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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 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…

Maury County Tourism (Press Release)

Tourism is the second largest industry in Tennessee and proves to be a significant economic driver, according to the newly released data from Tennessee Economics. Tourism spending in Maury County has increased all across the board with visitor spending trends being up 16% from $109.6M in 2021 to 126.8M in 2022. Tourism activities in Maury County supported an impressive $220.2 million in business sales in 2022. The increase in tourism spending not only contributes to the county's economic growth but also underscores the importance of the tourism sector as a key driver of prosperity for the local community.


Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am so pleased, but not surprised, to see visitor spending trends and tourism activity with yet another year over year increase in Maury County. We know that Columbia plays a key role in the success of these numbers for Maury County, which brings in much needed revenue to our city and to our county as a whole. We all have a role to play in promoting all of the good things that occur in Maury County, and we are doing our part to do just that here in Columbia.”


The tourism and hospitality sector contribute to a diverse and robust job market. 1.5% of jobs in Maury County are directly sustained by visitor spending; this highlights the employment opportunities that the tourism and hospitality sector create for residents. Additionally, Visitors to Maury County also directly contributed $12.8 million in state and local taxes. This translates to approximately $331 in tax savings for every household in the county. These tax revenues support vital community services, infrastructure development, and local initiatives, ultimately benefiting all residents.


Tennessee tourism generated $29 billion in indirect visitor spending and saw 141 million visitors in 2022. The latest figures reveal that tourism-related activities have had a substantial impact on the county's economy, benefitting local businesses, job growth, and tax revenues.


These numbers not only emphasize the economic significance of tourism and hospitality in Maury County but also underline its role in improving the quality of life for its residents. The positive impacts extend beyond economic benefits to include the preservation of cultural heritage, promotion of local businesses, and enhancement of the overall community experience.


For more information on Tennessee Tourism Economic Impact, visit https://www.tn.gov/tourism/news/2023/9/15/tennessee-tourism-thrives-141-million-visitors-spent-a-record--29-billion-in-2022.html.


CPJI Propose Marshall Statue (CDH)

As an effort to recognize the significance of Columbia’s history, the city is proposing a statue to remember the 1946 Race Uprising that occurred in the once black business district on East 8th Street previously called "The Bottom" in Columbia.

On Feb. 25, 1946, Columbia experienced arguably its most historic 20th century moment when the infamous race uprising, also referred to by historic accounts as the Columbia "Race Riot of 1946," a day which served as a pedestal for what would become the American Civil Rights Movement. Now, there is a local group, the Columbia Peace and Justice Initiative, aimed at remembering that historic day.

The proposal is introduced in conjunction with a new roadway project, consisting of a roundabout, to improve East 8th Street.

Over the next year, Columbia is working to install a roundabout at the intersection of South Main and East 8th Streets, which will not only provide safer access to drivers, but also include renovations to the sidewalks and other infrastructure that has suffered the woes of time and natural deterioration.

As part of the revitalization project, the Columbia Peace and Justice Initiative, comprised of local pastors and other members, wish to commemorate the historic 1946 event with a proposed statue of the first black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who played a role in visiting Columbia following the riot to help with the pivotal civil rights case, which drew national attention.

Columbia City Council was presented with the statue request during its Oct. 5 study session meeting, which included a presentation by members of the nonprofit Columbia Peace and Justice Initiative committee, with committee president Tent Ogilvie leading the discussion.

"We are here to present what we think is a very exciting, mutually beneficial partnership request ... at the proposed roundabout at East 8th Street," Ogilvie said.

Former Vice Mayor Christa Martin, who also sits on the CPJI board, shared her comments about the significance of the statue, and how it will illustrate the history of the once thriving area of Columbia that is in dire need of restoration.

"I'm excited to be here this afternoon to share this wonderful, wonderful idea that is community-wide," Martin said. "We hope that this project will add to tourism and civic engagement across our local citizens and those people who come to visit 'small town USA.' We want to be a good partner with the City of Columbia. This board is well versed, and we want to do something that still continues to make people see Columbia as a real destination, with a real history."

