Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series reviewing both the year 2019 and the entire decade. We start today with January to June 2019.


Jan. 2: More than 200 people took the old saying “Go jump in the lake” literally on New Year’s Day as the inaugural Polar Bear Plunge saw a mass of people spring into Cherokee Lake and into the water as a test of will. Even though the weather wasn’t as cold as previous New Year’s Days, participants said it was pretty cold.

Jan. 3: For Callie Gordon and Kenny Carpenter, of Morristown, the start of 2019 not only welcomed a new calendar year, but also added a new member to the family. Kalei Rose Carpenter was born at 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 2 becoming the first baby born in the new year at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System. Kailei weighted 5 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.

Jan. 4: Hawkins County became the first in Northeast Tennessee, and the Lakeway Area, to become an ACT Work Ready Community, as certified by the American College Test, administrator of the well-known college entrance exam.

Jan. 6: The Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office officially announced the arrival of their newest members of their anti-drug team, Nexus, a Belgian Malinois K9 officer and his handler, Deputy David Barker but Nexy, as he is known, had already made an announcement of his own. In his second day on the job, Nexy chased down and secured a fleeing suspect who had fired at Hamblen County deputies, helping to safely end a dangerous situation. Nexy and Barker recently completed extensive training in criminal apprehension and drug interdiction in Virginia.

Jan. 8: Nearly 130 acres of the former American Enka plant was been to a West Virginia businessman who will develop part of the site into a sawmill that makes staves for Jack Daniels Distillery. “They’re going to put a sawmill out there and they have a contract with Jack Daniels,” said Harold Nichols, former owner of the property.

Jan 9: The difference was $14. United Way of Hamblen County exceeded its 2018 campaign goal of $1,435,014 by a margin of $14, the organization reported at its annual campaign wrap-up meeting at Perk Prater Hall.

Mary Katherine Larkin, better known to the Lakeway Area as Cookie, was surprised with the United Way of Hamblen County’s Joe Q. Daugherty Volunteer of the Year Award at the membership meeting. The humbled Cookie didn’t crumble when asked to speak.

Jan. 11: A roving and elusive sex offender, who earned the dubious distinction of being the No. 8 most-wanted sex offender in Colorado, was taken into custody at his place of employment in Morristown, according to law enforcement officials. The Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office participated in the investigation that led to Pete Courtsal Custer’s arrest. Custer, a 65-year-old man who had been living on Highway 25-70 in Dandridge, appears to be a dead lock for federal prosecution. He’s classified as a violent sex offender and he allegedly fled across state lines to avoid capture, authorities say.

Jan. 13: Oshkosh opened its newest manufacturing facility in Jefferson City. Oshkosh can be called the modern day little engine that can. A vehicle to replace the Humvee used by the U.S. Army in combat was in development. Lockheed Martin was considered a shoo-in to get that contract. That was before Oshkosh entered the competition. “We go up against the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin,” Wilson Jones, president of Oshkosh said. “Also Oshkosh against the historic Humvee producer, AMGeneral, competing for this product, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Humvee replacement program. “We won the program hands down. It’s because of our people, 15,000 throughout our company.”

Jan. 17: A historic Cocke County antebellum home was destroyed by fire, leaving a loss in excess of $1 million. Cocke County Fire Department Capt. Robert Cashen said his department was notified of the blaze at 12:42 p.m., arriving at the home of James Graham Jr. on Rankin Road to find flames and heavy smoke coming from all the sides and windows. An attached garage apartment also was fully involved with flames coming through the roof.

Jan. 18: David Purkey, former Commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and former Hamblen County Mayor, took his final official trip from Nashville Thursday, arriving at the Morristown Regional Airport around 2 p.m. Purkey is retiring after 38 years of government service. From one of his first jobs as a 911 dispatcher, the Hamblen County native rose through the ranks to one day be the top law enforcement officer for the State of Tennessee.

Jan. 20: Republican political newcomer Bill Lee took the oath of office as the 50th governor of Tennessee, vowing not to solely look to government as the solution to the state’s most pressing challenges.

Jan. 22: The Hamblen County school system announced its district Teachers of the Year Tuesday morning as school administrators made surprise visits to each of the teacher’s schools. The Teachers of the Year are: Brian McLaughlin, Morristown-Hamblen High School West; Josh Davis, Meadowview Middle School and Brienna Costner, Lincoln Heights Elementary.

Jan. 24: For one group of students, Martin Luther King Jr. Day ended up being a chance to learn more about the area they live in. The Youth Leadership Morristown group, made up of students from Morristown-Hamblen High School East and West, toured three different industries and also had a chance to hear from leaders in the economic development community. “It was a pretty busy day for us,” said Daryl Brady, the group’s coordinator.


