basketball coach and star King College athlete died late Wednesday night at age 64. The exact cause of death has not been determined.

Coach Lee is a graduate of Douglass High School, Bristol, Virginia.

See the complete story in the "News of our Douglass Friends and Neighbors" link on your website main page.