2017 year in review January – June

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Jan. 4

A New Year’s Day accident killed three and injured one, just after 1 p.m. outside of Prentiss.

Luna Mae Harper, 74, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash that occurred at the intersection of Hwy. 84 and R. G. Rogers Road.

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Harper’s husband, Jerry Brown Harper, 75, was taken to the Jefferson Davis Community Hospital and later transported to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg with non-life-threatening injuries.

Linda Evans, 74, a passenger in the Harpers’ car, died later at Jefferson Davis Community Hospital.

All three were from Brookhaven, and according to family members, were traveling to Hattiesburg to visit a sick friend at Forrest General.

Harney Henry Walker IV., 27, of Silver Creek, also died in the crash.

Five candidates have qualified and will run for the Prentiss alderman position left vacant after the unexpected death of Alderman Todd Broome.

Jamie H. Cochran, Rudolph (Rudy) McNease, Levi K. McRaney, Hal (Moochie) Speights, and Jennifer (LuLu) Traylor seek the position.

E & G Swap Shop is now ope at 363 Gen. Robert E. Blount Drive in Bassfield. The shop is owned by Earnestine Larry and is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The store offers a variety of new and consignment items including clothing, accessories, and furniture.

Jan. 11

Lance Mancuso has been named athletic director and head football coach for Jefferson Davis County High School for the 2017—2018 school year.

He served in the same capacity at Bassfield High School for the past nine years.

A run-off will be held Tuesday,  Jan. 24, between Rudolph “Rudy” McNease and Hal “Moochie” Speights. Both candidates failed to get the required 50 percent plus one vote needed to prevent a run-off.

McNease received 70 votes, Speights received 45.

A total of 204 voters cast their ballot of the 693 registered voters in the city limits.

The first school board meeting of the new year was held Monday at the Academic Success building in Carson. This was also the first meeting to include the two newly elected school board members, Terri Stamps and Bobby Wilson.

The new school board members were welcomed by each principal and department head in attendance.

Election Commissioner for district 1, Linda Speights, has been elected as the chairperson for the Jefferson Davis County Election Commission. Speights was elected immediately following the Election Commission swearing-in by Judge David Shoemake

Jan. 18

A parade sponsored by the Jefferson Davis County branch of the NAACP was held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Saturday in Bassfield.

Bob Evans announced his retirement as public defender of Jefferson Davis County at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Judge Prentiss Harrell appointed Benton Evans to fill the public defender vacancy, effective Jan.1.

Jan. 25

Hal “Moochie” Speights is the new alderman for the Town of Prentiss. Speights was elected to the  position in a run-off  Tuesday against Rudolph “Rudy” McNease. Speights received 79 votes to McNease’s 78. A total of 157 votes were cast of the 693 registered voters in the city limits.

The Jefferson Davis County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The first annual breakfast, with standing room only, was held Jan. 16 at the John Thompson Athletic Complex in Bassfield.

Feb. 1

Jennifer Ann Meredith of Granby Fire Department was presented the Jefferson Davis County Firefighter of the Year award at the annual Jefferson Davis County Volunteer Firefighter Banquet at the Rosenwald Building on the Prentiss Institute campus.

A two-car wreck on Progress Road sent one to the hospital. The accident occurred shortly after 1  p.m. Monday. JDC Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene.

Members of Unity in the Community will host their third annual prayer breakfast on Saturday, March 4, at Williams’ Good Ole Days Buffet Restaurant in Prentiss.

This event is an opportunity for citizens throughout Jefferson Davis County to come together in prayer and fellowship. Everyone is invited to attend.

Feb. 8

Tim McNair Jr. has signed a full scholarship to play football at Alcorn State University in Lorman. McNair is the son of Sharina and Tim McNair Sr., and is a senior at Prentiss High School. He played wide receiver and defensive back for the Bulldogs under the leadership of head coach Tim McNair Sr.

Prentiss Christian senior Jack Chavis has signed a full scholarship to play football at Holmes Community College in Goodman. While at Prentiss Christian, Chavis played on the offensive and defensive line under the leadership of coach Randy Holloway. Chavis is the son of  Ronnie and Donna Chavis.

Two Bassfield High football players have signed full scholarships to play football at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. Cade Perrin was the punter/kicker for the Yellowjackets and is the son of John and Amanda Perrin.

Also receiving a scholarship is Ron Thompson. Thompson was a running back for the Yellowjackets and is the son of Cleveland Thompson Jr. and Kayla Booth.

Perrin and Thompson were coached by BHS Head Coach Lance Mancuso.

