Stone Age politicians
In the midst of the worst man-made ecological disaster in history and murderous fuel explosions in Texas, you would think that every political leader would have absorbed the earth's urgent message that they do something now to curb the country's appetite for fossil fuels . [FULL TEXT]

Blanche in trouble
Sen. Blanche Lincoln squeaked out a narrow victory in the Democratic runoff primary Tuesday, confounding the national media that had become enthralled with an Arkansas election for the first time in 35 years, since a young governor defeated the international icon J. William Fulbright for the Senate. [FULL TEXT]

Prison reform long overdue
The tenth time may be a charm. We have not been counting, but there must have been at least that many resolutions by state leaders to reverse the steady climb in the number of state prisoners and in the mushrooming cost of keeping them. [FULL TEXT]

We support Bill Halter
Democrats who vote in the U.S. Senate race Tuesday will try to solve one of the three equations, or perhaps all three. Is Sen. Blanche Lincoln or Lieut. Gov. Bill Halter the stronger candidate against the Republican nominee, Rep. John Boozman, in November when the odds in an unusually turbulent season do not favor any Democrat? [FULL TEXT]

Joyce Elliott for Congress
First you have to stipulate that Rep. Robbie Wills and Sen. Joyce Elliott have been unusually effective state legislators, which seems to have become the big issue in their runoff race for United States representative – that and which one is most electable in November. [FULL TEXT]

O'Brien has earned it
The race for secretary of state is the easiest on the Democratic primary ballot. Pat O'Brien is the clear choice, and not simply because he had the advantage of growing up under the civilizing influences of Jacksonville . [FULL TEXT]

Monty, the whiz kid
All of a sudden the hottest race on the ballot is commissioner of state lands, the least important of all elected offices. You have to wonder, what is that all about? [FULL TEXT]

Causey seems ready
Something can be said for using the simple test of truthfulness when you decide whom to vote for, whatever the office. In the Democratic runoff for Congress in the First District, which includes Lonoke County, that test would not serve Tim Wooldridge well. [FULL TEXT]

Mark Wilcox a freeloader
Every now and then you get a poignant reminder of the worth of an independent press. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette supplied one Sunday when it gave its readers an inside look at how the current state land commissioner, Mark Wilcox, manages the personal expenses of his office. [FULL TEXT]

Robbie Wills insults voters
The disappointment of the week is state Rep. Robbie Wills of Conway, who sent out a mass flyer across central Arkansas attacking his opponent in the Second District congressional race, state Sen. Joyce Elliott, as an ineffective extremist. [FULL TEXT]

Petraeus salutes
camp liberators

It was 65 years ago Monday that Beryl Wolfson helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in southeastern Germany.

Marker recalls fire at Twist

There's finally a marker honoring B.B. King in Twist in Cross County, where the great blues singer escaped from a fire at nightclub with his guitar and named it Lucille.

Justice Jim fought tough final battle
Arkansas bloggers were the first with the news of Justice Jim Johnson’s suicide over the weekend. The local TV news on Sunday ignored his passing, probably because no one in the newsroom knew who he was. [FULL TEXT]

Cabot man in raid
on POW camp in 1970
Mstr. Sgt. Paul Poole, who helped to liberate Americans from a Vietnamese prison camp, died last week. [FULL TEXT]

Trial could get Muhammad
his death wish

Last June, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muham-mad killed a soldier from Conway and injured another soldier from Jacksonville in front of a recruiting station in Little Rock.

What a little girl asked
from Santa

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they'd put an ad in the paper at Christmastime, saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

Tuskegee legend
at holiday reception

A tall elderly man stood in a far corner in a large banquet room at Little Rock Air Force Base on Sunday afternoon during the holiday reception hosted by the wing commanders.

Gas shut off
as hospital bills pile up

A couple in Beebe have been without heat for several months after the natural-gas company took out their meter because they were not paying their bills.

Huckabee our worst governor?
Who is Arkansas’ worst governor? Is it Orval Faubus, who defied federal authorities i n 1957, when he wouldn’t allow nine black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock? He brought shame and ridicule on the whole state, but at least no one was killed. Or is Mike Huckabee our worst governor ever?

Hey, Mike, who signed
Clemmons’ clemency?

Mike Huckabee’s political aspirations — and perhaps his radio and TV and publishing career — came crashing down Sunday evening, when law-enforcement officials near Tacoma, Wash., realized that the man who killed four police officers earlier that day was a thug Gov. Huckabee had released from prison in 2000.


