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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 21, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Local Marine Dies (Tennessean)

A Columbia man was identified as the Marine killed during a live-fire training event at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.

Joseph Whaley was in his fourth week of a 13-week Basic Reconnaissance Course when he died Thursday during a nighttime live-fire exercise at the sprawling base in San Diego County, the military said in a statement.

Military officials did not immediately release the circumstances surrounding Whaley's death and said the investigation is ongoing. The military said it was providing support to Whaley's family and peers.

Whaley graduated from Columbia Central High School in 2022, according to news reports.

Columbia Central Loses Opener (MainStreetMaury)

The storybook ending that so many wanted for Tra’Darius Goff in his coaching debut Friday night eluded Columbia Central.

Despite outgaining Marshall County, the Lions’ offense only ran five plays in the red zone and never reached the end zone in an eventual 16-0 defeat.

“I think our guys played hard and with a lot of effort. We just didn’t execute on offense like we needed to,” said Goff, the former two-way standout for Columbia Central who took over the program in May following the unexpected resignation of Bobby Sharp after one season.

“Our defense played lights-out. That’s a great team, with a lot of athletes, and we held them to 16 points.”

Marshall County, in fact, went scoreless for most of the opening half before taking advantage of a couple of special teams plays.

“We knew what we needed to do (offensively); we just couldn’t make the plays,” Goff said. “Going forward, I expect us to make those plays.”

Columbia Central travels Friday to Dickson County.

Blood Assurance Giving Back to Schools (MainStreetMaury)

As the 2023-2024 school year gets underway, many area high schools will have extra funds on hand thanks to Blood Assurance.

The community blood center announced that through its Heroes Grant Program, 53 high schools in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will share a portion of $52,500, ranging from $500-$2,000 each.

In the Maury County area, Spring Hill High School received $1,000; and Mount Pleasant High School received $500.

The recipients are schools that held blood drives with the nonprofit during the 2022-23 academic year. The amount of money a school receives is based on several factors, including how many blood drives it hosted during the year, and the number of blood units collected. After receiving the grants, administrators from each school will determine where the money should be allocated.

“Blood Assurance receive approximately 15 percent of our blood from high school student donations. We know that these students are the future of blood donation, and we hope to educate and inform them of the vital need for blood,” said Linda Hisey, Blood Assurance’s community engagement and development administrator.

The Heroes Grant Program is funded through proceeds from various events that take place throughout the year, such as golf tournaments and benefit concerts.

“Blood Assurance is incredibly thankful for all of the philanthropic support we’ve received from the community,” said Hisey. “Anyone attending one of these events understands the importance of seeing the leaders of tomorrow excel in school.”

Since its inception in late 2021, the Heroes Grant Program has raised nearly $102,000 for dozens of high schools.

Students or staff interested in hosting a blood drive at their school this year should contact Kim Murphy at (423) 356-4368 or

Columbia Façade Grant (MainStreetMaury)

The Columbia City Council approved at its August meeting additional funds for the downtown improvement grant, which are not to exceed $400,000.

The State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) administers the grant program. Previously known as the Tennessee Facade Grant Program, the City received program funds in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The additional funds will cover a second phase of the facade improvement grant. Proceeds will be used for a 50/50 mix of downtown and facade projects. Improvements will include an installation of bump-out curbing in downtown, installation of new trash can recycling receptacles and pedestrian wayfinding signage.

The remaining 50 percent of funds will be granted to sub-recipients using the criteria the city used in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The city also authorized the application for the Healthy Choices Grant, with funds going towards a splash pad in Fairview Park, set to be named “Blue Cross Healthy Place at Fairview Park.”

The grant is up to $850,000 with matching funds of $350,000 from the city.

Parks and Recreation Director Mack Regan said the grant is highly competitive.

“They give five or six a year, so we’ve asked the development district staff to come forward and assist us with that process,” Regan said.

With the city’s budgeted amount included, Regan said the grant will allow the project to be fully funded.

“With the dramatic increase in splash pads, we thought it would be a good idea to try to assist and gain monies where we could outside of our taxpayer funding,” Regan said.

“Not only that, it will allow us to increase and personalize the grant. Maybe we want to add something on the Duck River. We’ll have 16 features from ground to high water features.

“Roughly you’re looking at about a 40-year life expectancy in this. Although it seems like a lot of money, when you figure it out per year it makes it much more at ease.”

