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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 29, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Zion Vigil (CDH)

Members of Zion Presbyterian Church in Columbia held a prayer service Monday alongside many churches across Tennessee and the nation, following an afternoon shooting at the elementary school at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville that left six victims dead as well as the suspect.

Senior Pastor Paul Joiner, who spoke slowly, deliberately and somberly, said many of the Zion parishioners were close to fellow congregants at Covenant Presbyterian Church "up the road." The Zion community, mirroring the Covenant community, also houses a school, Zion Christian Academy, serving over 520 students in grades Pre-K-12.

“This one hits close to home,” Joiner said. “We have become aware of the reality that we spend most of our lives wanting to deny, that this world is not safe. Evil is very real. Evil people do evil things. For some of us, these are our friends.”

“The senior pastor lost a daughter today,” he said. “This is another PCA church school just up the road. This is a deep rupture in our lives.”

Over 75 congregants of all ages gathered to say prayers and sing a closing hymn for the children, parents, students and school community during the special night service. Associate pastors at the podium and congregants from the pews took turns offering spontaneous heartfelt prayers, many to uplift, comfort and express sorrow.

On Monday, an armed intruder forcibly entered The Covenant School on the Nashville Covenant Presbyterian Church campus, shooting and killing three nine-year old children and three adults, including the school’s headmaster, a janitor and a substitute teacher, Joiner said.

Lives lost include students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9, and headmaster Katherine Koonce, 60, Cynthia Peak, 61, and Mike Hill, 61, according to police.

The suspect, Audrey Hale, 28, was killed after a confrontation with police. The incident is still being investigated by the Metro Nashville Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Zion Christian Academy is a Christ-based, college preparatory school with an average class size of 19, attracting the highest population since its inception in 1979 with an increase of more than 100 new students over the last two years.

The rise in new students mirrors an increasing population among private schools in Maury County and across the country, stemming from parents’ desire for smaller classroom sizes, one-on-one attention and a break from previously stringent COVID-19 protocols in public schools to a focus on Classical education and better teacher retention.

“Pure evil has shattered our world. This is the kind of reality that shakes us to the core. There are a lot of things that should be coming up out of our hearts right now — grief, sorrow, anger and fear. They need to be voiced.”

Joiner leaned on Bible verses from Pslam140 during the vigil: "Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day," Joiner read.

At least seven churches around Nashville held prayer services Monday night to honor the victims and pray for the church community.

Covenant School released a statement late Monday night asking for privacy as law enforcement continues the investigation.

"Our community is heartbroken," the emailed statement read. "We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing."

Mule Day Auctioneers Contest (MainStreetMaury)

Auctioneers from across the country will gather in Columbia on Friday, March 31 for the 2023 Mule Day Auctioneer Championship.

Held in Columbia’s Livestock Sale Barn, Joshua Houston of College Grove was named the grand champion at the 2022 event and received $1,000 in prize money and a 2022 Mule Day championship belt buckle and plaque. Einard received $300 and a reserve champion belt buckle and plaque.

Twenty-two auctioneers from eight different states took part in the 2022 championship. Each auctioneer was judged in five categories, Initial Command, Voice Quality, Bid Catching, Execution of Sale and Would You Hire, with points ranging from 1-20. The judges then totaled up the scores before determining the top 10. Judges scored the auctioneers based on additional items they brought.

The event, which has been held since 2012, is hosted by the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club. Chartered in 1997, the club makes various contributions to the community with a financial impact of over $441,000 to date.

All money raised from the event go to the Rotary Club’s college scholarship fund. Scholarships are awarded to students from Santa Fe, Culleoka and Hampshire, as well as four current college students and one planning to attend Columbia State Community College, for a total of $8,000. In total, the Rotary Club raised $13,800 at the 2022 championship.

“Our goal was, if a student wanted to reapply, they could get a second, third year scholarship. With the success of the auctioneer championship, we were able to start doing that five years ago,” said Eddie Ables, a past president of the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club who helps chair the club’s scholarship program.

Ables said the Columbia Breakfast Rotary has awarded roughly $65,000 in scholarships since founding its program.

NashCo Furniture (MainStreetMaury)

Furniture stores are few and far between in Maury County, but Middle Tennessee-owned NashCo Furniture is bringing its brand to the heart of Columbia. 

