Total Pageviews

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Drugs were all around us": Riverview Resident Finds Sanctuary in YouthBuild Program

"You couldn't go one block without running into somebody wantin' to sell you some stuff."

19-year-old Anthony Horton, formerly of Riverview, remembers those days in the neighborhood, when there were more drug dealers on the street than there were cops. And that wasn't all. He remembers vividly the 1994 shooting that claimed the life of four-year-old Jalissa Ferguson, and the stray bullets that struck windows in the Eastman Chemical Building across Wheatley Street. "Two dudes with guns," he recalls, "just shooting at each other." That's all he remembered, because whenever guns came out, it was "R.D.F.C." That stands for Run, and Duck For Cover.

"When I was four years old, we lived in the old Emmitt Collins grocery store building," he remembers, "and when I played out back, I used to get whuppins' all the time because there were used needles back there, and I used to run barefoot. Pretty much, most of our life, I've been close to the bad element in the neighborhood."

And then, he discovered the Youth Build program.

"My brother Michael went through the program, and he told me about it," says Anthony. "It sounded like a good program, so I went down to the Career Center and there weren't any good jobs there. And that's when I saw the Youth Build package my brother had told me about, and I thought well I'm just going to go when the program opens back up. Back in February, I joined up and came to orientation." "I liked the people most of all," he says. "Everybody here is my age, they've all been down the walk I have, if not worser. That's what I like about it, I can relate to everybody here. I can honestly say, there isn't a staff member that can say 'we haven't ever worked with someone like you before. These people know where you're coming from, they know where you've been. They know your abilities and your potential. There's an understanding between us, they understand us. I've never worked with anybody who basically understood me."

"Usually with a government-funded program, there are lots of rules and things that go along with it and they try to change you a lot. With this program, it's not 'them trying to change you' as much as 'you trying to change yourself.' They just give you the opportunity and the things you need to get there. That's what so good about it."

Two of Youth Build's Riverview homes are finished, and right now, Anthony and his classmates are working on and finishing up two more, one at 201 Dunbar at Lincoln Street (Martin Luther King Drive), and the other at 224 Dunbar (the old Dewey Long property).

"17 of the 18 people in the current program came into it without GED's," says Youth Build Director Joe Wallin. "Now, most of them have that diploma, as the other half of the Youth Build program requires. We start 'em off with a mental toughness period, you know: 'do you have what it takes to master this program?' Once they make it through that three-week mental toughness period, we've got reasonable expectations on how they'll do in the program. That's what it's for, it kinda washes out the ones that are not quite as motivated as they need to be, not quite ready for a program like Youth Build."

"Some of the changes that are the most gratifying to me," he says, "are, they'll start the program, coming into it with a history and a background from the public school system of not fitting in, behavorial problems, an attitude. Many of them have been reinforced with that, and that's the first thing we have to break them out of the habit of. The structure of the Youth Build program is positive feedback on everything they do, from GED studying, to learning the craft of homebuilding. Youth Build's national motto is 'Building Communities, Transforming Lives.' I cannot transform anyone's life, but only if they want to do it."

"Many of the students, mostly male, but some female students, have learned so much in the program, that they have continued the skills they learn, into fulltime, paying jobs. But we want them to keep learning and keep progressing." "I often worry about their lives whenever they leave for the day and go back home," Mr. Wallin wonders. "We've spent all day long giving them positive reinforcement, and then at the end of the day, they go back to the bad element, the bad influences in their lives that always tell them 'oh that program's no good, you're just wasting your time. We fight against that every day. Luckily with the pre-screening, we've been able to spot the students that need more encouraging than others, and right now, our track record is pretty good."

Going to classes to learn carpentry and home building and also get his GED, was a reunion of sorts for Anthony; the classes are held in the old Collins store on Lincoln Street in Riverview. They were converted to apartments years ago for families like Anthony's.

So where does Anthony go from here, once his Youth Build experience is complete?

"I want to be a football coach," he says. "I definitely want to pursue a secondary education, because I feel that I have many things to teach young people. This (Youth Build) program has given me a lot of positive reinforcement, especially when I'm out in the community. There are not that many good programs out there for people my age, that actually makes them feel good about themselves." "I would definitely recommend this program for anybody with no direction in their lives," he says. "As far as getting an education, learning a trade and getting financially independent, everything you need in this world, the Youth Build program has it.

"Because you're sure not going anywhere in this world selling drugs and doing all that crazy stuff all the can't live like that." Speaking of that, Anthony is also looking forward to the transformation of Riverview. "I think it's great for the young people coming along," he says. "We're building good, sturdy homes in the Youth Build program, those home where the (Riverview)apartments used to be are going to be nice, and from what I have heard about the V.O. Dobbins Center, the kids will get new equipment, new facilities, more after-school activities, things of that nature." "It's all good.. this is going to be the place to be."

"Finally," he added.

Phyllis Nichols Earns Position in the Big League

Posted on August 3rd, 2009 by Cynthia Moxley

On a wall in Phyllis Nichols’ office at the Knoxville Area Urban League is a frame containing a paycheck stub and a one dollar bill.

They are not hers, but those of a woman she met at the inner city Walter P. Taylor public housing development in 1994. “She was the first person I ever helped get off welfare,” Nichols explains. “She asked what she could do to thank me and I told her she could buy me lunch with her first paycheck: she could buy me a hot dog. When she came in to buy me lunch, I told her I’d rather have the dollar and her check stub. It means a lot to me.”

At right, Vice President Joe Biden and Phyllis Nichols at National Urban League convention this past weekend.

I guess you could say that’s when Nichols got bitten by the Urban League bug.

An educator by training and a former school teacher, Nichols started working part-time for the Knoxville Area Urban League in 1994 as she was re-entering the work force after taking a break to have two daughters. She started under a joint program between the Urban League and the UT School of Social Work working on an adult training project. “We went into the public housing developments because we wanted to meet people where they were,” she explains.

Nichols herself had been educated in both segregated and integrated schools in Kingsport where the minority population was only eight percent and she grew up knowing how important learning was. Both her parents were educators and it was just assumed in her middle-class family that she and her three sisters and two brothers would go to college.

The work in the Knoxville housing development was eye-opening for her. “Once you understand that things are not equal - that everbody doesn’t have the same opportunities - you have a moral obligation to do something about it,” she says. “When I saw how much it would make a difference in people’s lives if they had an education, it resonated with me.”

It’s not as simple as this will sound, but suffice it to say that Nichols took on more and more projects at the Urban League and was named president and CEO in 2000. Under her leadership, the local Urban League, once on shaky financial ground, gained stability. Today its books are clean and transparent with eight years of good audits. Board members are welcome to examine them at any time - and often do.

At left, Phyllis and Jim Nichols prior to gala at National Urban League conference. Photo courtesy of Alan Carmichael.

Most Knoxvillians don’t realize it, but Nichols has become something of a star in the National Urban League, too. The 99-year-old civil rights organization concluded its national convention in Chicago on Saturday. Her colleagues, other Urban League CEOs across the South, recently elected her to represent them to the national organization and she has been tapped by the National Urban League to travel on its behalf to counsel other Urban League affiliates across America.