The Prentiss Christian Lady Saints junior varsity team won the 4 AA district championship Saturday, beating Sylva Bay Academy 20-15.

Team members are Bella Clark, Kaelin Berry, Ali Anne Long, Alexis Tran, Sarah Magee, Culley Cochran, Devyn Bryant and Drew Bryant, Anna Kerley, Maiden Rush, Laurel Stewart, Jana Johnson and coach Nick Daley.

February 15

The Jefferson Davis County Teacher of the Year was awarded to Michal Robinson. Robinson is in her third year at Carver and teaches second grade. “I am honored to have been chosen by my peers,” said Robinson.

“I literally have to run her out of the school every afternoon. She works tirelessly. When you walk into her classroom, it is an environment of learning,” said Carver principal Dr. Crystal Haynes.

Jefferson Davis County School District hosted the 2016-2017 district-wide Spelling Bee at Academic Success Building in Carson on Friday, Feb. 10 at 9 a.m.

Students in fourth through eighth grades from Carver Elementary, J.E. Johnson Elementary, Bassfield High, Prentiss High, and Prentiss Christian School had the opportunity to participate in this annual event.

The overall winner of the 2016-2017 District-Wide Spelling Bee was J.E. Johnson fifth-grader, Manyla Carrell. The second place winner was Prentiss Christian eighth-grader, Alexis Tran, and the third-place winner was J.E. Johnson fourth-grader, Jakobe McInnis.

February 22

Services for Bassfield Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Matthews were held Monday at the Covington-Jefferson Davis Baptist Associational Building. Matthews died on Feb. 14 working a brush fire on Graves Keys Road in Bassfield.

A longtime servant of Jefferson Davis County and Bassfield, Matthews, a retired Marine, was found slumped over in his fire truck on the scene of the fire near New Jerusalem Apostolic Church.

Matthews, 71, was known for his love for the fire service, but also love for his community.

“He went to every fire, and he did not get paid,” Courtney said. “There are not many people like him. He worked every day, and did not complain.

School board members expressed concern over attendance issues at the February school board meeting recently.

From a period of Jan. 3 to Feb. 9, 1,586 absences were recorded in the four Jefferson Davis County schools.

 “We must work as a community to improve our schools. Overall improvement starts and ends at home. The schools are the middle. The ends need to support the middle by assuring the school system can be as effective as possible by having the child at school, on time, for the whole day,” said district two board member Bobby Wilson.

March 1

The Jefferson Davis County Chamber Partnership Banquet has been scheduled for March 21.

Mark M. Miller will be the guest speaker for the evening. Miller is a professor of geography at the University of Southern Mississippi with a specialty in economic development.

During their February bi-monthly meeting, the Jefferson Davis County Board of Supervisors deemed March as Clean-Up Awareness Month for Jefferson Davis County.

March 8

A plane flown by Dustin Bourn crashed on take-off last Tuesday at the Prentiss Jefferson Davis Airport. According to Bourn, shortly after take-off a gust of wind caused him to bring the crop duster down just off the runway in a grassy area near the woods.

The plane caught fire and was a total loss. No injuries were reported. This is the first crash that has occurred at the airport in over 30 years. The incident is under investigation by the FAA and the state fire marshal.

Two candidates have qualified for the Prentiss mayor position. Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas will face Michael Caldwell in the election.

Seven candidates have qualified and will run for one of the five Prentiss alderman positions.

Current aldermen Keith Bridges, Willie Davis, Randy Stamps and Hal “Moochie” Speights all seek re-election. Also on the ballot will be Rudolph (Rudy) McNease, Levi K. McRaney and Jamie H. Cochran.

The town of Bassfield will not be required to hold an election. They have only one candidate for mayor, Pat Courtney, and five candidates for alderman. James “Jimmy” Kerley, Johnny “Ken” Roberts, Hester Easterling, William Hendry and Angela Cone “Speights” will serve on the board after the municipal elections are held in June.

Brandon Hughes set a new Jefferson Davis Lake largemouth bass record Sunday. The bass weighed in at 11 lbs 6 oz, beating the record set by George Griffith in August by one ounce.

March 15

Demolition began on several buildings on the Prentiss High campus Tuesday. Believed to be part of the original campus, the buildings were closed six years ago due to black mold and asbestos. In August, J.E. Johnson Elementary will use the campus for grades K-8 as part of the Jefferson Davis County Consolidation plan.

Santee Baptist Church held its 12th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Service recently on the church grounds in Bassfield.

