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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nikki Dully Is Looking For You...... feature in her new column, that is.

Nikki is the new reporter at the Kingsport Daily News, specializing in downtown summer events and people.

Her first article is a pretty good one and you'll identify with it if you've been downtown lately.

Here's a link to Nikki's first article in the Daily News.

She's Regina Bond-Gray's youngest, and we're proud of her, me especially. We got us another journalist in the 'hood!

So, instead of hitting the mall or going to shop in Johnson City or Knoxville, give Nikki a visit downtown, and "let's give 'em something to talk about."

Click here to see Nikki Dully's introduction page on the Kingsport Daily News.

Need Input from the Community

Thanks to the Facebook link from Regina Bond-Gray, via Lena Pierce-Rogers with Margaret "Shug" Avery singing "Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something, I'm needing some information from the community.

My next project for the website, is a story about the juke joints that we had in Riverview and 'cross town. As I remember, our juke joints were just as lively as the one Harpo built in "The Color Purple."

But their liveliness is only as colorful, as we can remember them.

I need information about where our juke joints were (Lincoln Street.. some were even in folks' homes back when), how lively they were, what you remember about them (were they loud, like Harpo's Juke Joint), did they ever get busted, etc.. any information you can remember.. also, if there is anybody still with us, who used to go to them, or pass by them on the street.

If you want to do it anonymously, that's fine. I won't identify you.

The juke joints are part of our history in Riverview (as they are everywhere), and they deserve to be remembered.


Summer Season Begins at the Riverview Splash Pad

The season to get wet is upon us.

Riverview's summer season officially began on Saturday, May 28th, when the Riverview Splash Pad officially turned on the jets, and kids turned up the excitement.

Click here to see a slideshow of Opening Day at the splashpad.

The splash pad replaced the old Riverview Swimming Pool, which leaked quite a bit before it closed in 2005. A concrete pad with water jets, sprays and a jungle theme, emphasized by the presence of the "Douglass School Tiger" replaced the pool in 2006.

The Riverview Splash Pad celebrated it's Grand Opening & dedication on Saturday, October 28, 2006.

The splash pad is free of charge. It's open from 10:00 A-M to 8:00 P-M every day of the summer season, until school starts.

Little Miss Vision Pageant 2011

The "Belles of the Ball" turned on their charm, and a crowded auditorium was putty in their hands.

And when everything was done and said, Autumn Watts was crowned Little Miss Vision 2011.

It's the 8th year for the pageant.

Click here to see a slideshow of pictures from this year's event.

The Little Miss Vision Pageant was held at the Kingsport Renaissance Center Saturday night, May 28, 2011, and organizer Lillian Leeper says, it was the largest field of young ladies ever.

Based on the "A" attributes of (A)ttitude, (A)ppearance, and (A)bility, 13 young area girls faced the crowd and the cameras, some for the first time, modeling first for poise, then leisurewear, then each was escorted and presented to the audience in eveningwear. The pageant teaches the girls poise, presence, and instills self-confidence.

There was a litle nervousness in the air, but nothing each young lady couldn't get over. As their time came, each one left the audience with a good feeling.. that this young person was destined for great things in the future, because the biggest accomplishment of their lives had been reached: the ability to speak in front of a large crowd of people.

Click on the PLAY button on the TV screen above to hear "I Cried My Last Tear Yesterday" by Tiara Jordan.

If you have trouble with that link, click this one to hear the song.

Tiara was one of the counters for the judges at the pageant. She attends the Central Baptist Church.

1st Runner Up was K'Miyah Shaw, and 2nd Runner Up was Miracle Watterson. Each of the young ladies received a trophy for Miss Congeniality.

Anthony Adams was the emcee. Last year's winner was Qu'edence Somerville.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Douglass Alumni Board Meeting Minutes - May 14, 2011

Meeting in the Eastman Conference Room of the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex.

Attendance: Sheila Leeper, E. Ruth Russell, Dawnella Ellis, Kathy Evans, Sandra Wilmer, Douglas Releford, Andra Watterson, Calvin Sneed, Thelma Watterson, Ozine Bly, Louetta Hall, Judy Phillips, quorum met.

Meeting was called to order by President Douglas Releford, prayer by Ruth Russell.

Minutes of the last meeting was read by Thelma Watterson. Motion to accept the reading was made by Kathy Evans, second by Andra Watterson. Motion carried.

Financial Report was given by Sandra Wilmer. Motion to accept the report was made by Andra Watterson, second by Dawnella Ellis. Motion carried.

