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Southern Middle TN Today News with Tom Price 5-29-24


Southern Middle Tennessee Today

News Copy for May 29, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Homicide Investigation (Press Release)

On Monday, May 27th, at approximately 7:12 am, the Columbia Police Department responded to a male lying on the ground at 1129 Trotwood Avenue. As officers arrived on the scene, they discovered 51-year-old, Thomas Deon Braden, injured and unresponsive in the parking lot.

Emergency Medical Services attempted lifesaving measures; however, Braden succumbed to his injuries on scene.

Through investigation in was discovered that an altercation occurred between the victim and 39-year-old Gerardo Mendoza Rodriquez at a convenience store a short distance away. As Mr. Braden walked away from the altercation, Mendoza-Rodriquez struck Braden with his vehicle killing him.

Gerardo Mendoza Rodriquez has been taken into custody and charged with 1st degree murder and aggravated assault resulting in death and driving on a suspended license in connection with this incident.

Anyone who witnessed this incident or anyone with information that may assist in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Columbia Police Department at 931-388-2727.

Memorial Day Observed (CDH)

For its 39th year, Columbia veterans, leaders and citizens gathered at Polk Memorial Gardens for its annual Memorial Day tradition to pay tribute to those have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Despite a few late-Sunday flash flood warnings, the weather was clear and sunny for Monday's ceremony, which included the traditional recognitions of every branch of the U.S. Military, as well as a demonstration of the flag folding ceremony performed for fallen soldiers.

"I'd like to thank the staff at Williams Funeral Home and Polk Memorial Gardens for all the effort and beauty they've created out here and the care they've taken getting everything ready for us to have this event," Polk Memorial CEO Alan Blevins said.

"They take great pride in honoring fallen veterans, for having this service to honor the veterans we've lost and to remember those serving right now for us overseas and in this very country. It renews our hope for the future of the country."

Monday's ceremony also featured keynote speaker John Fotti, CEO of nonprofit Operation Song. The organization partners with veterans, as well as veteran families, who are partnered with a professional songwriter to tell their stories by creating original music.

Since Operation Song's foundation in 2012, the nonprofit has produced more than 1,700 songs.

"Memorial Day often is just as much about America as it is about the veterans that gave their life on the battlefield, or in the line of duty," Fotti said. "One of the things I love most about Memorial Day is remembering the other side, the America side, which says 'We promise to take care of you when you come home, and God forbid, we will take care of your family if you don't."

Fotti began his career in 2012 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after graduating and commissioning for the University of Tampa as a Distinguished Military Graduate.

Fotti soon joined the U.S. Army's Flight School in Ft. Rucker, Alabama, training for 18 months learning to fly combat helicopters. His first assignment was with the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky as a flight line platoon leader of a Blackhawk Helicopter Air Assault Company.

He was later deployed to Afghanistan in 2015 as a combat aviator. In 2018, everything came to a halt when Fotti was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

"I was about to head to South Korea for a duty assignment, and it turns out they don't let you fly helicopters if you have Type 1 Diabetes," Fotti said. "They don't even let you serve in the Army ... and so this is my uniform now."

Still wishing to serve his country, Fotti worked as a Wounded Warrior Fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. His non-profit work later began as CEO of the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation in Norman, Oklahoma, eventually leading 100 volunteers to serve 5,000 veterans per year.

Though he won't be flying Blackhawk Helicopters into the battlefield anymore, Fotti said that serving his fellow veterans remains vitally important, not just in the work he does, but also contributions from citizens, local government and other organizations.

"I urge you to take anything you can out of today and take it back to your community to try and foster a community that supports veterans and their families, that remembers their service and sacrifice that truly embodies the moments we take today on Memorial Day," Fotti said.

"Truly think about that ... because America's next war will be fought by our sons and daughters, and we as a society hope that the current individuals that line the halls of our middle schools and high schools will put on that uniform and fight for the freedoms we have today."

Fotti concluded his speech by presenting one of Operation Song's projects, which was written and arranged by Nashville songwriter Stephen J. Williams ("Redneck Yacht Club"}. The song, titled "Angelversary," was written in collaboration with the family of SPC John Pelham, who was killed in Afghanistan on Feb. 12, 2014.

The song is one of eight featured on Operation Song's "A Salute to Gold Star Families" album released in 2021.

Monday's ceremony concluded with the traditional performance of "Beulah Land" by the Highland Park Baptist's Men of Praise chorus group, as well as "Dueling Taps" and "Amazing Grace" performed by Todd Boswell on the Scottish bagpipes.

