West Alabama Watchman’s most read stories of 2015

As December readies to turn from December to January, it has become the annual tradition of The West Alabama Watchman staff to look back and highlight the stories that have mattered most in the calendar year.

What follows is our list of the 10 most-read stories of 2015 presented in no particular order.

• Marengo Probate Judge will not sign marriage licenses – In February, we reported that Marengo County Probate Judge Laurie Hall would not sign marriage licenses in the wake of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that drew backing from U.S. District Judge Ginny Grenade. That ruling struck down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage. The issue would continue to gain steam over the ensuing month’s until the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage

• Community rallies in support of its own – So many of the stories we write are inherently difficult from a human perspective. They often revolve around the darker side of humanity or the painful aspects of life. But 2015 saw the Demopolis community rally around many of its struggling citizens. Nowhere was this more evident than the support that was shown and the funds that were raised for Dan Harper and Tommie Vice as they were battling cancer.

• Bell Grayson hit-and-run incidents – In November, the city saw two hit-and-run incidents occur on Bell Grayson road in a matter of three weeks. The incidents resulted in two individuals being seriously injured as well as the death of 24-year-old William Christopher Reid.

• Tangle replaces Speegle – Demopolis High Schools Principal Dr. Tony Speegle requested and received a leave of absence in June. Speegle, who spent some 32 years with the system, cited personal reasons for his hiatus. The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education quickly moved forward, hiring former Demopolis Middle School principal Chris Tangle away from Thompson High.

• Demopolis has first homicide since 2009 – Friday, Oct. 30 saw the first homicide in the city since 2009 when Ray Anthony Rowser, 37, was shot and killed on Blacks Drive.

• Hope Vann lost in car accident – The community suffered a tragic loss Sunday, Dec. 6 when 15-year-old Katie-Elizabeth Hope Vann was killed. The loss of Vann, who was a member of the Demopolis High School dance line, brought a tremendous outpouring of grief from around the community but left a hole that will never be filled.

• DCSF reaches $1 million goal – It was a bit of good news in November when the Demopolis City Schools Foundation announced that it reached its long-held “hallelujah” goal of having $1 million in its endowment fund. A $25,000 donation from the Alabama Power Foundation helped DCSF reach the mark and allows it to use the interest from the fund to expand its grants each year.

• Two lost in fire at apartment complex – A Feb. 15 fire at Crossgates Apartments claimed two lives in a tragedy. The story would have been much worse were it not for the heroism of 19-year-old Lane Hawkins and members of the Demopolis police and fire departments who rushed into the flames and saved the lives of two young children.

• Griffin leaves, Kallhoff steps in – Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Al Griffin stepped away at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year. His retirement and subsequent move to the headmaster position at Autauga Academy left the door open for the DCS Board of Education to find a new leader for the system. A lengthy search brought in Chickasaw City Schools superintendent Kyle Kalhoff.

• Luker selected as Demopolis football coach – In the first big story of 2015, Stacy Luker officially became the successor to former Demopolis High football coach Tom Causey on Jan. 9. With no shortage of notoriety locally due to his five state championships at Sweet Water, Luker ended his brief retirement from Alabama after just one year to take over the post. His first season saw the Tigers go 10-3 and make the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.