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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 4-23-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for April 23, 2024

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

We start with local news…

The Drake Prompts Road Closures (MauryCountySource)

Road closures in Columbia will begin for utility work associated with The Drake development located at Woodland Street and East 7th Street.

Affected streets and closure dates:

– North Glade Street between East 6th and East 7th Street (April 22 – October 31)

– East 7th Street between Woodland Street and North Glade Street (April 22 – May 4)

– Woodland Street between East 6th Street and East 7th Street (May 6 – May 17)

From Ethiopia to Spring Hill (CDH)

When Tyson Peters was named a Spring Hill soccer team captain prior to the season, few around him were surprised. His leadership ability and maturity have separated Peters from his peers and made him an easy choice.

Peters was shaped into the leader he is today at a young age. It started in Ethiopia, where he was adopted by a Tennessee family at the age of 4.

“So coming back to America from Ethiopia, the first thing I said, like when I could start speaking some English because it took a little while, I was like, 'America's got a lot of rules,'" Peters said.

"And so the transition for me, it was a little bit harder because I had a mature and get older faster than I (would have) had to. And I had a younger brother that came with me and so I felt like I had be the older brother, which I was, and so it just made me more aware. So I grew up a little fast.”

The move to a new country, culture and language was a stark contrast initially for Peters. America was different than his home in Ethiopia, from the geography to the food to the language — everything was new, making for a slow transition at first.

“The language barrier was a little bit difficult for me, but I slowly kind of learned it," Peters said. "I had a super strong accent when I first learned English and so I was a little bit harder to understand. I guess I acted a little bit more like I was older than I was, because I just had to mature a bit faster."

One of the only things that remained consistent was soccer. Peters is originally from a rural village about 20 miles outside of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where soccer is a second language and something Peters had been playing since he could first walk.

“I've been playing (soccer) since pretty much when I was born,” he said. “So where I'm from in Ethiopia, in Africa, that's like the one big sport, that's like the only sport … so soccer was like our rec time.”  

Despite competing in basketball, football and cross country — where Peters won a state title in middle school — soccer has always been his primary love. Peters has played on Spring Hill’s varsity team all four years, but this year his role is a little different as one of the few seniors on an inexperienced Raider team.

Spring Hill coach Sadiq Al-Amery said Peters' high energy is different than many seniors, who may drop down in their excitement.

“So this is what I like about him and he's a good leader too," Al-Amery said. "He lifts the freshmen up too.”

Peters said his ability to be a leader for the program comes through years of being involved in the school's JROTC.

JROTC is also where Peters first became interested in joining the Army, learning under Spring Hill’s Senior Army Instructor, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Lance Jackson.

“Truthfully my first impression, he was in a senior class (and) he was the only sophomore. Like man, ‘Why are you in this class?’ … About a month later I said, ‘Okay, this kid is different,’” Jackson said. “I see why; he's a leader. He's not just a sophomore, he's a leader.”

Peters is set to enlist in the Army after high school, heading to basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma in July with plans to become a helicopter mechanic.

“He had three years of JROTC underneath me," Jackson said. "He’s seen leadership one on one demonstrated … so when he gets there to the Army, basic training, he’ll just stand out. You walk around the high school, listen to him talking, (you wonder) ‘Why is that kid so different?’ (He’s) just different, it stands out immediately.”

Wired Masterminds Pitch Competition (Press Release)

In 2021, Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance and Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce launched WIRED – A Mastermind Group for local entrepreneurs and CEOs. WIRED Mastermind is designed to foster growth and development through the sharing of experiences, lessons-learned, and game-changing moments. The 2023-2024 Wired Mastermind Group is comprised of five local Entrepreneurs and CEO’s that were selected through an application process.

The group of five local leaders have been meeting monthly over the course of the year, learning from one another and developing a deeper understanding of themselves. Each participant committed their time, resources and expertise to the group and now it is time for them to host the finale, the WIRED Pitch Contest, a pitch competition for early businesses poised for growth in Maury County/Spring Hill. The group will decide which business is deserving of a grant valued up to at least $5,000. The individuals will also commit to mentoring the chosen business as needed.

