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Messenger reflects on stories of decade

Messenger reflects on stories of decade

Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 8:59 pm

From weather storms to political storms, they’ve all filled the annals of history compiled by members of the news staff at The Messenger over the past 10 years.
Remember with us as we take a look back at the top stories of the decade. Though we’ve not ranked them as to what we think the No. 1 story of the decade should be, we extend that invitation to our readers. Keep your selections down to the No. 1 story for each year and e-mail your ranked selections, with the year included, to Associate Editor Donna Ryder at dryder@ucmessenger.com before Jan. 15. This gives you two weeks to make your opinion known.
2000
Coe executed
At 1:37 a.m. April 19, 2000, time finally ran out for Robert Glen Coe, who had been on death row at River Bend Maximum Security Prison at Nashville 20 years. Coe, 44, was executed by lethal injection for the Labor Day 1979 kidnap, rape and murder of 8-year-old Carey Ann Medlin of Greenfield.
The little girl was riding her bicycle on the parking lot of a Greenfield church when Coe stopped and lured her into his car. Her body was found by searchers in weeds alongside Bean Switch Road in rural Weakley County.
Other top stories in the first year of the last decade included former Obion County Sheriff Ewell Baker being sentenced to federal prision at No. 2; liquor-by-the-drink referendum being defeated at No. 3; Obion Countians agreeing to a half-cent sales tax increase to support the county’s school system at No. 4; a May storm causing more than $2 million in property damage at No. 5; new construction being authorized at the former East Side School at No. 6; Community Playground being completed at No. 7; Goodyear announcing the Aquatred-3 would be made at the local plant at No. 8; Steven Ray Thacker, an Oklahoma man who went on a three-state killing spree, being arrested in Union City at No. 9; and Union City establishing a zone for adult-oriented businesses at No. 10.
2001
September 11 attacks
The day the towers fell and changed the lives of every American citizen, including those in Obion County, ranked as the top story in 2001.
From area residents who encountered detours and delays as they traveled on that fateful day to families whose loved ones were killed or threatened in the attack, Obion Countians felt the emotional tremors that rocked the nation. News of the event took the entire front page on Sept. 11.
Other top stories included the selection of a route for I-69 at No. 2; reapportionment of the Obion County Commission voting districts at No. 3; Kenton’s receiving approval to open its own school at No. 4; Rives being flooded again at No. 5; Goodyear’s planning a maintenance co-op program at No. 6; ground being broken for the new Obion County Public Library at No. 7; $29 million being approved to replace the spillway at Reelfoot Lake at No. 8; construction beginning to expand the former East Side School in Union City at No. 9; and Williams Sausage expanding at No. 10.
2002
Goodyear layoffs
Just when things were going along swimmingly — or so it was thought — Goodyear announced the layoff of hundreds of its associates. The bombshell announcement came not once, but twice, in a two-month period. On Sept. 24, Goodyear-Union City announced the pending layoff of 400 to 500 of its workforce of 3,800 associates. On Nov. 20, a second round of layoffs and a major change in operations were announced. It was revealed that 460 associates would be laid off effective Jan. 20.
Other top stories in 2002 included the approval of liquor-by-the-drink in Union City at No. 2; Jerry Vastbinder unseating Danny Cunningham to become sheriff and Harry Johnson besting Robert Kendall to claim the office of Circuit Court clerk at No. 3; the final beneficiaries of a multi-million dollar F. Fern Verhine Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust, created by the late Fern Verhine, being named at No. 4; West Nile Virus at No. 5; Union City Elementary School opening at No. 6, Kenton School opening at No. 7; mold at South Fulton High School/Middle School at No. 8; construction on the new Obion County Public Library beginning at No. 9; and Reading Railroad beginning to offer free books to children at No. 10.
2003
Obion County
Public Library opens
It was several years in the making, but in 2003 the Obion County Public Library finally moved into its new home on East Reelfoot Avenue. Then-library director Mary Carpenter said if it weren’t for the many donors, especially Bill and Carol Latimer and Kathleen Elam, Obion County wouldn’t have been able to have this beautiful, state-of-the-art library.