The Urban League has 100 affiliates in communities across the country. Last year, through those affiliates, it served more than two million people.

We on the Knoxville Area Urban League board of directors live in constant fear that a bigger, sexier Urban League affiliate is going to try to hire Phyllis away from us. And we half-jokingly say that at least one of us must accompany her at all times when she goes to National Urban League events to keep that from happening.

“Phyllis Nichols has swagger and style,” enthuses Marc Morial, the charismatic former two-term mayor of New Orleans who is now the National Urban League’s president and CEO. “She is serious about our mission and she is one of our best affiliate leaders.”

“Phyllis is a genuine person. She’s a visionary. Both her compassion and passion for what she is doing are infectious,” says Samuel Howard, the long-time board chairman of the Urban League of Middle Tennessee in Nashville and a new member of the National Urban League Board of Trustees. “If you find a young lady who has been the CEO of a social service agency for 10 years, you know she is a good leader, she is politically connected and she continues to provide for the agency’s financial stability.”

Warren Logan has been the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga for 13 years. Nichols says he was a mentor to her as she was starting out as a new CEO herself. “Phyllis has taken an affiliate that had a marginal reputation to being one that sets standards for other affiliates,” Logan says.

For her part, Nichols says her success comes from maintaining good relationships with three key groups: the people she serves, the Urban League employees who help her serve them, and donors who financially support the organization in its service. “In today’s environment, you must have a heart for your mission and a head for business,” she notes.

One of the biggest challenges ahead for the Knoxville Area Urban League is addressing the obvious deficiencies in its physical facility located in East Knoxville a block off Magnolia Avenue. “We must have a facility that allows us to meet the growing demand for our services,” Nichols says.

And constant fundraising is a drain on the entire organization. “The Urban League shouldn’t always have to be in the fundraising business,” she notes. “Year after year, we help people become homeowners, which contributes to the property tax base. We help develop the work force, which contributes to the sales tax. There is a clear return on investment in the Urban League. We should not have to go back year after year. Opportunities exist for the Urban League to be included as a viable partner and service provider. There should be a commitment that allows us to continue our service based on our performance - especially in the area of work force development.”

After all, she notes, the Urban League model is about self-sufficiency, not hand-outs. “We’re looking at opportunities to position this affiliate to become more self-sustaining,” she says. “It’s hard to move people forward when you are struggling yourself.”
Nichols says she’s still happy and challenged at the Knoxville Area Urban League, but she doesn’t think this will be her last career.

“I think I have another level of something I am supposed to do,” Nichols says. “It might be in business or government. I don’t know yet. But I am a life-long learner. I am being teased about what I’m supposed to do next.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

And The Winner Is.......

"Riverview Place."

This is the name that most of you have chosen over the past year, when our help was asked for, as residents and alumni, in naming the new HOPE VI redevelopment project that replaces the historic Riverview Apartments.
We've had the suggestions posted in articles on the website for quite some time, and several of you did respond with names for the development. We have left the article posted in this section for your consideration, and with the groundbreaking of the HOPE VI homes in Riverview just around the corner, it's generally thought that the names submitted were sufficient.

The names submitted and the votes they received were:

Riverview Place (8)
Riverview Estates (4)
The Gates at Riverview (with the spirit of a new gateway of change) (1)
Riverview Crossing (with the spirit of crossing over to a new era) (1)
Riverview Legacy Homes (1)
Douglass Village (Using Douglass retains heritage but also gives fresh spirit to the community) (1)
Riverview-Douglass Legacy Homes (1)
The Legacy Homes @ Riverview (1)
Riverview - "A Good Place To Come Home" (1)
Memory View Estates (1)

As you can see, of the names submitted over the past year, "Riverview Place" garnered more votes than the others.
Therefore, "Riverview Place" is the name that the Douglass Website will submit to the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority on behalf of everyone who submitted an idea to us, because it is the name that got the most votes for the new HOPE VI redevelopment project when we've asked for votes over the past year.
We thank everyone who took the time to send in a name and a vote. If there were other names out there, no one has ever gotten around to submitting them as requested.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Updated By-Laws of the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport

Behind the scenes, your Douglass Alumni Working Board and the Executive Board have both been working on updating the by-laws of the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport. Our by-laws have not been updated since they were formulated back in the 1970's, and were terribly out-of-date.

10 years ago, the realization set in that our by-laws needed to be brought up-to-date. For whatever reason, that was not done, even though the need still existed.

It has taken several months, and now the by-laws are updated.

The Alumni Board has worked tirelessly on this endeavor, and each board member is to be commended for their suggestions and efforts. Also, many thanks go to alumnus Donald Hickman, who is now the Board Parliamentarian. He spent a lot of time, formulating, shaping, and translating many of the ideas and suggestions into a readable rule of thumb.

The Douglass Alumni Board has now charted a direction for the future, and have pledged to have significant oversight over our operations and procedures. With these new and updated by-laws, our Association members have a solemn promise that the Board will operate within its financial and fiscal boundaries, with the kind of moral responsibility that the Alumni members demand. With these new and updated by-laws, the Douglass Alumni Association has now reached the level of comparability with other non-profit agencies, not just in Kingsport, but around the state. The alumni members and Working/Executive Boards of Directors are all to be congratulated and commended for forging ahead.

To see the new updated by-laws, please click HERE

Blake Leeper at the Kingsport Boys & Girls Club

It was a wonderful ceremony, honoring our own Blake Leeper at the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club recently. Blake, former D-B athletic star and Paralympian, was the guest speaker at the club's annual fellowship event.

And thanks to Blake's father Billy Leeper, we have the pictures to prove what a good time folks had!

To see pictures of the event, click on Blake Leeper speaking to the Kingsport Boys & Girls Club.

More Beam Signings

A check of the signature steel beam in the V.O. Dobbins Community Center lobby, reveals many more of our Douglass Alumni, friends and neighbors have signed the historic beam.

Please check Steel Beam Signing at Dobbins/Douglass to see the new signatures.

The beam will be hoisted up and installed in the new gymnasium at the V.O. Dobbins Community in a special ceremony that we will soon tell you about, to put on your calendar.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Douglass Alumni Working Board Meeting Minutes, 9/19/09

September 19, 2009

Those in attendance:

Ozine Bly, Lillian Leeper, Ruth Russell, Dawnella Ellis, Sandra Wilmer, Douglas Releford, Thelma Watterson, Virginia Hankins, Calvin Sneed. QUORUM MET.

Meeting was bought to order by President Douglas Releford, prayer by V.P. President Lillian Leeper. Minutes of the last meeting was read. Motion to accept the minutes were made by Sandra Wilmer, second by Lillian Leeper. Motion Carried.