Feb. 3: Eleventh District State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) was admitted to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville following a crash on I-40 in Smith County. Faison suffered a fractured nose, cracked ribs and head lacerations in a rollover crash in a collision with a tractor-trailer according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Feb. 5: Two long-time members of the Morristown Fire Department, Battalion Chief Jim Stewart and Battalion Chief Randy Breeding were honored at a retirement reception.

Feb. 12: Morristown is in the record books. The Lakeway Area GO TELL Crusade Banquet set a record for the GO TELL organization with 105 table sponsors and 950 tickets sold. “I believe we have incredible momentum going into this crusade,” First Baptist Church Pastor Dean Haun said. “I believe the greatest thing we can do is to invite others to the crusade.” Haun said in an earlier interview.

Feb. 14: Grover “Junior” Bowlin, spotter on the Front Row Motorsports NASCAR Monster Racing Cup series, died at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System. He was 69. He owned Lazy Days RV in Morristown for almost 40 years.

Feb. 17: Due to new regulatory expectations and business licensing required for pharmacies, a trusted individual is needed to work closely with the owner for a period of time in order to keep the retail entity operating smoothly during the transition. Ryan Kragel has earned that level of trust over the 10 years he has worked as a pharmacist with C.L. “Buddy” Jones III, and the two are now officially announcing the transfer of ownership of Crescent Center Drugs.

Feb. 19: Dr. Ruth Carpenter, longtime Morristown Police Department chaplain, died Monday at Jefferson Park nursing home in Dandridge. She was 88. Carpenter served as a chaplain for the Morristown Police Department since 2002 and helped start the chaplain unit for the department.

Feb. 21: Owner Marla Seals welcomed community supporters and Van Hool representatives to a celebration held at the new location of her supplier business, Advanced Tool & Machine — marking a return to the stronghold of the family company, the facility built in the East Tennessee Progress Center by her father, Norman Helm, in 2002. Seals’ company will serve as a neighboring supplier for the debut manufacturing location in the U.S. of the Belgium bus company which announced its intentions in 2018 to locate on a certified site in the industrial park.

Feb. 22: A Jonesborough man died Thursday when the highway he was driving on collapsed in a landslide in Hawkins County. Steven Lawson, 62, of Jonesborough, was traveling south on State Highway 70 when his 1997 Chevrolet 1500 truck left the road. The truck rolled down a 200-foot embankment and came to rest on its top. Lawson died from his injuries. One other person was injured in the accident.

Seven Latino workers who were taken into custody during an IRS-led raid at a Grainger County slaughterhouse in April 2018 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Knoxville against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who participated in the raid.

Feb. 24: A Knoxville-based youth travel baseball and softball organization will begin hosting tournaments on 15 Morristown Parks and Recreation Department fields beginning in April. Diamond Ace Sports, a division of Population Health and Sports Technology, has 22 weekend tournaments scheduled through late September.

Feb. 25: The high winds on Sunday that followed days of heavy rain toppled flood-warning signs on St. Clair Road in East Hamblen County, and resulted in two rolling vehicles rapidly transitioning to temporarily floating ones, according to authorities. Two Hawkins County women were stranded in their vehicles in back-to-back predawn incidents, but Deputy Joscelyne Perez waded through about 40 yards of near waist-deep water and escorted the women to safety.

Feb. 27: Two former managers of Southeastern Provision, a Grainger County slaughterhouse where more than 100 undocumented Latinos were detained in an IRS-led raid in 2018 will plead guilty to misdemeanor offense of employing unauthorized aliens. Carl Kinsler and his brother Jason Kinsler accepted responsibility for hiring at least 20 undocumented workers.


March 2: Carolyn Jarnagin estimated that one in every seven students in Hamblen County can be classified as hungry. A partnership between Jarnagin’s Food on Foot and the Terry Law Firm establishing the Shoe Hamblen County Project was announced.

March 5: Just 56 days before the Lakeway Area GO TELL Crusade is to begin, the First Monday Prayer Group, a group of faithful, gathered in the Morristown City Center to pray and rejoice in answered prayer. The group usually prays for Sheriff Esco Jarnagin and the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office, the Morristown Police Department, area rescue squads, fire departments, businesses, school children and the lost.

March 6: Hugo Morales was named Senior Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Club of Morristown. Olivia Mass, age eight, became the youngest member to win the Junior Youth of the Year award.

March 13: Quick action by a woman staying with her disabled mother in her East Hamblen County home averted disaster. The woman woke up at 4 a.m. smelling smoke and dragged her mother from the Mullins Road home.