Other top stories in 2003 included Goodyear returning to a three-shift schedule and difficulties with master contract talks between Goodyear and the United Steelworkers at No. 2; meth problems at No. 3; the Obion County Senior Citizens Center receiving a new building at No. 4; the Obion County School Board buying out the contract of then-Director of Schools Donna Neblett and the Obion County Commission voting unanimously to acquire a $17 million loan to fund the school construction projects at No. 5; a state audit of the Obion County Nursing Home at No. 6; Harold Kilpatrick Jr. holding an algebra instructor and 14 students at Dyersburg State Community College hostage at No. 7; storms ripping through the county at No. 8; problems with the Obion Housing Authority at No. 9; and Tyson bypass being completed at No. 10.
2004
Obion County
Nursing Home
Controversy at the Obion County Nursing Home was tabbed as the top story in 2004. In that 12-month period, it had three boards of directors and many headlines.
The turbulence began in April 2003 when then-Obion County Mayor Gaylon Long asked for and achieved a state audit of the nursing home’s finances. On Jan. 20, the nursing home board of directors resigned. On June 3, a new board took the oath of office. Fuel was added to the fire during the budget process when the county commission sought to use $125,000 of the nursing home’s $1 million rainy day fund to get the county through hard times.
Other top stories in 2004 included the Obion County school building program at No. 2; good industrial news, including the hiring of a new economic development director to announcements of expansions, acquisitions, land purchases and plant constructions, at No. 3; Goodyear announcing the lay off of 250 workers at the Union City plant at No. 4; meth problems at No. 5; opposition to I-69 at No. 6; $8 million being placed in the state budget for the construction of a new spillway and bridge complex at Reelfoot Lake at No. 7; a committee studying the feasibility of consolidating the Obion County and Union City school systems at No. 8; Obion County Reading Railroad getting a boost in their fundraising efforts from the state at No. 9; and Union City celebrating its 150th birthday at No. 10.
2005
War on Terror/
913th deployment
Four years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the War on Terror moved close to home in September 2005.
After being placed on alert for possible deployment to battlefields in the War on Terror in mid-April 2005, Union City’s 913th Engineer Company of the Tennessee Army National Guard knew by late summer the company would be departing the area in September for additional training at Camp Atterbury in Indiana and would then go overseas.
Sept. 24 dawned clear and bright and members of the 913th and their families gathered at the John Tanner National Guard Armory on East Reelfoot Avenue to bid each other farewell before the troops boarded buses headed north to Indiana. As they left town, citizens lined their route, waving American flags and hand-lettered signs and pointing to the banners exhibited at many businesses and local schools.
The 913th left Indiana and traveled to Kuwait, where the unit arrived Nov. 15, 2005.
Rounding out the Top 10 stories for 2005 were economic efforts at No. 2; the Obion County Nursing Home controversy at No. 3; Obion County School System progress at No. 4; the war on methamphetamine at No. 5; Hurricane Katrina at No. 6; the Hamilton’s Resort lawsuit over riparian rights at No. 7; South Fulton’s financial woes at No. 8; local sewer projects at No. 9; and programs for children at No. 10.
2006
913th returns home
What a difference a year made.
While the War on Terror and the deployment of the Union City-based 913th Engineer Company of the Tennessee Army National Guard was the top story of 2005, the happy news of the unit’s return a year later was ranked as the top story of 2006.
The members of the 913th returned to Union City on Oct. 16, 2006, a wet, cold and otherwise dreary day. Their 11-month deployment to Iraq ended a few days before as they departed that war-torn nation and flew to Camp Atterbury, Ind., before boarding a trio of buses to head south and home.
On homecoming day, citizens lined the bypass coming into Union City and vacated cars and trucks parked nose-outward along the Reelfoot Avenue route to the armory to shout a welcome, wave a flag and dip an umbrella in salute as the returning troops pressed against the bus windows, searching the crowd for faces familiar from the neighborhood, the workplace or the church. A few days later, there was a second gathering of several of the soldiers, their families and citizens from across the area. The site was the same, but this time there was special music from a school choir and speeches from politicians and an introduction of each of the soldiers.
