Saturday, May 28, 2022

Top Local Stories in the Fourth Quarter of 2021

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

This week, Hotty Toddy News is covering the top stories of 2021 for each quarter of the year, ending on Friday with the Top Story of the Year. Today is the fourth story in the series with the top stories from October, November and December.

The city lit the downtown Square Christmas lights a week early in preparation for College GameDay’s visit to Oxford. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

Headlines in the fourth quarter of 2021 included stories of heroism, hope, holiday fun and in too many cases, crime and goodbyes.

October

On Oct. 1, two men were arrested in connection with a shooting the day before that led to the death of Quintin McDonald, 29, of Como.

Paul Rice, 26, of Oxford was charged with first-degree murder and booked into the Lafayette County Detention Center on a $1M bond. Another man, Jermaine Cox, 40, was charged with tampering with evidence and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

Two wrecks in a two-day period on Highway 7 South lead to the deaths of three people, invoking outrage over the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s lack of widening Highway 7 from Oxford to Water Valley.

The first wreck happened on Oct. 5 on Highway 7 South between Dollar General and Coleman Funeral Home. Sandra Cooks, 66, and Patricia Gullette, 36, both of Water Valley died in the crash. Another driver, whose name was not released, was transported to the hospital.

The next day, Brenda H. Barfield, 83, of Oxford, collided with a southbound 2016 Acura MDX. Barfield was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Oct. 11, Johnson’s Furniture announced it was going out of business after selling its wares in Oxford for 54 years.

The family furniture business began as Johnson’s Trading Post in 1967 when James and Dorothy Johnson opened the doors to their 800-square-foot shop of new, used and antique furniture.

The Lafayette County Fire Department rescued two people from a sinking boat on Oct. 11.

The Lafayette County Fire Department rescued two people from a sinking boat on Oct. 11. File photo

The fire department was dispatched to Sardis Lake and launched Rescue Boat No. 10 into the lake.

The rescue team found two people in a sinking boat. The crew got the individuals safely from the boat and onto the rescue boat and brought them back to shore. The first-responders were also able to safely recover the sinking boat and towed it back to the Hurricane Landing boat ramp.

Toward the end of October, the University of Mississippi announced all employees would be required to become vaccinated against COVID-19 after the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees voted to follow Pres. Joe Biden’s executive order mandating vaccinations for federal workers and contractors.

The university immediately started the process of requiring employees to show proof of vaccination or to file a request for an accommodation hearing. The deadline was Dec. 8; however, the university suspended efforts to require employees to be vaccinated after a federal court in Georgia issued a nationwide injunction Tuesday prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal contractors.

November

As November rolled around, Oxonians wasted little time in getting ready for the upcoming holiday season, nor did the city of Oxford.

On Nov. 10, Lane Kiffin joined Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill at Oxford City Hall to turn on the downtown Christmas lights. The lights were turned on earlier this year due to College GameDay visiting Oxford for the Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M game that weekend.

A few days later, Visit Oxford announced that this year’s Holly Jolly Holidays events would take place for 12 days in December, with ice skating at the Old Armor Pavilion, carriage rides around the Square, pictures with Santa and more.

However, the holiday spirit was dampened a bit when residents learned that the Local Color building on North Lamar Boulevard had been demolished on Nov. 16.

Local Color was demolished Nov. 16. Photo by Bill Beckwith.

Oxford’s eclectic smoke and gift shop since the mid-80s was torn down after the owner, William “Willie” Wallace recently retired and closed the doors due to ongoing health issues.

Kaye Bryant, long known as a great storyteller by her family and friends, was named Grand Master Storyteller after winning the “Spillit” Grand Slam storytelling event in Memphis on Nov. 13.

During its November meeting, the Oxford School Board announced that Board Members were considering two calendar options for the 2022-2023 school year.

The “traditional calendar” would have the 2022-2023 school year starting on Aug. 5 and ending May 19. Students and teachers would have a long weekend in October for fall break with schools closed on Monday, Oct. 10. Winter break would be from Dec. 19-Jan. 5 for students, with teachers returning Jan. 3 for two professional development days, and spring break would be March 13-17.

The proposed “flexible calendar” would have the school year starting on July 22 and ending May 31. There would be a two-week fall break from Sept. 26-Oct. 7 for students. Teachers would return on Oct. 7 for a professional development day.

The Board has not yet voted on which calendar to adopt for the next school year.

December

December started off with more holiday fun.

The Beach Boys performed their Holiday Concert at the Gertrude Ford Center and thousands attended the annual Oxford Christmas Parade.

On Dec. 7, the Oxford Police Department announced that seven Ole Miss students were arrested recently in connection with the suspension of the Gamma Iota chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. The Pike members were charged with felony cyberstalking for allegedly harassing a former Pike member who reported a hazing incident in 2020.

The fraternity was suspended in November until May 1, 2025.

On Dec. 6, the Lafayette County School Board heard an update from Assistant Principal Patrick Robinson on the district’s research into whether block scheduling would be a good option for the school district.

A traditional block schedule is set up so that a student attends the same four classes every day for 90 days. For the second semester (remaining 90 days), the student attends a different set of four classes every day.

Robinson said the district is also considering a modified block schedule for the middle school. The Board has thus far not voted to change the district’s scheduling.

A new roundabout at the Highway7/9 split opened in mid-December that was constructed to help improve traffic flow and provide drivers with an easier method of merging into traffic where two state routes meet.

The Oxford Community Market and East St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church worked together to make Christmas extra special for one Oxford family. File photo

Just before Christmas, volunteers with the Oxford Community Market and East St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church worked together to make Christmas extra special for one Oxford family. The groups came together to help a single mother with six children ranging in age from 7 to 16 years old by providing an entire Christmas surprise.

Together, they gave the family gifts, a new Christmas tree, Christmas breakfast and dinner, cookies and hot cocoa for Christmas Eve, remodeled the family’s living room with new donated furniture, provided new beds for the children and more.

After months of some back and forth, the city of Oxford, Lafayette County and MDOT all signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the funding, design and construction of improvements to the Highway 7/University Avenue interchange.

In the agreement, the county will contribute $1 million toward the project along with Oxford and MDOT that will also contribute $1 million each.

The Mississippi Legislature authorized $4 million in general obligation bonds for the project and Oxford also received about $1 million from two appropriation bills.

The agreement states that any expenses that exceed all state-appropriated and designated funds and funds contributed by the city and county, “shall be paid by MDOT.”

Last week, a second University of Mississippi fraternity was suspended due to alleged hazing incidents.

The fraternity is suspended until Jan. 1, 2025. Details of the hazing were not made public but occurred in the spring of 2020.


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