Old Business:

Thelma Watterson read the minutes from the February 21, 2009 meeting about who should receive flowers. The minutes state that the Trustee Board Members immediate family will receive flowers and all other alumni will receive a card. There was discussion about whether or not amendments should be made concerning the sending of flowers. Douglas Releford stated that we should leave the by-laws the way they are. Calvin Sneed made a motion that the board should give Douglas some money since he (Douglas) took it upon himself to send Coach Deering flowers, second by Thelma Watterson. Motion carried.

Ozine Bly wanted to know where the reunion dance (food, fun & entertainment) would take place because the location was not included in the minutes. At the close of the last meeting it was not clear as to where the dance would be, but it will be held at the Mead Cabins.

Douglas Releford stated that we need to finalize the work on the Ad Booklet. A meeting is planned for June 4, 2011 to finalize. Douglas also reported that the scholarship Committee has sent 29 letters to the graduating seniors.

New Business:

Dawnella Ellis wanted to know how many vendors we have for Field Day, no one knew.

Andra Watterson suggested that we need to have refreshments for Friday Registration Day.. Douglas Releford will advise the Event Planning Committee.

Sandra Wilmer asked if we really need a telephone in the office. Douglas Releford stated that we have a one year package deal that includes internet and telephone; after the year is up we will re-negotiate.

Calvin Sneed stated that he was going to start-up the on-line merchandise store.
Next meeting is scheduled for June, 4, 2011.

Adjournment was made by Ozine Bly, second by Andra Watterson. Motion carried.

Respectfully Submitted,
Thelma Watterson, Recording Secretary

Monday, May 23, 2011

Douglass Teachers: A "Bench Mark" to a New Generation

For years, teachers at Douglass Elementary/High School in Kingsport supported their students in the best way they knew how.

Two generations later.. they're still doing it. They're giving us a shoulder to lean on.

The names of all of the Douglass teachers have now been immortalized in a wonderfully crafted iron bench at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex in Riverview.

To see a slideshow of the Douglass Teachers Bench, please click here.

"The bench is to celebrate the teachers of the school," says Bonnie Macdonald, Cultural Arts Administrator with the Arts Council of Greater Kingsport. "The name of each Douglass instructor is carved into the steel supporting your back, and with a shiny metal backing, the names stand out to be recognized when you look at the bench."

"None of us, black or white, would be here without the inspiration of the teachers in our lives. The people of Riverview and the alumni of the Douglass School have made it known, their teachers were among their greatest inspirations."

In fact, it was at a Riverview community meeting in October of 2009 where the idea to honor the Douglass teachers first surfaced.

"It was mentioned during one of the discussions that the community would really like to see some kind of honor bestowed upon the teachers at Douglass, and for that to be incorporated into the renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center somehow," Macdonald says. "When we came away with all these ideas, that one stood out, and at the time, we had no idea how to make that suggestion come true. We couldn't figure out a way to put idea to paper."

"We never forgot about it, though."

The "Sons and Daughters of Douglass," a.k.a. the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport was helpful in the project. The organization gathered the names of all the teachers, put them in order, and provided that to the arts council.

"Any teacher hired by the city, has to be approved by the (Kingsport) Board of Education," says webmaster Calvin Sneed, "and that notation is included in the minutes of every board meeting. I spent a day going through board meeting minutes from 1928 on, and reading where a teacher was hired to teach at the Douglass School. I made copies of the notation, and cross-referenced that with Douglass school annuals, to make sure everybody got included."

Once that job was complete and the names provided to the Arts Council, the next phase of the project began. Kingsport's Public Art Committee had placed several steel and metal sculptures around town, but sculptor John Robinson at Appalachian Ironworks had been racking his brain trying to come up with something visual to memorialize the Douglass teachers all in one group.

"A moment of inspiration came to John," Macdonald says, "when he was looking through one of his resource books and saw another project that had memorialized names and he remembered how they did that. From that, grew the idea for a bench, a steel bench with the teachers' names etched into the back that people lean against. His feeling was, if there was reflective metal behind the names, they'd stand out, and the idea that former students could still lean on their former teachers for 'support' for many more years to come."

"What resulted, came from two months of planning, after tons of research."

The bench was made by Robinson at Appalachian Ironworks for $8,000, which included the design, the metallic shine behind the lettering, the interfacing and the actual steel. It is a 15-foot diameter semi-circular bench of powder-coated steel, permanently installed into a concrete foundation. It was mounted on steel beams and metal poles set into the base, in the courtyard just outside the door of the Douglass Community Room at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex. The money to build the bench came from a portion of the funds allocated from the program "Percent For Art," associated with the Dobbins renovation. Kingsport has a city ordinance that allows a small percentage of funds for a capital project to be set aside and used for art purposes.