Regan said a public meeting is scheduled in two weeks regarding the status of the project. The meeting will be held at the Dr. Christa Martin Community Center.

Schools in Need of Staff (Press Release)

Although they are in a much better position in terms of staffing than the last two years, Maury County Schools are still looking to fill a number of positions. They are in need of teachers…especially math and special education teachers, school nutrition associates, and bus drivers. Don’t have your CDL? Training will be provided if you do not currently have your CDL license. For more information on job openings and how to apply, visit

Women in Business Lunch (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance and the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, August 30th for a Women in Business Lunch featuring Executive Leadership Coach and Consultant, Chandra Jarrett.

With a rich background in engineering spanning over 15 years in Corporate America and over two decades in the not-for-profit sector, Chandra brings a unique blend of technical and humanitarian insights to the table.

She has dedicated her career to helping individuals and teams unlock their untapped potential and discover their own unique leadership voice. Leveraging a range of tools, technology, assessments, and processes, Chandra helps improve communication, align visions, enhance execution, and boost organizational performance. Her passion lies in liberating leaders, with a vision to empower them to liberate others.

During this lunch event, Chandra will delve into the transformative 'Know Yourself to Lead Yourself' tool designed to help attendees understand our inherent strengths, recognize areas of growth, and develop the skills to become effective leaders in respective fields.

Join Maury Alliance at this exciting event to gain valuable insights and connect with like-minded women. Secure your spot today! Tickets are $20 and include lunch. Visit for more information.

Randolph Howell Teachers Join STEM Collaborative (MSM)

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, a public/private partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education and Battelle Education, announced today the 2023-24 cohort of the Tennessee Rural STEM Collaborative (TRSC) – a year-long professional development opportunity for rural educators designed to share promising practices in STEM education, seek solutions to local education challenges, and encourage the development of a targeted STEM solution for each community or school represented.

This year, 45 educators representing 30 counties across Tennessee were competitively selected for the Collaborative, including Maury County Public Schools’ Ansley Mattingly, Haley Humphreys and Diamond Davis. All are educators at Columbia’s Randolph Howell Elementary School.

“The TRSC program provides a framework for expanding STEM education across Tennessee’s rural education communities. Through targeted capacity building, reduced teacher isolation, and increased collective impact, we are advancing STEM access and equity statewide.” said Brandi Stroecker, Director of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. The TRSC was recently profiled in an Education Week whitepaper titled, “Expanding STEM Learning Opportunities in Rural Schools,” that highlights several educator experiences and programmatic data.

Within the Collaborative, there are three regional cohorts that will map the STEM resources unique to the educational landscapes of West, Middle, and East Tennessee. The Collaborative provides a stipend for teachers to engage with the program and implement a targeted STEM initiative within their own communities. For more information, visit

As part of the Tennessee STEM Rural Collaborative, Regional Consultants are selected from the three 3 major regions of the state (West, Central, East) to support each educator in their represented region. These consultants provide support, feedback, and resources to each cohort member. This year’s Regional Consultants are Crystal Lock from Finley Elementary, Dyer County Schools; Lichelle Lenoard from Smyrna Elementary, Rutherford County Schools; and Mendi Catlett from Ootlewah Elementary, Hamilton County Schools.

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network is a public-private collaborative between the Tennessee Department of Education and Battelle Education, emphasizing a “kindergarten through jobs” philosophy by promoting the teaching and learning of STEM education and integrating real-world and hands-on learning in K-12 public schools across Tennessee. Visit for more information.

CMYC Applications Coming (MauryCountySource)

Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council (CMYC) applications for the 2023-24 school year are now open. The CMYC is open to all high school students located within Maury County, public, private, and home-schooled. The 2023-24 term will begin in September 2023 and conclude in May 2024.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “The Mayor's Youth Council has quicky established itself as one of the more important initiatives we have at City Hall. Not only does it bring youth inside our buildings to learn about important city issues, but I've seen it first-hand plant a seed in these students of love and pride for their community. I look forward to welcoming the upcoming class and would encourage all high school students to apply for what promises to be our best year yet!”