City Parking Garage Project Delayed (Press Release)

The City of Columbia announced yesterday that due to recent inclement weather, the completion date for the City of Columbia parking garage improvement project, originally set for the end of June, has been delayed by one month. Renovation crews are working diligently to ensure this project is completed as soon as possible.

Columbia Spring Jubilee (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 Tennessee Walking Horse Breader’s and Exhibitor’s Association, now the official Registry for Tennessee Walking Horses.

CPWS Gets OK to Expand (MSM)

Columbia’s Planning Commission gave preliminary approval at its May meeting for the rezoning of property located on Nashville Highway for expansion of a water treatment facility.

“Columbia Power and Water’s number one goal is to preserve the capacity for existing customers and make sure that that system is available and running at all times,” said project manager Mike Harris, representing CPWS.

The request for the property was to rezone from a CD-4C (General Urban Corridor Character District) and CD-3 (Neighborhood Character District) to PUD-MU (Mixed-Use Planned Unit Development) and to approve a preliminary master plan at 806 and 812 Nashville Highway.

Harris said that Columbia Power and Water Systems’ purchase of the former American Legion property “opened the door for expansion of this [water treatment] plant.”

“It’s a very unique site, very unique facility that really wouldn’t fit in any of the zones,” he said, adding that staff had helped the department with these plans.

When asked if the new facility would reach the needed capacity for the new permit, Harris stated that the current plan has a capacity of 17.5 million gallons per day, and the expansion will increase that by about 12 million gallons per day.

Other discussion included a “decorative fence” with brick columns across the front of the property and black coated fencing with barbed wire around the perimeter. Since residential homes are around the property, several on the commission members expressed their concerns about the barbed-wire fence.

Harris said this was something that was enforced for safety purposes after 9/11.

When asked if other options were considered, he said that ultimately the customers bear the costs and this was considered when attempting to balance the costs and aesthetics of the fence.

The commission approved the request with its own request for the applicant to have some additional options of fencing for the City Council to consider. The City Council will ultimately have to approve the proposed rezoning.

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.

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.

Mt. Pleasant Touch-A-Truck (Press Release)

Buckle up, young readers and families, for an exciting adventure awaits at the Mount Pleasant Touch-a-Truck event on June 1st. In celebration of the upcoming Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program, this interactive and educational event will bring the community together for a day of hands-on exploration with a variety of vehicles.

Date: June 1st Time: 10 AM until 1 PM Location: Haylong Ave and the Square in Mount Pleasant, TN

The Touch-a-Truck theme is about community heroes and lots of different trucks lining the street for kids to check out and learn about their community heroes that help us every day! This unique opportunity will allow children and families to get up close and personal with an array of vehicles, from fire trucks to construction equipment, police cars, and more. This free family-friendly event not only promises a day of fun and excitement but also serves as the perfect kickoff for the Library's Summer Reading Program.

The event is designed to inspire a love for reading and learning in children while offering a memorable experience that fosters a sense of community. Participants will have the chance to climb aboard and explore the various vehicles, interact with local community heroes, and even learn about the roles these vehicles play in our daily lives.

"We are thrilled to present the Touch-a-Truck event as a dynamic kickoff to the Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program. It's an opportunity for families to engage with the community, spark curiosity in children, and promote a love for learning," said Haverly Pennington, Director of Main Street.

In addition to the vehicle displays, the event will feature entertainment, food trucks, and activities. Mount Pleasant Main Street, Mount Pleasant Library, Heritage Bank, First Farmer’s Bank, United Community Bank, Southside Baptist Church, Norman’s Body Shop, and Staggs Simple Shine have joined forces to make this day unforgettable, ensuring a festive atmosphere for all attendees. Families are encouraged to bring their children, explore the trucks, and discover the joy of reading. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the Touch-a-Truck event and the Mount Pleasant Library's Summer Reading Program, please contact Haverly Pennington, Main Street Director, at

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

Maury County Clerk Satellite Office (Press Release)

The Maury County Clerk’s office can now help residents with renewals of license plates or placards each Wednesday from 8am to 3:30pm at the Maury County Senior Center located at 1020 Maury County Park Dr.

Please drive around to the back of the building and look for the car tag renewal sign near the back door.

Forms of payment include credit/debit card or check – no cash.

Any Maury County Resident can use this office.

All other transactions will still need to be done through the main office located at 10 Public Square.

Also, you can renew online at or at kiosks in Spring Hill City Hall or Mt. Pleasant Courthouse.

