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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 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…

Waymon Hickman Remembered (CDH)

Long-time banker and philanthropist Waymon Hickman shared his mantra with a Tennessean reporter in 2001: take care of the community and the community will take care of you.

A well-known community servant, Hickman was loyal to the city he called home, his alma mater and the Middle Tennessee Council of Boy Scouts of America.

He died at home Saturday in the community he loved. He was 89.

"I have never known a better person," Hickman's longtime friend and colleague Bill Walter said Monday. He'd known Hickman for more than 40 years. "He was a super professional man. He genuinely cared for other people and was a very giving and thoughtful person. The people who worked around him and for him had the utmost respect for him."

Walter, retired CEO of Maury Regional Medical Center, said he'd never met anyone who'd contributed more to his community. He spoke of the many civic, community and professional boards Hickman belonged to in the finance, education and health fields. At one point, the two men had served together on the First Farmers and Merchants Bank board, he said.

"He was involved in many, many different organizations... He touched all aspects of this community,” Walter said.

Born and raised in Obion County, Hickman graduated from the Dixie School in 1952. He started his college career at the University of Tennessee at Martin thanks to an agriculture scholarship before finishing his degree at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1956.

After graduation, Hickman moved to Columbia, where he taught agriculture for two years before joining First Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1958.

Hickman served the bank for more than 50 years and worked his way up to president, CEO and board chair.

Brian K. Williams, current First Farmers and Merchants Bank CEO, said Hickman was the epitome of a community banker during his career, which included serving as CEO from 1991 to 2002 and then as chairman of the board from 1996 to 2005.

"Mr. Hickman's service included transformative growth in our bank’s size, geographic reach, and service lines.  Beyond the footprint of our bank, he was truly a titan in the banking industry with his leadership and influence spanning our state and our nation," Williams said.

"He had a keen understanding of the importance of the well-being of the people and communities around him and was deeply dedicated to serving and giving back across our state. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy as a leader and community servant. It is my hope and prayer that the organization he loved so much and to which he dedicated his life, will continue to serve as a fitting tribute to that legacy."

Hickman also served as chair of the Tennessee Bankers Association, was a member of the board of the American Bankers Association, director and audit committee chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and president of the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

Education was of the utmost importance to Hickman, who invested in scholarships for students at the University of Tennessee and Columbia State Community College and funded scholarships for 4-H youth development, his obituary said.

Columbia State's arts building was named in Hickman's honor, because of his contributions to education. Completed in 2001, the Waymon L. Hickman Building is home to the Cherry Theater, the arts and music programs, Pryor Art Gallery and the Maury County Center for Training and Workforce Development.

Dr. Janet Smith, president of Columbia State, said the college family is saddened by the loss of Hickman and will greatly miss him.

"To speak of the connection between Waymon L. Hickman and Columbia State Community College is to speak of involvement, guidance, care, and generosity for the betterment of the community, the college, and most importantly the student and their success," Smith said.

"We are proud and honored that the building that represents our connection to the community-and one in which Mr. Hickman’s time and leadership resulted in completion-is named in his honor."

Hickman previously served on the University of Tennessee's Board of Trustees and the UT National Alumni Association Board of Governors.

Hickman was also a long-time member of the Kiwanis Club of Columbia, where he was the longest-standing member present at the club's 100th Anniversary Luncheon in 2021.

Hickman is survived by his wife of 20 years, Helen, seven children and step-children, 11 grand children and two great-grandchildren.

CMYC Coat Drive (Press Release)

The Columbia Mayor's Youth Council is giving back this holiday season by hosting a Winter Coat Drive to benefit The Family Center. The Coat Drive began Monday, November 27, 2023, and will end on Monday, December 8, 2023. New coats, socks, and blankets will be accepted and can be dropped off Monday through Friday during school hours. A provided drop box will be at the following high school locations: Columbia Central High School, Columbia Academy, Mount Pleasant High School, and Culleoka Unit School. Donations will also be accepted at Columbia City Hall Lobby (700 N Garden St., Columbia, TN, 38401) from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am so proud of our Columbia Mayor's Youth Council, once again serving their community, not because they have to, but because already at a young age, they have the desire to. They want to serve our community and this coat drive allows us all an opportunity to follow their lead. I say it over and over again, I am confident in our community's future because I get to see our community's future already hard at work making this community a better place.”

This is the 3rd year of the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council, which was established in the spring of 2021. This youth council allows students to connect with other peers in their community who want to make a difference through planning community events, partnering with local organizations, raising awareness, and connecting with future generations of leaders.

“I am so excited to announce that the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council will be hosting our first-ever Winter Coat Drive to benefit The Family Center,” stated CMYC Chair Caroline Cashion. Cashion continued, “I am so incredibly proud of how these young people continue to put Columbia first and I am thrilled to see what all we can accomplish this year.”

