By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Highlighting the news in the second half of 2019 were the induction of three current or former Atmore residents into various halls of fame, positive and not-so-positive news from local schools, and the continuing progress of an effort to revitalize Atmore’s downtown.
New Hall members
Gary Fayard, a 1970 graduate of Escambia County High School who went on to serve as chief financial officer and executive vice president of Coca Cola Company, was inducted into the University of Alabama Business Hall of Fame. Fayard is the son of the late Elam Fayard and Sarah Fayard.
Lasheka D. Williams, daughter of Theodis and Brenda Williams of Atmore and a 2005 graduate of ECHS, where she was a cheerleader and played softball and basketball, was inducted into the Miles College Sports Hall of Fame. Williams, who played numerous positions for the Miles softball team, helped lead the team to the Southern Intercollegiate Arthletic Conference title in 2009.
Woody McCorvey, who spent his childhood in Atmore and currently serves as associate athletics director for football administration at Clemson University, was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. McCorvey was the first black man to serve as offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama football team.
The biggest news concerning schools within Atmore came when Rachel Patterson Elementary School was chosen as one of 21 Bicentennial Schools of Excellence.
The school and its Pandas for Pets program, which provided aid to the local animal shelter, were honored during a ceremony in the state capital.
On the negative side, Escambia County High School was for the third year in a row included among the state’s “failing schools” list. Principal Dennis Fuqua pointed out that the school was showing progress and pointed out that the test on which the designation is based had been declared invalid by federal and state education officials.
The local school community was shaken a bit as the year came to an end, as Fuqua resigned after seven years at the local school to accept a position as campus director at Coastal Alabama Community College’s Brewton campus, a school Fuqua attended when it was known as Jefferson Davis Community College.
Another positive note came when 128 Atmore voters went to the polls to extend a 5-mil property tax that is used to help pay the salaries of several local school teachers and administrators.
The effort to revitalize downtown Atmore got three big boosts — two of them financial — during the second half of 2019.
The firsrt financial boost came when United Bank Community Development donated $100,000 to be used in the restoration of the Strand Theatre, the lynchpin of the revitalization effort. Later, Gulf Winds Credit Union donated $25,000 to the same project, prompting other local businesses to commit to similar or larger donations in 2020.
The other boost came when the Alabama Historic Commission approved the proposed downtown historic district, opening the door to the availability of federal and state grants.
In other local news during the second six months of 2019:
*The effort to determine the feasibility of forming a city school system hit a stone wall when it was discovered in early August that none of the data needed for the feasibility study had been provided. City of Atmore officials finally sent the data requested of them, but a failure by county school officials and the county’s tax assessor to do likewise led to the December 30 filing of a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department.
*Jerry Sanchez Jr., 30, of Poarch won his division’s national championship in the Golf Channel National Amateur Tournament.
*The threat of severe weather, including strong winds and thunderstorms, forced cancellation of the community’s Williams Station Day celebration, the first cancellation in the history of the event.
*Joe “Cowboy” Hall, a noted community volunteer, died September 24.
*First-term District 5 County Commissioner Karean Reynolds was elected chairman of the county’s governing body.
*Three-year-old Ricky Lyons III was killed in a tragic accident at a local daycare center.
*The Fort Mims Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the Revolution named its Good Citizen Award winners: Escambia Academy’s Gaines Douglas Joel Tanner; Escambia County High’s Brenna Liana Watson, and Flomaton High’s Mattie Diane White.
*Local singer Ricky Crook’s second single, “My Old Flames,” was released.
*Emma Joan Fillingim, 87, was killed in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Wilson Avenue.
*Victoria Skye DeSilvey, 28, succumbed to injuries she received in a July 18 car crash on Booneville Road.
*Atmore resident Roderick “Thumper” Watkins Jr. was ambushed and killed as he arrived at his Jimbos Road home in September. Another Atmore man, 23-year-old Anthony Jerome English, was arrested a week later and charged with the murder.
*Brianca Lee (ECHS), Kyla Lee (EA), Cloe Smith (Northview High) and Kenzi Sirmon (J.U. Blacksher) were elected homecoming queens at their respective schools.
*Poems written by Escambia County Middle School students Jayla Wilson and Alondrea Bayne were chosen for publication in the 2019-20 edition of the National Scholar Society’s Award-Winning Young Writers of America.
*The end of Willie D. Grissett’s tenure as a member of the county school board, for which he had served the past nine years as chair, became evident when the lack of a local Democratic Party office led to the failure by the veteran educator to pay his qualifying fee on time.
*The Circle K convenience store was robbed December 4. Thomas Darrelle McNeal, 25, of Atmore was later charged with the crime.
*A space heater left unattended and too close to furniture sparked a fire that gutted a Brooks Lane home.