Financial Report:

Sandra Wilmer gave a report on the disbursements. A $100 check was written to Van Dobbins, Jr., $100 check was written to St. Mark United Methodist Church, $300 check was written to Maxwell a scholarship recipient and $500 went to Phillip Hamilton also scholarship recipient. The balance in the checking account is $4,667.42; the $1,823.13 that is in the scholarship fund will be transferred to the checking account. Motion to accept the financial report was made by Calvin Sneed, second by Thelma Watterson. Motion carried.

Old Business:

Donald Hickman has agreed to be the Parliamentarian of the by-laws.

President Douglas Releford handed out the New By-Law Proposals.

All were approved by the board as rewritten, edited and approved by the Parliamentarian. One was modified ("any future change or addition to the by-laws will be voted on and approved on a first reading. Second reading of the by-law proposal will be held at the next meeting, or in 30 days, whichever comes first.").

Motion to accept the new proposed by-laws with the necessary corrections was made by Calvin Sneed, second by Lillian Leeper. Motion carried.

The new updated Douglass Alumni Association By-Laws will be posted on the website shortly. Hard Copies of the new updated by-laws will be ready for working board members and the general public at the next meeting.


The V.O. Dobbins Non-Profit Center Team meeting will be held at the Dobbins Community Center Wednesday October 14, 2009 from 3:30 – 5;00PM. Our President, Douglass Releford is a team member. Those Douglass Alumni and Working Board members who wish to attend the tour are invited.

After the meeting, Douglass Alumni, the Douglass Alumni Working Board and the Riverview Community will need to attend a meeting with city officials at the Central Baptist Church at 6:00pm. The purpose of that meeting will be to discuss ideas and suggestions from the community on what local residents and alumni want displayed in the Douglass Community Room, the interior of the Community Center. and around the grounds surrounding the building. Watch for more information about this meeting.

Next alumni meeting will be November 14, 2009 at Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church at 1:00pm.

Motion for adjournment was made by Calvin Sneed, second by Ozine Bly. Motion carried.

Respectfully Submitted

Thelma Watterson, Recording Secretary

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Riverview Grandparents Treated to New Vision Treat!

"We all came from them, they all came from their grandparents."

New Vision Youth Director Johnnie Mae Swaggerty beamed with pride, as she surveyed the ballroom of the Riverview Elks Lodge as Riverview's grandparents were celebrated, in conjunction with National Grandparents Day.

To see pictures of the event, click on Grandparents Day in Riverview 2009.

The event was held Saturday afternoon, September 12, 2009 at the Elks Lodge on Lincoln/MLK Drive in Kingsport.

"This is the first year doing a celebration for our grandparents in the community," she said. "I started thinking about it in January, and I wanted to share it with the Clinch Mountain Lodge Brothers (Local #531) and the Daughters of the Elks Dunbar Temple #344. I thought it would be nice get the grandparents to come together and fellowship with other grandparents that they haven't seen or talked to in a long time."

"They get the chance to renew relationships that way."

Relationships have been strained in recent months since the Riverview Apartments were torn down. Many older residents were forced to move to other areas of Kingsport, while awaiting the construction of the new HOPE VI homes. Those homes, planned for the same two-block-by-two-block area of Riverview, had been scheduled for a July start, but currently do not have a definite start date yet because of the bad economy.

But at the Elks Lodge on Saturday, all thoughts were on fellowship and friendship.
Music was provided by Pinkie Horton and Bernice Horton, as they played and sang to the group.

Door prizes were also given out to the grandparents. The "Oldest Grandmother" present was Nrs. Dorothy E. White, at 84 years old. The "Youngest Grandmother" was Margaret Smith, at 46 years old. The "Grandparent with the Most Grandchildren" was Mrs. Pinkie Horton.. bless her heart.. she has 67 GRANDCHILDREN. The "Oldest Grandfather" was Mr. Ellis Snapp, at 84 years old. Grandparent Dinita White answered the trivia question of "which state was our President, Barack Obama, born in? With the correct answer of "Hawaii," she was also given a door prize.

One of the highlights of the afternoon, was the "kid glove" treatment given to the grandparents, by the New Vision Youth Kids. Serving the grandparents, the kids went from person to person, taking orders for food. They waited on the elders hand and foot, handing out pineapple tea, coffee, potato soup made by Lodge Brother Tiger Trammell and homemade chicken soup from Johnnie Mae. Cornbread was baked by Mrs. Betsy Pierce, salad was provided by Miss Mary, Angel Pruitt and the Daughters of Dunbar Temple #344. There were also fruit cups from Veronica Camp, one of the New Vision parents, and also Kitty Camp, Roxy Lollar and Margaret Wycliff.

"Everybody pitched in to make this a real memorable event for the grandparents," Johnnie Mae said.

The New Vision Kids stepped up to the plate and batted a home run for the grandparents.

"I told them 'y'all decided which you want to do," Johnnie Mae said. "Somebody on the drinks, the salads, somebody on the fruit cups, a couple of people on the soups. Everybody got a chance to pitch in and help. Some of them were the greeters when grandparents arrived at the door, others took the orders. Once they settled in on the task at hand, the kids did it well, and they were very respectful of the grandparents."

Johnnie Mae sent a special shout-out to the Clinch Mountain Lodge Brothers #531, Stan Treece and Tiger Trammell, "Miss Pinkie" and "Miss Bernice" for the musical selections, and Calvin and the Douglass Alumni Association.

And this won't be the last event of this kind.

"These grandparents, just like all grandparents, are our heritage," says Johnnie Mae. "My heart goes out to the people who did not know their grandparents, but luckily, Riverview is the kind of place where everybody had a grandparent, whether related to them or not. Their heritage is now our future, just like the children are our future too. Somewhere they intertwine, to make us all, who we are."

Stories About our Riverview Grandparents

A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.

A garden of Love grows in a Grandmother's heart.

Grandparents are similar to a piece of string - handy to have around and easily wrapped around the little fingers of their grandchildren......


Calvin, here is a people my Grand's sent when THEY were tots, with their mother's help of course:

Everything my Grandma does, is something special made with love.
She takes time to add the special touch that says, 'I love you very much.'

She fixes hurts with a kiss and a smile, and tells good stories, Grandma-style.
It's warm and cozy on her lap, for secret telling or a nap.

And when we say our prayers at night, we ask God to bless her and hold her tight.
'Cause when it comes to giving hugs, our Grandma's arms are filled with love.

We have the best Grandma in the whole wide world.

Love you Grandma!

Ashley & Jarell

Myy grandmother's name was Kitty Whittington, and my grandfather's name was Emery Whittington. They came from South Carolina and moved to Dante, Virginia. What I remember most about my grandmother is how old you were on your birthday, that's how many pennies you got. They couldn't afford to go out and buy big presents, my grandfather worked in the coal mines at Dante. That name Emery has trickled on down, somebody in the family has the name Emery, and somebody also has the name Kitty. Of course, growing up, they spoiled us kids rotten.. They loved you so much, they took up for you when your parents were mad at you. Grandparents are very special. One day, my grandmother Kitty took me from Dante and brought me to Kingsport, and my grandfather missed me so much he all the way from Dante to Kingsport to come and get me and bring me back home! My mother had to go back home to Dante with him, too.