For further information regarding the Winter Coat Drive or the CMYC, visit

Rolling Hills Church (WKOM Audio 3:01)

Yesterday, Rolling Hills Church held their grand opening in Columbia. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to pastor Tee Lusk…

Columbia Christmas Tree Lighting (CDH)

The lights will shine bright as the countdown to Christmas begins with Columbia Main Street's 37th annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting will be Saturday.

The event will once again take place in historic downtown Columbia from 6-8 p.m., with this year's lineup featuring a record number of 120 participants and floats, according to a City of Columbia press release.

“Kicking off the holiday season with the Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting truly warms your heart and puts a smile on your face," Columbia Main Street Manager Kelli Johnson said.

"I am thrilled for the community and businesses to be a part of this annual event because it shows how magical and unique our town truly is. I encourage all to come early and stay late for this festive event that takes place in the heart of Historic Downtown Columbia.”

Leading the parade as this year's Grand Marshal will be retired Col. Ashley Brown, whom Johnson said was the first name on this year's list of potential candidates.

Johnson said Brown was "an obvious choice not only as a civil servant, a retired U.S. Army National Guard veteran, but as someone who truly represents Columbia well."

"We are really excited to have him be a part of the parade this year," Johnson said. "We knew it was the right choice."

Brown first joined the Army at age 17, rising to the rank of Platoon Sergeant by age 20. He steadily rose through the ranks until Brown was promoted to Colonel in 1988. He is also an honorary Colonel on the staff of the Governors of Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee, and is an honorary professor of Military Science at the U.S. Army Reserve Forces School in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1969, Brown was elected to the Maury County Court, now known as the Maury County Commission, as well as serving as chairman of the Rules and Alcohol Beverage Boards. He also served on the Budget, Hospital and Schools Committees.

"He's just one of those guys where you'd be hard pressed to find anyone to say anything bad about Ashley Brown, but you'll have a lot wanting to say something good about Ashley Brown," Mayor Chaz Molder said. "I'm proud of the decision, not only because it is well deserved, but because he is a personal friend."

As a local Kiwanian, Brown served as president of Columbia Kiwanis from 1980-1981 and remains an active member.

Brown's other civic roles include serving as a member of the Maury Regional Hospital Advisory Board, Maury County Mental Health Board, Maury County Civil Service Commission and President of UGF. He is also a Past Commander of American Legion Post 19.

Brown was awarded as Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2002 and 2009 by Columbia Civitan and Golden K Kiwanis Clubs.

The parade will begin starting at 6 p.m., featuring several holiday-themed floats, marching bands, costumed characters, as well as local churches, businesses, nonprofits and other civic groups all making their way down West 7th Street.

Santa will then light the 40-foot Christmas tree topper at around 7:15 p.m. on the Maury County Courthouse steps.

Entertainment will be provided by DJ Amped Eric McCandless, as well as an original song performed by Marta Albarracin and trophy presentations to multiple "best of" parade winners.

"It will be a hit once Santa lights the tree and people can hang around, dance and have fun," Johnson said. "Marta is also coming back after singing in last year's parade. The song she is singing this year she wrote about last year's parade experience, and it will definitely become a Columbia Christmas Parade Classic."

With a record-setting lineup, Johnson said additional prep work was done to ensure a steady flow for participants throughout the night. There will also be a new, somewhat interactive, opportunity for the kids featured this year.

"Logistically, the parade should be better for participants who are lining up along the parade route," Johnson said. "We are also handing out around 700 'giveaways' to kids in the crowd. It's like a glow stick, but more, which will be fun to see light up among the crowd."

This year's Grand Marshal sponsor is Stan McNabb Chevrolet Columbia.

“I am so excited for this year's Columbia Main Street Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting celebration — 37 years and going strong,” Molder said. “I can't wait to welcome our residents and visitors alike in what will be a magical night in Columbia."

Girls Auto Know Event (Press Release)

To highlight STEM and automotive career paths for middle school girls, Ultium Cells will partner with the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum to sponsor an All Girls Auto Know event at Hampshire Unit School on December 1, 2023.

·       The event will feature career path discussions from a panel of professional women in STEM fields within the automotive industry.

·       Together with teachers from Hampshire Unit School, Ultium Cells team members will lead students in constructing a battery-operated vehicle, which students will race to win prizes.

·       This is Ultium Cells’ inaugural All Girls Auto Know event as the company seeks to establish its STEM promotion presence in the region.

Hampshire Unit School will host the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum “All Girls Auto Know” program for female, middle school students on Friday, December 1, 2023. The event’s sponsor and presenting partner, Ultium Cells, hopes to increase the number of women pursuing STEM degrees and careers in the area.


“I hope our presence here will inspire some of these girls to envision themselves in a STEM field, maybe even one within the automotive industry. Girls need to know early on that they, too, have a place in STEM and automotive careers.”  — Gretchen Murray, Ultium Cells Process Engineer & event organizer.