Store manager Madison Allen has selected a plethora of different-styled furniture and pieces to fill the new showroom at 425 W. 7th Street in downtown Columbia. Their presence in the former Fred’s building next to the Post Office and Foodland was completely intentional – no matter the cost.

“We want to be in the heart of the community. We are big community supporters and we love to give back any chance we get,” she said. “Rent would be cheaper, but we’re not here to stretch our budget, we’re here to stretch yours.”

The company began in 2011 as an appointment-only operation with owners Anthony Moore and Fred Ata looking to provide a solution for the growing population in Middle Tennessee. Since that time, NashCo Furniture has built a reputation for being a local option with something for everyone.

“That sets us apart from our competitors in Middle Tennessee,” Allen said. “Our showroom is constantly changing. If you come by but don’t see something you love, come back in a few weeks because we are always adding inventory. Everybody has different styles and you may want to have one style in one room and then switch it up. 

“We want to make sure we have something for everyone’s style and fit everyone’s budget.”

For those looking to stretch their budget even further, NashCo offers financing options that can be as long as 36 months interest-free or they can provide options that do not require credit checks.

“It’s important to us to be able to find a way to get quality furniture into the homes of those who need it,” Allen said. “We will do everything possible to make sure we can fit your dream pieces into your budget.”

Additionally, Allen said the company is dedicated to being good community partners in other ways. The company gives back-to-school bags out in late July and August, but also helps provide solutions for those facing tragedy.

“We want to be the people you call when you need help. We aren’t here to take all your money, we are family and we want you to feel welcome here,” she said. 

The store will be open Thursday-Monday closing at 7 p.m. on every day but Sunday, when they close at 5 p.m. Visit them online at

Where’s Maury the Mule? (MainStreetMaury)

The Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance kicked off their annual shop local passport adventure, “Where’s Maury the Mule?” last week. This event, presented by Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, encourages people to discover, explore, and support small businesses across Maury County.

Maury Alliance launched this event in 2016 to support local businesses and provide a fun activity for families during spring break and Mule week. “Where’s Maury the Mule?” is just one initiative from the Maury Alliance to help support the small business community, but it is one that both people and businesses look forward to each year. The event has grown every year since its inception and is now a two-week event with 35 participating businesses.

“I’ve lived in Maury County my whole life and discovered many new businesses while participating in Where’s Maury the Mule last year. It was my first time to participate in that event and me and a friend went to 30 businesses in a single day!” said Marvin Russel, the 2022 grand-prize winner.

Those interested in joining the search for Maury the Mule this year can pick up a passport from event sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Maury Alliance, or any of the 35 participating businesses. Once you have a passport, visit as many local businesses as possible, find the Maury the Mule image hidden at each business, and get your passport stamped or signed by an employee.

Visiting at least five businesses will enter you into a participation drawing for Local First gift cards.

Visiting 20 businesses qualifies you for the grand-prize drawing. If you visit 25 businesses, you will get a double entry into the grand prize drawing, and if you visit 30 businesses, you will get at triple entry into the grand prize drawing.

To be entered into the grand prize drawing, passports must be turned in at the Maury Alliance office by Tuesday, April 11 at 5 pm. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday, April 12. Two lucky people will win the Grand Prize – which is $450 in gift cards from participating businesses. Maury Alliance’s Local First Gift Cards will also be given away.

Visit for more information.

Clement to Speak at Clement (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host former congressman Bob Clement for a special presentation on March 30 at 4 p.m.


“Like his father, Congressman Bob Clement has enjoyed a remarkable life and career in public service,” said Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State professor of history. “Because it was Governor Clement and his commissioner of education, J. Howard Warf, who created the community college system in Tennessee, we thought it fitting to invite the congressman to speak at Tennessee's first community college and in Columbia State’s building named for Governor Clement.” 

The presentation is an opportunity for the community to visit with and listen to the former congressman, who has a unique connection to Columbia State.

“We're looking forward to hearing what Congressman Clement has to say about his life and career and the legacy of his father,” Gidcomb said.

The presentation is free and open to the public. It will take place on March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Ledbetter Auditorium located in the Clement building on the Columbia Campus.

