Headlines News

Looking back, Part 1

Plenty of good news across community during 2022

News Staff Writer

A comprehensive look at the top local news stories of 2022 reveals that Atmore and the surrounding area, like almost every other small town in America, had its share of bad news. But there was an overwhelming amount of good news that occurred within the community and was reported in Atmore News.
A concerted economic development plan continued with the opening of the massive Coastal Growers peanut processing plant (a reported $90 million investment), and of Atmore Urgent Care, a $5 million facility that is the first step in building a new medical-care community near Interstate 65.
The long-anticipated rehab of the Strand Theatre and Atmore Hardware buildings is expected to be completed in February, and City of Atmore officials await the results of a city audit to implement a $2.6 million, 21-street paving project.
A $50,000 grant awarded by T-Mobile to American Legion Post 90 helped develop a greenspace to make downtown more attractive, and an empty lot was transformed into a parking lot-entertainment venue at the corner of Trammell and Ridgeley streets.
Announced projects that remained either on hold or on the drawing board at the end of the year include Papa John’s Pizza, an announced National Guard unit for the Atmore armory, a micro-motel to be built behind Taco Bell, a new fieldhouse for Escambia County High School (ECHS) and the Pine Barren Watershed project.
Honors and Milestones
Several locals were honored by various organizations or reached milestones in their lives during the year nearly done. Among them:
*Ann Gordon and Mal McGhee were inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
*Dr. Hank Lee was selected Veterinarian of the Year by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.
*The late Broox Gray Garrett Sr. was inducted into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame.
*Local business owner Tracy Nelson and her roping partner Kaylee Billingsley just missed winning a world title in the team roping competition at the Women’s Rodeo World Championships.
*Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anna Ellis was presented with a Chamber Champion Award by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.
*The Cornelia Elmore Library Memorial was dedicated on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in honor of the late, noted local librarian. Local businessman James O’Neil was the driving force behind the project.
*Main Street Atmore was presented an Award of Excellence by Main Street Alabama.
*On the local Sports scene, ECHS’s basketball team fought its way into the state Class 4A basketball championship contest for the first time; Caeden Battles set a new basketball scoring record at Atmore Christian School; and Escambia Academy (EA) quarterback Landon Sims was the Alabama Independent School Association Back of the Year for 2021.
Changing of the Guard
*Pastor Monroe Tucker retired after 38 years at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Church elders chose Charles Johnson to replace him.
*Vickie James retired after 43 years at West Escambia Utilities.
*Ricky Martin retired after a 38-year career with Alabama Power Co., including the last 11 as manager of the Atmore office.
*Kike Pettaway became ECHS’s new principal; Forrest Jones took over as principal at Escambia County Middle School (ECMS); and Vincent Harris was hired as the new ECHS football coach and athletic director. At EA, Susan “Susie” Kirk replaced Hugh Fountain as headmaster, and Jerome Webster was named the school’s new boys basketball coach.
With COVID seemingly at bay, locals and visitors turned out in droves for community events in 2022.
This year’s Twilight Christmas Parade reportedly set records for most entries (110) and largest crowd (estimated at 11,000), and the return of the Poarch Creek Indians Thanksgiving Pow Wow brought an estimated 15,000 people to the reservation.
The two staples of Atmore’s events calendar — Mayfest and Williams Station Day — drew large crowds, as did Taste of the South, and the annual Myrna’s Salad Luncheon fundraiser also drew a record number of diners.
Two noted groups held conferences or conventions in Atmore this year. Alabama Lions held its 97th State Convention, a four-day affair, in the city, and several dozen U.S. Army officers spent a week here during the Station Commanders Quarterly Leadership Development Training Conference.
Other good news
*ECHS basketball standout Sheldon Williams became the third member of his family to sign a scholarship and begin his collegiate hoops career at Coastal Alabama Community College.
*Rachel Patterson Elementary School (RPES) formed its first STEM Honor Society with 18 charter members.
*County public school officials implemented the Alabama First Class K4 program in the former A.C. Moore Elementary building.
*State Sen. Greg Albritton of Atmore donated $8,000 to each of the county’s public high schools, including ECHS, from community grant funds.
Next week: A look at news that drew attention to the problems still facing the community, as well as the tragedies and near tragedies that occurred during 2022.