“One of Ultium Cells’s core values is the Inclusion of All People. Ultium Cells’ presence at Hampshire Unit School is part of the shift to broaden the appeal of STEM and manufacturing such that students, regardless if they’re male or female, can see the full scope of possibilities for their future.”

— Chris Desautels, Plant Director

Activities will begin at Hampshire Unit School at 8:00 a.m. and conclude by 11:30 a.m.

Middle school grade girls will split the morning participating in three parts:

1.        Hands-on build your own battery activity.

2.       Hands-on construction and racing of a battery-powered car.

3.       Panel discussion about education and career paths in STEM fields and automotive industry.

While the event focuses on increasing STEM and automotive career awareness among female students, middle school boys will also receive a hands-on STEM kit to assemble in their classes.

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution that will mass-produce Ultium battery cells to advance the push for a zero-emissions, all-electric future. Ultium Cells will provide battery cell capacity to support GM's North American electric vehicle assembly capacity of more than 1 million units by mid-decade, while supporting GM plans to supply other automotive companies and other industries including rail, aerospace, heavy trucking and marine customers. For more information about Ultium Cells, please visit

The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the personal and professional advancement of women in the automotive industry. SAWF achieves this mission by collaborating with industry partners to create educational, mentorship, and networking opportunities for its members. Our members serve as strong role models for one another and for young women of all ages who are interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with the hope that they will apply these skills to the automotive industry of the future. Since its inception in 2010, SAWF has also awarded over $443,500 in scholarship funds to young women beginning their careers in STEM and to women seeking to enhance their opportunities. 

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

Boyd Cecil Gilliam, 96, a lifelong resident of Maury County, and retired warehouse manager for Charles C Parks Co., died Friday, November 24, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 3:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. and on Thursday from 1:00 P.M. until the time of service at the funeral home

…And now, news from around the state…

School Vouchers (Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Lee proposed legislation this week to establish a new statewide school voucher program in Tennessee, offering $7,075 in state funds to 20,000 students to attend a private or home school of their choice in the 2024-25 school year — with a plan to open universal eligibility beginning in 2025.

Lee unveiled his Education Freedom Scholarship Act at the Tennessee State Museum. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who led her state to adopt a universal school choice policy this year, joined Lee as he outlined the legislation, according to an official familiar with the plan.

“This is an idea that I’ve believed was appropriate for a long time, and I think parents across America are coming to understand more and more is important – and that’s why we’re seeing this movement across the country,” Lee told The Tennessean in a recent interview. 

Tennessee legislative leaders, and students participating in the state's existing Education Savings Accounts school choice program will also attend the event. Key lawmakers have recently indicated movement to expand school options statewide next year. Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chair of the House Education committee, earlier this month told The Tennessean he would pursue a statewide plan.

Lee has long been a proponent of school choice, having first proposed a statewide school choice program in his first weeks in office in 2019. His Education Savings Accounts program, which was implemented last year after surviving a years-long legal challenge, currently offers about $9,000 in state funds to 2,400 low- and middle-income students in Davidson, Shelby, and Hamilton counties.

Lee's initial program has proved controversial. It initially passed the legislature by one vote, and some Republicans only voted for it with assurances that their counties would not be included.

TCAP test scores for ESA students show participants performed lower than their public school peers during the first year of the program in 2022-23. School administrators say that number may be more indicative of the student population the program is designed to reach ― or administrative hiccups due to the swift rollout of the program weeks before school began. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, 91% of participating parents reported they are satisfied with their student's academic growth during the first year of the program.

The Tennessee Education Association has pledged to roundly oppose any effort to expand the ESA program, decrying expansion as "irresponsible and reckless." Meanwhile, Democrats already are voicing their fierce opposition to any expansion, accusing the Lee administration of devaluing public education.

If approved by the state legislature, Lee’s Education Freedom Scholarship Act would offer 20,000 Tennessee students about $7,075 to attend any private school, and most home schools, beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

Of the 20,000, half will be made available to students whose families’ income are below 300% of the federal poverty level, students with disabilities, and those who meet eligibility requirements for the existing ESA pilot program. The remaining 10,000 will be made available to any student currently entitled to attend a public school. 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Disney Theatrical Group, under the direction of Andrew Flatt, Anne Quart and Thomas Schumacher, and Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) announce that tickets for the long-awaited production of Disney’s FROZEN are on sale now to the public.

From the producer of The Lion King and Aladdin, the spectacular new Broadway musical FROZEN makes its Nashville debut at TPAC’s Jackson Hall for a two-week engagement May 7-18, 2024.

Heralded by The New Yorker as “thrilling” and “genuinely moving,” FROZEN has played smash engagements “thawing hearts from coast to coast!” (The Hollywood Reporter), and the critics agree, “It’s simply magical!” (LA Daily News).

Tickets can be purchased at TPAC.ORG,


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