Mule Day (Press Release)

The excitement is building as we are less than two weeks away from MULE DAY, the annual celebration and time-honored tradition held in Columbia, Tennessee the first weekend of April. This year’s family-friendly event, set for March 30 through April 2, 2023, promises to be one of the biggest and best yet, with a lineup of activities sure to excite visitors of all ages. The highlight of the festivities is the world-famous MULE DAY Parade happening Saturday, April 1st, led by this year’s Grand Marshal Mike Wolfe.

Mike Wolfe is an expert forager of American history who created and stars on History Channel’s American Pickers. He has a real heart for preservation and a passion for the beauty and stories behind forgotten objects and places.

Columbia, Tennessee earned the title of Mule Capital of the World many years ago. In the days before cars and tractors, people came from miles around to buy, sell, and trade mules in Columbia. Years later, people still gather in Maury County to pay tribute to the long-eared, beast of burden. MULE DAY began as Breeder’s Day in the 1840’s, a single day livestock show & mule market once a year. It evolved into a multi-day festival, and the parade was added in 1934. MULE DAY was discontinued during World War II then the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club revived it in 1974. Since then, MULE DAY has been drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Thursday, March 30th Maury County Park opens at 10am to kick off the MULE DAY festivities. The schedule includes many mule-featured events throughout the day such as the Mule Pull competition, where teams of mules and their handlers compete to see which team can pull the heaviest load. Visitors will also enjoy craft vendors, a flea market, special entertainment and tasty food & drink options. Live Bluegrass music takes the stage at 7pm at Central High School, located next to Maury County Park. 

Friday, March 31st the gates open at 10am with live music on the main stage, an entertaining selection of mule-featured events all day, and a Liar’s contest at 7pm at Central High School.

Saturday, April 1st, the highly anticipated MULE DAY Parade gets underway at 11am in downtown Columbia.  Excitement builds for the arrival of the Grand Marshal, this year’s honored guest, Mike Wolfe, who officially kicks off the parade featuring a colorful procession through the streets of Columbia with hundreds of mules, parade floats, the MULE DAY Queen with her Court, and more. After the parade, activities move to Maury County Park once again for an afternoon of scheduled activities.

Sunday, April 2nd is the final day of scheduled events happening at Maury County Park such as the Riding Mule Show and the Mini Mule Show, not to mention the family-friendly attractions.

Whether you are a longtime fan of MULE DAY or a first-time visitor, this year’s event promises to be an unforgettable experience so save the date, gather your family and friends, and head to Columbia, Tennessee for MULE DAY 2023.

NEED TO KNOW INFO: Admission to Maury County Park MULE DAY activities Thursday through Saturday is $10 per person, Sunday is $5 per person, children under 12 are free. Weekend passes are available for only $20. Admission fee does not include rides. Parking is free.

The MULE DAY parade in downtown Columbia is free and open to the public.

For more information, go online to, email or call 931-381-9557.

Mule Kick 5K (Press Release)

Hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by First Farmers and Merchants Bank, the annual Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will take place Saturday, April 1, at Riverwalk Park in Columbia.

Proceeds from the 2023 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot provide funding for Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which delivers health care services to at-risk and underserved individuals throughout southern Middle Tennessee by providing basic health screenings, education and resources. A portion of the proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the Maury County school with the most participation in the event will receive a donation to their P.E. program from the Foundation.

“The Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot is a great tradition for both Maury County and the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation that helps support our mission of providing important health care services for individuals who may not otherwise be able to obtain care,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “We are excited to host the Mule Kick 5K and look forward to an exciting race!”

On Saturday, April 1, the race will begin at Riverwalk Park in Columbia with an 8 a.m. start time for the 5K and a 9:15 a.m. start time for the 1-Mile Trot. Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants may register for the race online at

“The Mule Kick has become one of the great annual events for Maury County, and we are honored to be involved again as presenting sponsor,” said Brian K. Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of First Farmers. “We’re thankful for the tremendous work of the Foundation in helping to serve the health care needs of others throughout our region.”

In addition to presenting sponsor First Farmers and Merchants Bank, sponsorships ranging from $350 to $2,500 are still available for those who are interested in marketing exposure at this event. For additional information, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.380.4075.