The WIRED Pitch Contest is funded by WIRED Mastermind’s annual fees. Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to complete the application by June 1, 2024 in order to be considered to participate in the pitch competition on July 23, 2024. Chosen applicants will pitch their idea in front of the WIRED Mastermind group and the group will determine which businesses warrant investing and the amount invested. The WIRED Mastermind group will then serve as mentors to the chosen entrepreneur(s).

Find a link to the application by visiting

All Maury County businesses are encouraged to apply. The application is anonymous and will only be shared with the WIRED Pitch Contest reviewing committee. Participants are selected without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, veteran, or disability status.

Columbia Jubilee Set (MauryCountySource)

The Maury County Horseman’s Association will be hosting its 73rd Annual Columbia Spring Jubilee from May 30 through June 1, 2024 at Maury County Park located at 1018 Maury County Park Drive in Columbia, Tennessee. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. on May 30, 2024. There will be 108 classes shown over the three-day event. 

The show follows the guidelines set forth by the State of Tennessee, the Department of Agriculture’s guidelines for livestock events, and the joint guidelines issued by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) and Walking Horse Trainers’ Association. The event is an International High Point Affiliated Horse Show. Judges for the event will be Scott Beaty, Scotty Brooks, and Justin Jenne.

This is one of the shows on the annual walking horse circuit promoted by the Walking Horse Owner’s Association (WHOA) and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association 

Famous for its smooth and easy gait, the Tennessee Walking Horse is a popular breed blending Thoroughbred, Narragansett Pacer, Morgan, Standardbred, and American Saddlebred bloodlines. 

According to WHOA, the bloodline goes as far back as 1886 with a foundation sire named Black Allen. The stallion was bred to be a trotter, but he ended up being a pacer. While Black Allen was born in Kentucky, he was purchased in his later years by Albert Dement of Wartrace, Tennessee to help him produce a horse with a gait between a trot and a pace – which came to be called a “running walk.” A horse with this gait became the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH). 

In 1935, the breed association was formed, known today as the TWHBEA. The TWHBEA is the official Registry for Tennessee Walking Horses.  All registrations, to be valid, must be filed with the TWHBEA on the prescribed form and accepted by the organization’s secretary.

Courthouse Art Competition Winners (CDH)

To mark the 120th anniversary of the Maury County Courthouse, Maury County government applied for and was awarded an Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. 

The grant funded a juried art competition focused on the Maury County Courthouse, which was conceived in 1904 under the direction of local son, and nationally recognized architect J.E.R. Carpenter.

“This art competition was designed to bring some recognition to one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state. With the opening of a new justice center later this year, many residents have been asking ‘What will happen to our historic courthouse?’ This art competition, opened to all Maury County citizens, allowed people to express their thoughts on the matter through art.”

Over 40 art submissions were judged by four artist-judges, including photographers Sarah Gilliam and Ross Jaynes, sculptor Jennifer Grisham and painter/sculptor James Spearman. 

There were four categories of winners, including elementary, middle school, high school and adult as well as a grand prize winner. 

With no high school submissions, the winners are as follows:


3rd Place: Baleigh Fowler

2nd Place: Emma Waltman

1st Place: Arlo Schminke

Middle School

3rd Kyndall Atwater

2nd Hadley Tracey

1st Ali Nicholson


3rd Place: Ashley Barnett                               

2nd Place: Mary Lehner

1st Place: David Brady

Grand Prize Winner: Randy Walters

All of the art submitted for the competition will be on exhibition at the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College from May 13 through June 14.  A gallery reception will open the exhibition at 4 p.m. on May 13.

The grant was made possible through the Tennessee Arts Commission, the SouthCentral Tennessee Development District as well as with the collaboration of the Maury County Visitor’s Bureau, Columbia State Community College, the Maury County Finance Department, and the Maury County Archives.

Hawkins Honored (CDH)

Columbia State Community College recently invited the community to honor Dr. O. Rebecca Hawkins, third president of Columbia State, with a naming ceremony for the Dr. O. Rebecca Hawkins Plaza and Graduate Promenade.

