Sumter County Fine Arts Council Opens season with ZuZu Acrobats

LIVINGSTON, Ala. — The Sumter County Fine Arts Council will kick off the 2017-18 arts season by welcoming the Zuzu Acrobats to Lyon Hall Auditorium on the campus of the University of West Alabama on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Originating in Mombassa, Kenya, the Zuzu Acrobats blend traditional “circus” acrobatics with popular dance moves and the result is an electrifying performance that has moved audiences all over the world. The acrobats have appeared on the television show America’s Got Talent, have opened shows for major recording artists and been seen on late night television. They have also brought their high-energy brand of entertainment to NBA arenas as a halftime spectacle.

Season tickets for the SCFAC will be available at the door for the event. At $25 for individuals and $35 for families, SCFAC season tickets are the best “bang for the buck” available for local entertainment.  In addition to the Zuzu Acrobats, this year’s line-up includes: Charles Lindbergh: The Lone Eagle; Community Psalm-fest with Wendall Kimbrough; The Story of Hanukkah and the Story of Christmas; The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Ensemble; The Rhythm of Life; and a Community Unity Concert led by the University of West Alabama Concert Choir. In addition, the SCFAC sponsors performance events for local school children and supports the UWA Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit and the Annual Sumter County Arts Competition.

The Zuzu Acrobats performance on September 12 begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $ 10 for adults, $2 for non- UWA students, and free for UWA students with student ID.

The Sumter County Fine Arts Council receives support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, from the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), from the University of West Alabama, from the Black Belt Community Foundation, and from other agencies, businesses, and individuals. The Sumter County Fine Arts Council works to encourage the arts and art participation by promoting, developing and stimulating artists, and by programming arts events and performance events in Sumter County and the surrounding area, and has done so successfully for over 40 years. Events, reminders and information are available, on Facebook and on Twitter.

New Sumter County Health Services Directory published 

A new Sumter County Health Services Directory has just been published under the direction of Dr. R.T. Floyd, a Livingston resident and longtime provider of athletic training services in the Black Belt region for more than 30 years. The publication includes a comprehensive listing of contact information and resources for a wide array of health services.

Lisa Adkins, a senior athletic training student at UWA, initiated and implemented the revisions and updates in this second edition guide. Floyd is director of athletic training and sports medicine at the University of West Alabama.

This updated edition reflects significant changes in Sumter County’s health services landscape over the last several years, with many new resources added.

“Lisa did a very good job of checking everything to ensure that all of the addresses, links, and phone numbers were updated,” Floyd explained. “A project of this size requires a significant amount of time and is very tedious. I am very grateful for Lisa’s attention to detail and her commitment to see the project through to completion.”

Sumter County residents can rely on the directory for emergency numbers, health services, social services, national help line resources for very specific needs and conditions.

The manual is available for viewing or download at and a limited number of print editions are available courtesy of the Sumter County Commission and UWA. The online version of the manual is a living document, and Floyd intends to maintain the records therein.

“We have made every effort to include all the services relevant to the Sumter County Health Services Directory,” he said. “If a particular listing has not been included, was omitted by mistake, or is incorrect, we need people to keep us informed of those necessary changes.”

“After this update is out for a month or two and people have a chance to review and provide feedback, we intend to update again and perhaps distribute a further revision around the county,” Floyd said.

First published in 2009, the Sumter County Health Services Directory was compiled through a grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy through the National Association of Counties Project.  A focus of this work was to enhance the general public’s awareness of all of the local resources available related to health care. The original work was completed by two individuals from Oklahoma who worked with local authorities to research and assemble the content.

Following the initial publication, Floyd joined forces with UWA’s Information Technology department to finalize a version for web publication in the fall of 2010. Since that time, periodic updates have been made to the online version.

To provide any corrections, additions, or other feedback, sending them via mail to Dr. R.T. Floyd, UWA Station 14, Livingston, AL 35470. or via email to

Sumter duo arrested for burglary in Mississippi

Authorities in Lauderdale County, Mississippi arrested two local men for burglary charges this week. Keenan Law and Quindarius Jackson face charges of burglary after Mississippi investigators say they were caught in the act.

Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department indicated that a concerned citizen reported seeing a car slowly towing a lawn mower without a trailer. When deputies pulled the car over, they found that Law and Jackson had taken multiple items from a camp house in the area.

The Lauderdale County office worked alongside the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department late Tuesday to recover more stolen items found at a residence in the Morningstar community. Calhoun indicated that investigators believe the duo had been to the camp house multiple times throughout the day.

Jackson is also charged with possession of cocaine. His bond is set at $20,000. Law’s bond is $10,000.

UWA’s Science Saturday to feature reptiles, amphibians April 22

The University of West Alabama’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics invites area students to the next in its series of Science Saturdays on April 22 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Bibb Graves Hall on the UWA campus.

Dr. John McCall, dean of UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, will present “Herps! Amphibians and Reptiles of Sumter County” to students. Herps, the short name for herptiles, is a name used to describe a reptile or amphibian. The highlight of Saturday’s conversations will be turtles, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and even snakes.

“It’s important for our children to know about the animals we share our land with, not only to help protect those species, but to protect themselves from animals that could pose a threat to them in certain situations,” McCall explained. “This workshop will help students identify different amphibians and reptiles, know when and how to keep a safe distance, and how these animals are involved in our ecosystem.”

The workshop is offered free of charge to area school children in grades 4-12. Spaces are limited, and registration is encouraged to reserve a seat. For more information or to register, contact Rosie Campbell at 205-652-3414 or

For further details, visit the Science Saturdays website at or follow on Facebook at

UWA seeks input from community for charter school

LIVINGSTON—The University of West Alabama is seeking community input for the proposed University Charter School through four planned forums throughout Sumter County on the following dates:

March 14 – Livingston Community Center, Livingston, Ala. – 6 p.m.

March 16 – Coleman Center for the Arts, York, Ala. – 6 p.m.

March 21 – Epes Community Center, Epes, Ala. – 6 p.m.

March 23 – Emelle City Hall, Emelle, Ala. – 6:30 p.m.

Each forum is open to the public and the community is invited.

The forums will include a brief introduction, a presentation on the charter school, a question and answer session via comment cards, and a 10 minute open discussion. University Charter School application committee members will be on hand at each event.

For more information or learn more about the University Charter School, click here.

Arrest made in York murder case

Jenkins. (WAW | Contributed)

YORK—Special Agents with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and officials with the York Police Department, Livingston Police Department and the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, in coordination with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office arrested Javoris Tyshon Jenkins, 19, of York on Feb. 8. Jenkins was charged with the shooting death of Eric Evans, 26, of Cuba and the shooting of Nico Taylor, 27, of York.

The incident took place during the early morning hours on Feb. 2, 2017, on Hayes Road, in York.

Jenkins is being held at the Sumter County Jail on Murder and Attempted Murder charges. Bond has been set at a total of $60,000.

UWA receives $1.25 million to enhance job outlook for graduates

LIVINGSTON, Ala.— The University of West Alabama has just been named one of only 24 colleges in the U.S. to receive a planning grant that will enhance the school’s flourishing workforce development initiative. UWA has received $1.25 million for an initiative to help students gain the knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment upon graduation.

Through this multi-phase grant process, the University received in April 2016 a $100k grant award. UWA was one of 30 to receive funding during that phase. Of the 24 schools receiving continued funding, UWA is one of 15 institutions to receive individual awards ranging from $1 million to $1.5 million. According to UNCF, the nationwide total is expected to assist more than 54,000 students.

Funding is provided through a $50 million commitment to the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative by the Lilly Endowment Inc. The program gives necessary support for institutions to employ various strategies to achieve the goal of improving job placement outcomes of graduates by way of aligning curricula with local and national workforce needs, development of intentional career pathway options for students across their collegiate experience, and strengthening career service operations.