Hamblen County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeff Perry made it clear that there would be a thorough investigation of conduct by a Morristown West teacher accused of inappropriate contact with students and former students.

March 14: Walters State Community College broke ground on Kile-Ogle Hall, the fourth building on its Sevier County Campus. The 35,000 square feet building will be open in 2020.

March 15: The Hamblen County Jail Study Committee voted that a new jail will be built with 500 beds, two courtrooms, a multipurpose room for grand juries and the Sheriff’s Office will move into the new facility. The Hamblen County Commission will have to finalize the proposal.

March 19: Appalachian Electric Cooperative was awarded a $1.7 million broadband accessibility grant. A total of $14.8 million in grants will expand broadband service to more than 8,300 households and businesses in 17 Tennessee counties.

March 20: The West Andrew Johnson Walmart Neighborhood Market in central Morristown announced it was closing in April. The store opened in April, 2016. The closing was based, in part, on the fact that Walmart operates three stores within five miles of the location. The building is still sitting idle at this time.

Morristown native and women-in-sports pioneer Dr. Alpha Alexander was among a group honored during a pre-game celebration for the Philadelphia Phillies.

March 28: Hugo Morales, who won the Boys & Girls Club of Morristown’s Senior Youth of the Year, was named runner-up for Tennessee Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee.


April 2: Morristown native Chief Petty Officer Andrew Henry is finding success in the U.S. Navy as a submariner as commander of Submarine Group 10

April 3: Representatives for the Highlander Center, a social justice center in New Market that trained the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, said that a white power symbol was spray painted near the site of a fire that destroyed a building there.

April 4: Morristown businessman Don Rogers was honored by the Cherokee District of the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

April 7: The Little Dutch Restaurant celebrated 80 years of business in Morristown.

April 10: Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee owner Melani Zagaris announced plans to build a second location at the intersection of West Andrew Johnson Highway and West Economy Road on a site formerly occupied by United Southern Bank. The existing building is to be torn down and a new Dunkin’ Donuts store constructed.

April 12: Lakeway Publishers President R. Jack Fishman was honored at the 2019 Workforce Development Appreciation Dinner at The Country Club. A total of $34,500 was raised for the Tennessee Center of Applied Technology-Morristown Foundation.

East High Head Basketball Coach Ryan Collins accepts the same job at Alcoa High School.

April 19: Construction on the Newport bypass from West U.S. Highway 25/70 corridor to near Saint Tide Hollow Road will begin in 2020 as more funds will be in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

April 21: Brett Martin, a former pitcher at Morristown East and Walters State, made his major league pitching debut with the Texas Rangers.

Lori Jarnigan was named the executive director of Stepping Out, replacing the late Patrice Puglise.

April 23: McNeilus Steel is establishing a facility in Morristown, creating 72 jobs and investing $18.8 million in the East Tennessee Progress Center. Headquarteded in Dodge Center, Minnesota, McNeilus Steel is family owned and operated.

April 24: The Daily Bread Community Kitchen of Morristown celebrated its 25th Anniversary at the last Wednesday of the Month Prayer Breakfast with the Rev. Ross Woody, who had led many of those breakfast messages over the years.

April 26: HolstonConnect had a grand opening of its facility on West Main Street in Rogersville. A subsidiary of Holston Electric Cooperative, General Manager James Sandlin likened the installation of the broadband internet system and smartgrid technology akin to Hawkins and Hamblen counties first getting electricity in the 1940s.

April 28: Johnson City real estate developer Mitch Cox plans to build a massive apartment and townhouse complex on 23.2 acres off U.S. Highway 25E across the roadway from Walters State Community College. There will be 250 townhomes or apartments in the complex.

The GO TELL Lakeway Area Crusade began a four-night revival at Walters State Community College’s Great Smoky Mountain Expo Center in White Pine. A capacity crowd turned out to hear evangelist Rick Gage.


May 2: A Georgia trucker was seriously injured when his rig left Interstate 81 in Greene County and plunged onto U.S. Highway 11E below at Exit 23 in Bulls Gap. U.S. 11E was blocked for several hours by the rig and its load of rolls of carpet.

May 3: Shane Abraham, co-developer of the mega-sized apartment complex to be built across U.S. Highway 25E from Walters State, said that half of the rentals will be one-bedroom apartments, with the rest being a mix of two- and three-bedroom townhouses.

May 6: Princess Meghan and Prince Harry had a baby boy, nearly one year after their wedding on the grounds of Windsor Castle. The baby will be seventh in line to the throne currently held by Queen Elizabeth II.