“It is such a pleasure for me, as well as those gathered here today, to celebrate you and your accomplishments as president of this college,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “Graduation is a highlight of this college, and what a wonderful way to celebrate Dr. Hawkins’ impact on Columbia State and her dedication to students.”

Hawkins served as Columbia State’s third president from December 1996 until February 2008. During her term, she accomplished the opening of the Clifton Campus in 1997, formalized the Columbia State Foundation, established the President’s Medal for faculty and staff, and renovated the original John W. Finney Memorial Library into the Walker Building for Health Sciences. She also opened the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus in 2001. This building included the Pryor Art Gallery and the Cherry Theater, the latter of which allowed her to launch the first season of the First Farmers Performance Series, a staple in the community ever since.  

In addition, she established the Hickman Building Endowment and endowments for the arts. She also welcomed additions to the Lewisburg Campus in 2001, and to the Lawrence Campus in 2002. Two endowments bear her name.

Since her retirement, Hawkins has remained a fixture at Columbia State through the Foundation and has continued to support any events the college has to offer. She is a Silver member of the President’s Society, as well as a member of the Heritage and Legacy Society and the '66 Circle.

In her honor and as thanks for her ongoing dedication to Columbia State, the plaza in front of the J. H. Warf Building on the Columbia Campus was named the Dr. O. Rebecca Hawkins Plaza.

Also established by Hawkins in her tenure, students congregate and pass through this plaza every day. In addition, graduation has always been a special time for Hawkins. Graduates march the walkway spanning from the sculpture of “The Graduate,” gifted by Hawkins, to the Webster Athletic Center.

This walkway is now marked by bronze medallions and light pole banners identifying it as the Dr. O. Rebecca Hawkins Graduate Promenade.

“You’re paying tribute to me for a part of my life that I hold truly dear,” said Hawkins. “You have named the graduate walkway in my honor; I’m grateful and I’m humbled. You couldn’t have done anything or given me anything that stirs my soul like recognition and tribute to what I fondly remember as the best part in my life each academic year. You have made my face very happy!”

Spring Hill Founders’ Day (MauryCountySource)

Join the city of Spring Hill this Founders Day Weekend, May 2nd through 5th, as history and traditions of the influential leaders who created the city are honored.

All events are free unless otherwise noted, but library space is very limited and many programs require online reservations to guarantee a seat. You can reserve your spot at

Please bring a non-perishable food donation for The Well.

Times, locations and presenters subject to change, but no rain dates are planned. Please direct any questions to Dana Juriew at or (931)451-0723.

Speakers include: Author Brooks Lamb presents his book Love for the Land: Lessons from Farmers Who Persist in Place; Spring Hill Artifacts with Gwynne Evans; Democracy in America: African American Voices of Maury County (1860s-1960s) with Jo Ann McClellan; The Formation of Spring Hill: Frontier’s Cutting Edge with Tom Price; Historically Significant Site plaque presentation with Mayor Jim Hagaman, Alicia Fitts and Rebecca Estrada; Story Mapping of Historic Sites in Spring Hill with Rebecca Estrada; Tours of Rippa Villa; aTractor Show on Library grounds; Cemetery Tour at Historic Spring Hill Cemetery on McLemore; a tour of historic churches on Sunday and the event winds down with Vintage Baseball at Rippa Villa 5700 Main Street.

Dana Juriew at or (931)451-0723.

Athenaeum Free Day (Press Release)

The Athenaeum Rectory, one of the main historic sites in Columbia, will have a Free Day on May 5th from 2-4PM.  The Athenaeum is located at 808 Athenaeum St. Free tours and refreshments will be served. Tour the home and become a member of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. 

Farm City Breakfast (Press Release)

The Maury Alliance Agribusiness Committee invites you to their annual Farm City Breakfast honoring the agriculture and agribusiness industry of Maury County.

This year's Farm City Breakfast will be held on Friday, April 26th at the Ridley 4-H Center. The breakfast line opens at 6:45 am with the program beginning at 7:00 am and concluding by 8:30 am. 

