A beautiful, sunny day in Jackson was marked with sadness on Friday as the lives of two 16-year-old Jackson Academy students were memorialized at First Baptist Church. Jake Anderson and Nathan Johnson were killed in an automobile accident on Aug. 21 and the community remains shocked by the tragic loss.
The community’s response to tragedy was immediate and overwhelming. Local churches came together to provide a meal for the friends of the boys at Jackson First United Methodist Church. Both independent and public schools throughout the state flooded social media with messages of support and hope for the Jackson Academy family and the immediate families of Anderson and Johnson. Rivalries are not an issue when people are hurting.
Throughout the city on Friday, thoughtful gestures were displayed to show encouragement for mourners. The flag at Gilmore Elementary School stayed at half-mast during the week. JHS students painted a banner that read, “Aggie Nation stands with JA.” The sign at Jackson Middle School read, “Praying for JA” and the school made their parking lot available for those who were attending the funeral services.
JHS students painted a banner and hung it on JA’s campus.
The scheduled football games were played as scheduled on Friday evening, but the sorrow the community had experienced was not forgotten. Prior to kickoff at the JHS and Leroy football game, a moment of silence was observed in honor of the families, red and black support ribbons were painted in each end zone. The Jackson Academy Eagles took the field in silence to observe the memory of their schoolmates.
At the city council meeting on Aug. 21, Councilwoman Audra Raybon called the loss “a tragic event” and stated that “It does your heart good to see everybody come together as a community. I’m sorry it was over such a sad event.” Mayor South offered words of condolence saying that his prayers were with the families of the young men and also with the first responders who proved their dependability once again in a time of need.
JMS requests prayers for their neighbors.
Author Wendell C. Perry wrote, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for others, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
While the community is still reeling from the tragedy, hope shines bright in the knowledge that we have united ourselves to support those who need it.
Front Porch Chats
By: Shannon Courington
In the middle of what is usually a boisterous, lively week in Jackson and Leroy, there is silence. Instead of talking about the upcoming start to the 2018 high school football season, the community is mourning a deep loss. No one seems to be interested in the Battle of the Tombigbee this week, although it is supposed to kick off in mere hours. Jackson Academy was slated to travel to Linden to take on the Marengo Longhorns, but right now no one’s thoughts are on the games.
Instead, our thoughts are with the families of two 16-year-old boys who were killed tragically while traveling a road familiar to them on Tuesday afternoon. The mothers to these boys have each taught our children. The boys themselves had achieved high honors in their classes at Jackson Academy and had been recognized for having the highest averages in various subjects. In a small community, we each have a connection somehow to the families affected by tragedy.
The support and love shown in the hours since the terrible accident has been remarkable. Jackson Academy students gathered at the school Tuesday evening to comfort one another, to grieve together and to pray corporately for the families of their classmates and friends. They were joined by their teachers, their parents, alumni and concerned members of the community who are not affiliated at all with Jackson Academy.
“You just never know,” we say this so often. It’s our go-to phrase when we don’t have the words to express the shock and horror over an unexpected loss such as this one or an unforeseen diagnosis. No, we truly never know when heartbreak may strike us, our children or our extended families, but we have learned through the years in this community, that when tragedy comes, no one is alone.
Small communities are often looked down upon because everyone seems to know everything about everybody else. On an ordinary day, this “awareness” can be annoying. However, when there is hurt in the community, we appreciate the prayers, the encouraging words and the acts of kindness. We also are keenly reminded of the importance of first responders. We are reminded that our firemen volunteer their time in order to keep our communities safe; that policemen and deputies are critical members of the community, that EMTs have an enormous amount of responsibility. We are also reminded that at the end of the day, they go home to invest in their own families after saving members of ours.
There are not adequate words to communicate the magnitude of the losses that families in our area are experiencing right now. May we all confront the tragedy with courage and meet the needs of the ones who are hurting. May we live intentionally, making an effort to offer a simple “hello” or a smile to a stranger. Pick up the phone. Make an actual phone call to an old friend or to a neighbor that you’ve been too busy to catch up with. Let’s evaluate our busyness and prioritize our lives. Let’s attempt to live less out of habit and more out of intent.