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

Mrs. JoAn Davis Dial, 85, died Tuesday, May 28, 2024 at Life Care Center of Hickory Woods in Antioch. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday, May 30th at 11:00 AM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in McCains Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mrs. Rose Marie Jones Sharp, 88, lifelong resident of the Bear Creek Community, died Friday, May 24th at American Home Assisted Living Facility in Lebanon. Funeral services for Mrs. Sharp will be conducted Thursday, May 30th at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Jones Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

Mr. Paul Dean Smith, 89, passed away peacefully at his home in Columbia, TN following a brief illness. A memorial service for Paul Dean Smith will be conducted Friday, May 31st at 2:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery with Military honors provided by The United States Navy. The family will receive friends beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Ms. Lisa Lynn Elliott Ashley, 46, resident of Columbia, passed away Monday, May 27th surrounded by her loving family at her brother’s residence. A memorial service will be conducted Friday, May 31st at 6:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the funeral home.

Mr. David Marshall Watkins II, 77, retired engineer for MARTA, former resident of Gallatin and resident of Columbia, died Monday, May 27th at NHC Columbia. A Funeral Mass will be conducted Saturday, June 1st at 10:30 a.m. at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. Inurnment will follow in Zion Cemetery with military honors provided by Herbert Griffin American Legion Post 19. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at St Catherine.

Mr. Walter Henry “Hank” Keller III, 46, of Columbia, Tennessee passed away at his home on May 5th.  The family will visit with friends on Saturday, June 1, 2024 from 11 until 1 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home, with a graveside service immediately following at St. John’s Ashwood.

…And now, news from around the state…

Dear Governor Exhibit Opens (Press Release)

To celebrate Statehood Day on the Bicentennial Mall State Park Campus, the Tennessee State Library & Archives has announced its new “Dear Governor” exhibit will debut to the public on Saturday, June 1. 

As part of Statehood Day at the Library & Archives, visitors can see this exciting new exhibit featuring rare correspondences from constituents during the tenures of various Tennessee governors. These communications date back to the earliest days of Tennessee’s history and provide an incredible glimpse into the moments and events that shaped the tenures of Tennessee’s leaders.

“The staff at the Library & Archives has done a phenomenal job organizing and assembling this historic exhibit featuring letters from constituents, communications from the governor’s office to the White House, and outreach from the office of the governor to Tennesseans across the state,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Preserving these historic items helps us capture the sentiment of certain timeframes while reminding us that every written word can profoundly impact future generations.” 

Former Governors Lamar Alexander, Phil Bredesen, and Bill Haslam were the first to see TSLA’s newest exhibit during a private viewing earlier this month. The historic correspondences captured in this collection will be available for public viewing in the Interactive Exhibit Lobby from June 1 through early fall. 

“Dear Governor provides a unique experience for Tennesseans to learn more about these constituent communications and the considerable impact the words contained in them had on the decision-makers that have led our great state,” said State Librarian & Archivist Jamie Ritter. “We hope all Tennesseans will come to the Library & Archives and utilize this rare opportunity to learn something new about Tennessee’s leaders and how they interacted with constituents.”  

In addition to the official debut of the “Dear Governor” exhibit on Statehood Day, attendees can see the three original state constitutions presented and guarded by the Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard, starting at 11:00 a.m. Statehood Day festivities will provide free activities for all ages and interests including keepsake crafts, live music, living history interpreters, face painting, a sensory-friendly room, and an opportunity to write your very own letter to Gov. Bill Lee. 

Behind-the-scenes tours, which include stops at the robotic retrieval system and blast freezer, begin at 11:30 a.m. Space is limited, and reservations may be made on the event day. 

The Library & Archives is located at 1001 Rep. John Lewis Way N. on Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, across from the Tennessee State Museum. The facility’s garage is on Junior Gilliam Way. 

For the latest information, follow our social media channels: Facebook: Tennessee State Library & Archives and Instagram: @tnlibarchives.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

GRAMMY ® Award-winning and prolific singer-songwriter Lainey Wilson was surprised by Opry member Reba McEntire live on NBC’s “The Voice,” with an invitation to become an official member of the Grand Ole Opry. The multi-platinum and reigning CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year Louisiana native will be inducted into the Opry family on Friday, June 7. She made her Opry debut on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), 2020.

McEntire then presented Wilson with a gift commemorating the occasion, a custom-made belt buckle reading “Opry” and “Lainey” with “2024” emblazoned on its reverse side.

Wilson, the 2024 ACM Awards winner for ‘Entertainer of the Year’ and ‘Female Artist of the Year’, was a member of the Opry NextStage class of 2021 and has been an avid champion for the Opry, as well as a mentor to the Opry NextStage class of artists in the years since. The multi award-winning singer songwriter just released her new single “Hang Tight Honey,” from her forthcoming studio album Whirlwind out on August 23rd. Wilson will also kick off her 2024 headlining “Country’s Cool Again” tour on May 31st in Nashville, TN.


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