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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Updates to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Reunion


Updates to the Reunion for the Sons and Daughters of Douglass on Friday June 30th, Saturday July 1st and Sunday July 2nd:

Questions have come up about reserving rooms.. although you're free to book hotel reservations with any hotel of your choosing, the new Fairfield Hotel at 2485 South Wilcox Drive, Kingsport, Tennessee 37660 is the hotel that the Douglass Board has special price accommodations worked out.. BUT...

You're not able to book reservations under the special rate just yet.  You cannot reserve a room until May 15th, according to the hotel's agreement with us.  You also have to use this special code to get the special rate:

S & D 301

Use that code when you make your reservation on May 15th or after at the Fairfield Hotel.  Again, you are free to reserve rooms anywhere you like, but the special rate will be at the new Fairfield Hotel in Kingsport.

We have compiled excellent food menus for the Alumni Saturday afternoon gathering, the Alumni Banquet that night, and have assembled tentative speakers for the Saturday night banquet in the Douglass Community Room at V.O. Dobbins, and also the Sunday afternoon Memorial Service at the Central Baptist Church.

At your earliest convenience, please let us know that you'll be attending the Reunion, so that we we can get an accurate count for food, accommodations and attendance.  Just drop us an email at, or let us know when you send your $50.00 alumni dues to:

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Inc.

301 Louis Street, Ste. 304

Kingsport, Tennessee 37660

More information will be forthcoming as necessary.


We've been getting quite a number of inquiries about the new Bristol casino, located in what used to be the Bristol Mall on the Gate City Highway in Bristol, VA.  You are also free to visit there on your own as additional activity, but we have no connection to the casino.  The website to click on, or copy and paste is:

Also, the New Vision Youth is holding a Fish Fry fundraiser on Friday, June 30th, 2023 to raise money for a transportation van to take the members to various activities.  The fundraiser will be at the Riverview Community Room on Wheatley Street beside the Pickle Ball Courts at 2 PM.  Fish sandwiches and fish dinners (fish, soup beans or baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, dessert and bottled water or sodas) will be available.  Proceeds go to the fund for New Vision Youth van transportation.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Black History is Personal for Many of Us: Virgelia "Jill" Ellis, a.k.a. "Mama Jill"


Article by Jeff Fleming, courtesy the Kingsport Times-News for Black History Month, 2023

Virgelia “Jill” Ellis was a Kingsport treasure.

She freely shared her life stories of growing up in times that are hard for us to imagine and uncomfortable to discuss. A time of segregation and the struggle for civil rights. She was kind, optimistic and focused on leaving a better world for future generations. And she did. Her smile and the brightness in her eyes always drew a similar response from all she met. She was the personification of God’s grace — freely given and totally undeserved.

Her stories were authentic, important and priceless. She always spoke so matter-of-factly. This is the way it was. And this is what we did. She channeled her energy into improving herself and those who knew her. She didn’t dwell on the things that divide us, she focused on our shared humanity and the common struggles we all face in trying to find our way in this world. She made life better one person and one life at a time.

I am one of those lives. I was her student. She was my counselor. And I take her life lessons with me every day. She lives on in the hundreds and hundreds of people she influenced.

She was the last living connection to the founding fathers of 1917. Neither John B. Dennis nor J. Fred Johnson had children or descendants. Kingsport was their legacy. And she was their self-described “little girl” and only child living in Rotherwood Mansion during modern Kingsport’s formative years.

As my mama used to say, “Oh to go back in time and be a fly on the wall.” She was an eyewitness to history. And thankfully she shared her memories and passed along her stories to the community and her family.

She recalled daily life in Rotherwood Mansion as the hub of development in early Kingsport. She observed the steady stream of visiting investors who were being recruited to build this city of industry. She recalled her father walking into the room, announcing “Mr. Dennis, New York calling.”

She remembered the fine, horse-drawn hunting carriage that her dad brought out for special guests — including George Eastman.

While she lived in Rotherwood Mansion among Kingsport’s elite, she attended the segregated Douglass school. Her dad drove her to school in Rotherwood’s limousine. She would get out of the car with a big bow in her hair — and as you might expect, the kids would tease her because she was different. She was caught between two worlds.

And each evening she would return to the mansion.

She shared that John B. Dennis would save up his pocket change and give it to her when he returned to Oyster Bay, New York, each year. Yes, the same Oyster Bay as President Theodore Roosevelt.

That pocket change later paid her tuition at boarding school after her father passed and could no longer drive her to Kingsport for school.

She recalled John B. Dennis’ library and his insatiable appetite for books and knowledge — geography, literature and science. He admonished her, “Read! Read!” So she did.

And she began a lifelong thirst for knowledge that led to a college education and a distinguished career. She taught at Douglass and moved with integration. Of all the many distinguished teachers that ever taught in the history of Kingsport City Schools, she was in the inaugural Hall of Fame. It was no contest.