The service was the vision of the church’s longtime pastor, Rev. Tony Bagley, who passed away in 2014. Bagley established the appreciation service with the hopes of honoring the community’s law enforcement officers and emergency responders while also building a better relationship between the young people of his church and the law enforcement community.

State and local law enforcers including highway patrol, sheriffs, deputies, game and fish, firemen, judges, district attorneys and political figures were in attendance.

March 22

The new colors, logos and font designs were unveiled Monday night at the Jefferson Davis County school board meeting.

Jefferson Davis County High School head football coach and athletic director Lance Mancuso displayed the official designs of New England Patriots silver and the blue of the Boise State Broncos, which are the new school’s official colors.

The Jefferson Davis County Administrator of the Year award was presented to John Daley at the school board meeting Monday.

Daley is the director at the Dennis W. Fortenberry Career Center in Carson.

“I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to call him friend. Back in the early 2000s I became principal of BHS. He had 30 kids in a small space and literally had to slide to get through to teach his kids. He did what he had to do in that classroom, and still does that today. He is dedicated and committed and this is a consensus decision that he be our administrator of the year from all the administrators in the district,” said JDC Superintendent Will Russell.

Daley has been working in the JDC school district for 15 years.

“I am truly humbled to receive this award, and I am happy to be part of a great administrative team that works hard everyday to ensure the success of students in Jefferson Davis County. I thank Mr. Russell, the school board and the district office leadership. We can’t do anything without each other. We are a team and I am just happy to be a part of that team and help the district move forward,” said Daley.

March 29

The annual Chamber Partnership Banquet was held Tuesday night at the Rosenwald Building on the Prentiss Institute campus in Prentiss.

Awards were presented to business, industry and citizen of the year. Star Student and Star Teacher awards were also presented to the seniors and their chosen teacher of each of the three high schools.

Speaker for the banquet was Dr. Mark Miller. Miller is a professor of geography at Southern Miss., with a specialty in economic development.

The industry of the year award was presented to Foley Products.

Newpointe Pharmacy was awarded business of the year. Newpointe Pharmacy is owned by Robert Carr and Karl Sylvest and serves the Pine Belt with locations in Bassfield and Hattiesburg.

Pastor Jessie Holloway was named citizen of the year.

Star Student and Star Teacher awards were presented at the conclusion of the Chamber Partnership Banquet held Tuesday night in Prentiss. This is the first time since the year 2000 that all three schools awarded a Star Student, and it will also be the last.

Star Student for Bassfield High School is Kelvin Delgado. Delgado made a 28 on his ACT and  chose Sheena Barnes as his Star Teacher.

Slade McNeil is the Star Student for Prentiss Christian School. McNeil has been a student at PCS for seven years and made a 27 on the ACT. Headmaster Danny Quick was chosen by McNeil as Star Teacher.

The Star Student for Prentiss High School is Elesha Danielle White. She is a graduating senior at Prentiss High School and made a 27 on the ACT. White chose Kendra Payne as her Star Teacher.

April 5

Preparations are underway for the 34th annual Run for the Roses to be held next Saturday. The 5-K run/walk will begin at 8 a.m., followed by the one mile event and the quarter mile preschool run.

A portion of Sam Graham Road in district four was washed away early Monday morning after a large amount of rain fell during several storms that passed through the area. Motorists are urged to use caution in that area as repairs are being made.

April 12

It was a beautiful day for the runners and walkers Saturday morning during the 34th annual Run for the Roses 5K Run/Walk held in downtown Prentiss.

Ryan Crandall of Madison was the first runner to cross the finish line with a time of 18:41.

The first female to cross the finish line was Angel Overstreet of Florence, with a time of 19:21.

Collin Johnson of Terry with a time of 18:55 and Beverly Carr of Bassfield with a time of 26:52 were the Masters winners.

Grand Masters winners of this year’s race were Bo Smith of Brandon, with a time of 19:27 and Teresa Crothers of Brandon with a time of 21:26.

The fastest Jefferson Davis County runner was T.J. Davis with a time of 23:16. Pam Johnson was the fastest Jefferson Davis County female runner with a time of 26:33.

The oldest participant was Sylvia Rieger at age 82.

Prentiss Christian School received the award for most registered participants of all the local schools.

April 19

Wayne Bass of Prentiss has been appointed by the board of alderman to be the Prentiss Fire Chief effective May 1. Bass will take over after the retirement of Howard Kelly later this month.

“Wayne has been with us a long time and I know you all are aware of his attention to detail,” said Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas.

Bass has been with the Prentiss Fire Department for 22 years. Chuck Pruitt will fill the position left by Bass in the fire department. Bass was also the chief of the 84 West Volunteer Fire Department. That position will be taken over by Mike Butler.

