Archives for January 2017

UWA’s Keener discovers new, rare species of mint in Talladega Mountains of Alabama

UWA Professor Dr. Brian R. Keener

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—Dr. Brian R. Keener, professor of Biology at the University of West Alabama, and Samford University Professor Lawrence J. Davenport have discovered and named two new species of hedge-nettles from Alabama. Their findings have now been published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, an international botanical journal specializing in taxonomy, systematics, and floristics primarily in the Western Hemisphere.

Hedge-nettles are a large group of plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that are classified in the genus Stachys [stay-keez]. The two new species, Alabama Hedge-Nettle (Stachys alabamica [al-uh-bam-i-ka]) and Nelson’s Hedge-Nettle (Stachys nelsonii [nel-sone-eee-eye]), appear to be extremely rare Alabama endemics both occurring only in the Talladega Mountains of east central Alabama in the Talladega National Forest.

Alabama Hedge-Nettle (named after the state of Alabama) occurs in the sandy alluvium of a half mile stretch of Cheaha Creek in Clay County. Nelsons’s Hedge-Nettle (named after hedge-nettle expert John Nelson, botanist at The University of South Carolina) is only known from a single population in rocky woods on Horn Mountain in Talladega County.

“Alabama’s biodiversity is full of surprises,” Keener explained. “Not just in plants, but new, never-before-named species among unrelated groups continue to be discovered. It is amazing what is still out there just waiting to be found.” In addition to his faculty role at UWA, Keener is also a research associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, located in Fort Worth.

Representative specimens of the two new species will be curated in the University of West Alabama Herbarium. Images and data will also be available on the Alabama Plant Atlas (

The Alabama Plant Atlas is a joint effort by the Alabama Herbarium Consortium (AHC) and UWA, established to provide users with a comprehensive searchable database of plants that occur in the state of Alabama.

With more than 3,000 species of native pteridophytes and seed plants, Alabama is the ninth most floristically diverse state in the United States. The flora of Alabama contains more than 4,000 taxa when native and naturalized species are considered. The Alabama Plant Atlas provides a source of information for each species including the distribution within the state using historical and recent data.

For more information on Keener’s research or the Alabama Plant Atlas, contact him at or by phone at 205-652-3796.

Stachys nelsonii

Stachys alabamica

Spann visits West Alabama Christian School

James Spann was at West Alabama Christian School in Demopolis “talking weather with kids.” Students learned about the weather cycle, severe weather and how to be prepared for severe weather. (WAW | Michael Clements)

Rooster Day returning to Demopolis April 8


MedCenter – Demopolis is the first Rooster Booster of 2017. From left, Neshia Steele, Amie Moody, Rachel Wallace, Madison Davidson, Megan Smedley, Malorie Langham, Arlesia Jones and Lolly McAbee with Brewster the Rooster. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

The Roosters are coming—again!

Riding on the success of the inaugural Rooster Day, plans are underway for the second annual event to be held Saturday, April 8.

The day-long affair marks the famous Rooster Auction held in the city in August of 1919. The purpose of the auction was to raise money for a bridge across the Tombigbee River connecting Marengo and Sumter counties and creating a roadway, now known as U.S. Highway 80, to stretch across the continent from Savannah to San Diego.

MedCenter – Demopolis became the first official Rooster Booster for the 2017 event. “Brewster the Rooster” made his first visit of the year to MedCenter – Demopolis this week.  More sponsors are lining up to become Rooster Boosters so Brewster can be displayed at their place of business as the city gets ready for a day of fun-filled activities.

Sponsored by the Marengo County Historical Society (MCHS), Rooster Day is held to raise funds for the upkeep of the society’s historic homes and for the programs and activities it holds during the year.

The MCHS board of directors and volunteers are working hard on Rooster Day 2017,” said Martha Turner, MCHS president.

“Last year’s event was so much fun, and the crowds exceeded our expectations,” said Turner. The first Rooster Day was so well received that the group is building on “providing a family friendly, fun day for this year.”

Many of the same events are returning this year, only bigger and better. Again, the day will begin with the Cock’s Crow Run. The 2017 version has a new 5K route, and entertainment will be provided on the stage next to the starting point.

Runners who want to pick up their race packets early can come on Friday night, bring the children and take part in a one-mile Fun Run. There will even be an outdoor movie for the kids.

With the goal in mind of encouraging local artisans and craftsmen, Rooster Day will have booths set up in the Public Square featuring the work of Alabama artists. All work is handmade and one-of-a-kind.

Adjacent to the booths will be Coop Games, a large children’s area with games, crafts and a petting zoo. At the same time demonstrations and entertainment will be on the Rooster Day stage. If weather permits, the 4H Chick Chain participants will demonstrate how to bathe a chicken.

Rooster Day continues that night with a live and silent auction on the grounds of Lyon Hall. Live music will entertain those attending the event.

Foster Farms, which has a corn dog-producing plant in Demopolis, is sponsoring the auction stage. It has been named in honor of the business and will be called Foster Farms Fowl Play.

