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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-22-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 22, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Roy Brooks Case Dismissed (MSM)

Days before he was set to face trial for carrying a weapon on school property, former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks saw his case dismissed instead.

District Attorney Brent Cooper made the announcement that the charge against Brooks would not be pursued. In a May 21 statement, Cooper said, “After doing an in-depth review of the facts of the case and the applicable law, I came to the conclusion that a jury may find reasonable doubt as to Mr. Brooks’ guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the ethical action was to submit an order of Nol-le Pro-se-qui, meaning that the State chooses not to proceed further with the case.”

Maury County Circuit Court officials confirmed the filing of the order.

Brooks was indicted by a Maury County grand jury in August 2023 on a charge of carrying a weapon on school property. Despite not being part of any law enforcement response team, Brooks reportedly responded in full tactical gear and carrying an AR-15 rifle to a May 2023 call of an active shooter at Columbia Central High School, which turned out to be a hoax. Officials said at the time that Brooks was not authorized to be at CCHS.

His attorney, David Christensen, said at a November hearing that Brooks had in fact been asked to be at the scene. Brooks had previously served with Columbia’s S.W.A.T. unit and reportedly knew many of the officials who responded to the hoax.

Brooks had rejected a plea deal of one year of probation, choosing instead to face trial and a potential two-year prison sentence. His trial had been set for May 22, 2024.

When asked for comment, Brooks told Main Street Maury his attorney was preparing a press release that would be provided when ready.

Brooks was terminated in May 2022 by the Columbia Fire Department after multiple allegations against him, including sexual harassment and violation of the city’s sick leave policy. Columbia’s Civil Service Board upheld the firing in August 2022 and a federal wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Brooks was dismissed in January 2024.

Brooks has claimed he was fired after multiple reports to his superiors about several alleged safety issues within the department. Brooks’ claims include staffing issues and false information being given to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), as well as employees conducting work without the proper credentials.

Tornado Aftermath (CDH)

Tattered clothes and trash flapped in the wind, hanging from broken trees while fractured memories lay strewn about both sides of the road on Old Highway 99, following an outbreak of tornadoes across Middle Tennessee May 8.

Blackburn Lane was no different.

Whole portions of homes were laid bare, visible to passersby in the area. A stop by any one of the ravaged homes in the days after, and one could hear the sound of volunteer clean-up efforts coming from all directions. Chain saws, garbage bags and busy feet lead the way.

People could be seen working everywhere.

The county has banded together with big hearts and big recovery efforts since the storms that passed through, claiming one life and destroying or damaging more than 245 structures.

One of those whose home was severely damaged in the storm's path is Maury County Constable Sam Barnes, who lives atop a hill on Blackburn Lane.

The family has been busy determining what the plan will be for the home, but his hope is to rebuild.

The Barnes family was in their home when the tornado hit their house on the fateful Wednesday afternoon.

Sam Barnes had just returned home from work when he and his wife Lori Barnes began to hear the approaching storm outside.

When he went outside, he saw it.

Quickly taking cover under the stairs in their basement, they survived the moments of impact without injury.

Sam Barnes said, however, they felt the force of the storm completely blow out doors of their home and an enclosed sunroom on the side of their home was gone when they emerged from cover, leaving only a bare uncovered deck.

“You would not believe what it was like when the storm hit,” Barnes said, recounting the storm's fury.

Debris from inside their home laid scattered about the backyard, Friday.

A span of jaggedly snapped trees like broken matchsticks stretched down into a small valley below their home where another home also sustained damage.

Lori Barnes said that the trees that once covered the view of the house behind them were gone.

Workers kept at the work of cutting trees into movable burn piles and skid steers cleared paths for workers.

Next door neighbors, Jerry and Shirley Brady sustained their own roof damage.

Jerry Brady built the home where Sam Barnes’ wife Lori grew up. The Bradys barely escaped the tornado’s wrath unharmed.

Sam Barnes was elected as District 5 constable in 2022 and has had a career of serving the public in law enforcement. Since the storms hit, he saw a public – most of whom he did not know, step in to serve and assist him in his family’s time of need.

People just started showing up and without introductions, began to work.