“This grant award will greatly enhance the workforce development efforts we have put forth over the last few years,” explained UWA President Ken Tucker. “We have made significant strides in providing quality education that results in a highly-skilled, qualified workforce, with credentials and certificates in hand, ready for the high-paying jobs they deserve.”

At UWA, the funding is being used to create a College to Career (C2C) program designed to enhance current career placement activities to better prepare graduates to transition immediately into the workforce upon graduation. The C2C program provides a comprehensive range of career prep activities including graduating senior career development boot camp, career development mentorship programs, standard career pathways planning courses, individual career staff assistance, and new software and tracking programs to enhance graduate employment tracking.

CPI will serve as a model of best practices for all colleges and universities to follow in order to ensure that the needs of students and the demands of the ever-changing marketplace for talent. The model benefits the American higher education system and the global economy alike.

The initiative is designed to support participating institutions to strengthen career guidance and leverage the liberal arts education of students by adding certain skills, experiences, and knowledge required by employers. Programs are expected to engage college faculty in the development of curricula that is aligned with workforce needs to better prepare students to compete in careers of their choice. The initiative also will help institutions build partnerships with local and national employers and improve student career services.

“I am particularly proud of our grant writing team for their ability to prove through our proposal that UWA is a good fit for this award,” Tucker said. “Like the other grantees, UWA was selected based on our proposal’s reflection that we understand the challenges facing our students as they prepare for post-graduate employment. Our proposal included evidence that UWA actively connects with experts who can help find innovative solutions that benefit everyone involved, but ultimately our geographic region as a whole.”

UWA’s C2C team includes four key players who will guide the success of the program.

Tammy White, director of Career Services at UWA, and Veronica Triplett, director for the Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Services, are C2C’s co-directors. They will oversee the operations of the program, from supervising research, training, and reporting, to implementing activities, developing partnerships, and managing the database.

Danielle Buckalew, director of alumni affairs, and Dr. James Robinson, assistant professor of exercise science, will offer their support as well. Buckalew will act as the alumni relations coordinator, identifying alumni in various career fields and matching them with students in those academic areas for a mentoring program. Robinson will be a liaison between school administrators, faculty members, students, and the C2C steering committee.

Reflecting on established initiatives at UWA to connect graduating students with employers, Tucker said that this grant award will enhance the efforts to produce even more job-ready graduates.

“Through industry partnerships we are positioning our graduates to reap the benefits of having the skills training and capabilities they need to get to work immediately without the typical weeks or even months of on-the-job training they would otherwise need,” Tucker said. “Our industry partners outline to us the skill sets and abilities that they need in an employee, and we are creating the opportunities and courses that will develop those attributes.”

The grant program is supported by the Lilly Endowment, a supporter of UNCF each year since 1944. It is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by the Lilly family through their pharmaceutical business. The Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. The organization supports efforts of national significance particularly in the field of religion and, on an invitational basis, disaster relief and recovery efforts and programs that enhance higher education opportunities for African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans across the country.

UNCF is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community, and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country.

Summer Abston of Butler crowned Miss UWA 2017

Summer Abston, a freshman integrated marketing communications major from Butler, Ala., was crowned Miss UWA 2017 at Thursday night’s event.

Summer Abston, a freshman integrated marketing communications major from Butler, Ala., was crowned Miss UWA 2017 at Thursday night’s event.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—Summer Abston of Butler, Ala., is the new Miss University of West Alabama and will represent the University in the 2017 Miss Alabama Pageant, a Miss America preliminary held in Birmingham in June.

Miss UWA 2016 Sarah Neill crowned Abston, joined by special guests University President Ken Tucker and LUie the Tiger. Abston also won the swimsuit competition of the evening. Miss Alabama 2016 Hayley Barber served as emcee for the evening.

The daughter of Marshall and Michelle Abston, her jazz dancing talent was to “Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes at Me” by Teresa Brewer. Her platform is Autism awareness.