Since it is curved into a semi-circle, if it were stretched out to its full length, the bench would measure just over 30 feet long. Robinson used the stencil-font method of etching the lettering into the steel. "It was a unique challenge to get that many letters embedded into the steel, to make sure the names could be read," he says. "It has a nice aesthetic appeal, that people will enjoy over time."

"From the funds provided by Percent for Art, the Public Art Committee was able to accomplish a functional need by providing a bench," Macdonald says, "that, not only you can sit on, but also view as a memorial to the spirit of the Douglass teachers."

People who see the bench will notice that two names of people who were not teachers, were still included on the bench.

"The criteria to be included on the bench, required the teacher to have a teaching certificate issued by the Tennessee Department of Education, and that's what we looked for in the old Board of Education minutes," Sneed says. "But we added the names of Coletta (Coty) Deering and Dorothy Bradley, two of the Douglass School's beloved secretaries. Although not teachers in the sense that they were certified, those two staff members were the backbone in the operation of the school, serving as Professor (V.O.) Dobbins' closest assistants in the performance of their jobs. Oddly enough, two previous secretaries, Jill Ellis and Joyce Long, did eventually earn their teaching certificates, taught at Douglass, and are included on the bench."

"In no way does this diminish the impact of other Douglass School employees on staff," Sneed says, "all of whom played important roles in maintaining school decorum and efficiency."

We discovered one more item that showed V.O. Dobbins, Sr.'s love for his school, and his willingness to go the extra mile for his teachers. In researching the names, it was determined that Mr. Dobbins had a knack for hiring teachers, who, at the time of their hire, were attempting to get their teacher certifications, but did not have the teaching certificates yet. This was evidenced by their inclusions in school annuals, but not alongside the other Douglass grade teachers. This was apparently his way of letting them "try out" teaching to see if they could do the job; if they could, he would recommend their full hire to the Board of Education.

"I'm pretty sure that is still being done today, Calvin," Macdonald says. "It sounds a lot like the Teach America program, where they take college graduates in the field of education, and allow them to teach, in order to get experience. Mr. Dobbins and others gave candidates the opportunity to see if they wanted to pursue teaching as a career.. that put them right in the classroom."

The Douglass Teachers Bench joins the Bridge Bench, a contemporary piece of sculpture in the V.O. Dobbins Complex courtyard right now.

"It's a unique concept where you can see on either side of what looks like a bridge, and we've landscaped it so there's a dry creek bed running through it, and on each side of the bridge, there's a bench. Metaphysically, if you sat on the bench on either side of the bridge, you'd be facing each other connected by a bridge. It speaks volumes of how there can be a link to understanding and how important it is, to keep those thoughts before the public to move forward."

One thing is for sure.. The Douglass Teacher Bench reflects on every instructor who labored behind the desk for the sake of students going into the biggest challenges of their lives.. the Civil Rights movement, gathering steam and moving forward.

"We knew we wanted to do (the bench) to honor the teachers at Douglass," says Macdonald. "It is indeed.. a work of love."

The Douglass Teachers Bench will be officially dedicated, at the Douglass Alumni Memorial Service on July 3rd at 3 PM.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Prayers are asked for our relative, classmate and neighbor Frank Horton, who is in Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, Tennessee.

DeeDee Horton tells us that he's doing much better, since he was admitted on Friday.

Please keep DeeDee and the Horton family in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Douglass School Online Store Grand Opening!

Time to show your school spirit. Please check the column to the left.

We have now opened the official Douglass School Apparel and Souvenir Store. It is an online store, and the majority of the profits go to your Douglass Alumni Association, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass, headquartered in our Riverview community in Kingsport.

We offer T-shirts, sweat shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, polo, golf shirts and other clothing for men, women, junior girls, boys and girls... to mugs, travel mugs, water bottles.. even stadium seats, blankets and scarves that you can show off at athletic events you attend. EVEN PAJAMA PANTS. Yes, pajama pants for women (I think men could wear them, too hehe!).

There is no limit to how much you can order, because each item is made when you order. All orders are shipped to U.S. post office addresses, and there is a small shipping fee. Expect your genuine Douglass School merchandise to arrive in 5 to 10 days.

