Compton admitted to Rhode Island School of Design

Toaster Tale, a stop-motion animation by Banks Compton. (WAW | Contributed)

Banks Compton is unshaken that he will not attend his senior year of high school. He is not bothered by the fact that the institutional doors he will darken in September are exactly 1,265 miles away from the halls of Demopolis High School. For Banks, all the reasons not to go pale in comparison to the one big reason to go.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” he said plainly of his choice. “I really just like art. It’s what I want to do. I’m not worried about leaving friends because we have such good relationships that when I come and see them, we’ll all be happy to see each other. And, again, this all would’ve happened a year later. It’s not a huge life-changing event by just leaving one year earlier. I’m very happy with the friends I’ve made so far, but I don’t think it has made a huge impact on my decision just because that’s what I want to do. That’s my vision.”

Compton will forego his senior year of high school and get his GED after having been accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design as a junior.

“When I saw on RISD’s website that they accept high school diplomas or GEDs, I’m like, ‘I could get a GED,” Compton exclaimed, still buzzing over the unexpected acceptance letter he received from the school.

“I didn’t think it would happen,” his mother, Lisa Compton, said of her son’s efforts to apply for the entrance into the school. “RISD is very competitive to get into and we knew that because we had done enough Googling about art schools thinking for next year. So, I didn’t think they would take someone so young since they have so many applicants. When he said he wanted to try, I thought it would be good practice for next year when it would be a real application. I never thought it would actually work.”

The application process proved an involved one for Banks as the he put together a pair of time-sensitive projects in addition to a portfolio of his work.

“I have to admit. I was surprised when he got in. We started Googling and seeing that RISD comes up on Top 5 lists of art schools. It was more than just filling out an application, he spent several weekends doing two art projects. He had to present new material as part of his application process along with the portfolio stuff. Everybody applying to RISD was doing the same project. It was something to directly compare students,” Hunter Compton, Banks’s father, said. “Being his parents, we’re extremely proud of him and all, but at the same time, I didn’t think he had a chance of getting in, so it was okay for him to apply.”

Banks was just as surprised as his parents when he learned he’d been admitted to the school.

“All of me was surprised. I didn’t think I was going to get in at all. It’s a very prestigious art school and you have to make two projects. I sewed my very first dress and covered the entire thing with puzzle pieces. I made it out of a curtain from Walmart and drop cloth canvas. Then I made my very first stop motion video, so it was just a lot of firsts. I think that showed the art school that I’m willing to take risks,” Banks said. “Also, with getting your GED, I’m willing to take the risk of leaving and leaving my senior year behind just to do what I love. I think that’s something that’s very valuable in the art world is to be able to take risks and not look back.”

Aside from the fact that Banks actually got accepted by RISD, just as impressive is the manner in which he completed his assigned application projects with such efficiency and elegance.

Puzzle dress, designed by Compton as part of the RISD admissions process. (WAW | Contributed)

“When you see how hard he worked to get in, that application process was not easy. And you weren’t going to make it through those projects. They assign a project on one day and everybody has two weeks to get it done,” Lisa said. “Part of what they’re wanting to see is, can you work under time pressure. Some people don’t make it through. He put in a lot of hours and was absolutely exhausted. Plus, on one of the assignments, I kept saying, ‘I don’t think you’re doing it right.’ So he had to stand up to his mother and defend his art choices. And it turns out, it was probably his best project. He was strong. He was determined. When someone has worked that hard for it and it was a real honor to get in, there was no way we could say ‘no’, so he’s going.”

Banks tested his acumen on the big stage last summer when he attended Parsons, a three-week summer program at Parsons in New York City.

“Banks wanted to see last year, ‘Am I any good?’ He went to Parsons in New York for three weeks,” Hunter noted.

“We told him to find a taxi, find your own way. He did, no trouble. He didn’t want to come home,” Lisa said.

Banks emerged from that program more determined than ever that he would ultimately pursue his dream. Little did anyone know how quickly he would actually catch up with that goal.

“It has kind of hit his mother, but I don’t know that it has fully hit her. We weren’t planning on him leaving for another year, emotionally or otherwise,” Hunter said. “But it’s really cool that he did get in.”

“We’ve all had to come to terms that we won’t see each other a lot. It won’t be like if he were at Alabama or UWA and could come home on weekends. He’s going to have to make it until Christmas, Spring Break, probably not even coming home at Thanksgiving,” Lisa said. “I have a flexible work schedule, so I’ll probably go up a couple of times a year. He’s going to have to get there and really make his world there. I think he can.”

