Notable deaths, virus scare mark third quarter

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

Residents rode an emotional roller coaster into the thirdquarter of 2002 as they contended with the deaths of two prominentcitizens, fear of a West Nile virus outbreak, elation of a $3.8million school bond issue, tensions surrounding a proposedannexation and the looming threat of a hurricane.

July

Lincoln County’s education system suffered a loss July 2 withthe death of Harold Luther Smith. He served as superintendent ofeducation for Lincoln County Schools for 12 years and had aneducational career that spanned more than 30 years. He retired in1995.

More than $20,000 was raised for special projects at King’sDaughters Medical Center during the Duck Derby July 6.

Work to install larger water lines in the downtown area, theWhitworth Fire Loop System project, began July 15.

Bob Pittman, the American Online leader who preached synergy andgrowth after the company’s merger with Time Warner, resigned July18 as the chief operating officer of the world’s largest mediacompany amid deepening fears about AOL Time Warner’s ability tolive up to its financial promises. Pittman spent much of his youthin Lincoln County and is a graduate of Brookhaven High School.

Mississippi’s first confirmed human case of West Nile virus wasannounced July 20 by the state Health Department. Cases wouldcontinue to be reported until mid-October. By then, nearly 200human cases were confirmed statewide, with at least three cases inLincoln County. The virus can be lethal, but all of the LincolnCounty cases recovered.

WorldCom Inc. formally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcyprotection July 21, making it the largest bankruptcy in U.S.history.

A mobile home was destroyed and several other homes damaged July21 as a powerful thunderstorm swept across southern LincolnCounty.

Two more members joined the staff of the Mississippi School ofthe Arts July 22 when David Smith, director of student services,and Kim Wand, director of academics, reported for their first dayof work.

Katie Newman, the daughter of Henry and Vickie Newman ofBrookhaven, was named the state’s Miss Hospitality during theannual event July 27 in Hattiesburg’s Seanger Theatre.

August

Lincoln County Schools announced Aug. 5 that they would hold aspecial election Sept. 17 in a bid to pass a $3.8 million bondissue. The bond issue included improvements to each of the schoolcampuses in its district.

The first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Lawrence Countywas reported Aug. 9. The positive result was found in a dead bird.No human case in Lawrence County was ever confirmed.

A former business director of the Lincoln County School Districtwas ordered to repay more than $14,000 she took from the districtafter pleading guilty to four counts of embezzlement and two countsof uttering forgery. She was also given a suspended sentence ofthree years for each count, to run concurrently. The chargesstemmed from February 1999 to December 2000.

September

Residents took time on the first anniversary of the nation’sworst terrorist attack Sept. 11 to commemorate the tragedy andheroics of the year before during several events throughout thecounty and nationwide. Events here included a Silent Parade throughdowntown Brookhaven and the dedication of a flagpole at theLawrence County Civic Center in Monticello.

Local and state officials and guests celebrated the expansion ofthe Highway 84 four-laning project solemnly Sept. 11 with manyreferences to the tragedy of the World Trade Center terroristattack.

The $3.8 million Lincoln County School District bond issuepassed with a 69 percent majority after votes were tallied Sept.17. By the end of the year, the district had started some necessarydemolition and awarded the contract for the construction ofimprovements to each of its school campuses.

Brookhaven aldermen voted Sept. 17 to adopt an annexationordinance. Brookhaven is proposing to annex an area extending southof Highway 84 to River Road Drive, north to above the Brignallcommunity, east to an area between Crooked Lane and Belt Line Driveand west to Katie Trail. Areas that would be taken in are Brignall,Lakewood Village, the Oak Hill and Moreton Estates on NatchezAvenue, and Field Lark Lane to the northwest. Some citizens opposethe annexation.

David Webb, the long-time publisher of the Franklin Advocate,died Sept. 21 of a heart attack. He had been publisher of thenewspaper since 1962 and was also publisher of the Wilk-AmiteRecord.

Hurricane Isidore struck the Louisiana coast Sept. 25 andbrought Lincoln County more than six inches of rain, downed powerlines and toppled trees. By the next day, more than two more inchesof rain had fallen and it had been downgraded to a tropicalstorm.

Editor’s Note: On Monday, the Year In Review series willtake a look at events in October, November and December.