To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation, the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot or to make a direct gift to support the mobile medical unit fund, visit

…And now, news from around the state…

Nashville School Shooting (Tennessean)

On Monday night, Tennessee's first lady Maria Lee was set to have dinner with one of her best friends, Cindy Peak, an old colleague from her teacher days who planned to spend the day as a substitute teacher at The Covenant School.

But Peak never arrived home on Monday. The 61-year-old was one of six victims slain in one of the deadliest school shootings in Tennessee history.

"What happened at Covenant School was a tragedy beyond comprehension," Gov. Bill Lee said in a recorded address Tuesday night, his first extended comments on the shooting.

"Like many of you, I’ve experienced tragedy in my own life, and I’ve experienced the day after that tragedy. I woke up this morning with a very familiar feeling, and I recognize that today many Tennesseans are feeling the exact same way — the emptiness, the lack of understanding, the desperate desire for answers and the desperate need for hope.

"All of Tennessee was hurt yesterday, but some parents woke up without children, children woke up without parents and without teachers, and spouses woke up without their loved ones. Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends, Cindy Peak."

Lee was in Utah at the time of the shooting, to attend an annual Republican Governors Association meeting but "immediately returned home on Monday as soon as we learned of the tragic shooting."

In the span of 15 minutes, Audrey Hale shot 9-year-olds William Kinney, Evelyn Dieckhaus and Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of Covenant Presbyterian Church's lead pastor. Peak, custodian Mike Hill and Katherine Koonce were also killed, according to police.

Koonce, the 60-year-old head of The Covenant School, spent nearly 16 years at Nashville's Christ Presbyterian Academy, per her online resume. Koonce and Peak's time at CPA overlapped with Maria Lee, who spent 14 years at the school as a third- and fourth-grade teacher and athletic coach. Lee said the three were longtime family friends.

"We are enduring a very difficult moment. I understand there is pain. I understand the desperation to have answers, to place blame, to argue about a solution that could prevent this horrible tragedy. There will come a time to ask how a person could do this. There will come a time to discuss and debate policy," Lee said. "But this is not a time for hate or rage. That will not resolve or heal. Everyone is hurting, and remembering that as we grieve and walk together will be the way we honor those who were lost.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on Monday, school security footage captured Hale driving on to the Covenant campus. A childhood friend received text messages from Hale describing suicidal ideations.

At 10:11 on Monday, Hale shot through a double set of glass doors in an entry vestibule and entered Covenant with two semi-automatic assault-style rifles and a pistol, according to police. School camera footage should Hale initially walking through empty hallways as a school alarm blared.

Nashville police responded within minutes. Body camera footage shows two officers shooting Hale in a second-floor lobby area.

"Yesterday, while we saw the worst of humanity, we also saw the best of humanity in the police officers who ran into danger, directly toward a killer with no regard for their own life thinking only about those kids, those teachers, those administrators," Lee said. "I had the opportunity to speak with Officer Engelbert and Officer Collazo today — two brave Tennesseans whose actions saved lives. Gratitude doesn’t begin to cover it — for the utter selflessness of putting their lives between a killer and the innocent."

Police said Hale had detailed maps of the building in Green Hills and its points of entry. Hale had no criminal history but police said Hale, who authorities say identified as transgender, was under a doctor's care for an "emotional disorder."

As of Tuesday, authorities had not nailed down a motive for the attack.

In his address, Lee called for Tennesseans to pray for the victims and the Covenant community. In a week where Democrats have called for gun access reform due to the shooting, Lee said prayer is "the first thing we should do, but it’s not the only thing."

"Law enforcement officials and educators across our state have been working for years, especially in the last year, to strengthen the safety of schools," Lee said. "That work was not in vain — the courage and swift response by the teachers, officers, and this community without a doubt prevented further tragedy. There will be a time to talk about the legislation and budget proposals we’ve brought forward this year. And clearly there’s more work to do."

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Sounds Baseball Club opens its 2023 season with a three-game homestand scheduled to begin Friday, March 31 at First Horizon Park. The first weekend brings the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, to Nashville. This is Louisville’s only trip to First Horizon Park this season.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m., there will be live music, promotional giveaways, and a fireworks show following the game.

The Nashville Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and play at First Horizon Park. Season ticket memberships for the 2023 season are on sale now. For more information call 615-690-4487 or visit


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