While Banks will look to make his world at RISD beginning in the Fall and see exactly where his art will take him in the years to come, it is the tiny little corner of the world he calls home to which his parents point in explaining how he has gotten to where he is.

“We really did sit there and go, ‘Wow, out of the 4,000 applicants and only 300 got in, how was he picked?’ I think one of the things that probably showed through was how badly he wanted to go. In a way, being in Demopolis was one of his biggest strengths. He said, ‘We really haven’t had formal art programs when I’ve been here. To have said, ‘I taught myself off YouTube.’ To have shown that against all obstacles, he stuck with this and really pursued it. Yet, while you’re saying that Demopolis didn’t have the things that other kids had, they didn’t have AP art programs and AP teachers showing the kids, this school supported him so much,” Lisa said. “When he put on an art show at the hospital, all the faculty came. The superintendent came. The principal came. Whenever they’ve had productions here at the school, they’ve talked about him. They’ve displayed his art. I think, maybe being from a place that didn’t have everything, was the advantage.”

“He’s had a number of opportunities to show his art. He has been encouraged a lot, not just by us,” Hunter added.

While Banks found an affinity for art early, he looks to a middle school class for helping him to find passion and a high school teacher for helping put his talent to work.

“It started with the faculty here at Demopolis. Mrs. (Meggin) Mayben in middle school was very supportive. I liked art because of her. Actually, Mrs. (Connie) Davis for my business class told me that I should start selling my paintings, so she bought my first painting,” Banks said. “After that, I’ve been selling paintings around Demopolis, doing pet portraits, and I made money off of that. That money went to my first car. All of that was all good, but then I went to New York for three weeks, once I was there in that atmosphere with all those other kids who also appreciated art like I did and being able to learn so much there, I really knew that that’s what I wanted to do.”

“Mrs. Mayben did do some art in the middle school and she has been so supportive,” Lisa added. “I think the opportunities and support he got in middle school gave him the confidence to do that, to keep sticking with it and apply when everybody might’ve said, ‘That’ll never work.’”

From his elementary school doodles to the pet portraits that monetized his abilities, art has been a constant in Banks’s story. With his next move, he will look to add definitive and remarkable brushstrokes to a portrait that is far from complete.

“I’ve been doing art basically my entire life, just drawing or painting or something. It was really intensified after my first painting. I was like, ‘I can make money doing this.’ I was able to work out a system and start having extra spending money by using my talents,” Banks said. “I think it’s a great way of telling stories. By looking at other artists, you can see their life progress through their artwork. And I think that I have a story to tell, myself. I would like to share my story coming from a small town.”

Demopolis Class of 2017 Honor Line

The Demopolis High School Class of 2017 Honor Line consists of Katherine Floyd, Baleigh Holtzclaw, Chelsea Monroe, Cheyenne Martin(Salutatorian), Julia Veres, Clayton McVay, Roderick Anderson, Courtney Smith, Abigail Latham, Anna Lonergan, Hunter Compton, R.J. Cox, Summer Earle, Mary F. Brown, Trezha Ruiz, Allison Polk, Nirali Patel, Natalie Saliba (Valedictorian), Lauren Boone, Caroline Overmyer, Ellen Dunklin, Jamie McGilberry and Mary M. Bradley. Not pictured is Will Key​.

Boone receives award in honor of Hope Vann

Demopolis High School Principal Blaine Hathcock and Barbara Hodge present the first Hope Vann Auxiliary Spirit Award to senior Lauren Boone. Hodge is the mother of the late Hope Vann, the beloved Demopolis High School student and auxiliary member who was killed in a car accident in December 2015.

Marengo County crash claims life of Coatopa man

A single-vehicle crash at 3:03 a.m., on May 25, claimed the life of a Coatopa man.

Damien Relot Toler, 29, was killed when the 2013 Freightliner he was driving left the roadway and struck an embankment. Toler was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash occurred on Alabama 25 near the 13 mile marker, nine miles south of Thomaston.

Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

Demopolis man dies after being struck by vehicle on Hwy. 80

On May 24, 2017, the Demopolis Police Department along with Demopolis Fire & Rescue and Amstar EMS responded to a call of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle on U.S Hwy 80 near South Finest Meats. Upon arrival, officers located a male lying in the roadway suffering from injuries from the accident. Chief Tommie J. Reese, director of public safety for the City of Demopolis said the victim was taken to Bryan Whitfield Hospital and later transferred to DCH where he died from his injuries.