Let’s reach out to those who are hurting with our prayers, our words and our actions every day, not just on days that force us to reckon with loss.
A beautiful collection of glassware and china adorns the Betty Scott Room in the Washington County Museum in Chatom. This room houses a permanent collection and the shelves and lighting in it were provided by the husband and daughter of the room’s namesake, Betty Scott, a woman who collected many beautiful things throughout lifetime.
Known to her friends as “Betty,” Amanda Elizabeth Conerly Scott lived an extraordinary life. She was one of five daughters born to Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Conerly of Jackson. She was born April 1, 1917.
As a young adult in the era of the Great Depression, Betty learned the value of both hard work and education. Her mother was widowed when Betty was a teen, but managed to see all five of her daughters become successful. Betty was one of three attorneys among the sisters. The other two Conerly sisters saw success in the medical field as a physician and a pharmacist.
An alumnae of Jackson High School, Betty chose to attend Montevallo College (now the University of Montevallo) and later transferred to the University of Alabama. She graduated with her law degree in 1939 and returned to Clarke County to begin her career. She was hired by the Grove Hill law firm of Adams and Gilmore as a law clerk, but better career opportunities emerged across the river. In 1940, she accepted the appointment of official court reporter in Washington County. It was in the old Washington County courthouse that she met attorney Howard Gordon Scott. The couple married in January 1941.
Betty and Howard Scott
Scott held the appointment of court reporter until the birth of the Scotts’ only child, Julia. After Julia’s birth, Scott worked part-time as an executive secretary for Chatom attorney James Granade Sr. Otherwise, she devoted her life to serving her family and community.
The Red Cross Blood Program for Washington County was a favorite among the many charities that Scott supported. She served as chairman of the program and under her leadership, the program always met the quota. Her involvement with the Red Cross on the local level afforded her the opportunity to serve on the advisory staff of the American Red Cross for Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. She continued this activity until her diagnosis with lymphoma in 1969.
Betty Scott gave her home to the town of Chatom. It is the setting for wedding receptions, parties, showers, meetings, luncheons and other small gatherings on a regular basis.
Dropped DAR membership
Another organization that Scott was involved in was the Daughters of the American Revolution. Scott was immensely proud of her heritage, tracing it back to the beginning of the nation. However, when the DAR organization refused to allow African-American opera star, Marion Anderson to perform at DAR Constitution Hall in 1939, Scott renounced her membership in the organization.
Betty Scott had many friends and was not discriminate to others based on race. In fact, two of Scott’s best friends were African-American. Lular Taylor and Ceola Jordan were such close friends to Scott that they were asked to sit with her family during her funeral services. Beautiful friendships among both black women and white women were of utmost importance to Scott.
‘Champions of reading and literacy’
Literacy was among the beautiful things that Scott and her husband believed to be of extreme importance. They were instrumental in the founding and sustainment of the Washington County Public Library. The library was originally located in a one room space at Washington County High School. However, Howard Scott rallied for library funding on local and state levels. Eventually, the library was able to move to a much larger space at Chatom City Hall. The Scotts are described as “champions of reading and literacy for people of all ages” by the Washington County Hall of Fame, to which both were inducted in 2014.
During her brief 56 years, Scott saw many changes. A youth during the Depression, a young wife during World War II, and an activist during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, she was well versed in how to handle change and adversity with class and decorum.
As Washington County schools became integrated, Scott was asked to serve as director of Title I. According to Scott’s obituary, this was due to her “ability to get along with the people and with full cooperation of all the educators in both races.” Scott was credited with the successful integration of the Washington County School System with no violent incidences noted.
Died in 1973
In 1969, Scott was diagnosed with lymphoma. She had surgery and was treated for this condition until her death at Washington County Hospital in 1973. Family records indicate that she was treated with “cobalt and chemicals” which is now referred to as chemotherapy.