Eric Jacobson, who is the chairman of the Battle of Franklin Trust, who oversees operations at several Middle Tennessee historic sites including the Carter and Carnton Mansions in Franklin, as well as Historic Rippavilla in Spring Hill, is also a leading voice in the initiative.

Jacobson provided comments to the council, imploring that this is "an historic opportunity" to preserve and commemorate an important piece of Columbia's legacy, even if it is tied to a time of strife and unrest. What that moment in time led to in terms of progress and learning from past mistakes is why it's important to remember it, Jacobson said.

"Sometimes this work digging into our past and confronting our old ghosts is really about the future," Jacobson said. "We all know Columbia is changing ... and people will visit, tourists will flock here. Being honest about our history and confronting it is not only a good assessment of the facts, but it's also good for the community."

It can also provide a significant economic impact in terms of tourism dollars.

"More than 100,000 people now visit Franklin every year, and that's an economic impact of nearly $30 million," Jacobson said.

Maury Hills Church pastor Russ Adcox, who also sits on the CPJI board, concluded the presentation by also sharing his thoughts on the project, and that while it is a gesture to honor a piece of Columbia's past, it is also one achieved by the community working together.

"I've been studying this for the past 10 years and have grown a great fascination with this story, and appreciate the council's recognition of this," Adcox said. "It is an opportunity to recognize our community's historic and significant contribution to the National Civil Rights Movement. Some of the country's first civil rights legislation was put into place with ties directly to what happened in Columbia on East 8th Street."

City Manager Tony Massey said this project would likely be accomplished in conjunction with additional work planned at the East 8th Street district, which is currently underway.

"We've got a grant award, which will be the first steps in changing East 8th Street by replacing the sidewalks down there. This would be the next step," Massey said.

City Engineer Glenn Harper added that the proposed East 8th and South Main roundabout is in the "final design stages," with the final documents expected to be finalized within the next few months.

"There are a lot of factors there we need to weigh out, but the timeline for that project would be anywhere between six to nine months, and that depends on how we close the street and how we phase traffic," Harper said.



Reagan Day Dinner (Press Release)

Join the Maury County Republican Party for their annual Reagan Day Dinner, which will take place October 14th at 5:30pm at the Ridley 4-H Center, located at 850 Lion Parkway in Columbia. This year’s keynote speakers are Congressman Wesley Hunt of the 38th District of Texas and Andy Ogles of Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District.

Learn more and buy tickets at www.maurytngop.com.


CSCC Offers STEM Workshop for Kids (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host the STEM Within Reach event, an effort to promote and encourage young people’s knowledge and access to science, technology, engineering and math careers, on October 21 at the Columbia Campus.

“STEM Within Reach is a wonderful outreach event in our nine-county service region,” said Ryan Badeau, Columbia State educational services coordinator for the Williamson Campus and associate professor of physics. “This one-day program is a fast-paced and exciting showcase of STEM fields and career opportunities for sixth to eighth grade students who may not be aware of such trajectories. Columbia State is interested in attracting the next generation of scientists, engineers, computer programmers and doctors. The possibilities are endless when young minds are introduced to various STEM concepts and innovations.”

STEM Within Reach is a one-day STEM forum open to all 6th, 7th and 8th graders that will offer interactive, hands-on activities as well as encourage early student success in STEM, provide awareness of STEM careers available in Tennessee and promote the scientific and technological understanding of such fields.

The workshops at STEM Within Reach are designed to teach middle school students about the different opportunities in STEM-related careers as they begin to think about their futures. Stations will be set up around campus for the students to observe and participate while Columbia State faculty and guest presenters guide them through an interactive hands-on experience. Topics include animal science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, math, technology and more.

“From anatomical dissections to nitrogen chambers, young participants will exist in a safe environment to think outside the box and perhaps step out of their comfort zone to experience new ideas and learn more about their interests and passions within the world of STEM,” said Andrew Wright, Columbia State assistant vice president of faculty, curriculum and programs. “Event participants will also meet and interact with external professionals from companies such as UltiumCells, General Motors, Landmark Ceramics, Boeing and more.”