We are working on including many items with our new official name: Sons and Daughters of Douglass. Those items should be in the School Store by Wednesday, May 18th. It's the ultimate way to show off your exclusive Douglass School spirit.

Order now, and strut your new stuff at the Reunion!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Finding Ability in Disability

Record-Holding Parathlete takes time to visit amputees in Haiti


Blake Leeper was born without legs from the knee down. He got his first set of prosthetics at 16 months old, but says he has never thought of himself as someone with a disability.
“My parents established a mind set within me that I was no different than anyone else and that I can do anything I want to do and, if I give it my all, I’m just as good as anybody else,” said the 21-year-old Kingsport native and 2007 Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate.

(Blake is the son of Billy and Edith Leeper of Church Hill, and the grandson of Clifford and Lillian Leeper of New Canton. He is also a Douglass-Riverview descendant--EDITOR).

And this mind set is what has helped lead Leeper right where he is today –– to Chula Vista, Calif., training for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Leeper has been in California since December 2010.
Leeper, who currently holds this year’s parathlete world record for the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.32 seconds, first discovered a passion for sports when he was only 4 or 5 years old.

“I have an older brother who is two years older than me. So, of course, everything he did, I had to do, and do it better,” Leeper said, laughing. “My dad always coached us growing up. Anything [Kris] decided to play or even thought about playing –– from rollerblading to basketball or baseball –– I wanted to do it, too, and I wanted to be just as good as him. I looked up to him and wanted to be on his level, but in the process this was making me a better person and a better athlete.”
Sports being his niche, there was no stopping this young man once he got to high school.

At Dobyns-Bennett, he played right field and second base on the baseball team as a sophomore. He commanded media attention by making the varsity basketball team — the nation’s winningest high school basketball program — as a senior. Leeper was selected to the seven-member Times-News Elite basketball team in 2006-07. However, Leeper’s interest in track and field didn’t begin until after his graduation from high school.

“I had played something all the way through high school. When I graduated and that was done, I still had this urge to play something, to compete. That’s when track and field came along for me,” he said.
But the major turning point for Leeper came when he discovered a special kind of prosthetic he calls “Cheetah Legs.” Cheetah Legs are manufactured by the prosthetic company, Ossur.

“I wear general prosthetic legs, known as walking legs. I can get them through insurance because they are declared a necessity. But there’s this special leg out there strictly for running. To actually get a hold of them, you have to get a sponsorship or somebody to invest in and buy the legs for you. [Sponsors or investors] hope you will do right by the legs and use them to the best of your ability,” he said.

Michael and Gilgia Prumbs of Kingsport’s Pro Balance and the Challenged Athletes Foundation helped Leeper land his first pair of Cheetah Legs two years ago. Today, Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics and Ossur are Leeper’s sponsors.
According to Ossur’s website, Cheetah Legs capture the running characteristics of the world’s fastest land animal –– the Cheetah –– and replicate the big cat’s hind legs with a foot that extends and reaches out to paw at the ground while the large thigh muscles pull the body forward.
“They say it takes about two years to really get used to the legs. The energy return on Cheetah Legs ... you get almost a 93, 94 percent energy return when you step down. There’s a lot of bouncing and a lot of energy every time you step. It’s like putting on springs. The first time I put them on I was able to run on them. I guess it was easier for me than for most people because I was so athletic in high school. This allowed me to adapt to the situation a little bit better. But it still took me a couple of months to really get used to them. After four months, though, I ran my first race in Oklahoma. This was when I made the Paralympic Team,” he said.

It was while in his fourth year in a five-year program in applied physics at the University of Tennessee that Leeper was presented this opportunity to move to California and train.
“My mom was upset. She wanted me to stay close to home and finish school, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not too many people are able to get into this program. They only take the lead athletes. If you can get in, you should take advantage of it,” he said.

The Paralympic Games were first organized in the late 1940s for injured World War II veterans returning home.
Today, the Paralympics are elite sport events for athletes with a disability, emphasizing the participants' athletic achievements rather than their disabilities.
The Paralympics have grown considerably since those early years. The number of athletes participating in Summer Paralympic Games has increased from 400 athletes from 23 countries in Rome in 1960 to almost 4,000 athletes from 146 countries in Beijing in 2008. The games are always held in the same year as the Olympic Games.
Leeper points out he is training side-by-side with the Olympic athletes also headed to London in 2012.
“Everybody’s here together. It’s a nice atmosphere to become a better athlete. The Paralympics are very, very competitive. Everything is the same as with the Olympics. We have medals and different countries competing. We have relay teams, 100 meters, block starts. Everything’s the same. That competition level is on a professional and elite level,” he said.
Leeper will be competing in the 100- and 200-meter races as well as the 4 x 100 relay in London.