My grandparents on my mother's side were Fannie and Alfred Smith from Kingsport on Dunbar Street.. on my daddy's side were Luther and Adailae Swaggerty of Newport, Tennessee. I remember Grandma Fannie swinging on the porch swing, 'you can't swing that high, don't do that. Granddaddy Alfred had a cornfield in back of the house on Dunbar Street. He had a horse back there, too! And then Grandmama Adailae's home cooking , and Granddaddy Alfred had a shoeshine place, Swaggerty's Shoe Shine. They were just humble people. Lordy, I got into trouble all the time. Grandma Smith used to run after all of us on Dunbar Street with a broom, all my sisters, Doris Jean, Page, all of us would get whuppings for being too LOUD. She wanted us to be seen, and not heard! We would all outrun her, but sometimes she didn't miss with that broom.

My mother's parents were the same as Candy's, Emergy and Kitty Whittington from Dante, Virginia. My grandmother on my daddy's side was Ada Evans . I remember her making quilts, and I wish now that I had learned that from her. I was young and didn't think about stuff like that. I never got in that much trouble, Candy was always like a big sister to me, she and her sister Linda. I wanted to grow up and be like her, she was real pretty and prissy! I didn't know my granddaddy on my daddy's side, I remember with daddy's mama, she used to babysit children and now I'm into daycare, so I guess I kinda inherited that instinct to care for children from her. I always felt the love of grandparents around them, and I liked being around them. One time, me and Gail went to the store and bought steaks, and had steak dinner with her, and she enjoyed that..we always said we need to do it again, but never did. I always said we needed to do so much more with our grandparents.

I never knew my grandfathers, but my mother's mother Elizabeth Bynum lived with us on Dunbar Street. She lived with us 20-some years, and died at the age of 109. My best memories of her were that we were blest to have her that long there at home. She would prepare meals, and Mother didn't have to cook. Another thing is, she made the best cupcakes..I'm really sad that we didn't get to get the recipe for those cupcakes, 'cause everybody talked about those cupcakes. They were the biggest cupcakes, chocolate-covered, the best thing that ever hit your mouth. She also specialized in a lot of other foods that I can't even remember.. Was she strict?.. You don't come in her kitchen when she's cooking. She would call you when it was time to eat, but until she called you, stay out of my kitchen. You don't cook and you don't do nothing else, so stay out of my kitchen... Bless her heart, she spoiled me and my sisters rotten. She could take something that was nothing, and make it great. A lot of times, people think you need to have a lot of good food and stuff.. Daddy had a garden, so she was able to improvise with the vegetables and make real nutritioous foods.

I am the granddaughter of the late Frank Price & Nellie Phipps Price of New Canton, Tennessee. My grandfather was the son of Robert Haynes Price & Liyiaisto (Lizzie) Armstrong Price; my grandmother was the daughter of Victoria & George Phipps.

Together they built a one story house on New Canton Road where they reared seven children and 38 grandchildren. In later years, a second house was built next door, where they lived until their deaths. Along with the homes they had farm land all around.

As a child, I remember coming to my grandparents house with my parents, the late George Lee & Ann Lee Price, depending on what season, determined what type of fun I had. There were always children at our house, with such a large family it couldn’t help but to be children at the house. Many of us were either close in age or the same age.

One of my favorite times to visit would be the summertime because you were free to run and play outside all day. I remember playing a lot with my cousins, Melissa Price and Tonya Leeper, we would run until our legs fell off and my Uncles, Buddy and Floyd would always do something to make us laugh, which would give them all the pleasure in world to see, and then you have the “Famous Water” as I use to call it, it was water from Grandpap'a spring, cold water that you can’t get from the city.

When evening came we would be on the porch with Grandmaw and Grandpap, as he told us stories from the old times, such as our family roots.

In the first house a great memory would be bath time. The old house as we called it had no running water or indoor bathroom. Bath time would be in one of the bedrooms with a fireplace and water was drawn and put in a long tin tub for you. That was the best bath, when you have your girl cousins around laughing and playing while you bathed. It seems so small, yet so big in your heart.

The best time for me would be Christmas, which was also Grandpap’s birthday. We would load up the car with gifts and food headed for New Canton. When we got there, we would be greeted by family; Aunt Geraldine, Aunt Janie and Uncle Owen and of course my grandparents. Christmas morning, in the old house you would smell Uncle Buddy frying potatoes and onions (my favorite) and in the new house you would hear my momma and Aunt Geraldine in the kitchen fixing breakfast and boy, did it smell good. Then after breakfast we would open gifts and give thanks for what we got, neighbors would come and share in the joy of Christmas like Mr. Vincent and Ms. Elizabeth, Ozine Bly and the Pastor of Lyon’s Chapel, and then there would be some folks that brought joy with them that appeared in a jar, which would make my Grandmaw very upset.

We would go to Kingsport to visit with Aunt Lillie (Smith) and Aunt Parthenia and Uncle Ed (Deal) on Dunbar Street; we use to live there back in the day. Then we headed back to New Canton where we had family coming over all day and that’s when the fun really started. My Uncles Calvin, Buddy and Floyd would aggravate my Aunt Janie and boy would she give them a run for their lives; Marie, Chuck, Caroline, Frankie, P.D. (Phillip Dale) and Kenny and so many more would come by too. Grandmaw and Aunt Geraldine would play the piano and we would start singing” Go Tell It On The Mountain.”

Then it would be time for church at Lyon’s Chapel. We would go to the Christmas program and some how I would end up on the program with either a speech or a solo, but back then, your family could do that to you. We would have a birthday cake for Grandpap either at the church, or at home to celebrate his birthday. Lyon’s Chapel had good Christmas programs, and still today has good services.

Now, the old house was been torn down and a lot of our family and friends have gone on, but I’m thankful that the memories of those times are still with us. It’s funny when you look back, times were hard, but as children we didn’t know it because we were taught that family is everything.

Henry Stokely traveled to White Pine with our family to visit our grandparents, Roy and Edith Leeper, my mother's parents. Both of us were about 9 or 10 years old, so this had to be the summer of 1958 or 1959. When we arrived, my parents, and my brother and sister, Cassius and Connie, went into the house. Henry and I went out to Grandaddy’s field and started playing in the haystacks. Grandaddy told us to be careful, and watch out for snakes and to watch out for the electrified fence around his property, cause it would shock us. The first thing we did was try to touch the fence, and needless to say, we got shocked. Apparently, Grandaddy had watched us,and played a joke. He came out and told us to be careful with this one large haystack, that there was a large copperhead in it. We told him we weren’t afraid of any snake. Apparently, a couple of days earlier he had killed a snake. He placed it near the top, just under the hay. When Henry and I started poking around in it, the snake fell down, and we ran, and ran, and ran. Grandpa Leeper and my father laughed and laughed. Needless to say, we didn’t go out in the field anymore that day.