The Keynote Speaker is Mr. Eric Mayberry, President of Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and we will be honoring the Biffle Potts Farm in Hampshire as a Century Farm.

There is no charge to attend the breakfast, however we will be collecting donations during the event for our 2024 Farm City Scholarship Memorial Fund. This year scholarships will be given in memory of Dee Cee Neeley.

Learn more about the scholarship opportunities by visiting

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

Mary Lynda Johnson Gordon, 87, a longtime resident of Athens, Alabama, died Monday at Life Care Center of Columbia. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 11:00 AM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.  The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the funeral home.  

James B. “J.B.” Shepard passed away peacefully at the age of 96 on April 19th, surrounded by his loving family. A private graveside service will be held at Polk Memorial Gardens. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Willadeen Baker Wood, 92, died Sunday, April 21 at her residence.

A private graveside service will be held at Polk Memorial Gardens. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

School Voucher Program Dead (Tennessean)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s signature proposal for a statewide school voucher program is dead for the year, with Lee acknowledging there is no way forward for the legislation despite last-ditch negotiations through the weekend to revive the stalled bill.

The school choice legislation, a longtime priority for Lee, stumbled out of the gate over vast differences between dueling Senate and House versions, in addition to significant pushback from local public school stakeholders across the state.

“I am extremely disappointed for the families who will have to wait yet another year for the freedom to choose the right education for their child, especially when there is broad agreement that now is the time to bring universal school choice to Tennessee," Lee said in an early Monday statement. "While we made tremendous progress, unfortunately it has become clear that there is not a pathway for the bill during this legislative session."

Once lawmakers adjourn for the year, this version of the legislation will be permanently dead, as a new General Assembly will be sworn in after elections this fall. The governor could call the legislature back for a special legislative session to take up the matter, though doing so would likely not be welcomed, as it would call lawmakers off the campaign trail.

Lee plans to pursue the program again next year. He said Monday negotiations came "very close" to a final version, and he expects work will continue over the summer to determine what a new version of the legislation should look like.

“I want to thank the thousands of parents and students who made their voices heard, and I have never been more motivated to provide them with the ability to choose what’s best for their family. I also want to thank the speakers and leaders of both chambers for their commitment to pursuing education freedom next year," Lee said. “It’s very simple — this is about every Tennessee student having the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their ZIP code or income level, and without question, empowering parents is the best way to make sure that happens.”

Republican lawmakers did not find the effort quite as simple as the governor.

While Lee announced his vision for the program in November, he delayed releasing specific details on the plan until well into 2024. By that time, House and Senate Republicans had devised vastly different versions of the plan, and each chamber appeared entrenched in their positions.

The House GOP version sought to make sweeping reforms to public school testing requirements, teacher and principal performance assessments, and increase the state’s contribution to teacher health benefits — in addition to establishing the $144 million voucher program.

Senate Republicans wanted to require students who participate in the program to take achievement testing, and allow out-of-county public school enrollment. Lee pushed for establishing a voucher program without testing requirements. 

Democrats have long opposed the program, likening the voucher program to "coupons" for wealthy families who already send their children private school, and warned it could endanger funding for public schools.

Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said Monday vouchers in other states have a "terrible record," citing performance issues at private schools and a lack of accountability measures.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 27, as the Nashville Kats Arena Football team go head-to-head against the Minnesota Myth at the historic Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. It’s a showdown you won’t want to miss!

The outdoor tailgate party begins at 5:30 p.m. with music, food, drinks, and activities including the Lady Kats dancers, the Hype Crew with free giveaways and an appearance by Kool Kat, the mascot. Inside the arena, the pre-game show begins at 7:00 p.m. and will feature a performance and the national anthem by GRAMMY®-nominated Blanco Brown, famous for his viral hit “The Git Up” (certified 11x PLATINUM across three countries) that topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 12 weeks and was the top-selling digital country song in the United States for 13 weeks with more than 1.4 billion audio streams and four billion video streams across platforms. Blanco dropped his latest EP Heartache & Lemonade on April 5 via BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records, featuring the lead track “Sunshine Shine.”

To purchase tickets for the season kickoff, visit


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