Ex-follower of Alamos
looks back

A former member of the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation contacted us last summer to tell us he was glad Tony was in prison for molesting little girls.


Vicious killer, child rapist face revenge

The young thug who killed a popular TV personality, and the old evangelist who assaulted girls as young as 8 and 10 were both sentenced last week and will stay behind bars for the rest of their lives.


Have a beer before suit
goes to trial?

The Jacksonville police officers who arrested Rizelle Aaron four years ago in Dupree Park committed several blunders, a judge ruled last week, allowing Aaron’s lawsuit against the cops to proceed for violating his constitutional rights and for falsely arresting him on what may have been trumped-up charges.


Hero who returned
from hell

Leo Thorsness spoke at the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council luncheon and dedicated a Vietnam-era F-105 bomber in front of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on Friday.


Blue Note: World’s best jazz label marks 70 years
Blue Note Records sent its all-stars to Memphis early this year to kick off the jazz label’s 70th anniversary. But it was snowing, and many jazz fans, including this reviewer, stayed home that evening, afraid of treacherous road conditions — although there was probably no more than an inch of snow that day.


School visit shows years
of neglect

It was early last Friday morning, when the kids at Jacksonville Elementary School still looked a little sleepy.


Vasquez tells Jacksonville
to drop dead

Bill Vasquez, who claims to represent Jacksonville on the Pulaski County Special School District Board, says his critics don’t know what they’re talking about when they accuse him of voting against the city’s interests on the school board.


Festivals may fade,
but Arkansas blues
will never die

A fan’s list of the greatest bluesmen from around the Natural State.


Alamo could use a prison consultant
Tony Alamo, the self-anointed preacher and serial child molester, looked nervous outside the federal courthouse in Texarkana on Friday.


Ernie P. says we’ll find out
he’s the best

The Arkansas Lottery Commission is an embarrassment. Most Arkansans are furious over the salaries the lottery commission has lavished on the new director and his staff.


Huck’s main adversary
is not running

(This column, which appeared here on Jan. 17, 2008, won first prize in the Arkansas Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest. It placed second in the National Newspaper Association’s contest.)
Mike Huckabee’s most formidable opponent is not running for president.


If you crush freedom,
it will rise again

Col. John McDonald, the top commander at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina who had once been a squadron commander here, lost the confidence of his superiors and was dismissed from his post a week ago Friday, apparently for showing poor leadership.


Pope installs commander from LRAFB

Col. John McDonald, the top commander at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina who had once been a squadron commander here, lost the confidence of his superiors and was dismissed from his post a week ago Friday, apparently for showing poor leadership.


Brother tells of shooting at D.C. museum
School groups and other tourists are back at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.


Private still hurting after terror attack
Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula wasn't feeling well enough to attend the funeral of Pvt. William Long on Monday.


How shooting victim survived attack at LR recruiting station
Jacksonville soldier, his body riddled with bullets, comes home to recuperate from injuries.


Koko sang ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ to us
Koko Taylor, the Queen of the Blues, appeared at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival in Greenville, Miss., last September.


A survivor in shooting
doing well

Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, who was a fullback and a linebacker for the Jacksonville Red Devils in 2007, is recovering from gunshot wounds after a terrorist attack Monday at an Army recruiting station in Little Rock.


Chrysler, GM have obligation to preserve jobs
If General Motors and Chrysler go through with plans to close 40 percent of their dealerships, 187,000 jobs will disappear — which is more than the number of people Chrysler and GM employ at their plants.


Some crime less serious than others

George Biggs, who resigned last week as director of the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department, hardly served any time in prison for killing a man 18 years ago in Texarkana, Texas.


Second top 10: More of our favorite blues records
After our recent column about our top 10 blues records, here’s a list of our next 10 favorites. (The first installment appears on our music blog at


Alamo ploy is an effort to hide past
With all the economic problems around us, you may not have noticed that the imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo is about to go to trial on child-abuse charges.


Homeowner facing threat
of foreclosure
He built a house in Prairie County about five years ago and paid his mortgage every month until the economy went bad.
Now he’s fighting to keep his mortgage company, Countrywide Financial, from foreclosing on his home.


Bailouts costly,
but do not let
them fleece us

The federal government could soon take over more failing financial institutions, including the giant Bank of America, which has several branches in the area.


Ex-legislator pleased
tobacco tax passed

Former Rep. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville, who had introduced a bill for more trauma centers in the state when she was still in the legislature, is glad the tobacco-tax increase was approved in the Senate this week and in the House the week before.