I have very fond memories of my grandfather and miss him each and everyday. I am sure everyone would remember Paul Turner, better known as “Paul Daddy”. He rode his bike to and from work and you would see him riding his bicycle everywhere he went. He had more energy then anyone I ever known. His bike had a basket and that is how he carried the clothes to and from the cleaners. The majority of the time when you see him he is delivering dry cleaning to someone in our community. There were times he had us delivering for him. He worked part-time at the cleaners and part-time at the filling station on Sullivan street, but he was known more from working at the Cleaners.

In Honor of our Grandmother Corrine Johnson

Strong, beautiful black woman, so peaceful and serene,
You deserved to live in Paradise and shown the finer things,
Life has dealt you plenty of cards, some winning, others bad,
And tides have brought in waves of memories; both happy and sad.
Gracious, beautiful black woman, so wonderful and divine,
You've endured many heart aches----oh the world is so unkind!
Your speech is confident, your eyes are soft and your walk is hard and bold,
Your laugh equals happiness; your heart contains love, and hides the stories untold.
Tried, beautiful black woman, so patient and so calm,
It's funny how you held the family's fear within your palm.

When we think of our Grandmother Ms. Corrine Johnson, we think of smiles, tears, laughs, and SOUL FOOD. She had her own ethnic cuisine at Riverview Apartments inside and outside of her house. Her food was traditionally prepared and eaten by many. Whether it was fried fish in a cast iron skillet sitting on a grill with charcoals, fried chicken given to us to take to church for a lateeeeeeeeeeee Sunday Service tied up in a shoe box with napkins and plastic forks, or fancy homemade dishes cooked in stainless steel pots and pans at the "master's house." She was known for her good ole Southern food by many.

She would have people knocking on her door at all hours asking her, "Ms. Corrine, will you fry us some fish?" As she stuttered with her answer, she would say, "Boooooooooooy, yoooooooooooo, bedddddddddddder gitttttttttttttttttt away from here at dis tttttttttttttttttttttttime of night asssssssssssssssssin me to frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry you some fish." But she would do it anyhow because she wanted some herself.


She passed away singing her Ole Spiritual Hymn; "Something deep down inside of me telling me to go head, something deep down inside of me telling me to go head, go head, go head, go head. It was the Holy Ghost yeah, it was the Holy Ghost yea."

"Something deep down inside of me telling me go head."

My favorite memory is that my Grandpa Ed, who lived in South Carolina, took me fishing and showed me how to make sinkers out of shotgun shells.

I remember Calvin and I spending Friday night with Miss Sneed and Papa Sneed. They would stock up on all the junk food that we could never get enough of at 345 Dunbar like Cheese Puffs, Chips, and assorted candies. These goodies were always in a lower cabinet in the kitchen - maybe so they would be within my reach... Miss Sneed, Calvin and myself would play a board game of "Sorry" and Calvin would cheat. In the mornings we would have pancakes and sausages - and be sent home for Uncle Dewey (Long) to take us to Horse Krickers at Eastman.

My grandfather, Bennie Albert Crawford was the minister of the Bethel First Christian Church in Forest City, North Carolina, a Methodist church, where he and my grandmama lived. She was about 4 something, and we would pull tricks on her because she was so little, but we loved her dearly. She would get you, though. Once though, I accidently poured out her starch she made, a great big potful..back then, they used to wash clothes with it, and I thought it was dirty water, so I was trying to help. I got it off the stove, I was only about 10 or 11, and poured it every bit out. Then, she asked.. 'where is my starch' the next morning, and we were hunting for it. I said 'where was it?' She said, 'it was on the stove, a big pot.' I said 'oh, mama I poured it out (we called our Grandmama 'mama.') She didn't whip me, not at all, she just thought it was a terrible thing to do, but I never did something like that again, even though it was an accident. I always asked before I did something from then on. I loved both my grandparents..they could always seem to understand when you were playing, and when you were serious.

They milked cows. We had an orchard of apples, peaches, pears..we didn't have to go to the store to get anything of those things, and she raised chickens. My mama (grandmama) would not buy frozen chicken from the store. She liked the chicken that she raised. She said, the store chickens were not 'sweet' enough. She passed away about 40 years ago..she lived to be 86, my grandfather was around 87 when he passed. He was the founder of the church there in Forest City, and it's there in his name.

He was very strict with the children in church.. you couldn't talk, you couldn't chew gum like kids do today. But every Sunday evening, we were all treated to ice cream, homemade ice cream.

Calvin one of my favorite memories about growing up with my grandparents, who lived on a large farm in Mountain City was, my brother ( Howard Jr) Billy could crawl behind the stove that sat out from the wall.( a wood burner where she baked bread ) and take our favorite blank and take a nap and our grand mother would give us fresh homemade cookies right from the oven. Are when the whole family spent the weekend in the country, ( cause we lived in Kingsport the big city ( HA HAHA) was there was always a discussion ( for lack of another word ) as to who would sleep in the family room,where there was this wonderful fire place and our grandfather or one of the uncle would keep it going all night,and you would sleep and hear the gentle crackling of the wood and the room was so nice and warm and you would wake up early to the smell of fresh baked biscuits, and bacon frying . Now that was living.

My grandparents are gone now but their memories and lesson taught will be with me forever. Their work ethnics not only for my grandparents but all grandparents is something we all need to cherish, because it is these ethnic that build out communities and instilled in all of us a sense of "community pride">

Calvin, one of the things I remember about Papa (my father's father) Thomas Hendricks, was his beautiful head of white hair and his love of playing checkers with the late Rev. Frank Lynch. One of the things I instantly remember about my grandmother (my mother's mother, Lavenia Brown) was riding the bus downtown on Saturdays in Abingdon and the excitement of buying my favorite candy from the Woolworth's candy counter. Thanks for the opportunity to remember.

OK Calvin, this one was about my grandmother’s (Mrs. Goodson’s) mother, Minnie Hardy. When she living down in the Riverview Apartments unit on Louis Street in her latter years in her 90’s, members of the family would go visit every day to talk with her and keep her company. One day my mom went by and was talking with her and asked what was the matter? My great-grandmother said she felt so bad for those boys fighting in the war. OK, what war? She watched them every day and just felt so bad for them and wished and prayed the war would stop so they could come home.

Well, come to find out.. she was watching M*A*S*H!

Yes I do have wonderful memories of my grandparents, Harrison and Rosa Lee Gray in Rotherwood.
I guess the one that really comes to mind when I think about them. One Sunday at Central I had the awful giggles. Well you know Granddaddy always sat on the Deacon's bench with your Father and Grandfather. Well Grandaddy looked at MaMa Gray, who got up came to the back of the church, borrowed Allen Daniels' belt, took me downstairs in the basement and torn me up. And to top it all, I had to go back into the church crying with the sniffles. Well that taught me a lesson about laughing in church.
I was really blessed to be raised by my grandparents who taught me about God and life. I will be forever grateful to them.


