News story of the year: Military plane crashes, killing all on board
About at the midway point of the year, the unthinkable happened when a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130T crashed in a soybean field near the Sunflower/Leflore County line.
Emergency responders battled the blaze, but all 16 persons on board, including 15 Marines and one Navy sailor, were killed in the crash.
Though none of the victims in the incident were from Mississippi, the event spurred a series of tributes throughout the region, including a dedication to the troops at Moorhead’s Bicentennial celebration in October.
The city has permanent markers for each of the troops downtown.
Sports story of the year: Colonels appear in third straight title game:
The Indianola Academy faithful are used to making the trip to Jackson in November.
The Colonel football team went to the AAA State Championship for the third consecutive year, only to fall to Starkville in overtime during this year’s contest.
Throughout the historic season for the Colonels, the team continued a 40-game home winning streak, while its head coach, Tommy Nester, won his 100th game at IA.
Sunflower County wasn’t lacking for big news in 2017. The E-T had a lot of major events to choose from when it voted on the top stories of the year. The the following is a month-by-month summary of the most newsworthy events.
Politics: Former Alderwoman Vivian Jenkins became the first candidate to qualify for the office of mayor. Later in the month, Marvin Elder qualified to run for Ward 4 as alderman. Later in the month, the board of aldermen voted to terminate Prosecuting Attorney Tanisha Gates after it was discovered she could not serve as both prosecutor and public defender.
Education: State Sen. Willie Simmons visited Ruleville Middle School’s Algebra Nation class.
Business: Sunflower Food Store changed its name to Shoppers Value after renovations and changed its format to “All items 10% over cost.”
Uplifting: The Sunflower County Board of Supervisors handed over the keys to a brand house to resident Marie Mitchell after the home was paid for through a state grant.
Quote: “I have a new vision for a new city. Let’s rebuild Indianola on a foundation of integrity, honesty and leadership focused on what counts — the people.” Vivian Jenkins announcing her run for mayor.
Politics: City begins discussing establishing a Boys & Girls Club in Indianola. The estimated cost at the time was at $82,000 a year.
Uplifting: Gentry High School student Kyle Pernell, already an ordained Baptist minister at age 17, led the state legislature in its opening prayer one day during the regular session.
Business: Multiple city merchants welcomed a new 7 percent sales tax on online retailers like Amazon.
Education: Indianola Academy students finished third overall out of 41 public and private schools during the annual Mississippi Math-Science Competition hosted by Mississippi College Feb. 2. This accomplishment was based on all test scores and an oral competition. The students representing Indianola Academy were Emery Applegate, Joey Daniels, Jack Dodd, Callie Claire Gammill, Caitlyn Henry, Allee Paxton, Lane Paxton, Scheifer Phillips, Molly Pitts, Taylor Reed, Shade Smith, Lilly Trippe and Tori Ware.
Sports: The Gentry High Rams pounded visiting Tishomingo County 90-35 to get to within one game of going to The Big House in Jackson.
Crime: Indianola resident James Jordan was charged with murdering his twin on Church Street.
Quote: “Bless this house. Lead, guide and direct them on what to do and what steps to take. Give them your heart and your mindset.” Kyle Pernell, delivering the invocation at the state legislature.
Tourism: The Big Time Rhythm and Blues Band of Greenville performed the inaugural concert at the “Jammin’ at Club Ebony” series, the return of live music to the venue.
Politics: The federal government decided to shut down a dozen Sunflower County bridges in March. That number would later balloon to about two dozen in 2017.
Uplifting: The YouthBuild program graduated nine participants with GEDs. There were 36 participants when that round of the program began, and nine made it to the end. A graduation ceremony was held in March. The theme was “Rebuilding communities while building our lives.”
Ole Miss and Mississippi Delta Community College athletes, representing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, helped to repair two Drew residences that were damaged by the flood of 2016.
Sports: The Sunflower County Consolidated School District announced the hiring of two-time state champion Tavares Johnson to lead the Gentry High School football team. Johnson came into the Rams program after a 37-2 run in Hollandale.
Crime: The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation opted to use lie-detector tests on Sunflower County jailers after Lucas Edwards, a three-time felon, allegedly had a loaded automatic handgun in his cell. Later in the month, jailer Tommy T. Brewer was arrested and charged with helping Edwards obtain the weapon.
Quote: “Indianola needs to have live music, and I’ve always pushed for that. There is no way we should not have. We’re at the epicenter of the blues.” Robert Terrell, the B.B. King Museum’s director of operations.
Crime: The family and community surrounding Ruth Johnson remembered her for her love and her faith after she was found murdered in Sunflower. Her daughter, Helen Sears, said “she loved everybody. She prayed for everyone, her community and for the kids.”