Parents and teachers are also invited to stay and attend the adult session, which will provide insight on how to encourage and guide young students in STEM classes and careers. STEM Within Reach will demonstrate to parents how their children can have rewarding and high-paying careers in a variety of STEM fields.

The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Waymon L. Hickman building on the Columbia Campus. There is a $40 registration fee, with limited financial assistance opportunities available via the scholarship application made possible thanks to lead sponsor, the Tennessee Valley Authority. Seating is limited.

For more information or to register, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/STEM-Within-Reach.


Duck River Symposium (MSM)

During the month of October, the Maury County Public Library will host a symposium on different aspects of the Duck River.

The Duck River’s 284 miles flow through seven Middle Tennessee counties and it is the longest river in the United States that is contained entirely in one state. National Geographic has stated that the Duck River is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world. Fifty species of freshwater mussels and 151 different fish species make the Duck River their home.

On Oct. 17 at 6 p.m., Doug Murphy, Executive Director of Duck River Agency, and Jonathan Hardin, interim president and CEO of Columbia Power & Water Systems, will discuss water conservation as it relates to Maury and neighboring counties.

Amanda Rosenberger, PhD, will be speaking about the variety of freshwater life in the Duck River at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24.

There will also be a display featuring different aspects of the river. TWRA has made fishing equipment sets available to those 16 and under. A door prize of a float trip on the Duck will be drawn at each program.


Farmland Legacy Workshop (Press Release)

The South-Central Extension Team will be conducting a Farmland Legacy Workshop. The two-night workshop will be held October 17th and October 19th from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Southern Tennessee Higher Education Center Columbia State Community College 169 Southern Tennessee Lane Lawrenceburg, TN.

Farmland Legacy workshops are designed primarily to assist farm families with estate planning, to provide for an orderly succession of farm properties, and maintain family farms for future generations. However, the classes are open to anyone interested in estate planning. Qualified experts including estate planning attorneys, Extension Specialists, and other professionals will conduct the workshop.

The cost for the program is $25 per person or $40 per couple and meals will be provided both nights. Participants will also receive a workbook and publications to help them get started in estate planning.

For more information and to register, contact the UT Extension office at (931) 762-5506 or visit tiny.utk.edu/FarmlandLegacyWorkshop.


Celebrating Our American Heritage (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host its 37th annual “Celebrating Our American Heritage” lecture series this fall, with presentations sponsored by the Columbia State Department of History designed to illuminate the past and enhance our understanding of the present.

On Oct. 16, Emily Senefeld, Columbia State adjunct professor of history, will present “The Lone Rock Stockade: Convict Leasing in Tennessee.”

Senefeld will use the history of the Lone Rock Stockade in Grundy County, as well as the uprising that occurred there, to explore the history of convict leasing in Tennessee in the decades after the Civil War — a story that culminated in the passage of a recent amendment to the Tennessee State Constitution.  Among other sources, Senefeld will draw upon her own archival research for the ongoing Tennessee Convict Stockade Project. 

On Oct. 30, Halloween eve, Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division and professor of history, will present “Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Harrison Horror.”

Gidcomb will reprise his presentation, with new material, on the odious practice of grave robbing, or “body snatching,” which was fueled by the founding of medical schools in America in the 19th century and the demand for cadavers to be used for instructional purposes. Among the stolen was the body of a prominent citizen whose father and son were both elected President of the United States. 

On Nov. 14, Zach Kinslow, Columbia State alum and executive director of the Governor Frank G. Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson, Tennessee, will present “WELCOME? A History of the Quest for United States Citizenship and the American Response.”

From the founding of the United States to modern day America, the idea of who could immigrate and obtain citizenship has been a continually contentious debate. Kinslow will present a program detailing the history of U.S. Citizenship and its evolution (and sometimes devolution) from the formation of the Constitution to modern citizenship laws.

The American Heritage series lectures are free and open to the public. Each lecture will take place from 4–5:15 p.m. in room 118 of the Frank G. Clement Building on the Columbia Campus at 1665 Hampshire Pike.