I can remember staying with my grandparents on my father's side well. When they lived in Big Stone Gap, VA, we would go there and spend a few days in the summer. My grandfather worked in the mines and then worked in what the called the coke ovens part of the mining process. There is where they would burn the coal in big old brick ovens to make it into coke and the coke would then be sold to places like the Kingsport Foundry because the coke would burn longer and hotter then the regular coal.
And when he moved to Kingsport he worked at Douglass High School along with Mr. Bristol as the school custodians. My Grandmother worked in the cafeteria as one of the cooks.

The spring of 1970, when my daughter Toya was three, we again visited my grandparents in White Pine, near Morristown. I remember traveling down Highway 11-W through Rogersville, then turning south on 25-W towards Morristown and then White Pine.. Toya would always be picking out houses as we traveled that were “her” houses, and picking out outhouses as my house. When we got to White Pine, Toya was trying to impress my Grandmother with her singing of nursery rhymes. We asked her how she knew all the rhymes and she said that Mamma Zula (Reverend Stokely’s wife, who baby sitted for her) had taught her. She was very proud of her accomplishments. Grandma asked her about her ABC’s. She said she knew them. For some reason, I told her I didn’t think she could do it. She started singing the ABC rhyme, and paused at the letter "P." Grandma looked at her, smiled, and encouraged her to continue. She finished, Grandma smiled and gave her a hug. That was the first time I saw my grandmother in a “extra positive” light. Whenever we visited, I remember Granddaddy letting us run all over the place, and Grandma would always be the one with the belt or switch who would discipline us. I just regarded Grandma Edith in a different way after that.

Things I remember about my Granddaddy.. My granddaddy was a small statue of a man he stood about 4’ 11” and he was the greatest story teller ever. I did not realize until I was grown that he was a lot like E.F. Hutton, when he talked you listened.

We would gather around him and he would tell those tales and it felt like the hairs were standing on the back of your neck, and if someone touched you, you would jump out of your skin. He would put all the emotions along with his words and we sat there hanging on every word and this seemed to go on for hours, but no one complained about the time you just wanted to hear more. My granddaddy liked to trade knives, he would whittle for hours he used to say that he done his best pondering while he was whittling. His birthday was in July, and every year he would throw himself a birthday party, everyone far and wide attended. No matter where the children were they knew they had to be at Granddaddy’s birthday party. He loved people, he was so happy telling his jokes and stories, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them he was the life of the party.

What I remember most about my granddaddy was that he was logical, fair and his ability to always make the right decisions concerning the family. As a youngster I thought that he was the smartest person in the world, because I thought he knew everything. He was my rock, my fortitude. He was known far and wide and everyone gave him the utmost respect, because that is the kind of person he was.


I can remember climbing up on a tall white metal cabinet that was full of dishes. Well, needless to say it overturned and broken dishes were all over the floor. I knew that I was going to be in big trouble when my momma found out. Of course, she was furious and I was about to be severely punished.

My grandmu came to my rescue and told my momma that she was taking me to visit my aunt. Mu, momma said, “Mu (her children called her Mu instead of Mother) I know what you’re doing, but Vicki will be punished when she comes back home.” By the time we returned, my momma had cleaned up the mess that I had made and acted as though nothing had happened. Whew, talk about feeling relieved; I was so thankful grandmu was there!

That was just one of many times that my grandmu rescued me. When I was about four years old, my momma enrolled me in nursery school. They would teach us how to dress ourselves so we had to take pajamas to school for nap time. I was always the last one to get my pajamas on, and the last one to finish eating, so I was nicknamed “Christmas” because I was so slow.

Of course, grandmu wanted to know what I did at school, and I would tell her my version of everything, knowing that I would get empathy, sympathy, and understanding. Whatever she gave I was there to receive it. The nickname didn’t bother me, but my grandmu didn’t like it one bit. She would come and get me at noon everyday so that I wouldn’t have to take a nap. My momma would come home from work and wonder why I was so cranky.

My grandmu’s excuse was – she just doesn’t like that nursery school. My momma eventually found out and I was enrolled once again and had to stay at school all day!

No more going home at noon for me, but my grandmu would be waiting for me when I got home. I would climb up on her lap and receive lots of hugs and kisses.

My grandmu was the greatest whistler and loved to iron clothes. She could whistle better than any old man I knew, and when she would iron clothes the wrinkles would magically disappear. I remember a familiar grandmotherly scent-the sweet smell of doublemint gum on her breath. I can never remember my grandmu having any teeth, but she could chew gum and make it pop so loud it would sound like a firecracker! Her gums had gotten so tough that she could eat anything, even fried chicken.

I don’t mean to make her sound like she was a little gummy granny. Not at all, she was a tall stately woman, a strong woman that raised ten children practically by herself after the death of my grandfather at the early age of forty-five. I’m sure that it was not easy bringing up seven girls and three boys virtually alone.

I was like her shadow; wherever she went I was there too. We would take long walks around the neighborhood and visit her friends. I remember one of her friends; Mrs. Grace, she always had candy for me. It was always those big orange peanut shaped marshmallows, big juicy orange slices, and those yellow and orange triangles; I believe they were called caramel corn. I would be content with my goodies while they talked about what was going on in the neighborhood.

One day when I came home from school, my momma told me that my grandmu was in the hospital. I was so heartbroken to know I couldn’t see or talk to her. I found out that we were going to be able to go visit one weekend. I couldn’t wait for that particular weekend to arrive. When it was finally time to go, that weekend was the longest trip of my little young life. When we finally got there I was heartbroken because children under twelve were not allowed to go inside. I had to sit in the car with my aunt and we locked all the windows and doors. People were standing all around the car windows peeping in and pointing their fingers at us. I was terrified and I thought why are these people acting like this. I was too young to realize that is was a mental institution. My grandmu didn’t belong there, which was soon evident. She was diagnosed as having hardening of the arteries, so she would have memory lapses.

After her release from the hospital, she came to live with us. During this time, we became very good friends. I guess she could relate to me because I was always there. She sometimes didn’t remember her own children’s names, but she always knew who I was. One day she packed her clothes in a suitcase and started walking down the street. Luckily our neighbor saw her and convinced her to come back home. Incidents like that were so scary we had to watch her like a baby.

I t was really devastating seeing my grandmu like that, but she was still my grandmu and I loved her even more! I can close my eyes now and see her hair braided up on her head with her blue print dress on and her stockings twisted in a knot just below her knees.

Winter mornings brings memories of her getting up at the crack of dawn and firing up the old coal cook stove. I would awaken to the smell of homemade biscuits and hash. I’ve never tasted a breakfast like that since then and probably never will. We would finish breakfast, dress, and walk two blocks to church. Her favorite hymn was “Peace in the Valley.” I knew every word and would sing along with her. She was always humming, whistling, or singing. That was just her nature. I never hear her say an unkind word about anyone.

On July 4, 1965, she finally found her peace in the valley. I still miss her very much. I wonder sometimes what it would be like talking to her now about my children, and grand children, that didn’t get a chance to know and love her. I have never known a more patient, kind, and loving woman. I’m feeling sad now but happy to have been an offspring of this fine lady that was my grandmu.

