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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 10, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Yanahli Forest Fire (Press Release)

At approximately 4:00am on Thursday, November 9th, Maury County Fire Units were dispatched to a smoke investigation in the area of Yanahli Wildlife Management Area.

Deputy Chief Richey Schatz noted smoke from the roadway coming from a deeply wooded area near both private and public land.

“Drone technology was used by the Maury County Office of Emergency Management to locate the source of the smoke. A 26 acre forest fire was discovered,” says Deputy Chief Schatz.

“At this time, there is no risk to the public. The fire is naturally contained by streams and water sources. State forestry is working to establish a fire line,” states Savannah Maddison, Public Information Officer with MCFD.

Smoke is expected to be present in the area for the next several days as trees within the area burn.

“We are asking that if anyone has information on the source of this fire, please contact the Maury County Sheriff’s Office or TN State Forestry Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017,”

states Deputy Chief Richey Schatz.

Trial Set for Roy Brooks (CDH)

A trial date has been set following the arraignment hearing Wednesday of former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks during his arraignment in Maury County Circuit Court Wednesday.

The trial is set for May 22, 2024.

Brooks, a former first responder, was indicted Aug. 17 for carrying a firearm on the campus of Columbia Central High School in response to what was thought to be an active shooter situation on May 3. The supposed active shooter threat, communicated by Robocall to high schools across the state, was later determined to be a hoax by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

In August, a grand jury issued a true bill of indictment against Brooks on the charge of carrying a weapon on school property, a Class E felony.

Brooks appeared in court Wednesday for his arraignment, but no discussion or details of the investigation were shared in the courtroom. After a brief recess, presiding Judge David Lee Allen declared Brooks' case will now go to trial in May.

According to Brooks' attorney David Christensen, he denied a plea deal in lieu of a trial.

Though Brooks was not at liberty to comment, his attorney Christensen shared details about what will come next in the case.

"He didn't take a plea deal because, basically, we don't think he did anything illegal," Christensen said. "We expect the trial to go very well for him."

Christensen said the offer included a year of probation that would come off his record, or a diversion.

Christensen said Columbia Police Department, who were on the scene May 3, not only didn't deem Brooks a threat given he wasn't an official responder but saw him as a person who could help if it had been a real active shooter situation.

How Brooks was made aware of the scene, Christensen said, was "because somebody told him, I think an EMT."

In August, Columbia Police Chief Jeremy Alsup stated that Brooks was seen on video with officers, but was not an authorized member of any response team.

However, Christensen argued that Brooks' history with the local SWAT team was taken into consideration at the time.

"He wasn't in the SWAT team at the moment, but he had been in the past. Everybody knew him and he was there, and so they put him in Team 2," he claimed, citing that footage exists, showing the incident.

The May 3 incident also led to further issues among Maury County Public Schools officials. Following Brooks' initial indictment, Central High School Principal Michael Steele was also temporarily suspended following the announcement of the indictment.

Then, MCPS Lisa Ventura released a statement about the May 3 incident and law enforcement's response as well as Brooks' presence on campus.

The reasoning for Steele's suspension at the time, according to Superintendent Lisa Ventura, was due to “insubordination and unprofessional conduct at Central High School” with four policy violations related to "crisis management", "staff relations," "staff rights and responsibilities" and "ethics."

If found guilty, the sentence would likely be the initial plea deal of diversion, or probation without carrying an official conviction. It can also include up to two years of jail time, Christensen said.

"It could be zero days, or up to two years in jail," he said.

MRMC Named Level IV Trauma Center (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) has been granted provisional designation as a Level IV Trauma Center by the Tennessee Department of Health after a recent onsite review.

 All trauma designations begin with a provisional status for one year. MRMC will submit a report and undergo another site visit after one year. The results will be reviewed by the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities, and if approved, the medical center will be granted a three-year designation as a Level IV Trauma Center.

 “This designation reaffirms our commitment to providing exceptional emergency care to residents throughout southern Middle Tennessee,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “It wouldn’t be possible without the exceptional care being provided by our intensive care and emergency teams.”