She often spoke of her first encounter with God at Rotherwood. It came in the form of an echo. She found a spot in the courtyard and yelled, “Hello, I love you” and she heard an echo come back, “I love you.” She told her mama she talked to God, and He answered. It was an experience so vivid she remembered it the rest of her life. She said there are forces in play all around us every day that we don’t comprehend and can’t explain. They’re bigger than us. That’s why it’s called faith. It’s about believing something we cannot prove.

One thing’s for sure — an echo is a reflection. You get back what you give.

And Mrs. Ellis’ echoes are truly timeless because the children of the children of the children that she influenced will make it so.

In 2019, Jeff Fleming retired as Kingsport city manager after 35 years of service. He is a board member of the Kingsport Friends of the Archives.

Coincidentally, your Douglass-Riverview historian and website administrator, Calvin Sneed, is also a board member of Kingsport Friends of the Archives, in fact he came up with the motto for the organization, "Where History Lives."  He is also on the committee to establish a Douglass-Riverview Historical and Cultural Museum.


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Remembrance Service for Scottie Lee Maxwell


Visitation for Scottie Lee Maxwell is Friday, March 10, 2023 at the Clark Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service, Inc.

The address is 802-806 East Sevier Avenue in Kingsport, TN.

The time for visitation will be from 2 PM to 3 PM.

The Memorial Service will begin at 3 PM also on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

William Rayburn Leeper remembrance


William Rayburn Leeper

December 7, 1945 — March 6, 2023

Lebanon, Virginia

Lebanon, VA – William Rayburn Leeper, age 77, went to be with the Lord on Monday, March 6, 2023. 

Born December 7, 1945, he was the son of the late Ray Leeper and Mary Blair Leeper.

He was retired from Eastman Chemical Company. He wrote articles for the Kingsport Times-News, was very interested in electronics and had wonderful handwriting. 

He was a member of Fairview Baptist Church and he was an Associate Minister and past pastor of Beech Hill Baptist Church, Pennington Gap, VA. He was a past President of Sunday School of Schaffer Baptist Association, past Pastor of the  Emmanuel Baptist Church of Lebanon, VA. He was also a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his: biological father: W.P. Reece.
He is survived by his wife of thirty-six years: Jessie Burrell Leeper;  two daughters: Maia Whitaker and Melissa Adams and husband Vincent;  six sisters: Debra Gray and husband Bruce, Dia Smith, Jean Ann Moore and husband Terry, Donna Charles, DeAnna Pelant, Carolyn Butler and husband Maurice;  brother: Ray Leeper;  special grandson: Edward Walters and wife Teresa;  along with a multitude of grandchildren; great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins;  sisters-in-law: Jenny Mabry (Emmanuel), Jackie Booher (Carl), Wanda Washington (Danny), Viola Hockaday, Neomia Smith, Connie Hayes (Roy), Yvonne Richardson; brother-in-law: Benjamin Burrell.
A special thanks to the staff of The Waters of Bristol Rehabilitation and Nursing Center;  his caretaker Hope Stevens;  all the people from Hospice;  Dr. Boccarossa;  special friends Pastor Jeff Tallent and Craig Raderavek, and friend, Doug.
Funeral services will be held 1:00 p.m. Monday, March 13, 2023 at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Lebanon, VA with Pastor Danny Belcher and Rev. Jacqui Booher officiating. 

The family will receive friends from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. prior to the service. 

A committal service will be conducted at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in the Mountain Home National Cemetery, 53 Memorial Avenue, Mountain Home, TN. 

Everyone wishing to attend is asked to meet at the funeral home by 9:15 a.m.
Military honors will be provided by DAV Veterans Honor Guard of Bluff City, TN.
The family respectfully requests that anyone attending the services to please wear a mask.
Expressions of sympathy may be made on Combs-Hess Funeral Service Facebook page and our website at Combs-Hess Funeral Service, 291 Highway 71 Fincastle Road, Lebanon, VA 24266, (276) 889-4444 is serving the Leeper family.

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board meeting this Saturday


The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association will have its monthly meeting this coming Saturday, March 11, 2023.

The meeting will be held in the Eastman Room, 2nd Floor of the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex, 301 Louis Street, Kingsport.

The meeting begins at 1 PM.  As the front door to the complex has to be locked after hours (city Parks and Rec requirement), please call 423-847-5139 for admittance).

Please come and bring a friend.  We'll be discussing several upcoming projects, including our exciting School Reunion at the end of June-early July.  We need your ideas, input and participation.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Jerry Randall Horton remembrance


Jerry Randall Horton was born in Kingsport, Tennessee on April 20, 1940, to Inez Horton and Edward Gillenwater.  Jerry moved to Bristol and joined the Lee Street Baptist Church as a WatchCare member, where he stayed until the time of his death.  He departed this life on April 26 at Life Care Center of Grey after a short illness.