Grandmu was my friend, babysitter, guardian, but best of all she was my “Grandmu.

Of course I remember my grandparents. I was blessed to have my maternal grandmother and grandfather, plus my paternal grandmother alive well into my adulthood. I saw my mother's parents more because they lived closer (on Newman's Ridge just outside of Sneedville), while my father's mother lived in Mississippi, which was more of a drive. If you've been to Sneedville you know it is barely a wide spot in the road. But at the same time it is the home of "Walk Toward the Sunset" which is the famous (if not totally accurate) play about the Melungeons. We are not Melungeons, but I knew some of them. Everyone in Sneedville knew my grandparents, and especially my grandmother. My maternal grandmother was mentally alert until the day she died at age 99. My maternal grandmother made it to age 90. My memories of both sides of my family center around meeting lots of uncles, aunts and cousins.

Every time I think of Miss Sneed and Papa Sneed, I get mad because I always took the little things they did for granted.. from his daylily garden, to him lying on his stomach at the pond out front, where the fish would come up out of the water to grab the bread he was holding in his mouth.. to waving at him and Uncle Buck Leeper at 4:30 every afternoon on their way to Eastman.. to him always carving something out of wood or plaster or stone.. to him and Mr. Bud Hickman always working on some church thing or neighborhood project..

His complete devotion to taking care of Miss Sneed after she got sick was so typical of the husband-wife relationships of our forefathers. It wasn't a was a responsibility. I once asked him if he had ever thought about the day he'd have to put her in a nursing home because she might get too difficult to handle by himself at his age, and after a beat, he said 'Son... I wouldn't have it any other way.' You just don't find that kind of devotion anymore, and I never asked him that question again.

Papa Sneed was the wisest man I knew. Everything he ever told me, had a Biblical reference. I could never get into his Bible Class at Central because it was always too crowded. He never spanked me when I did something wrong.. he'd just talk to me and say how disappointed he was in me because he knew I knew better.. He could make you feel 2 feet tall if you did something wrong.. or 10 feet tall if you did something right.

When I was 5 and in Central's nursery school, Miss Betsy Sneed wouldn't let me call her Grandmama, Grandmother, or Granny.. I had to call her 'Miss Sneed,' like all the other children.

She always hummed and sang softly when she cooked, always. And they were always different church hymns.

She always poked Papa Sneed if he fell asleep in church..

Her favorite phone friends were Miss Mutt, Miss Bradford, Miss Pinkie, Miss Sarah Kincaid, Miss Ruffin, Miss Gray out in Rotherwood, Miss Stokely, Miss Blye, Miss Callahan, Miss Stacy, Miss Ervin, Miss Parthenia, Miss Watterson, Miss Bernice, Miss Bristol, Miss Leeper, her sisters Glaydese, Anna, and the wives of all her brothers. I told her she had the best gossip party line in Riverview..

When Papa Sneed was making you work for money, Miss Sneed was giving it to you free.

She hated that big, late 60's Afro.. so did everybody else. But she was the one who'd tell me. She knew I hated the piano, but she'd make me practice that stupid piano every day at 4:30 (I can carry a tune now, thanks to her).

Occasionally, I had to share my grandparents' attention.. it turned out everybody needed them as much as I did. That's why FAMILY is so important to me now.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Grandparents Day luncheon planned

• KINGSPORT — New Vision Youth in partnership with Brothers of Clinch Mountain Lodge No. 531 and Daughters of Dunbar Temple No. 344 will hold a “Happy Grandparents Day” luncheon Saturday from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the Elks Auditorium, 1018 Martin Luther King Drive. Admission is free. The menu will include homemade potato and creamy chicken vegetable soup, fruit cup, crackers, corn bread, salads, tea, coffee and water. There will be door prizes and recognition for the oldest and youngest grandparents and the grandparents with the most grandchildren. Entertainment will be provided by Miss Pinkie Horton and the Conquerers. For more information contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty, New Vision Youth director, at 246-6623.

This event will be streamed live on the Douglass Website, beginning at 11 AM Saturday.

On Sunday, National Grandparents Day, we will feature on the Douglass Website, a number of stories and remembrances of some of our grandparents in Riverview, and what made them special to us.

Weed and Seed meeting set for Saturday, 9/12/09

• KINGSPORT — South Central Kingsport Weed and Seed will host a joint Drug Education for Youth/Project Safe Neighborhood meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Fresh Start Center, 1140 Martin Luther King Drive. Raylene Stewart, an education major from Milligan College, will facilitate a session on “Reading and Underlining Message in Advertising and Movies.” Parents are invited to attend.

Kingsport Ministerial Alliance to hold Citywide Revival

KINGSPORT — The Greater Kingsport Ministerial Alliance will hold a citywide revival at 7 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday at Central Baptist Church, 301 Carver St.
Elder Charles Hawkins, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church will preach Sunday, followed by the Rev. Linda Calvert of Shiloh Baptist Church, Monday; the Rev. N. Motruir of Lee Street Baptist Church, Bristol, Va., Tuesday; and the Rev. Richard Dice, GKMA president, of King’s Highway Temple Church, Wednesday.
Appalachian Baptist Fellowship begins Monday

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Douglass Alumni/Kohl's Project Successful

The first project with Kohl's Department Store employees was a success. Under the supervision of Ethel Ruth Russell the Kohl's employees cleaned up the front of St. Mark United Methodist Church and also did some work on their playground.

The alumni association chose St. Mark in appreciation for allowing us to have meetings at their church. After all of the paper work is in, the Douglass alumni association will receive $500.00 toward our scholarship fund. Kohl's donates this money to organizations that help young people. They get their employees to volunteer to do the work and we reap the rewards.

The Douglass alumni association would like to give a special thanks to Michelle Hankins for introducing this project to us.

Respectfully submitted,
Virginia Hankins

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


New friends Bill Maxwell, left, and Gerald Sensabaugh Sr. play a game of chess recently underneath the shade of a tree at the park beside the George Washington School Apartments on Watauga Street.

Watch for More Pictures!

In less than 24 hours, the website got almost 600 hits (visits) to the old pictures of Douglass students-Riverview residents that Mrs. Jennie Ruth Bristol gave me. Most everybody used it as a game to identify them, and thanks to Helen Bunting, I got everybody's name.. But then, I got this note from Doris Calloway:

"This was such a great "mystery" -I love who done it's and now - Who's This's (smiles) - good exercise for the mind - memory and recall. Thanks so much - this was really a lot of fun."

And then, I got this note from Margaret Murray:


I think you see where this is going..
I'll be pulling pictures from the old Douglass Annuals every once in a while, and I'll leave the names off, to see how many identifications you can get.