Tobacco lobby sends Dr. Death from Texas
Dick Armey of Texas, the former Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives who’s now a pitchman for Big Tobacco, came to Little Rock yesterday to lobby against raising the tax on tobacco.


Beebe battles deadly tobacco lobby in ledge
Gov. Mike Beebe led a rally at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock on Monday for his proposed 56-cent tax increase on tobacco to pay for health services, including a statewide trauma system.


When your stockbroker ignores you
In some cultures, people who have betrayed others are so ashamed that in extreme cases they will end their lives for doing you wrong.


Apartments given
a new lease on life

The Jacksonville apartment building whose owners let the building go to hell — broken windows just about everywhere and utilities shut off because the owners wouldn’t pay their electric and water bills — is under new management and is getting a new lease on life.


It’s the year of the blues,
or how blue can you get?

This has been a tough year for almost everyone, and things could get worse in 2009. Times are bad, or in the words of the immortal bluesman B.B. King, “How Blue Can You Get?”


Little girl left Santa
very sad
(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)
When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime, saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.


Arkansan key player
in machine

Back in the 1950s, the Chicago political machine picked a young black lawyer who was born in Blytheville to run for the state House of Representatives after reapportionment gave the city an additional district.

Pearl Harbor survivor
tells of '41 attack

(This column about the late McLyle Zumwalt first appeared here on Dec. 9, 1989 and is reprinted to mark the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.)
Most people think of retired Col. McLyle Zumwalt as one of the organizers of Pathfinders, which trains the developmentally and physically disabled in Jacksonville.


Preacher’s jail ministry
is real close to home

It doesn’t look like Tony Alamo, the self-styled evangelist and accused child molester, will be home for the holidays.

Pastor retires after
42 years with church

Two years after he had cancer surgery, Lyndon Whitledge has retired as pastor of North Jacksonville Missionary Baptist Church, where he was the minister for 42 years and at its predecessor, Unity Baptist Church, which was in the Sunnyside section of Jacksonville.

Why Obama must hold Hillary close
President-elect Barack Obama is said to be considering Hillary Clinton for secretary of state to discourage her from challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 2012.

Unexpected blowout as nation veers to left
The election of Barack Obama as president is as dramatic as the election of Ronald Reagan a generation ago.

McCain hopes stock rally will save candidacy
The pundits were saying last week that the only way John McCain could win the presidential election was if the stock market went up 3,000 points. Well, who knows?

The man who couldn’t
stay out of trouble
After he went to prison for six years for tax evasion and cheating his followers out of millions in wages, Tony Alamo should have thought about retiring from his phony Christian cult and stayed on the right side of the law, living out his golden years in a double-wide trailer somewhere in the Ozarks, not far from his native Missouri, singing “Volare” to himself as the sun went down.

Family speaks after son killed in shootout with police
Steven Smith’s family buried their schizophrenic son Friday morning, four days after he’d been fatally shot in their house by Jacksonville police following a five-hour standoff.

Gwatney: He found his voice in politics
Not long after he was shot at Democratic Party headquarters just before noon on Wednesday, Bill Gwatney’s family and friends knew his wounds would prove to be fatal.

British girl who survived bombs, German scientist
who made them

Christine Diffie of Jacksonville was just a little girl back in England during the Second World War, when German bombs and rockets fell from the skies and families were split up and sent to the countryside where it was considered less dangerous, especially for children.

Gala honors Jordan centennial
The old house on South Main Street in Brinkley is falling apart, and there’s only a handmade sign in the front yard to remind passersby that this is where Arkansas’ most important musician was born.

Hustlin’ Lu should give back bonus and resign
Luther Hardin, the tireless self-promoter who’s itching to run for governor after Mike Beebe finishes out his second term, should give back the $300,000 bonus he received from his pliant board of trustees just for staying on as president of the University of Central Arkansas.

Soul singer Green keeps streak going
Soul singer Al Green, the minister of love who was born in eastern Arkansas, keeps spreading his message of happiness and good vibes with his third CD from Blue Note, “Lay It Down,” which evokes the exuberance of his 1970s Hi Recordings.

Experienced lawmakers know right from wrong
Sen. Jack Crumbly of eastern Arkansas can keep his seat despite “flagrant fraud” that helped him get elected, but two veteran senators are outraged that their colleagues voted last week to let him stay in the Senate.

Hillary’s loss reminiscent
of stumble by Bill in ’80

Hillary Clinton is giving up her dream of becoming president anytime soon, but she said on Tuesday she’d consider the second spot on the ticket.