While her illness was debilitating, Scott continued her pursuit of the beautiful things in life. For years, she had collected paintings, rare glassware, unique dishes and extraordinary antique furnishings. Throughout her life, she gifted many of these things, along with her favorite flower, the African violet, to her friends. Her organization of the Chatom Federated Garden Club provided her the opportunity to share her knowledge of gardening while visiting with other women.
Gave collection and home to WashCo
As she became more aware of her progressing illness, Scott prepared her will. In it, she expressed the hope that her vast collection of paintings, glassware and china would be made available on a loan basis to the Washington County Museum with any required funds to be furnished by her husband and daughter.
This is how the unique Betty Scott Room came to be. Its lighted glass shelves are filled with rare Depression era glassware, Limoges porcelain, Wedgewood and Lenox china and Waterford crystal. Beautiful items collected by one who saw beauty in every situation fill the space.
Scott willed the couple’s home to the town of Chatom with the understanding that her husband and daughter would use the home throughout their lives.
The Scott House is the setting for wedding receptions, parties, showers, meetings, luncheons and other small gatherings on a regular basis.
Surely Betty Scott would be thrilled with the celebrations that fill the home that she once filled with friends and beauty.
Legacy lives on
Though her life was shortened by cancer more than four decades ago, the legacy of Amanda Elizabeth Conerly Scott lives on through the contributions she made to law, education, integration, literacy and fellowship in Washington County.
American interior designer Elsie de Wolfe is quoted as saying, “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful— that will be my life.” It’s not known if de Wolfe achieved this goal, but Betty Scott certainly did.
Her collection can be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Washington County Museum on the basement level of the courthouse in Chatom.
The past two months have been a whirlwind for Pastor Ben Posey and his wife, Tori. They have moved across the state, traveled around the world, adopted a son and gained a new family of faith at First Baptist Church of Leroy.
Posey, a native of Gordo, a small Pickens County town, is a graduate of the University of Mobile and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The family moved from Kinston where Ben served as pastor at First Baptist Church.
The couple has four children, Gabe, 9, Asher, 6, and Kristian and Asher, both 2 1/2 years old, but most definitely not twins. Kristian joined the family through adoption in early June. He is from China, but is learning English quickly with the help of his siblings.
Posey served as youth minister at Thomasville Baptist Church between his college and seminary years and says that he is excited to be back in southwest Alabama. Within weeks of accepting the call to come to FBC Leroy, the Poseys were bound for China to meet Kristian and bring him home. “Our parents unpacked our house while we were in China,” Posey laughed. The Poseys’ oldest son, Gabe, accompanied his parents on the China trip.
The pastor says that he and his family felt at home in Leroy almost immediately and that the support from the church staff and congregation is both tremendous and humbling. When asked what he would like the community to know about First Baptist Leroy, Posey answered, “First Baptist Leroy is a generous church. It is a loving church, a caring church. It’s a serving church. The people are very welcoming and they want to see God glorified. What God has accomplished here so far is a testament to the faithfulness of the people here through the years and their commitment to prayer, to giving and to missions.”
Mid-week services take place on Wednesday evenings at 6. The entire congregation meets at appointed places on the church campus each Wednesday. In previous years, various groups of adults have met on a revolving Wednesday night schedule, but recently the church has gone back to a traditional Wednesday night prayer meeting. While the children and youth meet at their designated areas, adult members gather in the sanctuary to pray. “We are seeking God’s guidance, not only for personal growth, but for the direction of our church. We want what you experience at the Sunday services to be an overflow of what we do on Wednesday night. Prayer is essential both individually and corporately.”
The church has chosen to be intentional about prayer and will host a prayer conference Nov. 4-7. Posey says that the focus of this conference will be to pray for revival in the church and as a result, in the community.
The Sunday morning worship service takes place at 9 and Sunday evenings include discipleship training at 6 and preaching at 7.
Posey joins a well-established church staff that includes children’s minister Tara Anderson, music/senior adult minister Dave Delegal and youth minister Chris Giles.
The church is located at 24957 County Road 34 in Leroy. Posey and the staff, along with the congregation, invite all to come and find a place to serve.
Church Connection will be a monthly feature column. All area churches are encouraged to contact Shannon at 246-4494 to be featured.