A freshman integrated marketing communications major, Abston is a member of the Ambush Student Section. She enjoys spending time with family, cheering on the tigers, dancing, watching sports, and baking.

Kennedi Sanders was named first alternate. She is a junior psychology major from Columbus, Miss. The daughter of Donnie and Renee Sanders, her talent was a contemporary dance to “Unsteady” by Savannah Outen Cover.

Sanders is a recipient of a band/dance scholarship. She is captain of the UWA Stars of Alabama dance team and enjoys teaching dance and spending time with her friends and family.

Lillie Brewer was named second alternate and winner of the talent competition. She is a freshman elementary education major from Helena, Ala. The daughter of Jamie and Angie Brewer, her baton twirling talent was performed to “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins.

Brewer is a recipient of several academic and leadership scholarships. She is also a Tigerette and a member of Phi Mu Fraternity. She enjoys baton twirling, traveling, volunteering for the Special Olympics and going to Broadway plays.

Virginia Latimore was named third alternate. She is a junior interdisciplinary arts major from Foley, Ala. The daughter of Siberina Moore, her vocal talent was “Caro Mio Ben” by Giuseppe Giordani.

Latimore is a recipient of the Interact scholarship, as well as a choral and band/dance scholarship. She is a former Stars of Alabama Dancer and UWA Ambassador. Latimore is a UWA singer and enjoys traveling, exercising, and acting.


Initial economic impact of new lumber mill estimated at $23M

To say that Demopolis leaders are excited about Two Rivers Lumber Company opening a sawmill at the city’s port property could be an understatement.

“I’m kind of like a giddy schoolgirl,” said Woody Collins, chairman of the Demopolis Industrial Development Board.

Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson talks with the media during a Wednesday press conference in downtown Demopolis. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson talks with the media during a Wednesday press conference in downtown Demopolis. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Announcement of the new industry came last week. Mayor Mike Grayson said it is the biggest addition to the county since Gulf States Paper, now WestRock, opened in 1957. The project is the brainchild of Demopolis resident Roy Geiger, owner of Sumter Timber, and Jay McElroy of McElroy Trucking out of Cuba in Sumter County.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Grayson and Collins gave the background to how the new industry came to Marengo County and the benefits to the west Alabama area.

The state-of-the-art mill will take the large Southern Yellow Pine trees that are too big for paper companies to use and convert them to produce all sizes of dimensional lumber to be marketed throughout the United States.

The initial hiring of up to 60 employees is expected to have a $23 million impact for the city, said Grayson. The state commerce department estimated another $32 million per year in income for timber owners.

When the mill reaches its full capacity of some 100 workers over two shifts, Grayson continued, it will be one of the top five employers in west Alabama. Jobs are expected to pay an average of $22 per hour. Training for mill employees will be provided by the state as well. Grayson said because this mill will be brand new, it will require a lot of computer skills.

He is hoping the industry will bring in a new influx of families, just as Gulf States Paper did when it opened.

In addition, added Collins, there is ripe opportunity for spin-off industries. The mill will produce 250,000 tons of chips each year. While the company already has an outlet for the chips, “several options are available” for new businesses to open to use the chips.

The road to the new mill also is used by WestRock at its chip facility, which has some 165 trucks traveling on it each day. Another 140 trucks are expected to use the road once the lumber mill is opened.

Grayson and Collins were in Montgomery Tuesday, Oct. 11, to talk to the Alabama Department of Transportation Road and Bridge Commission about help to widen the two-lane road. The state is granting the entire cost of the road, estimated at $400,000, and the city will not have to match it.

The only costs Demopolis must shoulder are the engineering and other preparation costs, which the City Council has approved.

While initial transportation will be done by truck, the new company is expected to develop the existing railroad tracks for future use. Both men said they hope Two Rivers Lumber will be the impetus for other industries to locate on the port site, which would generate interest in developing access to the Tombigbee River for transportation.

Collins said many industries are leaving the country, and few are being built. “We’re building one,” he said proudly. “You don’t get one of these very often.”