The forms for the 5K Run and vendor applications as well as more information on Rooster Day can be found on the website,

Tears and Laughter: The right to pursue happiness comes with no guarantees

Like life and liberty, all of us – men and women alike – have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. It is given to us by our creator, protected by our government, and stated in the Declaration of Independence.

People are born into the world with the natural desire to find more around the next bend. America was founded by people who were focused on finding contentment through moving forward with a purpose and goals. Documenting it as a national mandate is what helps make us uniquely American.

Freedom to pursue our individual definitions of happiness should in itself ensure joy. But even declared and protected and blended with our countless other rights, happiness is not guaranteed.

Our modern world is equipped with snares like stress, worry and distraction that trap the motivation to pursue happiness. And there are thieves, such as addiction, abuse, or poverty that can steal the wherewithal from many to even try.

Science points to part of the problem possibly lying within the makeup of the brain and the way it processes happiness. One part balances empathy for others while another attempts to hold attention on what makes us genuinely happy. For some this produces energy, for others angst.

A thriving industry has formed selling self-help merchandise and tools aimed at helping secure happiness. There are books, apps, life coaches, and yoga instructors. Americans have also learned to supplement any gaps in happiness with prescribed antidepressants, or to self-medicate using alcohol or food. Even children are often diagnosed with depression, sometimes as a result of bullying, sometimes in reaction to their parent’s inability to find and maintain happiness.

It is likely that most people, when asked, would say they are happy. A smile though, can serve as a disguise.

Last Sunday afternoon in sunny Florida, a 14-year-old foster child, Nakia Venant, livestreamed her death of Facebook. She made a noose from a scarf and broadcast on social media for two hours before a friend saw her body hanging, and called the police. The post was quickly removed, and the headline of her death streamed through newsfeeds virtually unnoticed for days.

Last Tuesday, co-founder of the Allman Brother’s Band, Butch Trucks, held a pistol to his head inside his West Palm Beach condo, and pulled the trigger. He was 69.

Two mothers in a community just south of Wilcox County have taken their own lives in recent weeks. One was found in her car in a Walmart parking lot. The other took a handful of pills and intentionally drowned herself in her bathtub.

Suicide rates continue to climb, especially in women, and in children between 10 and 14. There is an average of 121 suicide deaths per day in America.

Be open, if you feel the conviction, to people near you. Be aware of someone placed in your path who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Sometimes just kindly listening nonjudgmentally to someone can start them on a path toward healing.  The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Any doctor, hospital, teacher, or church will gladly offer assistance, and if a person is in immediate danger, call 911.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman,, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at

Demopolis Arrest Reports: Jan. 31, 2017

Jan. 14 – Charles W. Wozencraft, 38, Alias Writ of Arrest, Hwy 43 North

Jan. 16 – Jerald J. Martin Jr., 31, Domestic Violence III – Assault III, EconoLodge

Jan. 19 – John Moore, 60, DUI, Maria Ave

Jan. 20 – Valarie S. Johnson, 25, Assault II, Creekridge Apt. 112

Jan. 20 – Jermekus S. Sanders, 24, Disorderly Conduct/Disturbing Peace, Parr’s Chevron

Jan. 20 – Javiya L. McGrew, 19, Violation of City Noise Ordinance, Eastern Circle

Jan. 21 – Robert M. Edwards Jr., 27 – Assault – Domestic Violence, Creekridge

Jan. 21 – Vanesha A. Cottrell, 21 – Miscellaneous Offenses, CreekRidge Apt

Jan. 24 – Jaquan L. Lee, 18 – Robbery I, E. Pettus St

Jan. 24 – Vanesha A. Cottrell, 21, Contempt of Court, DPD

Jan. 25 – Joshua A. Fountain, 25, Domestic Violence – Harassment, East Capitol

Jan. 26 – Frederick L. Lewis, 49, Contempt of Court, South Front

Jan. 26 – William E. C. Sorrells, 24, DUI, Jefferson Rd

Jan. 30 – Kathy R. Turner, 28, Disorderly Conduct/Disturbing Peace, Hilltop Circle

Jan. 31 – Douglas M. Bell, 22, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Receiving Stolen Property IV, Parr’s Chevron


William Minter Gebhardt

William Minter Gebhardt age 84 of Thomaston, AL died January 31, 2017 at Hospice of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL. He was born January 6, 1933 in Alabama to William Edwin and Susan Gebhardt.

He is survived by his brother, John F. Gebhardt of Cicinnati, OH; niece, Elizabeth Ann Gebhardt (Paige) D’Agostino of Cincinnati, OH; nephew, Nick D’Agostino of Cincinnati, OH; and adopted family, Larry and Coline Sheffield of Thomaston, AL.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William Edwin and Susan Gebhardt, and brother,Stephen Eric Gebhardt.