He is preceded in death by his mother, Inez Horton; father, Edward Gillenwater; his wife of 30 years, Charmie Horton; sister, Florence Price; and his four-legged kids, Tiki and Shadow.

He leaves to mourn his passing his son, Victor McMiller (Stunnie) of Nashville;  two step-daughters, Sylvia Cochran of New Orleans, LA, and Wanda Yett of Atlanta, GA;  one granddaughter, Charla Yett of Atlanta GA;  two great-grandchildren, Courtney Harris and John James Yett, both of Atlanta;  seven great-great-grandchildren, Nazir, Brandon, Braden, Olivia, Chyna Lee, Chosen, and Cheris;  four brothers, Nelson Ross (Caroline) of Kingsport, TN, Larry Gillenwater (Hazel) of Johnson City, Jeffery McKinney, and Sean Beatty both of Kingsport, TN;  three sisters, Yvonne Williams (Daniel), Beverly Barnett and Tracy McKinney of Kingsport, TN;  nieces, Melissa Logan (Jimmy) of Kingsport, TN, and Teresa Brown (Thomas) of Bristol;  nephew, Bradley Carter (Michele);  great nieces, Brianne Rhoton and Jalyn Carter;  and great-great-niece, Jhavia Livingston.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Talmon Lafayette Lee remembrance


Talmon Lafayette Lee, 71, entered eternal peace at 11:11 pm, Thursday, February 23, 2023. Lafayette was born May 12, 1951, to the late John Robert Lee and Grace Jane "Jackie" Snoddy Lee.

Talmon was preceded in death by his brother, William Archie Lee; nephew, Anthony Fields Lee;  grandparents, Talmon A. Snoddy and Clara Belle Mooney Snoddy of Warrensburg, Tennessee and Greeneville, Tennessee.

He is survived by his son, Talmon Lafayette lee II of Kingsport, TN; granddaughter, Mazlin Z. Pitts of Kingsport, TN; siblings, John Robert Lee of Kingsport, TN, Martha Valerie Lee of Greeneville, TN, James Edward Lee of Johnson City, TN, and Carmella Reene Lee of Johnson City, TN;  nieces, Kai Ripley Black of Johnson City, TN, Ryesha Hardy of Greeneville, TN, Briana Story of Kingsport, TN, Alexis Lee of Greeneville, TN;  special adopted niece, Jocelean Parks of Atlanta, GA;  nephews, Lafayette Leeodis Lee of Johnson City, TN, Trey Ryan of Johnson City, TN, Caleb Ryan of Johnson City, TN, "Little" James Skaggs of Kingsport, TN, and Deondre Melson of Johnson City, TN;   special adopted nephew, Dion "Murdock/Dinky" Russell of Elizabethton, TN;  a host of special nieces and nephews and relatives traveling from Georgia;  and special mentions his great nieces and great nephew, Alexis Lee, Neria Metcalf, and Josiah Luvene.

Scottie Lee Maxwell remembrance


Scottie Lee Maxwell was born on May 27, 1954 in Kingsport, TN to the late Mildred and Henry Maxwell.
Scottie was a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, TN in 1973.  He was a skilled mechanic specializing in large trucks and over the road equipment. He worked for the Kingsport City Garage maintaining their fleet of vehicles. Scottie enjoyed working on cars and even owned his own business. He eventually became an over the road truck driver transporting goods and materials with his chihuahua sidekick “Bubbie” never far from his side. They traveled many miles together over the years; Bubbie brought him comfort and companionship.
Scottie had a sharp wit and dry sense of humor which kept you on your toes but always left you smiling or laughing. His huge smile was infectious and he never met a stranger. He was a history buff and spent time researching the Maxwell/Norman family history. He loved flying and had logged several hours toward becoming a pilot of small engine planes. Scottie lived in several states during his travels including Nevada, Georgia, and Florida but was grateful to be back home in Tennessee near family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Viola and William Norman; sister, Patricia Maxwell Span; brothers, Charles Fred Maxwell and James “Bo Pete” Maxwell; aunt, Marie Norman Erwin; uncle, Edward “June” Norman; nieces, Mariah Maxwell and Jeannine Norman; and nephew, Rendell Early.
Scottie leaves to cherish his memory, daughter, Erica Beard Campbell of Columbia, SC; son, Scottie Lorenzo Maxwell of Greenville, TN; two brothers, William “Scooter” Maxwell, Sr. of Kingsport, TN, and Charles “Dee Dee” Maxwell of Kingsport, TN; four sisters, Elizabeth Maxwell Wood (James) of Gate City, VA, Linda Wise of Kingsport, TN, Argretta Maxwell Simon of Smyrna, TN, and Angela Maxwell Squires (Thomas) of Cincinnati, OH; numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins; and a host of friends and loved ones encountered during his various travels across many states.