The CMYC’s goal is to foster leadership and community involvement among Columbia’s diverse high-school population and to encourage students to become further interested in local government. The CMYC is composed of Maury County high school students who value academic excellence, community involvement, and leadership. Selected students will have an opportunity to actively participate in various activities and programs, including team building, working with the Mayor and other City officials, addressing issues affecting youth and the community, leading and volunteering in community projects, and learning about City departments and local businesses.

The CMYC members will be selected based on an application process that is made available to all Maury County high school students. The application process will close on August 25th. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by September 1st. CMYC meetings will be held monthly, in addition to community and volunteer projects.

CMYC applications can be found at

9/11 Memorial (Press Release)

Join the City of Columbia and Columbia Fire and Rescue as they conduct their annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony. Located at Firefighters Park at 1000 S. Garden Street at 8:00am on Monday September 11th, local leaders will honor the brave men and women of emergency services. The public is invited to attend.

Pryor Art Gallery Hosting Exhibition (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Pryor Art Gallery will feature the exhibition “Anna Marie Pavlik: Traces of Our National Parks.” The exhibition, which includes prints inspired by various national parks, will be open to the public until September 22.

“With the spirit of an explorer, Anna Marie spends time at our national parks,” said Lisa Hoffman, Pryor Art Gallery curator. “Courageously venturing alone, either by foot or canoe, she sojourns with nature even at times when it is at odds with her. In one park, the staff had labeled her a "lost artist" when she was unable to paddle back to her campsite and she had paddled dangerously close to Mexico all night.”

Anna Marie Pavlik, a printmaker from Frankfort, Kentucky, will feature about 30 beautiful prints she created from her work as an artist in residence at various national parks. She has a bachelor’s degree in both mechanical engineering and studio arts, and holds a patent for a wire gripping device from her time at 3M Corporation.

Pavlik became more involved with art and joined Flatbed Press in Austin, Texas. Through intricate printmaking, she addresses her concern for the survival of natural areas and humanity’s relationship to the natural environment. Pavlik has been featured in various exhibitions, public collections and publications, as well as holds affiliations with more than 10 galleries. 

“Growing concern for the survival of natural areas and the need I perceive in people to understand their relationship to the environment have encouraged me to work with nature-related themes,” Pavlik stated in her artist statement. “My images are focused on revealing and presenting how nature has functioned. I extract the concepts which I visually explore, from my observations of natural sites, science publications and maps.  By creating these works, I hope to direct the viewer’s attention to the irreplaceable value, sublime beauty and mystery found within our natural environment.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public. The Pryor Art Gallery is in the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus located at 1665 Hampshire Pike and is open Monday -Thursday, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m and Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The opening reception, which is also free and open to the public, will be August 31 from 5 – 7 p.m. Pavlik will be in attendance as a special guest and speaker at the reception.

For additional information about this exhibition, please visit or on Facebook at ColumbiaStatePAG.

For more information about the Pryor Art Gallery, contact Hoffman at 931.540.2883 or

Maury County Fair (MauryCountySource)

The Maury County Fair will return on Thursday, August 31st and run until Monday, September 4th, 2023.

All the family fun and entertainment you love will soon be back!

This year, the fair festivities begins with a Rodeo, taking place on Thursday of Fair Week. Several other popular events will be happening like the junk car jump and run and the Saturday motocross races.

In addition to the back arena fun, all your favorite animal shows and exhibitor competitions are back this year too! The kids zone will see a variety of live, exotic animals and science shows that will amaze kids of every age.

For more on the fair and updates, visit

Address: Maury County Fair & Exposition

1018 Maury County Park Dr. Columbia, TN 38401

Tennessee Reconnect (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host virtual and in-person Tennessee Reconnect information sessions during the months of July and August.


Tennessee Reconnect is a last-dollar scholarship that provides free tuition for adults to attend a community college. The initiative is designed to help adults enter college to gain new skills, advance in the workplace and fulfill lifelong dreams of completing a degree or credential.


“We are thankful to be able to provide the local community with easy access to information about Tennessee Reconnect by hosting information sessions,” said Joni Allison, Columbia State coordinator of Adult Student Services. “Tennessee Reconnect provides a wonderful opportunity for eligible adults to retool their skills and attend Columbia State tuition-free.”


To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, students must meet the following requirements:

Haven’t earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year.

Complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid and be determined as an independent student.

Be admitted to Columbia State and enroll in a degree or certificate program.

Must attend at least part-time (6 credit hours).