 The Tennessee State Trauma Center Site Visit Team conducted a provisional site visit at MRMC on Oct. 12 to ensure compliance with all criteria required for state provisional designation as a Level IV Trauma Center. The site visit included interviews with key personnel, chart reviews, trauma activation criteria and reviews of various facility and staff resources, capabilities and services.

 Trauma Center designation is designed to identify hospitals that are committed to providing a given level of care for trauma patients. For more information about the state of Tennessee’s trauma care system plan, visit

Savilla Morgan Signs with UT (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Yesterday, Columbia Central senior Savilla Morgan, a standout athlete, has signed with UT Knoxville. With more is WKOM’s Barry Duke…

Veteran’s Day Parade (MSM)

Maury County’s Veteran’s Day Parade is right around the corner, and the grand marshals have been announced as hometown heroes Beverly Williams, who served in Vietnam, and Dale Winston Riggs, who served in the Korean War.

This year’s parade, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, will be the county’s first in recent years.

Raised in California, Beverly Williams received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1966 and later received her master’s degree in health care management in 1977.

Williams began active duty in 1966 where she was assigned to MAC Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to hospital nursing. She then served in Danang, Vietnam, 22nd CSF (Casualty Staging Flight) from April 15, 1968 to April 15, 1969.

Upon being promoted to the rank of captain, Williams’ assignment was to treat and prepare causalities from all branches in Northern I Corps for evacuation for additional care.

After returning home, Williams joined the California Air National Guard, becoming part of the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Van Nuys, Calif., before graduating from flight school in 1971.

According to a biography provided by the Maury County Veterans Service Office, Williams became inactive after marrying, but remained on reserve status until she was honorably discharged in 1987.

Williams, who has resided in Spring Hill since 2010, said she is excited and humbled to serve as one of the grand marshals in the Parade.

“My heart is always with Gold Star families and our returning vets, in varying needs of ongoing services provided by Lisa and her staff at the Vet Service Office,” she said.

Also set to be in attendance as the second grand marshal is Korean War veteran Dale Winston Riggs.

Born in 1933 during the Great Depression, Riggs enlisted in the Army at only 16 years old. He served as a Combat Infantry Medic in the 9th Infantry 2nd Division, known as “Greybeard,” from 1950-53.

Originally from upstate New York, Riggs moved to Spring Hill in 2020.

Riggs said he believes he was born to fight for his country, while adding another factor in his decision to enlist was the condition he was living in at the time. One of nine children, Riggs said he didn’t have his own bed or pair of shoes growing up.

“Generationally, men of my age enlisted in swarms because it provided three square meals a day, your own pair of shoes, and a bed to sleep in,” Riggs said, adding that his brothers also served.

Riggs said he was first assigned to a medical battalion.

“When they found out I knew how to drive, I was the medic in the ambulance taking wounded POWs back to the base,” he said. “I volunteered to go into the infantry next. I was assigned as a rifle company medic on the front lines, serving in the 9th Infantry 2nd Division Indian Heads.”

Of all of his battles, Riggs said his hardest was Hill 365, known as the “old baldie.”

“There was nothing left up there,” he said. “Just tree stumps and holes when we got done with them.”

Coming home was the difference between “daylight and dark,” Riggs said.

“I did get married and have kids, but you ask any veteran and it never leaves you,” he said. “I am an 89, soon to be 90-year-old man and every night I sleep, I dream of climbing the mountain and all the nameless faces of boys I lost in my arms. I couldn’t save them all.”

For his service, Riggs received the Combat Medical Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Riggs was also one of 13 men to sign the petition for the creation of the Korean War Monument in D.C. Riggs is also the founding member of the KWVA (Korean War Veterans Association) organization, which was founded in 1984.

Riggs said he doesn’t take being a grand marshal lightly.

“Much like the medals in my display case, I didn’t do any of this for recognition,” he said. “I did it for my country. You never forget it.”

Maury County’s Veteran’s Day Parade is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The parade will start at Columbia Plaza on West 7th Street, passing the Memorial Building before turning at the Polk Home onto S. High Street and ending at the Mulehouse.