“I don’t even know where most of these people are coming from,” Sam Barnes said the days after the storm. “We don’t know them, but we’re grateful.”

Following a large downed tree that damaged the façade of his home beyond repair, he and his wife struggle to know what’s next, but they have seen an outpouring of support to help them through this time.

Barnes watched May 10 as an excavator took down the front portion of his home.

Volunteers were deployed from Randolph Howell Elementary School, which acted as the relief hub, lead by Destiny Church.

Destiny Church Pastor Steven Morgan said they began to hear about what the county was doing, the day after the storm and just teamed up to boost those efforts.

“We just jumped in to help on what Jeff Hardy, director of Emergency Management and the county had already assembled,” Morgan said.

Convoy of Hope was a big piece of the help to partner with Destiny Church, bringing a big tornado relief package of supplies into the area, Morgan said.

Several other churches joined the efforts and a separate Red Cross operation set up a post for assistance.

Morgan said he had a count of nearly 150 folks from his congregation who helped, not counting other groups on site at Randolph Howell.

As previously reported, nearly 300 volunteers joined in the full effort.

What struck Morgan, he said, were the families who had survived the devastation, returning to give their donations of support such as gift cards for who might need them.

“Even the generosity of these people who were affected by the storms was incredible,” Morgan said.

Workers from recovery ministries such as “God Will Provide” helped people around the area and helped to bring normality back to the community.

Donald Castillo, with Knights of Columbus brought chainsaws to the Barnes home along with Brandon Park with Maury County Sheriff’s Department.

At one point late in the afternoon, as many as a dozen volunteers were helping the Barnes and Brady families with tree cutting and clearing just at their address.

Maury County School Board Chairman, Michael Fulbright said Sunday that he has worked many disaster relief efforts, but was never moved to such tears as when he took his trip down Old Highway 99 on Saturday.

“My in-laws live just off Old 99,” Fulbright said. “It was hardest to see that people’s homes are their safe spot and for many, to see that so violently swept away in moments, really rocks your sense of security.”

Donations for storm victims are still being collected through the Maury County Trustee’s office.

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt stated last week that Maury County is one of the most prepared counties for the storm aftermath out of our surrounding counties and that the response of generosity has matched that

Barely a week after the storm, Butt said Maury County had raised $66,430.16 through the Maury County Trustee’s Office for victims.

The mayor said one fund was set up for collection to cut down on the red tape of having access to funds to help victims in Maury County, but added that the Red Cross and United Way would be taking donations as well.

Butt and Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder both recently trained for such an emergency preparedness scenario, a little more than a month ago, Butt said.

“I’m so extremely proud of Maury County and the wonderful effort everyone here has put forward, making sure our county was taken care of. We have seen an excellent response,” Butt said.

Praising the work of the Office of Emergency Management and the efforts from all associated law enforcement and fire department agencies, she added that there was also help coming in from outside of county as well.

“We truly did have a team effort here in Maury,” Butt said, who has visited some of the storm-damaged homes and has seen the relief response.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Department of Transportation also came to Maury County to join in the relief efforts, Butt said.

“Just being there was a sight to behold,” Butt said.

The cleanup, Butt said, would continue over the coming months and would not be a “quick fix.”

Butt teared up as she said her heart goes out to the family of the tornado's sole victim, Cheryl Lovett, who died in the storm, adding that “some loss cannot be replaced.”

Mary Susan Kennedy Remembered (MSM)

Family and friends are mourning the loss of Mary Susan Berry Kennedy, who died Friday, May 17 at the age of 67 after an accidental fall in Columbia.

She was known for her dedicated service to the community through a number of organizations, including St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (choir, Daughters of the King, vestry, altar guild, flower guild, and a children’s Sunday school teacher); Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (Board member and Secretary of the Executive Committee, President of the Women’s Association, Co-Chair of the Youth Committee, Long Range Planning Committee and Assembly choir); The Centennial Club (chorus member), Daughters of the American Revolution, Garden Club, Columbia Breakfast Rotary, Chamber of Commerce Spring Hill (chamber ambassador), Maury Alliance, James K. Polk Memorial Association, Pay Grace Forward and Kappa Alpha Theta.