“I feel very blessed and honored to be fulfilling my career goal here in my hometown of Prentiss,” said Bass.

Jefferson Davis County High School athletic director, Lance Mancuso, announced the hiring of several athletic coaches during a special meeting held last Tuesday.

The first coach that was announced was the former Bassfield volleyball coach, A’Kimi Rhodes. Rhodes led the Lady Yellowjackets to the second round of the Class 2A volleyball playoffs in 2016 and will be the head coach of the Lady Jaguars next season.

Jefferson Davis County hired two key football coaches and plans to have them in place as soon as possible. Tripp Sumrall and Benji Merchant were announced as the newest additions to the Jaguar football staff. Both former coaches at West Jones, Merchant will be defensive coordinator while Sumrall will assist as defensive line coach.

The last two coaches named were Marcus Luckett of Morton and Tony Woody of Moss Point. Luckett will be the head girl’s basketball coach while Woody will coach the boys.

Luckett was 30-1 last season as head coach of the Morton boy’s basketball team, taking the team to the state semi-finals. He coached the Newton girl’s team in the past, as well as being the assistant boy’s coach for Wayne County.

Woody took Moss Point to a 7-24 record in 2016-17, but still led the Tigers to the playoffs. Woody was also the head coach at Columbia for 18 seasons before spending the last three at Moss Point.

Officials with the Town of Prentiss have announced signing of a lease agreement with Wal-Mart Stores East for use of the Prentiss Complex building for warehousing product and material. Prentiss was selected over five other sites around the state visited by Wal-Mart representatives.
“We have been negotiating with Wal-Mart since they contacted us in early January,” said Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas. “We felt like we offered them the best opportunity and we’re pleased that we were selected.”

Use of the complex building should begin sometime in May.

April 26

After 36 years of service, Prentiss Fire Chief Howard Kelly has retired. A reception was held last Thursday at the Ronald W. Jones Memorial Complex in his honor.

“To properly place 36 years of service in context, the Town of Prentiss is 113 years old, meaning Howard has been fighting fires and protecting lives and property for nearly a third of the town’s history. Countless hours are spent away from family while serving others. His experience will be missed, but we are happy for Chief Kelly as he begins a new chapter in his life,” said Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas. Dumas presented Kelly with a gold ax at the reception to commemorate his retirement.

Cowboy legend, Buddy Steverson, was inducted into the Mississippi Rodeo Hall of Fame in recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary contributions to the sport of rodeo in Mississippi. Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith presented Steverson the award at the Marion County Cattlemen’s Association Rodeo in Columbia. Hyde-Smith stated Steverson was the first real cowboy she knew when she was a child.


Whitesand Baptist Church honored their pastor of 14 years, Rev. Charles R. Burnham with a reception to commemorate his 50 years in ministry. Friends, family and former church members came to help celebrate this milestone.

May 10

Candidates for mayor and the board of aldermen for the Town of Prentiss participated in a question and answer session Thursday night. The event was hosted by the NAACP and held in the Jefferson Davis County Courthouse.

All candidates were invited to attend. Both mayoral candidates, Charley Dumas and Michael Caldwell, took part in the discussion. Two of the seven board of aldermen candidates, Randy Stamps and Keith Bridges, were in attendance.

Valedictorians and salutatorians from 45 schools participated in this year’s celebration of the “Top of Class.” Jones County Junior College and WDAM-TV host the annual Top of Class recognition program. Bassfield High School valedictorian Tynai Bridges and salutatorian Ja Quala Green and Prentiss High School valedictorian Elesha White and salutatorian Jada Fairley participated in this year’s celebration.

Also participating were Prentiss Christian School valedictorian Hailey Williamson and salutatorian Blake Greenlee.

May 17

Jefferson Davis County Relay For Life was held at Bassfield High School on May 5 and was a great success.

The event raised $35,000 to fund ground-breaking cancer research through ACS intramural studies and extramural research grant programs. Prentiss United Methodist Church hosted the survivor dinner, as they have done for the past 10 years.

Three very special awards were presented at this year’s event. The youngest survivor in Jefferson Davis county is 8-year-old Tina Stapleton. The oldest survivor is Willow Dean Anthony, who is 90. The longest survivor is Tommy Dewitt.

After receiving a tip from the Prentiss Police Department, the Jefferson Davis County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant at a residence on Hall Lane just outside of Prentiss. A total of 28 marijuana plants were recovered from the property on May 15. Harold Easterling was arrested and charged with the manufacture of controlled substances.