To view the full list of steps to apply, or to sign up for an information session, please visit


August 21 6 – 7 p.m.

August 24 2 – 3 p.m.


For more information, contact Allison at 931.540.2655 or by email at

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

James Timothy “Timmy” Bradford, 54, son of the late Felix and Bertha Bradford, died Wednesday at his residence in the Hampshire Community. Funeral services for Timmy will be conducted Monday at 10:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens.

Mr. Gerald Rolf Martin, 93, retired from Monsanto, died Friday, August 18th at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at 1:00 P.M. at Riverside United Methodist Church. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols. Burial will be at Polk Memorial Gardens.

Mr. Roger Anthony Riddle, 67, retired sales manager with Service Partners, died Saturday, August 19th at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services will be Friday at 1:00 P.M. at Graymere Church of Christ. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 3:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M. at Graymere Church of Christ.

…And now, news from around the state…

Gatlinburg Fire Victims Win (Tennessean)

The victims of the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfire scored a major win Aug. 17 in their federal lawsuit against the National Park Service when a federal appellate panel unanimously overruled a district judge who dismissed the suit over what amounted to a paperwork error.

This decision means the lawsuit can move forward.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer ruled last year the families failed in court documents to include core assertions that are required to proceed with the lawsuit. In laymen’s terms, Greer tossed the lawsuit over wording in the files.

While the lawsuit over the handling of the wildfire by the National Park Service dragged on for years, it didn’t get very far in the courts. There has been no discovery. Officials have not been interviewed under oath. No one has had to answer for what went wrong that deadly Thanksgiving weekend.

All three judges on the panel ruled in the favor of the victims in the ruling released Aug. 17.

In the simplest terms, the decision doesn’t guarantee anything other than the lawsuit will continue.

The discovery process comes next, which could include having park and government officials give depositions under oath. Both sides will have a chance to file for summary judgement to potentially quicken the lawsuit. If those are denied, the case would likely go to trial.

GOP Candidates Raising Money in Nashville (TheNewsTN)

Two top candidates for president in 2024 are turning to Nashville to raise money.

Former Vice President Mike Pence held a fundraiser in Nashville last week, Politico's Natalie Allison reported. The event was reportedly at the home of Chip Saltsman, Pence's campaign chair and a longtime Tennessee political operative.

Pence is lagging behind other Republican presidential hopefuls both in fundraising and polling.

Former President Donald Trump, seeking a return to the White House, is also planning a Nashville fundraiser. The Tennessee Journal reported that Trump, leading the GOP nomination fight by a wide margin, will hold an event Thursday at a downtown Nashville hotel. Details are limited but Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty are expected to attend.

Blackburn and Hagerty were among the top Tennessee Republicans who backed Trump after he visited Nashville in April.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

CMA and ACM Award-winning artist Sara Evans was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry by the Opry’s longest-serving member, Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson. The pair were joined by Opry members Lady A and Carly Pearce. Evans was surprised onstage during her sold-out concert at the Ryman Auditorium celebrating the release of Sara Evans Still Restless – The 20 Year Celebration – which commemorates the 20th anniversary of her platinum-selling, ACM nominated album Restless, released in August 2003. Following an Evans/Pearce collaboration on “Suds In The Bucket,” Pearce introduced Lady A to present a Platinum plaque for the song. Immediately after that surprise presentation, Lady A’s Hillary Scott welcomed Anderson to the stage.

Anderson took the stage and recalled how he had gone to see Sara perform in a small warehouse showcase before her first album was released because she had included his song “Walk Out Backwards” in her project. “It’s a long way from that warehouse to selling out the Ryman,” Anderson said. He went on to say he had two questions for her, beginning by jokingly asking if she would sing “Walk Out Backwards.”

Evans didn’t miss a beat, immediately kicking into an a capella version of the tune. As she finished, Anderson asked his second question. “The second question is from me and Lady A, Carly, and a bunch of other people. Would you like to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry?”

Evans acknowledged she’d hoped for Opry membership for many years and tearfully accepted. Thanking her mom in the audience for pushing her and her siblings to perform as they were all growing up, Evans said to the crowd, “God is so good.”

Evans will be inducted into the Opry on Saturday, October 7 as part of the Opry’s 98th Birthday Weekend. Birthday Weekend shows and packages are available


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