“She was always at every ribbon cutting, interviewing business owners. She would have the grandkids in tow and she was coaching them to be well-mannered in true Mary Susan fashion,” said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. “She was selected to be Ambassador of the Month this month and we’ll honor her on Thursday. We all got to know her more intimately because of her being an ambassador, and the rest of the community will now get to learn about all of the effort she put into the community here and in Columbia and Franklin.”

Mary Susan is survived by her husband of 43 years, Sam Delk Kennedy Jr.; children, Sam Delk Kennedy III (Rachel Vest) and Mary Susan Berry Kennedy II; grandchildren, Margaret Berry, Samuel Delk IV and Anne Ridley Greenfield Kennedy; and her siblings, Dewees Berry, Doug Berry, Will Berry and Amanda Moody.

“She just shined a light everywhere she went,” Delk Kennedy said. “I just want to say thank you one more time for the overwhelming support, thoughts and prayers we’ve gotten wherever we go. It’s amazing – of course we knew Mary Susan was amazing. To hear all these folks talk about her, if anybody deserves the Mother Teresa Award, it’s her.”

Mary Susan was the daughter of Sue and Dewees Berry of Franklin and was raised on a farm off West Harpeth Road that she loved. She rode horses, played in the woods and developed a love of nature that she kept the rest of her life. She and her husband of 43 years, Delk, raised their children, on their own farm, Glendale Farm. Mary Susan hosted countless people at Glendale, and for her, any guest was an occasion for breaking out the silver and good china. She was known for her beautiful flower arrangements and for putting anyone who showed up to work.

Mary Susan was deeply loyal to lifelong friends from high school, college, Columbia and the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, and she absolutely adored both the Berry and the Kennedy families.

Mary Susan loved playing with her children and grandchildren – hiking, reading, riding horses, singing and playing “pretend” as a serious business. She was game for an adventure, and was proud that she was the brave one who jumped off the waterfalls when she was young, and was renowned for being an active grandmother at Monteagle and beyond.

“She always kept her loved ones built up and made sure you were feeling good,” said son Sam Kennedy.

One friend said, “I don’t know how she does it. She goes to EVERYTHING – lectures, excursions, porch parties, movies, canoe trips, caving adventures, float trips, twilight prayers, etc.! I can only hope I’m like her when I have grandkids!”

She graduated from Harpeth Hall High School, where she just celebrated her 50th reunion. She earned her B.A. at Vanderbilt University and remained a devoted fan of the Commodores, a master’s in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University and her Ph.D. from the University of Memphis. She was a professor at Columbia State Community College for 40 years before retiring to become busier than before, participating in civic organizations, helping run the family’s WKOM and WKRM radio stations and working with her son to manage the cattle and sheep at Glendale Farm.

“I was speaking with another dear friend of Mary Susan’s and she said, ‘I knew I was her very dearest friend, and the person I was speaking to said they were her very dearest friend,’ and I said but wait – I was her very dearest friend. The fact is, if you knew Mary Susan, you were her very dearest friend. She had countless best friends. If she knew you, you were hers and you never knew where the venture was going to take you,” said friend Kristi Martin.

A memorial service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Columbia, on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. Visitation with the family will be held Wednesday, May 22 from 3-5 p.m. 

Memorials may be made to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or to the Monteagle Assembly Endowment Fund Corporation.

Blood Assurance Asks for Donors (MSM)

The summer season is almost here, and Blood Assurance is calling on community members to donate before the holiday weekend to help keep supplies from dropping to critical levels.

The time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” During this time blood donations typically drop, but the need surges because of an increase in traumatic car crashes. This can create a strain on the blood supply, and lead to a critical need for donations. More than 540 volunteer blood donors are needed every day in order to have an adequate supply for the hospitals Blood Assurance serves.

“We need everyone who is healthy and able to step up and donate this summer,” said Dr. Liz Culler, the President and CEO of Blood Assurance. “We understand people have busy schedules and vacations, but please remember those in urgent need of blood transfusions. Your one donation can help save up to three lives.”

Donors who give now through May 31 will receive a special Memorial Day T-shirt while supplies last. You can visit, call 800-962-0628, or text BAGIVE to 999777, to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins will be accepted.