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. Want to be a bus driver, but don’t have your CDL? No problem! Training will be provided. For more information on job openings and how to apply, visit www.mauryk12.org.


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

Mr. William Edward Harris, 85, retired employee of Monsanto Chemical Company, Solutia, and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, October 7, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center.  A graveside service for Mr. Harris will be conducted Thursday at 2:30 P.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 12:00 P.M. until 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


…And now, news from around the state…

Tennesseans Caught in Israeli War (Tennessean)

Twelve East Tennesseans are in Israel on a church mission trip during what has now formally been declared war.

The group from First Baptist Church Knoxville, including senior pastor Brent McDougal, arrived in Israel just a day before Hamas fighters launched a surprise deadly attack Saturday.

The 12 people are safely residing inside the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, according to updates from the church and its group of 12 travelers in Jerusalem.

The Associated Press reported at least 900 people dead in Israel and Gaza and thousands wounded as of Sunday morning following Hamas fighters’ incursion by land, sea and air. On Sunday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his office’s Security Cabinet formally declared war.  

As part of their attack, Hamas fighters took people in Israel captive. Americans are among those captives, AP reported Sunday morning.

“We plan to continue our travel plans and appreciate those who have reached out to us with concern and prayers,” McDougal said in a Facebook post around 1 a.m. ET Sunday.  “We are deeply saddened by the violence not far from us but it has been eye-opening to be so near to the tension and war that has marked this area for millennia.”

The group of 12 missionaries arrived in Israel on Friday, starting in Tel Aviv, and have since made their way to Jerusalem. Their original plan is to stay until Oct. 21, though a volunteer with the reception desk at First Baptist Knoxville said on a call Sunday morning the group is monitoring the situation on an hour-to-hour basis.

Airlines canceled flights to and from Tel Aviv on Saturday night and Sunday night, according to AP.

A First Baptist Knoxville minister told congregants during a service Sunday morning the church's group of 12 travelers' "journeys are taking them out of the city and away from harm's way." The minister said the group intends to stay out there for the next 1.5 weeks.

“We’re not really afraid, we’re just kind of curious as to what this all means,” said Alan Williams, who is among the 12 travelers with First Baptist Knoxville and a retired WVLT anchor, in a video aired by WVLT.

Williams said he and his fellow missionaries were enjoying their morning coffee in Jerusalem when they heard the explosion of a rocket about two miles away.  Later, the church group saw about 50 Israeli soldiers exit a bus with machine guns.

"These things are a lot different from what we can expect in East Tennessee," Williams said. “But we do feel safe inside these walls."


Tennesseans of the Forbes Richest List (Tennessean)

The nation's wealthy just keep getting wealthier.  

After losing a collective $500 billion last year, the nation’s 400 richest people have gained it all back, according to Forbes Magazine, which recently released their 400 Richest People in America list.

Nashville native Thomas Frist Jr. and family made the top 50 on the list, coming in at number 32 with a net worth of $22.6 billion.

Knoxville-born Jimmy Haslam came in at number 99 with a net worth of $8.7 billion. His brother and former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam tied with FedEx founder Fred Smith at number 184 — both with a net worth of $5.7 billion. Martha Ingram and family came in at number 273 with a net worth of 4.2 billion, and Jon Yarbrough came in at number 314 with a net worth of $3.6 billion.

Their net worth was calculated using stock prices from September 8, 2023. 

Gas Prices (MSM)

Tennessee gas prices have decreased steadily for three consecutive weeks. Over last week, gas prices moved six cents lower, on average, across the state. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.24 which is 13 cents less expensive than one month ago and 15 cents less than one year ago.  

“Gas prices have fallen nearly 20 cents over the last three weeks, and we’ve reached a point where our current gas prices are cheaper than both one month ago and one year ago prices,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Falling demand alongside growing gasoline supply is creating more downward pressure on pump prices. If oil prices remain stable, or continue to decline, it’s likely that drivers can expect another round of price drops at the pump this week.” 

Quick Facts

61% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.25 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.97 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.64 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 8th least expensive market in the nation


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