Graveside funeral services will be held at Thomaston Cemetery on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Linden, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Ida L. Hammond

Ms. Ida L. Hammond, age 69 entered into eternal rest Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Birmingham, AL. Funeral services for Ms. Ida L. Hammond were held Saturday, February 11,2017 at 11 a.m. at Greater New Hope Baptist Church, Demopolis,Alabama;Rev. Honoree Lockett officiated. Interment followed in Memorial Cemetery, Arcola Road, Demopolis, Alabama. Larkin and Scott Mortuary, LLC entrusted with arrangements.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Pittman wins 400th as Demopolis rallies over Central, forces Area 7 tie

DHS Lady Tigers Head Coach Tony Pittman talks with his team during a timeout at Central High School in Tuscaloosa on Monday.

TUSCALOOSA – Tony Pittman recorded his 400th win as a head coach in memorable fashion Monday night, piloting the Demopolis Lady Tigers to a 40-37 come-from-behind win over area foe Central-Tuscaloosa.

“This team is very resilient. They’re going to snap back and do the things that they’re supposed to do. We made mistakes, but they still continued to fight and work hard and I’m just very proud. I couldn’t be any more proud of this basketball team and winning the 400th with this group,” Pittman said. “They work so hard. We’re not a very talented bunch, but they’re very hard workers.”

The Lady Tigers trailed throughout the entirety of the first half, mustering only eight points in the first quarter en route to a 20-14 deficit at intermission. Still, it was the tenacious Demopolis defense that kept Pittman’s squad in the contest.

“Congrats to these ladies. They worked so hard. A lot of time the coaches get the credit, but these young ladies right here, they worked their butt off. We came out the first half and we turned the basketball over. We were not in synch in our offense. That had a lot to do with the Central defense. They’re very aggressive,” Pittman said. “We were able to go in the second half and make some adjustments, settle down, and start to do the things that we know we’re capable of doing.”

The Lady Tigers surrendered 14 points in the first quarter and only six in each of the second and third quarters. That effort allowed senior point guard Sylvia Clayton to sink a three-pointer with three seconds remaining the third quarter to give Demopolis its first lead of the game at 28-26.

“We talked about in the second half making the extra pass, making the extra pass, making them work on defense,” Pittman said of the pivotal sequence. “Aniya was able to catch her at the top of the key and she knocked the shot down. That’s what we expect Sylvia to do. She’s going to take those clutch shots. They did a great job tonight. I’m very proud of this basketball team.”

The Demopolis momentum never slowed from there. The Lady Tigers outpaced Central 12-11 in the fourth quarter to ice the victory, that forces a tie atop Class 5A, Area 7. A coin toss to determine the area winner and host of the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament will take place Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Freshman standout Aniya Johnson was the high scorer for the Lady Tigers with 16 points including nine from beyond the arc. Clayton added eight points

Shunterius Stephens paced Central with 10 points. Quintasia Leatherwood-Doss had nine points while Mackenzie Mahone had eight.

Demopolis (14-5, 3-1) is set to host Thomasville Thursday night. Central (19-6) travels to Keith Tuesday.


Demopolis High hosting baseball camp Saturday

The Demopolis High School Tigers start their season in earnest Saturday when they conduct their annual youth baseball camp. The event is $25 per child and takes place at the Demopolis High baseball field where campers will have the opportunity to work on the skills of the game under the tutelage of DHS baseball players.

“I don’t think we’re really in it to make a lot of money. It’s amazing the number of kids that are on our team right now that attended that camp when they were young. I was always told when I was younger and started getting into college and all that you give back. That’s part of it,” Demopolis High School baseball coach James Moody said. “It is a small fundraiser, but it’s a good thing for our kids because they have to make themselves accountable to teach the little ones what they want them to do. So they get to kind of put the coaching shoe on and deal with that.”

The event is for children ages 5-12 and begins at 9:30 a.m. Campers ages 5-8 will be part of the first session and will work from 10 a.m. until noon before partaking in a pizza lunch until 12:30 p.m. Children ages 9-12 will start with lunch before taking the second session from 1-3 p.m.

“He’ll get it all. We break them up into two sessions. We do a defensive session and an offensive session. Within each of those sessions, there’s probably five or six rotations of different things they’ll get to do,” Moody said of the experience for campers. “They’ll go through all the hitting drills. They’ll go through the pitching. They’ll go through fly balls, groundballs, base running and all of that. We try to hit it all and our goal is that when they leave, they’re tired.”

Demopolis High baseball boosters will also be cooking Boston butts Saturday to cap off another annual fundraiser. Individuals who purchased a Boston butt to be picked up Thursday or Friday can do so in the baseball parking lot beginning at 5 p.m. Those picking up Saturday can claim their Boston butt across the street.

Photo of the Day

Work is underway at the property that will become Two Rivers Lumber Company on the banks of the Tombigbee River in Demopolis. The facility is slated to open in September and will employ around 55 employees initially. For reference, the Demopolis Municipal Airport is in the background with WestRock (formerly Rock-Tenn) to the right.