Thanks to Helen, Doris and Margaret for the idea!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Paralympian will speak at benefit



Blake Leeper joined the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kingsport in elementary school. Not only did he learn to excel in sports there, he learned basic life skills.
Leeper, now a junior pre-med major at the University of Tennessee and a member of U.S. Paralympic Team, will be the keynote speaker at a benefit dinner hosted by Riverfront Seafood Co. at 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 13 at the Netherland Inn Road restaurant.
The benefit dinner coincides with the one-year anniversary of the BGCK’s newest facility just off West Stone Drive. An overview of the programs and progress made during the first year of operation will precede Leeper’s talk. Following the program, attendees will enjoy dinner and dessert.Born with no legs below the knees, Leeper was fitted with prosthetics and got his start playing sports as a 5-year-old basketball play in the Kingsport Parks and Recreation League. He joined the Boys and Girls Club a couple of years later.
“I joined around 7 years old. I played baseball and basketball there. During the summer, me and my brother attended the summer program,” Leeper said. “I was a member about five or six years, give or take.”
The staff and programs of the BGCK left a positive impression on the youngster.
“I learned basic life skills. I learned to become a better person in general. I learned to become a better athlete,” he said.
Leeper played both basketball and baseball at Dobyns-Bennett High School. As a senior in 2007, he was named to the inaugural Kingsport Times-News Elite boys basketball team.He participated in the USCO Endeavor Games in Oklahoma in June, where he won three gold medals. He placed first in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races, but it was his victory in the 100-meter that won him a place on the U.S. Paralympic Team as the only T-43 athlete. T-43 means no lower limbs.
He competed internationally this summer in Rio de Janeiro, earning a bronze medal in the 100-meter and a silver in the 200-meter. He’ll return to Brazil in 2011 and will also compete that year in New Zealand. He’s training for the World Paralympics, set for 2010 in London, where he could compete against South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, also a T-43 double-amputee and considered the fastest man with no legs.
At UT, Leeper is a physics major with plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport is a United Way of Greater Kingsport agency, serving approximately 1,000 youth in the Kingsport community each year. The club provides quality programs that encourage educational, character and leadership development to more than 250 children each day.
In addition to the main unit located at 1 Positive Place, the club operates three satellite units in Kingsport public housing complexes.
Tickets to the event are $25 each with all proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Sue at 230-4160, ext. 233.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old Pictures of Douglass Students and Riverview Residents

Mrs. Jennie Ruth Bristol found a set of pictures the other day, and she could not identify anybody in them.

Our Helen Bunting has identified each of them. I have posted the names with the pictures on 2 pages at Old Pictures of Douglass Students and Riverview Residents.

Take a closer look by clicking on the pictures.

Thanks Helen!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kingsport's Gary Maxwell: Hitting A Home Run for the Home Team in Riverview!

The 2009 AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic had a special Douglass-Riverview connection this time around.

Douglass High School Alumnus Gary Maxwell of Kingsport (Church Hill) was one of the special umpires invited to call the game. He's in his 40th year of umpiring high school and college baseball games.

"Our organization National Umpires has spent the past year, coordinating about 250 umpires," Gary says. "National Umpires showcases contests with Perfect Game USA, that provides opportunities for kids to get scholarships to the major colleges, and also for them to be seen by professional scouts. In July last year, we worked over 8,000 games, shuttling umpires between cities, and unbeknownst to us, we were being watched by the Perfect Game organization. As it turns out, we did such a good job, not missing assignments, nor late for any, that I and three of my fellow umpires were invited to come to San Diego, California and umpire this year's AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic."

"It's the biggest honor I've ever had in my life."


Gary's life has been one of moving-on-up excitement in the baseball world. As a youngster in Riverview, he played on a team sponsored by the Riverview Boys Club on Lincoln Street.

"Mr. (Wilbur) Hendricks was our coach," Gary remembers, and we were known as 'The Little Giants.' We played in the Kingsport Midget League, playing some of our away games with teams in Bloomingdale and Lynn Garden. Our home games were played in the Douglass Ballfield, and we played some games behind Chuck's Drive Inn on Industry Drive before they straightened the road out."

Back then, Gary says, all he could think about was becoming a major league baseball player. It was a lofty goal and huge ambition, since Douglass School did not offer baseball as a high school sport.

"I played college ball at Alabama A & M University in Huntsville from 1965 to 1968," remembers Gary. "I played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and missed getting to play at home in Kingsport by one year. The Pirates farm club had left Kingsport in '68, they moved to Salem, Virginia and '68 was the year I joined them. The home people never got to see me play."

After his professional playing career, Gary then tried umpiring. He found out, he liked that side of the game just as much.

"I started out umpiring Little League, then worked my way up to high school freshmen, then high school J-V, then high school varsity. Right now, I do high school and college, with some fill-in umpiring in the Appalachian League minor league in Kingsport, Johnson City, Greeneville and Elizabethton. I've also worked the Appalachian Athletic Conference and the Mid-Atlantic Conference in the college ranks."

"Our director went to Los Angeles last year and worked the game, and he told us he would try to get at least one of us on the umpire roster for this year. But when the chance came to see some of America's finest prospects during the 2009 AFLAC All-American contest, four of us were selected, and Gary was overwhelmed.

Wife Charlotte, the former Charlotte Young, was equally awe-struck. It was, after all a signficant honor for both of them.

"We got to sightsee once we and the other umpires and their wives got to San Diego," Charlotte says. We stayed at the Bayfront Hilton, right on the water, and there was so much to see. We had beautiful views of the ocean and Petco Park, where the game was played. The AFLAC people greeted us graciously, and treated us like royalty.

"Once we got through sightseeing," Gary says, "it was time to get down to work, with the preliminary games beginning on Friday at the University of San Diego, and a homerun-hitting contest. We dressed in the San Diego Padre Umpires' dressing room, with attendants catering to us, and a security guard outside the door and everything."

"The high school talent assembled for the game was unbelievable," says Gary. "There were 40 players, 20 on each team. Some of them, we'd gotten a chance to see during the year, and their talent really stood out. Every one of those kids had a 3.0 grade point average or better..they do a lot of work in their communities, and most of them have already committed to different colleges."

"Just being at the game was fantastic enough, but getting to umpire it was a dream come true."

The game itself ended in a 4-to-4 tie in the 10th inning, and Gary says, "that's about all you could ask for. As evenly matched as the talent was, a 4-all tie was probably the best thing. Neither team deserved to lose."

Gary and his fellow umpires are already signed up to work the 2010 AFLAC All-American High School Classic. "Right now, we waiting for Major League Baseball to come out with next year's schedule in November, to see if we'll be back in San Diego, Anaheim, Phoenix, Baltimore, Chicago, or Arlington, Texas. It all depends on which major league team is away from their stadium on the third weekend in August. Secretly, we're hoping it's on the West Coast.. little chance for rainouts out there."

And so, continue the goals of the sandlot kid from Douglass High School, who dreamed of being in the major leagues.

"I love the kids," Gary says. "I get to interact with them and see their skills early on. I see them grow, become adults, productive members of society. For them to come back years later and say 'I remember you and what you taught me,' is means a lot."

"It's a great ride."