TEMPORARY ROAD CLOSURES are expected to begin at 10:30am, with the parade starting at 11:00am.

Road Closures will be on West 7th Street from Beckett Street to the intersection with North/South High Street and on South High Street between West 7th Street and West 8th Street.

Road Closures will reopen immediately at the conclusion of the parade.

Motorists are encouraged to plan ahead, utilizing alternative routes if travel is needed in the affected area during the temporary closures.

TEMPORARY NO PARKING ZONES – There will be no street parking allowed on the 300 and 400 blocks of West 7th Street or on the 800 block of South High Street beginning at 9:30am until the completion of the parade on Saturday, November 11th.

Lighthouse Kids Opens (WKOM Audio 4:22))

Yesterday, a grand opening was held for Lighthouse Kids, a new service facility for children with autism in Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke to Lighthouse Kids CEO Kathy Welch…

Welcome back to Southern Middle Tennessee Today on WKOM, 101.7 and WKRM 103.7. This program is sponsored in part by George Vrailas and the great team at The Way Realty. I’m Tom Price.

Columbian Named Tech Trailblazer (Press Release)

A Columbia native has been named a Tennessee Tech University “Trailblazer.”

Landon Kurtz, a junior psychology major, is among the select group of Trailblazers for the 2023 – 2024 year. The Trailblazers program brings together top Tech students to lead personalized campus tours for prospective students and their families, connecting them to campus in a more personal way.

“Trailblazers represent the best of our campus community. They are dedicated students who exude Tennessee Tech’s spirit of hospitality and welcome and are an integral part of how we communicate Tech’s story to future Golden Eagles,” said Karen Lykins, vice president for enrollment and communication at Tech. “By leading personalized campus tours, Trailblazers foster genuine connections with prospective students and their families, helping them discover all that Tech has to offer.”

The Columbia Academy graduate says the best part of being a Trailblazer is “being able to connect with students and families.”

“We are able for to get to know and help them though our own experiences,” Kurtz added.

Recalling his own journey to campus, Kurtz noted that he “toured several schools with great programs and resources for students, but Tech seemed to have everything I wanted.”

Kurtz, who plans to continue his education by pursuing a master’s degree following his expected graduation in 2025, says the best part of his university experience at Tech has been the people he has met.

“My professors challenge and help me to achieve my goals,” Kurtz said. “My friends make life in college memorable and interesting.”

SMTTomTrailblazers now play an integral part in the admissions process and new student recruitment at Tech. Prospective students and their families who are planning a visit to campus will be paired with a Trailblazer to lead their tour of campus. With the diverse group of students that make up Tech’s Trailblazer class the university aims to personalize the campus visit experience of each prospective student, focusing on their individual interests and intended major.

In addition to leading one-on-one campus tours, Trailblazers interact with prospective students at various campus events throughout the year. Prospective students can also interact with Trailblazers through social media, @tntechtrailblazers on Instagram.

Prospective students interested in connecting with Trailblazers can visit to see profiles for the student tour guides. To schedule a tour, go to email or call (931) 372-6104.

Tennessee Tech is ranked as a “Best National University” by U.S. News & Report. The university offers more than 200 programs of study and Tech graduates leave with the least debt of all public universities in the state. In fact, based on total cost and alumni earnings, Tech provides students with the highest return on investment for any public university in Tennessee, according to PayScale.

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

Beverly Little Fitzgerald, 88, passed away on Sunday, November 5, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center.

The family will visit with friends Saturday, November 11, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. A private family inurnment will be at McCain’s Cemetery on Sunday.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

It's that time of year again to load up on a tall stack of flapjacks and continue a Columbia tradition that's lasted more than 60 years.

Columbia Noon Rotary Club's Pancake Day will take place from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Memorial Building, 308 W. 7th St.

Dine in or carry out all you can eat the Rotary's "secret recipe" pancakes, sausage and a beverage of your choice. Tickets are $10 or three for $25 and may be purchased at the door or from any Noon Rotary member.

Proceeds from Pancake Day will go toward the Rotary's many charitable projects, including scholarships for local students.


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