The victim was identified as 80-year-old Jake Rowser of Demopolis, known to many in the community by the nickname of “Mule.”

Reese said that an eyewitness stated that the victim was crossing the highway when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle traveling west on Hwy 80.

“This was just a tragic accident that occurred and no criminal charges will be brought against the driver of the vehicle,” said Reese.

“As the Chief of Police and the Director of Public Safety, I have to warn people who are crossing any highways or streets to look both ways and sometimes, it is better to wait if you think you cannot make it across in time, just do not try it.”

Credit union branch proposed at Demopolis High; retirees honored in Monday meeting

Four of seven retirees were present at Monday’s BOE meeting, including, from left, Katie Poole, Paula Bond, Lori Giles, and Tammy Spruell. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Opening a branch of Naheola Credit Union at Demopolis High School and having students earn credit for operating it was proposed to the Demopolis City Board of Education at a called meeting Monday.

Under the proposal, the pilot program would start in the fall and be part of the Finance Academy, under the direction of Kelly Gandy. Students would earn a credit hour for taking it, explained Ashley Coplin, marketing director for the credit union.

“It lines up perfect with the state standards,” added Gandy.

Up to four seniors would be operating the credit union branch two days a week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., if the proposal is accepted. Students would be interviewed by credit union personnel before being hired.

Gandy said that while it would benefit her students, she is pleased with the impact it will have on the rest of the student body by helping them understand finances.

The credit union would be part of a classroom course open to all students at the high school, Gandy continued.

Coplin reviewed the duties and responsibilities of both the students and Naheola Credit Union. She stressed that the credit union would absorb all costs for setting up and operating the facility as well as safety features. All DHS would need to provide is the space.

To that Gandy added that principal Blaine Hathcock already has designated an area that can be used.

Board members and Supt. Kyle Kallhoff asked several questions about how the course would be conducted. No action was taken.

The board honored seven retirees who have contributed 168.5 combined years in the Demopolis school system.

Retirees attending the meeting were Lori Giles, 29 years; Paula Bond, 11; Tammy Spruell, 30, and Katie Poole, 11. Not in attendance were Julie Lee, 28.5 years; Cynthia Whitlock, 25, and Poncho Robinson, 30.

In other personnel matters, the board approved the following:

  • Conditional employment: Robert Wilkerson, DHS history; Matthew Mellown, DHS special education; Lindsey Thorne, Crystal Freeman and Nicholas Seymore, Westside Elementary; Clint Humphrey, DHS paraprofessional, and Kristina Kallhoff, U.S. Jones Elementary.
  • Resignation: Elaine Calvin, USJ; Brittany Dunson, DHS physical education; Ashley Allen, Demopolis Middle School business and marketing; Lincoln Luker, WES physical education, and Andrew Luker, DHS history teacher.
  • Tamyla James was granted a substitute teacher license.
  • William Jackson, WES lunchroom worker, will be employed as a temporary custodian throughout the summer.

In the only other action, the board approved a contract with Michael Randall to provide ground maintenance to all campuses.

The board next will meet on Thursday, June 1, from 2-4 p.m. for a work session.

Over $50k raised for Kidz Outdoors in Saturday’s Soggy Bottom Lodge event (includes photos)

A special Kidz Outdoors event was held this year at Soggy Bottom Lodge in Linden, Ala., on May 13, and it was only made possible through the combined efforts of countless supporters, volunteers, and contributors.

Although many people came together to make Saturday great, I would like to personally thank those who went above and beyond for such an outstanding cause.

Specifically, I would like to mention all of the great volunteers: Federal Judge Scott Coogler, who prepared dinner for over 700 people; volunteers who came from the Universities of Montevallo, West Alabama, and Alabama, including the soccer coaches and fishing team from the University of West Alabama; Ready Mix USA and Cemex, who were our cooking team; James Lewis, Olen Kerby, Johnny Lewis, and Tommy Criswell, who prepared lunch. The great people from La Montanita came out to help with the food as well.

Alabama Power volunteer LaDon Glover and his family served and assisted all of the kids and their families; Coach Josh Chapman and former Alabama football players Christian Jones, Marquis Maze, Undra Billingsley, and Kerry Murphy gave their valuable time to take and sign photos for the kids.

Sheriff Brian Harris, of Sumter County, and Tommy Reese, Chief of Police for Demopolis, both came out and delighted everyone by participating in the dunk booth.