Tragically, one of the unit’s members — Dustin Laird of Weakley County — did not return home. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Other stories which rounded out the Top 10 of 2006 were the Goodyear union members strike at No. 2; the opening of the new Obion County Central High School at No. 3; Obion County’s election of new mayor, Benny McGuire, at No. 4; expansion plans at Everett-Stewart Airport (now Everett-Stewart Regional Airport) at No. 5; the hiring of Obion County Director of Schools David Huss at No. 6; Cates Landing and the spillway at Reelfoot Lake at No. 7; Union City’s beginning a magnet school program at No. 8; the Obion County Nursing Home lawsuit at No. 9; and the South Fulton bond issue to ease the city’s trouble financial situation at No. 10.
2007
Discovery Park of America
The Messenger’s No. 1 story of 2007 was a multi-million dollar gift from philanthropists Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland, who announced their dream gift in October and immediately selected and provided marching orders for the local planning committees who would help architects with the design and building of Discovery Park of America.
The gift came with three strings attached by the local donors: Discovery Park of America must educate the children and youth — in particular — who come to explore it; it must entertain everyone who steps on to the 50-acre site to see whether it lives up to its name; and it must be marketed and managed so as to attract a booming tourist base that would otherwise have no reason to exit the new I-69 superhighway from Canada to Mexico for a mid-point stop in Union City.
The remaining top stories of 2007, as ranked by The Messenger’s new staff, included the end of the Goodyear strike at No. 2; the ethanol plant groundbreaking at No. 3; industry at No. 4; the implementation of local schools’ standard dress codes at No. 5; new school principals at No. 6; South Fulton’s city manager search at No. 7; the settlement of the nursing home lawsuit at No. 8; the tragic death of Union City soldier John Mele III during his third tour of duty in Iraq at No. 9; and, in a tie vote, philanthropist Bill Latimer of Union City providing a $4 million gift for a Boy Scout camp and Reelfoot Lake spillway improvements at No. 10.
2008
Discovery Park of America
In 2008, the early moved — literally — for Discovery Park of America when ground was broken on July 1.
Beneath a sweltering summer sky, guests representing both the United States and Canada, the native country of former Discovery Park of America architect Douglas Cardinal, watched as many excited participants broke ground for the multi-million dollar education, entertainment and tourism complex on Everett Boulevard in Union City.
Robert Kirkland, representing the Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation which is funding much of the adventurous undertaking, welcomed guests and noted “the past is giving birth to the future today in Obion County.”
(Editor’s note: Almost exactly a year later, on July 8, 2009, the Kirkland Foundation announced the termination of its contract with Douglas Cardinal Architects for the design of the 50-acre Discovery Park of America.)
The other Top 10 stories for 2008 included the Tennessee House race and the election of Judy Barker at No. 2; Everett-Stewart Regional Airport at No. 3; industry at No. 4; the Cates Landing riverport project at No. 5; discussion of countywide fire service at No. 6; local animal shelter controversy at No. 7; the Reelfoot Lake spillway at No. 8; fuel prices at No. 9; and U.S. Congressman John Tanner and his election as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the legislative arm of the NATO Alliance, at No. 10.
2009
Ice storm
The Jan. 26-27 ice storm is The Messenger’s pick for the top news story of 2009.
The icy weather resulted in downed limbs that caused widespread power outages and extensive damage. A state of emergency was declared in Obion County and surrounding counties. At least one death was linked to the storm’s aftermath, with another listed as natural causes but with possibly some contributing factors from the weather and lack of electricity to run medical equipment.
Other top 2009 stories include John Tanner and the national political scene at No. 2; changes in the schedule, a buyout offer and a new contract at Goodyear at No. 3; economic woes for Union City at No. 4; a county-wide fire protection plan at No. 5; Discovery Park of America at No. 6; the Reelfoot Lake spillway at No. 7; a serial rapist at No. 8; a Union City Rotary Club-sponsored trip overseas for Union City High School students, as well as groundbreakings for career technology centers at both Obion County Central High School and South Fulton High School, at No. 9; and the U.S. Army’s highly-respected Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division taking Troy by storm for a military exercise in September at No. 10.
Published in The Messenger 1.1.10

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