May 24

The Town of Prentiss has agreed in principal to allow Point Broadband, a wireless internet provider, to place broadband equipment on one of its water towers, providing service to residents and businesses in the town.

Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas declared May 14-20 National Nursing Home Week at the Extended Care Facility in Prentiss. He encouraged all citizens to recognize the individuals who have continually committed themselves to quality care and services in our state’s long-term care facilities. The J.E. Johnson kindergarten class participated in a balloon lift-off commemorating the event.

Leanne Griffith of Prentiss recently won a $529 Mississippi Affordable College Savings scholarship offered by Mississippi State Treasurer Lynn Fitch.

Griffith entered to win one of six $529 MACS scholarships at the Mississippi High School Activities Association baseball championships.

May 31

Over 75 people turned out Monday morning for the Memorial Day service presented by the Jefferson Davis County Veterans Administration and the Town of Prentiss.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Sgt. Joe Bridges, followed by the National Anthem and prayer by Rev. Charles Burnham.

Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas provided the reading of a Memorial Day poem, followed by his introduction of the speaker, Capt. Ralph Hanegan.

“Ralph is such an integral part of our community. He is very active, not only in Bassfield, but in Prentiss as well. We appreciate the service he does for us, not just his military service,” said Dumas.

The Run for the Roses 2017 scholarship recipients are Elesha White from Prentiss High School, JaQuala Green from Bassfield High School and Kolbe Verdun from Prentiss Christian School.

Each student was awarded $500 to the school of their choice. The students were presented their certificates from race director, Missy Jones.

June 7

Prentiss Mayor Charley Dumas won his bid for re-election in Tuesday’s general election. Dumas beat Michael Caldwell 203 votes to 84.

Seven candidates, Keith Bridges, Jamie H. Cochran, Willard Davis, Rudolph “Rudy” McNease, Levi K. McRaney, Hal “Moochie” Speights and Randy Stamps, were all on the ballot vying for the five alderman seats.

The top five aldermen receiving votes were McNease, Speights, McRaney, Stamps and Davis. There were 299 votes cast of the 692 registered voters in the Prentiss city limits.

This will be Dumas’ sixth term in office.

An attempted murder-suicide left two people dead and one injured in an early morning shooting last Wednesday in the county.

Jefferson Davis County Sheriff Ron Strickland said the shooting happened around 3 a.m. Wednesday at 288 Smith Jones Road.

Strickland said a domestic dispute between Lee Sandifer and his 47-yearold girlfriend, Christine Lewis, led to the shooting. Sandifer shot both Lewis and the couple’s 10-year-old son, Zachary Sandifer, in the head before shooting himself, according to Strickland.

June 14

Alumni from the Prentiss Institute in Jefferson Davis County are gearing up for this year’s reunion with a weekend of festivities that include a parade, ceremony and plenty of food.

The reunion, set every two years on the school campus, will be June 16-17. Former students and their families attend. The reunion began 20 years ago and draws about 150 people each occurrence.

The Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, Inc. scholarships were awarded to two Jefferson Davis County students. Destiny Newsome and Ricardo Booth will both be attending Pearl River Community College this fall.

Family, friends and classmates gathered together at J.E. Johnson Elementary School Saturday to celebrate the life of 10-year-old Zackery Lee Harvey Sandifer.

Sandifer was shot by his father, Lee Sandifer, in the early morning hours of May 31. His father then went on to fire two shots at his mother, Christine Lewis, before taking his own life.

Family and friends remembered Zackery Saturday inside the gymnasium before releasing balloons outside in his honor.

June 21

Two 2017 Dodge Chargers were delivered to the sheriff and board of supervisors Monday during their second meeting of the month.

The cars were awarded to JDC after applied for a grant Community Facilities Grant through the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development. Area Specialist Sandra Foxworth and Area Director Michael Perry delivered the vehicles.

The Bassfield Yellowjacket varsity boys track team is a true testament of the adversity faced throughout the season, but in the end they pulled it together and won their second 2A MHSAA Track State Championship.

June 28

The Jefferson Davis County Sheriff’s Department has been actively investigating several cases of  mail being stolen out of mailboxes in the northern part of the county.

Based on the witness’ report, the Sheriff’s department and Prentiss Police Department made a traffic stop last week on a vehicle driven by Starsha Allen.

Over 70 Jefferson Davis County business owners and community leaders gathered Thursday for a meet and greet at the Academic Success Building in Carson.

Jefferson Davis County High School Athletic Director Lance Mancuso organized the meeting with the help of the JDC Chamber Parnership so community members and business owners would have a chance to meet the new coaches and ask questions about the upcoming school year.