Business: Three sisters, Maple Campbell, Minnie Pearl Campbell and Patricia McCoy announced plans to open the Platinum Plus Care assisted living facility in Indianola. The ribbon was cut on the 25-bed facility on U.S. 82.
Shannon Brown of AllState Insurance in Indianola was elected as the Indianola Chamber Main Street president for 2017. Brown said his goal was to increase membership among businesses and private individuals.
Community: R.L. Harris, Debra Harris, Antwanise Harris, Ashley Harris and Roy Harris all appeared on an episode of Family Feud that was aired on April 26.
Education: Christian Hannah at Gentry High School and Shade Smith from Indianola Academy were selected as STAR Students by the Mississippi Economic Council.
Selections were made based on ACT scores and scholastic averages.
Business: Turner’s Downtown Market officially cut the ribbon on the downtown Indianola store on Front Street. Longtime business owner Wade Turner operates the store.
Crime: A Sunflower County murder suspect made a dash for freedom, including jumping in the Yazoo River in Belzoni, but was re-captured and returned to custody within three hours. Lazzerick Minton, 22, of Sunflower had been housed in the Humphreys County Jail since his arrest in March related to the death of an 80-year-old Sunflower woman, and he managed to get away from the facility and took to the woods without his shoes.
Education: Casandra Winters, former principle at Ruleville Central High contests the non-renewal of her contract.
Sports: Following 32 years of coaching and positively influencing high school football players, Indianola Academy’s head football coach Tommy Nester was announced as a member of the class of 2017 MAIS Coaches Hall of Fame.
Quote: “This is a huge and unexpected honor. You not only have to have good players willing to work, but you must have a good staff. I just want to get the best out of our players and see them give maximum effort every time they step onto the playing or practice field.” IA Head Coach Tommy Nester
Quote: “Whatever you decide to do, do not lose sight of your goals. Put in the work now because you are old a lot longer than you are young. So work hard when you are young so you will hardly have to work when you are old.” Gentry High honors graduate Arriel Hutchenson at Gentry’s graduation ceremony
Politics: A 73-year-old Drew mayoral candidate slipped out of handcuffs and threw them out the window of a patrol car after the police chief arrested her at the polls.
“He started cussing me, and he said, ‘That’s another charge,’” Gail Riddick said.
Three new mayors were elected in Sunflower County, with Desiree Norwood winning the Sunflower seat, Harvey Burchfield reclaiming the seat in Drew and Torey Bell getting the nod from the voters in Doddsville.
Crime: Lazzerick Minton escaped for a second time in as many months, this time breaking out the Washington County Regional Correctional Facility. He was later recaptured.
Business: Dr. Trey Donahoe returned to his hometown of Indianola to practice as a dentist with Dr. David McDaniel. The 26-year-old is a graduate of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Dentistry.
Education: The Sunflower County Consolidated School District announced the hiring of Willie B. Bolden Jr. as principal at Gentry High, with Earnest Nelson hired as assistant principal.
Quote: What am I going to sit down for? I’m 93. I can’t sit around and get stiff.” Indianola gardener Christine Williams showed no signs of slowing down when interviewed this summer.
Uplifting: A reception was held to honor the service of Dr. Walter Rose. At 84, Rose decided to call it a career as a physician in Sunflower County. At the time, Rose said he had probably delivered over 5,000 babies since 1965.
Business: The Sunflower County Board of Supervisors and representatives from Life Help, the regional mental health agency, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the agency’s new building on U.S. 49. Just last week, the supervisors made a walk-through in the building, which is progressing in construction.
Tragedy: The 16 servicemen who perished in the July military plane crash near Sunflower County were identified. The crash is our 2017 News Story of the Year.
Politics: Mario Robinson announced his candidacy for the office of mayor in Indianola. Robinson said at the time that his background in urban planning, along with bringing honesty, integrity and transparency to the position put him at a unique advantage. Robinson’s bid ended during the Oct. 10 primary.
Sports: Football season kicked off for Sunflower County. It turned out to be a season to remember as three of the four schools made it to the playoffs, with Indianola Academy making it to the State Championship game.
Indianola Academy junior Stefan Smith was ranked No. 5 in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Gridiron Pre-Season Top 20.
Uplifting: A special birthday party was held at the Moorhead Library to celebrate the 16th birthday of Shedrick Epson. Epson is a special needs student attending Gentry High School and his mother, Maritha Freeman, decided that the best way to celebrate was to honor him and other special needs children at an elaborate reception. She and her husband, Eric Freeman, invited 10 other special needs children and their families to join them for the festivities, and the catered event was standing room only. Honorees who were able, got a chance to ride in a chauffeured limousine. To make the day even more special, local organizations were contacted and asked to sponsor gifts.