Taking some time out of his busy training schedule earlier this year, Leeper spent a couple of days in Haiti visiting with and encouraging children who lost limbs in last year’s devastating earthquake. He went as a representative of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a foundation based in San Diego, Calif. that helps provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities, allowing them to pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.
The Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare established the joint “Healing Haiti’s Children” program, giving every child who lost a limb in the Haitian earthquake a two-year course of free prosthetics and physical therapy.
And together, Project Medishare, the Knights of Columbus, Ossur and the Challenged Athletes Foundation helped unveil a state-of-the-art Ossur International Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory in Port-au-Prince in March.

Leeper was there for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“There were a lot of amputees after the earthquake. We flew down there for a couple of days and helped them with their prosthetics. We started them off real slow at first, basically just walking, moving side to side. But by the end of the day, everybody was running up and down the field playing soccer. They were looking better than I was, and I’ve been wearing prosthetics all of my life,” he said.

Although Leeper says he went to Haiti, planning to offer inspiration to the earthquake victims, it was he who came away inspired.
“I had heard things, and I’ve seen all the stories and knew they really needed our help. It was crazy, but by the time I left, I felt so inspired, like they had helped me out. It led me to take a step back and look at my own life and see what’s really important and how good I’ve actually got it. They’ve experienced a lot down there, but their spirit has not been broken. This made me a stronger person,” Leeper said.
Looking ahead, Leeper is excited about his future.

“The sky’s the limit for me right now. I hope to get more active in the community of amputees. There are a lot of amputees in this world who are not being active, not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have the knowledge to,” he said. “I really just want to go around the world and show people that, ‘Hey, even though you’re missing a limb, you can still accomplish a lot of things in life!’ I feel like I have a message to give to everybody and whether one person gets it or 100 people get it, I just want to get my message out there. I want to tell people to find the ability in your disability.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Douglass Alumni Board Meeting Notice

Don't forget that the Sons and Daughters of Douglass will be meeting this Saturday, May 16th, at 1:00 p.m. on the second floor of the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex tower.

Everyone please try to bring something to snack on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

--President Douglas Releford

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Riverview Health Fair

Good day.. how's your health?

Many Riverview residents got the answer to that question at the Health Fair, held in the Riverview Community Room in the KHRA building at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex last Saturday, April 30.

To see pictures from the health fair, please click here. Thanks to Willie Hodges for these pictures.

Information available this year, included topics on Rural Health, Diabetes, Bi-polar, ADHD, dental care and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Local food expert Geri Harrison also helped people with information on healthy eating and food buying.

Several of the exhibitors also went through the community, visiting seniors and the sick and shut-in who could not come out to the event.

This was the 10th year for the Health Fair, sponsored by South Central Kingsport Community Development's Weed & Seed Office, the Health Ministry of Central Baptist and Shiloh Baptist Churches, and the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority (KHRA).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vote for Carolyn!

Just a reminder that there are only 5 days left to vote for Officer Carolyn Gudger in the America's Most Wanted All-Star Competition.

Officer Gudger is one 8 finalists. She was nominated by a parent at Sullivan Central High School because of her heroic acts on the morning of August 30, 2010 after a gunman walked into the school. Officer Gudger was able to get the armed man away from others, potentially saving a number of lives.

You can vote once a day, everyday through May 8th, by going to the America's Most Wanted All-Star website here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Prayer Breakfast

KINGSPORT – This year’s annual Kingsport Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast will be on Wednesday, May 4th at MeadowView Conference Center. The program will include various local individuals leading invocations for different areas of the community along with scriptures readings. The program will feature music from the Dobyns-Bennett Band and Kingsport’s own Carla Karst.

“Once again, I am honored to host this breakfast where our community can come together for a time of fellowship and prayer as we work to meet the challenges presented to us each day and also for a time of celebration of the freedoms available to us as Americans.” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “With all of the great events taking place in our community on the Day of Prayer, the steering committee felt that having this event on the day before would allow folks to attend those other outstanding events. Let me thank the steering committee who has worked hard to ensure a great event this year, I thank them deeply for their outstanding efforts to build a stronger Kingsport”

The breakfast serving line, featuring gravy and biscuits, sausage patties, eggs, coffee and tea, will begin at 6:45 am with musical entertainment beginning at 7:00 am and the program starting at 7:20 am.