CSCC Summer Camps (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Columbia Campus is excited to announce summer camps for 2024. 

The Game Design Unity Camp will run from June 10 - 14 for rising 6th through 8th grade students. Campers will craft virtual worlds, master optimization techniques and bring their video games to life with sounds and animations. Join us for an adventure in creativity and technology!

Rhythm Retreat – Music Camp will run from June 24 - 27 for rising 4th through 6th graders. Student participants will experience drumming, comprehend new piano skills, enjoy music games and take part in choral singing.

Innovate & Illuminate will run from July 8 – 12 for rising 6th through 8th graders. Participants will learn to make fun and useful projects using the fundamentals of circuit building and microcontroller programing.

For more information and to register, visit or email

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

Mary Susan Berry Kennedy, wife of Delk Kennedy, passed away Friday, May 17, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Funeral Services for Mrs. Kennedy will be conducted Thursday, May 23, at 3:30 P.M. at St. Peters Episcopal Church. The family will visit with friends Wednesday, May 22, from 3:00 P.M until 5:00 P.M. at St. Peters.

Kristi Lyle Vanderburg, 45, resident of Columbia, TN, died Saturday, May 18, 2024 at her residence. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the funeral home. A private graveside service will be held at Longtown Cemetery in Crenshaw, Mississippi with family and friends serving as pallbearers.

Billy Gower Dial, 83, of Brentwood, Tennessee, formerly of Culleoka, Tennessee passed away at Somerfield Health Center on May 10th. A graveside service will be held Friday, May 24th at 1pm at Friendship Cemetery in Culleoka. Visitation will be on Saturday, May 25th from 12:30 to 2 followed by a Celebration of Life at 2 p.m. at Brenthaven Church, 516 Franklin Road, Brentwood. 

…And now, news from around the state…

Nashville Transit Plan (Tennessean)

Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell's proposed transportation plan will cost an estimated $6.9 billion to implement over 15 years, according to an independent audit released last week.

The "Choose How You Move" proposal would raise sales tax in Davidson County by half a cent to fund the construction of 86 miles of sidewalk, an improved 24/7/365 bus-based transit system, 12 community transit centers, 17 park and ride facilities, 600 upgraded smart traffic signals and more. The plan will head to the Metro Council for review now that it has received approval from the state comptroller-approved independent accounting firm.

Voters will have the final say at the polls in November on whether to implement the plan.

Metro Finance Director Kevin Crumbo in a statement described the $6.9 billion figure as "a projection of what the projects might cost if you make a best estimate about future inflation and cost-pressures." It includes construction, operating and financing costs in addition to reserves — all in "future dollars."

The price tag would be covered by several revenue sources:

$3.26 billion from sales tax surcharge

$2 billion from anticipated proceeds from revenue bonds issued from 2026 to 2039

$1.52 billion in federal and state grants

$154 million in farebox revenue

The $2 billion in bonds would be "issued under a new credit profile," similar to how the Sports Authority issues debt. The bonds would not impact Metro Nashville's general obligation bond ratios.

In today's dollars, the cost for the entire construction period from 2025 through 2039 would total around $3.1 billion, in line with the O'Connell administration's initial estimate. Construction costs are expected to escalate 3.5% per year, which the audit report notes is "significantly higher than historical national construction cost growth."

The annual operating cost of the services included in the plan stands at $111 million, in today's dollars. These costs are expected to escalate by 3% per year.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Major League Baseball today announced that Home Run Derby X, an exciting new baseball format built around power hitting and defensive hustle, will come to First Horizon Park on Saturday, August 31, 2024. Nashville was selected as one of the four host cities for this year’s tour in the United States.

MLB Home Run Derby X will be a 3-on-3 format between four teams made up of former MLB legends, stars from the women’s baseball and softball world and baseball talent from the Middle Tennessee area. Andruw Jones and Nick Swisher will headline two of the four squads. Joining them are former University of Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn Alo and four-time member of the USA Women’s Baseball National Team Alex Hugo. More stars from the baseball and softball world will be announced leading up to the event.

The Nashville Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and play at First Horizon Park. Single-game tickets and season ticket memberships for the remainder of the 2024 season are on sale now. For more information visit


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