Reading and road trips are two of my favorite things to do. A combination of the two is always a good thing for me. I have realized that I love visiting the homes of authors or the towns that my favorite literary works are set in or based upon.
A study by Pew Research showed that in 2017, Americans read an average of 12 books the previous year. That’s one book each month. Without full disclosure, I’ll just say that I read WAY above the national average. I read most anything and I love American literature, so combine that with a road trip and adventure awaits.
Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, is one of my favorite American writers. Years ago, I saw his home in Harford, Conn. and saw evidence of his success and life with his wife and daughters. While I enjoyed this immensely, I put the Mark Twain Boyhood Home on my bucket list. I wanted to see the setting and inspiration for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi.
My daughter and I were driving across the country earlier this summer on a mission to get to Medora, N.D. (There is NO easy way to get there from Washington County.) Instead of heading west in St. Louis as we have when we have previously visited the Dakotas, we drove a about a hundred miles north to find Hannibal.
When I opened the car door at our hotel, I could smell the Mississippi River mud and hear the tugboat traffic. I was honestly disappointed that it was well into the night and I’d have to wait until the next day to explore Tom and Huck’s playground.
From our hotel, we walked into the downtown area and to the boyhood home of the father of American literature and a major contributor to the Southern gothic genre. The home where the Clemens family lived from 1844-1853 was the inspiration for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It is located across a cobblestone street from the Becky Thatcher House. The Thatcher House was actually the home of the Hawkins family whose daughter Laura was the muse that inspired the character of Becky Thatcher. These homes were lovely and showcased furnishings from the time period as well as Clemens’ famed white jacket, first editions of his works and photographs of the Clemens family.
In stark contrast to these homes that were rather upscale for the time period is the home of Tom Blankenship, the model for Tom Sawyer. Unlike Clemens’ father who was a justice of the peace, Blankenship’s father was an alcoholic and of no account in the community. As I observed the differences, I imagined the two boys, Tom and Samuel, and the times that they must have had together living mere feet from the dark, adventure filled waters of the Mississippi. Details in each of the three homes perfectly matched the details I read in the books. It was neat to share the experience with my daughter who is familiar with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I certainly did not protest at the gift shop when she asked for a book of Twain’s short stories.
Clemens left Hannibal to become a journeyman printer in St. Louis in 1853. He never returned there to live. Instead he chose to allow Hannibal to live through the novels he was crafting. Henry James wrote, “The art of the novel is a direct impression of life.” Based on my observations of Twain’s life and my understanding of his works, this is true. Raised in a river town, in a time before childhood was scheduled, I imagine that Samuel Clemens was “all boy” and loved all things outdoors, especially the river and the caves around the small, quiet town of Hannibal.
The people of Hannibal in the mid 1800s were probably not unlike the people we met at the Mark Twain Diner in late June. Practical, hardworking people who knew everyone in town and felt free to share their opinions, regardless of if you were interested or not. Being raised in this environment no doubt shaped the quick wit and sharp tongue of one of America’s favorite writers. In fact, some of Twain’s most famous sayings were probably forged right along the riverbanks where opinions flowed as freely as the Mississippi.
I have an even greater appreciation for Twain after seeing both of his worlds. His wit and wisdom are endearing. Here are a couple of my favorite Twain-isms: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” “Challenges make life interesting, however overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” Perhaps my favorite is this one, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Go find an adventure! I’m sure glad that I found adventure in Hannibal, which was also home to Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown and Cliff Edwards, the voice of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket. And to think that small towns often get discredited!
Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that change your life completely. In 2013, BreAnne Grissett was chosen, along with several hundred other students from around the nation to be an All-American cheerleader. This distinction afforded her the opportunity to go to New York during the Thanksgiving break and perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At that time, Grissett joked with her parents that she would return to the Big Apple to live. It was this trip that planted seeds of curiosity and longing in her heart.