Tornado gets too close for

Sen. Bobby Glover was in his car early Friday afternoon when a storm roared into Carlisle. He was just a couple of blocks away from the old railroad depot on Main Street, where he has his insurance office, and he was worried about his daughter Robin and was desperate to find her.

LR lawyer caught in subprime meltdown
Before there was a subprime meltdown, thousands of homes were sold to buyers who couldn’t afford the mortgages that went with them and middlemen lined their pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and fraudulent expenses.

Huck prays for miracle after losses
An obvious sign that his presidential campaign is sinking and out of money, Mike Huckabee is throwing the national media off his plane and bus and will probably soon abandon Florida, placing all his bets on Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

Huck’s main adversary is not running
Mike Huckabee’s most formidable opponent is not running for president.

Central book is suddenly more timely
Ralph Brodie dropped in at the Jacksonville Rotary Club on Monday to talk about his book, “Central in Our Lives: Voices from Little Rock Central High School, 1957-59.”

Hillary hurt, Huck boosts McCain for nomination
Until a year ago, Mike Huckabee was an obscure governor from a small state that has a knack for producing national political figures.

Aretha releases record of the year
Record of the year: Aretha Franklin’s “Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul,” a two-CD set from Rhino that discounters sell for about $15, which is a bargain. [FULL TEXT]

What little girl wanted for holiday
(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.) When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime, saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

Huckabee impressive, unenduring
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee is way up there in the polls, pulling almost even with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination, although Huckabee badly trails all potential Democratic nominees.

Pearl Harbor marks 66th

County too poor for sick inmates
Beebe police recently arrested James E. (Big Ed) Fuller for selling crack cocaine out of his apartment.

Tough vet able to cry and smile
When you saw Bill Greer, he usually smiled like all his brothers.

Parties still looking for their savior
While Republicans and Democrats are slugging it out over who should get their party’s presidential nomination — for many, the choices aren’t all that terrific, which is why minor candidates like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are pulling up from the rear —the good news for Lonoke County Republicans is they have squelched a rebellion to humiliate the mayor of Cabot and an alderman.

Department plays games with scores
The state Education Department last Friday sent out a poorly written press release that bragged about how much progress public schools are making, although if you read far enough into the press release, you realize schools are doing less well than the year before.

Quillin’s relatives stand by their man
Ron Quillin’s mother-in-law wasn’t too happy with my column Wednesday about the former Pulaski County comptroller who’s in prison for stealing more than $40,000 to finance an affair with a lady friend who was doing business with the county.

Emails out, but in-laws still pay up
It was nice of Ron Quillin’s in-laws to mortgage their home so he could repay Pulaski County more than $42,000 he stole while he was the county comptroller, but after they saw the infamous emails he sent to his girlfriend printed in the papers, they must wonder if the bum is worth keeping as a son-in-law.

It doesn’t take long to get out of prison
You’ve probably noticed how criminals get their names in the papers over and over again.

It’s Biscuit time in Helena
The Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in downtown Helena — formerly the King Biscuit Blues Festival, although it’s still the Biscuit for most fans and it’s still free — will kick off next Thursday with several strong acts and will continue through next Saturday with plenty more good music, and there’s still lots more across the river the following afternoon in downtown Clarksdale, Miss.

Classmates meet, recall friendship
Ernest Green, perhaps the best known of the Little Rock Nine, was walking up a couple of flights of stairs at Central High School after Tuesday’s ceremony marking the integration of Central 50 years ago this week.

No troops when you need them
Most people in Little Rock resented the arrival of the 101st Airborne Division to ensure the integration of Central High School 50 years ago — many of those troops were flown into Little Rock Air Force Base — but almost exactly the year before, I would have welcomed the 101st into my native Hungary.

All voices need to be heard now
No one at the Little Rock School District or at Central High School will tell us if the city will honor white students and their teachers who stood up to the bigots outside Central High School when Gov. Faubus tried to keep nine black kids out of their neighborhood school 50 years ago this month.

Recognizing others who were there
Gene Bowman of Jacksonville is one of about 4,500 people who’ve received invitations to a ceremony Sept. 25 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the integration crisis at Central High School in Little Rock.

Pizzeria closes after move and owner’s surgery
The state Highway Department is completing work on an on-ramp at Hwy. 67/167 in north Jacksonville, where the Pizza Company did pretty decent business for more than a decade.

Sad news hits us hard this August
A death in the family and deaths of friends have made us think about mortality.

My father: A witness to 20th Century
When my father passed away at the age of 85 late in the afternoon on Aug. 5, one of the doctors at the emergency room at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami called my brother Steve with the terrible news.