In the News: Local artist Bobby Whalen literally made history when it was announced that his art would play a role in the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The facilities did open on schedule this month.
Business: South Sunflower County Hospital cut the ribbon on its renovation and expansion project that cost $9.5 million. About 95 percent of the existing facility was completely renovated in the multi-phase project.
Politics: Mayoral candidates Steve Rosenthal, Mario Robinson and Vivian Jenkins participated in the first of two forums hosted by the local chapter of the NAACP.
Ousted Judge Alsee McDaniel filed a wrongful termination suit against Mayor Steve Rosenthal and the Indianola Board of Aldermen.
Education: It was announced that Brown & Associates was hired to survey the community on school facilities needs. Adrian Brown led multiple community meetings in the course of several weeks in several communities in Sunflower County to assess the community’s feelings, particularly on the prospect of one or more new high schools being built.
A proposed charter school for the Drew community was officially rejected by the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board.
Uplifting: The 16 servicemen who perished in the July military plane crash were honored in Moorhead for the first of two ceremonies as part of the town’s 9/11 memorial.
Crime: Tenika Nicole Romero, 35, of Drew was arrested in connection with the escape of two Parchman inmates who were discovered missing during the routine count of Unit 30 of the facility. Romero was booked into the Sunflower County Jail and charged with conspiracy to escape. Inmates Ryan Young and James R. Sanders escaped but were later recaptured.
A teenager was accused of stealing weapons from the vehicle of Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood.
Culture: The Indian Bayou Arts & Eats Festival was a big hit, especially the pecan pie eating contest that brought in several entries from around the region.
Politics: Steve Rosenthal led Vivian Jenkins at the end of the night on Oct. 10, but he did not have enough votes to win outright. A runoff was forced between the two candidates. Rosenthal would eventually win the Democratic nomination on Oct. 31.
Quote: “For the last 6 or 7 years, funding for street replacement has been almost nonexistent but hopefully there will be a new federal infrastructure plan put into place that will offer some type of funding. We will have to look at some type of bond issue if that funding does not materialize.” Candidate Steve Rosenthal on infrastructure issues in Indianola.
Uplifting: Gov. Phil Bryant returned to his hometown of Moorhead in October to help pay tribute to the 16 servicemen who died in July. This was part of an already-planned Mississippi Bicentennial celebration by the Moorhead Garden Club.
General: MedStat, which provides ambulance services to Sunflower County, admitted a mix-up left the county without an ambulance on a Friday afternoon.
Education: Mississippi Delta Community College President Larry Nabors announced that he would retire at the end of the school year. Nabors took over at the school in 2013. He is a Ripley native and will return there to live in retirement.
The Mississippi Department of Education released its grades for Sunflower Schools, labeling SCCSD an F district.
Business: Community Bank worked with the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors to secure the $1.2 million purchase of road graders for the county.
Sports: Indianola Academy had to play a lot in the rain during November, but won three playoff games prior to going to the state title game for a third consecutive year. This was our Sports Story of the Year. Two other Sunflower County teams, North Sunflower and Ruleville made the playoffs as well, with Ruleville winning in a round-one upset.
Crime: A shooting near an Indianola Academy playoff game was the apparent result of a drug deal gone bad. After it was all said and done, four people were wanted by the law. Two were captured within a week.
Uplifting: Community Bank held its annual Fashion Show, an event that shows off some of the apparel of Indianola’s retail stores.
Citizens Sound Off: Multiple citizens were less than happy about a tree-trimming initiative by Entergy during November. Many citizens voiced complaints that the utility was “mutilating” trees throughout the city.
Quote: “They are destroying these trees, what they’re doing is really uncalled for. A lot of these 100 year-old live oak trees, they’re just scooping the whole center out of them and they are just destroying them, they won’t ever look right again.” Homeowner Rick Little sounds off on Entergy’s tree cutting methods.
Politics: Steve Rosenthal defeated Independent candidate Jimmy Smith to win his third term as mayor of Indianola.
Uplifting: Dozens came out on a cold Thursday night to light the Community Christmas Tree. This was preceded by the previous Tuesday’s Cocoa on the Bayou event that featured some of downtown Indianola retailers’ cocoa.
Police: At the request of Police Chief Edrick Hall, the city board voted to impose a fine for those who file charges against a felon and drop them at a later date.
Crime: Three men allegedly broke into the Indianola Pecan House and stole pecans, only to take them back the next day to try and sell them. They were apprehended by the Indianola Police Department.
Quote: “Marzo and his housemates took turns cooking, and he was very proud of how well he could cook. He loved to grill and drink a few beers with friends. He also loved to go to dances on the weekend.” Claire Segura on her friend Marzo Torres who was murdered in his Holly Ridge home by armed burglars.