Grissett graduated from Leroy High School in 2014 and moved to Auburn to attend Auburn University. While there, she found a church to become a part of. Lakeview Baptist Church was where Grissett worshiped and also where she worked as a member of the rec center staff. Two people from Lakeview would prove to be crucial influences on the trajectory of Grissett’s future, Lakeview College Pastor Michael Hill and Savannah Hutto.
Hill planned a spring break trip to New York in 2015. Then a freshman, Grissett phoned her parents to get approval, which after some convincing, was given. The team from Lakeview served with Cornerstone Church in Brooklyn. Grissett spent the first half of the week wearing a bright yellow vest and cleaning a park near Cornerstone. “The vests and the fact that we were cleaning up made people curious. They wondered why out-of-towners would be cleaning their park.” Grissett stated that when people stopped to inquire about the activity in the park, the team was able to tell the locals about the ministries of Cornerstone and invite them to church.
The week culminated with a church service. “I never imagined myself in church with a roomful of New Yorkers. You hear the stereotypes that they are rude and uninterested. That is not true. They are genuine people with genuine needs like you and I have.” Grissett stated that worshiping with such a diverse group of people was an amazing experience. After experiencing ministry in New York, Grissett began to experience a longing to go for a longer, more detailed experience.
‘Just One Summer’
Her chance came the very next summer. “Just One Summer” was the theme for Generation Send, a developing ministry partnership that aligns individuals with community needs. Hutto had become a mobilizer for the organization which operates under the umbrella of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Hutto reached out to Grissett in an effort to recruit her to NYC. While she was a willing recruit, she says that it took her parents a little while to come around to the idea of their daughter living in New York City for an entire summer. Eventually though, she boarded a plane for her first summer missions experience. After all, in her parents’ minds, it was truly “just one summer.”
Worked with church
While in the city, Grissett was paired to work closely with Cornerstone Church, with whom she had served during her spring break missions trip and New City Church in Queens. New City has the vision of starting churches along the seven train lines in Queens. In this area of the city alone, there are 150 plus languages spoken and 18 unreached people groups, or populations who have never heard of Christ.
The vision includes starting churches in each of these languages so that all of the people may have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Grissett also spent time in the financial district doing narrative mapping, determining the needs of the area and discussing what people want in a church. Grissett said that her calling to New York was confirmed by God during this trip. “By the end of that summer, I knew that I would be back as a children’s minister.”
When Grissett returned to Auburn, she changed her major from psychology to human development and family studies, a program she believed would be more beneficial to her in the city.
During her junior year, her beloved college pastor, Hill, moved to New York to be a part of the New City Church staff. Knowing that Hill and Hutto were there was comforting to Grissett because she knew that she’d soon be joining them.
Worked with children
Another spring break was spent sharing Christ with children in the city. This led to a summer internship which provided opportunities for Grissett to lead mission teams and share her love for missions and for the city with college students who were in the city as members of mission teams as Grissett had once been.
Not many students are offered jobs prior to their senior year in college, but this was Grissett’s experience. She was offered to come on staff at New City Church through Missions Service Corps as children’s minister pending her graduation. The catch? The position would be self-funded, meaning that Grissett would have to raise her own support.
“It’s definitely an act of faith. It is scary, but I know that God has called me to New York City and I believe that He is going to continue to provide for me as He always has.”
Her senior year was spent “putting the pieces together.” She was endorsed as a North American Mission Board missionary in January and graduated from Auburn University in May. Grissett also completed various NAMB training related to raising support, cultural awareness and teaching. Grissett has raised nearly 75 percent of the necessary monthly support. “There is no way I could get to New York on my own. My mission is being fulfilled and funded through the generosity of churches, church groups, people that I know and people I have never met, but all of these are people who believe in fulfilling the Great Commission.”
Now a school teacher
A recent, unexpected blessing for this remarkable young lady is that she has been hired as a second-grade teacher at Manhattan Christian Academy, a private school with a 95 percent Hispanic population. “The families who send their children to school here aren’t necessarily Christian. They maybe have chosen the school for the environment or location. This is another form of children’s ministry for me. I’ll be teaching their academics along with teaching them and showing them that Jesus loves them.”