Is Villines trying to hide more disgrace?
It’s hard to figure out why Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines has opposed the release of emails written by a disgraced former employee — unless Villines thinks they will make his office look bad and raise questions about what his workers are doing when they’re on the clock.

Americans who make a difference
While we visited the other day with Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz, the commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, and later with members of a local church, they reluctantly mentioned some extraordinary things they’ve done — one in the line of duty, the others going overseas with a church group.

Local TV closes in on killing
When it comes to local TV news, they say if it bleeds, it leads.

Kids, dope don’t mix with driver
He’s been driving a bus for the Pulaski County Special School District for 22 years, and this summer he drives a van for special-education students who attend a summer program at the Jacksonville Middle School for Boys.

Stax marks 50 years of great music
If you remember Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the Staples Singers’ “Respect Yourself,” Eddy Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions” and the Mar-Keys’ “Last Night,” you would have enjoyed a concert last month in Memphis commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stax record label.

Air strategy saving lives
Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz is in his office at the headquarters of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he’s the commander, and he reaches for a dagger he’d brought back from Qatar a couple of years ago, when he was in charge of running airlifts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Payday series wins award in competition
(The Arkansas Press Association awarded The Leader first place in the Better Newspaper Contest for our in-depth reporting on payday lenders. This column from March 22, 2006 was part of that series.)
A populist state like Arkansas, which once had the lowest usury rate in the nation — 10 percent was the interest limit until 1982 — now allows payday lenders to charge outrageous interest rates — often several hundred percent interest.


Next move may be up to federal prosecutor
When the FBI completes its public-corruption probe into former Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh’s administration, interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin in Little Rock could be the one who decides whether to file charges against Stumbaugh and his cronies.

How city wiped out vet’s investment
A veteran of Vietnam, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, Jim Eggert bought two commercial buildings in Jacksonville, but the closing of the Graham Road rail crossing killed business. He’s put his property up for sale, but he’ll have to take a huge loss.

Famed photographer had roots in area
If you turn off Hwy. 5 at Cabot near the freeway and drive down Cleland Road for less than a mile, you’ll come to Mt. Pleasant Road.

U.S. prosecutor demoted over bullying e-mail
Witness in Campbell trial used his government computer and official title to try to intimidate newspaper with threat of a $50 million libel suit and takeover of The Leader.

Why didn’t feds take this case?
You may have wondered while you were following the corruption trial of Jay and Kelly Campbell in Lonoke County why the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock didn’t prosecute the couple, along with two shady bail bondsmen, who will be tried later.



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June 12, 2010

Don't try this at home
In front of an impressed audience, Aaron Book, 14, of Beebe balances on the diving board before plunging into the water at the city pool on Wednesday.

Audit shows PCSSD fast and loose with money

IN SHORT: The Pulaski County Special School Board on Friday afternoon reversed itself, implementing for the first time a "no-cash-advance" policy for traveling board members, just hours after the state Legislative Audit Committee chastised the board for its failure to rein in the self-enrichment of some members through improper advances and restitution. [FULL TEXT]

O'Brien switches focus to fall race
IN SHORT: Jacksonville native wins big, enjoys the lull before the general election. [FULL TEXT]

Elliott eager to build on primary win
IN SHORT: Optimistic Elliott hits ground running after primary runoff victory, but faces tough challenger. [FULL TEXT]

PCSSD scores below average
IN SHORT: Arnold Drive tops district at multiple grade levels, but it's not enough. [FULL TEXT]

C-130 deliveries replacing trucks
IN SHORT: Squadron is saving lives with flights instead of road deliveries. [FULL TEXT]

Rainstorm soaks field
Cabot Centennial Bank Junior American Legion coaches and players hustle to get the home plate tarp down as thunderstorms approach on Thursday.

Redman speaks on track
IN SHORT: Soft-spoken mod racer lets action do his talking on oval at Beebe Speedway. [FULL TEXT]
Sylvan Hills takes a 10-2 victory over Jacksonville
IN SHORT: Spears' home run in sixth is a blow that stops Gwatney comeback in seinor American Legion game on Tuesday night. [FULL TEXT]

Major League player
IN SHORT: Former Cabot Panther Sam Bates drafted to Florida Marlins. [FULL TEXT]

After one season, Beebe basketball coach moves on
IN SHORT: Parker lands with Midsouth Community College as Badgers begin search for replacement, hope to find continuity. [FULL TEXT]

Gwatney cashes in on walks, miscues
IN SHORT: Jacksonville takes junior American Legion victory as Sylvan Hills pitchers falter. [FULL TEXT]


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