“Everything has fallen into place just wonderfully,” said Collins.

Construction is expected to start in January, he said. While a 100,000 –square-foot building is already on the site owned by the city, it needs to be strengthened to handle the weight of the machinery it will house. Collins said a lot of construction will be done off-site, but Grayson said more than 100 construction workers will be in the area for close to a year, boosting the local economy even more.

The first board foot of lumber is expected to be produced by the end of September, Collins said.

Both the state and the county are providing tax abatements and economic incentives to the new industry. The city is giving Two Rivers Lumber a break on the monthly lease payments. For the first five years the payments will be $1,000 per month. The cost jumps to $10,000 per month after that.

Two Rivers Lumber is leasing the property for 40 years with the option of buying the property after 20 years, said Grayson.

Since both McElroy and Geiger have businesses in the area, the new mill will be owned by local residents. Profits from the company will stay in west Alabama, said Grayson.

“We’re keeping the love at home.”

UWA Homecoming festivities start this week

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama has announced the schedule for its annual Homecoming celebration, set for Oct. 8.

Homecoming activities begin Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the annual Serendipity talent show. Students will compete for prize money and bragging rights in four categories, and this year’s Homecoming Queen, a closely guarded secret, will also be announced at the show. Serendipity begins at 7 p.m. at McConnell Field across from Bibb Graves Auditorium. Linkin’ Bridge, finalists in this year’s “America’s Got Talent” on NBC, will serve as emcees for the event.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, Coach Brett Gilliland, the Tiger football team, the Scarlet Band from Tiger Land, UWA cheerleaders and LUie will be on hand for the Homecoming bonfire, pep rally and fireworks show at 8 p.m. at the Intramural Complex. Following the pep rally, the Office of Student Activities will host a DJ party.

The annual UWA alumni party, sponsored by the National Alumni Association and the Office of Alumni Relations, is one of the most anticipated events of the year for the UWA family. The party begins Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. at the courtyard of Bell Conference Center on campus. Always a great time for friends, food and fun, this year’s party will feature live entertainment by Farmer’s Daughter. Admission to the party is included with NAA membership. Alumni may also renew their NAA membership at the door.

During the alumni party, the UWA Campus School will host Parents’ Night Out for children age three and older from 6-10 p.m. The cost for a family is $25 for one child, and $15 per additional child, which includes pizza and drinks. Children must be potty trained to attend. To register, contact Kim Smith at 205-652-3832 or

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Homecoming festivities continue at 10 a.m. with a brunch and alumni awards hosted by the NAA and Alumni Relations in Tutwiler Conference Room at Lyon Hall. Each college will present its Alumni Achievement and Emerging Leader Awards, and former Tiger greats will be inducted into the UWA Athletic Hall of Fame, while the NAA presents other prestigious awards.

Colleges and divisions will host alumni for lunches and tailgate fun across campus beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Spirited festivities continue at 1 p.m. when UWA students and organizations, special guests, and marching bands from across the state wind through downtown Livingston for the annual Homecoming parade.

The family-friendly Homecoming Festival and Tailgate begins at 2 p.m. on the Campus School lawn with inflatable moonwalks and games led by UWA student-athletes. Other highlights include face painting and other prizes. All activities are free.

In addition, former players and friends of former LU football coach Frank North will gather in his honor for a tailgate party.

West Alabama and Delta State kick off at 4 p.m. at Tiger Stadium. Pre-game festivities feature the Scarlet Band from Tiger Land show and the newest Athletic Hall of Famers serving as honorary team captains. In addition, the homecoming court will be presented at halftime, and the new queen will be crowned.

Following the football game, festivities wrap up with a concert on the lawn of Gilbert Hall featuring Jessica Meuse, a season 13 finalist of “American Idol.” The concert begins at 8 p.m. and is open to all. Lawn chairs or blankets for seating is encouraged.

For more information about UWA’s 2016 homecoming events, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 205-652-3852.