Reflecting on how a simple high school accolade has led to career missions, Grissett stated, “There are people from every corner of the world in New York City. Some of them will return to their home countries. You can reach the world for Jesus by reaching New York City. To me, that’s a most beautiful picture of how God works in our lives.”
To support BreAnne Grissett financially, visit missionaries.namb.net/full/breanne-grissett or missionaries.namb.net and search BreAnne Grissett.
Her local family
Grissett is the daughter of Lanette Etheredge of Leroy and Raymond Grissett of Mobile.
Her grandmothers are Karen Etheredge of Butler, formerly of Leroy and Joann Grissett of Mobile.
According to my calendar of National Days, today (July 31) is National Mutt Day. It is one of two days set aside annually to raise awareness of the millions of mixed breed dogs that need homes across the United States. Approximately 80 percent of all shelter dogs in the U.S. are mixed breeds.
This is one of the “National Days” that I can actually get behind. While I may choose not to celebrate National Tapioca Pudding Day or National Ratcatcher’s Day, (yes, both are actually real) I can appreciate the value of a dog, specifically a mutt. I own and love several.
Earlier this summer the story of Toffee, a seven-week old puppy who fell into a Huntsville well, captured national attention when his videoed rescue went viral on social media. There have been parties in Toffee’s honor and his story has been shared millions of times.
Before Toffee though, there was Levi. Levi is a much loved mutt who was found on Highway 17 in Choctaw County in early June. His rescuer is 16, top of her class with her own car. As yearbook editor, a member of the softball team, and a barrel racer, she doesn’t have much free time. When she does, she works. She needs a new saddle and every spare penny is going into the bank account to pay for it. Everyone knows that good saddles aren’t cheap and that cheap saddles aren’t good. It may take some time, but she’s going to own the saddle that she’s been eying.
Well, she was. That all changed when she noticed the puppy on the side of the road. It didn’t seem to hear her when she called to it, so she did what so many others of us relatives of Ellie Mae Clampett have done, she picked it up and put it in her car. It was infested with ticks and fleas and had obviously been left to die along the roadside.
She took the pup home having already established that he did not hear well. She bathed him and then took him to the vet for treatment. The local vet confirmed that this pup, now called Levi, was indeed deaf and had limited vision. He also had ear mites and intestinal parasites. The outlook was grim and the treatment was expensive, but this girl had too much heart to turn her back on the dog. Saving a life is more important than buying a saddle, she decided and she paid the vet bill and took him home.
She told her dad that she would only keep him a few days until she could find another home for him. I’m sure this dad knew that Levi was going to become a family member– if he survived. A few days after the initial vet visit. Levi stopped eating and his resourceful owner, Ragen, made a trip to Auburn to see her older brother and to get additional help from a veterinarian there for this mutt that had taken a huge chunk of her money and her heart.
Levi had additional treatment in Auburn and is physically better; although his eyesight will not improve and he will never be able to hear. He is currently thriving with Ragen (and her dad), but special care has to be taken to keep him inside or on a leash outside. His health problems would prevent his ability to be outside without supervision due to safety concerns.
According to the vets, Levi has a genetic disorder that dogs with merle coats can get. It usually happens when two dogs who each have merle coats breed. The offspring with the genetic disorders are almost completely white and due to the lack of pigmentation in the coat, the puppies can be blind and/or deaf. Ironically, Levi and Toffee both share these conditions.
Unlike Toffee, who was being fostered at the time of his unfortunate fall into a well, Levi was discarded, left to die on a lonely stretch of state highway by someone who found his conditions to be more than they were willing to deal with. Thankfully, there are people like Ragen who are willing to take chances and invest their resources into the mutts of the world.
The world could use more people like her. Our communities could use more people like her. Currently, the Clarke County Animal Shelter is at capacity. There are healthy “mutts” that need fostering, permanent homes, resources, and to be given a second chance. Shelter director Erika Putnam encourages the public to contact her about volunteer, foster and adoption opportunities.
While I can’t say where Ragen stands in relation to her goal of purchasing a “good” saddle, I can say this, she has a “good” heart and while she may not realize it, this is better than any saddle money could buy.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.