The whole day was kept organized by Alec Braswell, who acted as our volunteer Master of Ceremonies for the day.

And finally, a special thanks goes to all of our sponsors, all the way from Gadsden to Mobile, from Mississippi to Demopolis. My friends know how grateful I am that they supported such an honorable cause. Everyone at Soggy Bottom and everyone at Personal Touch, Inc. put forth a great effort, and I couldn’t be more humbled. We hosted between 700 and 800 people, and it would not have been successful without you.

Last year was our first time to host a Kidz Outdoors event, and we were able to raise $25,000. This year’s event surpassed all of our highest expectations and everyone who participated help raise $54,000. Carol and Rick Clarke, the founders of Kidz Outdoors, do such incredible work with special needs children, and it’s a privilege to help in some small way. They contribute so much of their time and effort to helping the children succeed, even inventing tools and equipment to meet each child’s specific needs.

Next year’s event is tentatively slated for Saturday, May 7, and we need your help and support to make it even better. Together, I know we can succeed.

Thank you,

JR Rivas, Owner, Soggy Bottom Lodge

Inmate back in custody after 1998 escape

Donovan Johnson. (WAW | Contributed)

After 19 years on the run, a Greene County inmate is back in custody a week after an anonymous tip was submitted to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO).

Donovan Johnson was arrested in 1996 on one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and one count of first-degree receiving stolen property. He escaped from the Greene County Jail in 1998, along with three other inmates, while awaiting trial for the 1996 murder of Ollie Henderson in the Mt. Hebron community.

According to Chief Deputy Jeremy Rancher with the GCSO, the office received a tip last week that pointed to Johnson living in the Chicago area.

“Based on the information from this tip, we were able to determine that there was a high probability that this tip was credible. During the course of the investigation, we learned that Johnson was using an alias of Phillip Thomas,” said Rancher.

On Friday, May 12,  at approximately 3:30 p.m., Johnson was taken into custody without incident in Chicago by the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force.

Johnson was transported back to Greene County on May 16 by agents with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and Chief Deputy Rancher.

“This is a prime example of what can be achieved when we all work together as a team,” said Rancher. “We would like to thank all of the local, state, and federal agencies that assisted us with this very important matter.”

York PD offers reward for info leading to arrest

End of year actions occupy Monday BOE meeting

End-of-year actions took up most of the Demopolis City Board of Education meeting Monday, including personnel matters and summer construction work.

Charles Jones Construction received the bid for concrete and awning work at Demopolis Middle and U.S. Jones Elementary schools for a total of $57,694.39. This is the second phase of capital improvements started last year.

The work at DMS will include installing a sidewalk and awning from the east side of the building to Cherry Street for $30,308.49, and repairing a sidewalk and installing an awning on the west side of USJ parallel with South Front Avenue, for a cost of $27,385.90.

Also approved was a contract with Interquest Detection Canines for drug searches at DMS and Demopolis High at $600 per visit. Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said four searches are planned for the next school year.

The board accepted the state audit of the school system’s finances for Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015, given by Cindy Wilson with the Department of Public Accounts.

The board eliminated two positions in the school system: the physical education paraprofessional at DHS and the gifted paraprofessional.

The board accepted the personnel report, which included:

  • Conditional Employment: Adam Brown as DMS band director and assistant director at DHS; Lisa Lindy as Media Specialist at DHS, and Pam Morrison as Central Office secretary.
  • Resignations: Jessica Dial, Central Office secretary; Logan Colvin, DHS history teacher; Herbert Rice, DMS history teacher, and Carly Mosley, DMS English teacher.
  • Transfers: Charlotte Anne Johnson, from Special Education teacher at DHS to USJ; Amanda Smith, from math teacher at DHS to DMS; Emily Low, PE paraprofessional at DHS to WES; Carrie Goodman, DMS math teacher to DHS, and Meggin Mayben, DMS history/broadcasting teacher to history teacher at DHS.
  • Andrea Johnson, WES first grade teacher, is being reassigned to Library/Media Specialist at WES.

In other action, the board approved:

  • Disposal of used equipment that cannot be repaired
  • Bidding on a used school bus
  • Out-of-state field trip for qualified DHS students to attend the national FBLA convention in Anaheim, Calif., June 27-July 3.

The board will have a called meeting Monday, May 22, at 4 p.m. and its mandatory Whole Board Training is scheduled for June 1 from 2-4 p.m.