May 8: Mayor Gary Chesney won re-election to a second term as Morristown by collecting 590 votes to write-in candidate Judy Gragert’s 26.

Al A’Hearn, a retired Morristown businessman, defeated Walters State Professor Steve Lawrence by a 457-271 margin to represent Ward 4 on Morristown City Council. Chris Bivens and Ken Smith were also elected unopposed to city council.

May 9: Third Judical District Attorney Dan Armstrong confirmed that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been investigating Hamblen County Trustee John Baskette’s office,

May 16: Morristown Regional Planning Commission recommended that Morristown annex the property where a 250-unit apartment complex will be constructed across U.S. Highway 25E from Walters State Community College.

The Rose Service Guild has new officers. President is Lynn Newman, Vice President is Brooke White. Other members include Janet Zachman and Marcelle Martin.

May 19: A U.S. Army veteran, who served in Iraq and was reportedly on base during the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas shootings, was killed when a gunman burst into an apartment on McFarland Street. Angel Robert Garcia, 30, died of his woulnds while Wanta Batista Maldonado, the resident and apparent target in the attack, was taken to UT Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

May 21: Tennessee State House Speaker Glenn Casada announced plans to resign following a vote of no confidence by his Republican caucus amid a scandal over explicit text messages.

Nearly 140 years after Morristown’s top lawman, Marshal James T. Morris, was gunned down in an alcohol-fueled, assassination-style killing on Main Street, Morris’ name was included on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., joining nearly 22,000 others who died in the line of duty. Morris is buried in the Emma Jarnagin Cemetery in Morristown.

May 22: Morristown City Council authorized Morristown Untility Systems to refinance up to $14.5 million in existing debt in a swap that will save the utility approximately $1 million over 14 years.

Grainger County Director of Schools Edwin Jarnagin announced at the Board of Education meeting his decision to retire in January, 2020. Jarnagin served as director since 2010.

May 24: Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Jr. became the commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Bunch, a Morristown native, served as Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

The Hamblen County Commission approved more than $50,000 of overtime money to pay Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office personnel for the month of April.

May 26-27: Jefferson County High School’s girls’ softball team won the TSSAA Class AAA State Softball Title at the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.

Hamblen County Commissioner Louis M. “Doe” Jarvis died after a long illness. He was 63. Jarvis was serving his third term as County Commissioner for District 5. He was a banker and started his own business, East Tennessee Restorations, Inc.


June 5: Morristown City Council passed a $39.9 million 2019-20 fiscal year budget on first reading, including a property tax increase of 25 cents per $100 of assessed property value to fund construction of a Morristown community center, whose price has risen to $36 million.

June 6: Carl Kinsler and his brother Jason Kinsler, two former managers at Southeastern Provision, a Grainger County slaughterhouse and meat-packing business, were given three-year probationary sentences, plus 80 hours of community service and a $10 assessment.

June 9: Phil Hensley was named as vice president of circulation for Lakeway Publishers and circulation director for the Citizen Tribune. Hensley worked for 37 years at the Johnson City Press and the Opelika-Auburn News in Alabama.

June 10: The Lakeway Area is poised to host another crusade, this time in Rogersville. The East Tennessee Awakening, an offshoot of last year’s “Greeneville Awakening” was set to begin July 8 with Evangelist D.R. Harrison at a tent set up on property owned by Henard’s Chapel Baptist Church at 7740 U.S. Highway 11W, three miles west of Rogersville.

June 11: Dr. Charles A. Fowler was announced as the 23rd president of Carson-Newman University. He comes to C-N from Germantown Baptist Church in Germantown, Tennessee, where he has served as senior pastor since 2010.

June 12: The Morristown Regional Planning Commission voted unaminously to rezone an 18.5 acre farm on Thompson Creek Road, just north of Crockett Square, from intermediate business to high-density residential. The property could play a pivotal role in the future residential development of Morristown for a possible 240-unit apartment and town home development across U.S. 25E from Walters State Community College.

June 14: Appalachian Electric Cooperative announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $1.14 million loan for Jefferson City Industrial Board. The loan will be used to purchase 69 acres of land, known as the Hunt property, which lies among Lowe’s, Walmart and the Norfolk Southern Railroad, for an industrial park to be known as the Jefferson City Industrial Complex.

June 16: The long-awaited I-81 connector from Merchants Greene to Interstate 81 at White Pine was delayed to spring 2020 due to heavy rains during the winter. Rains caused smaller slides that will require repair throughout the project prior to the final surface being placed.

June 17: When Evelyn Greene Manly Stooksbury Foster was born in 1917, World War I was raging, women were fighting for the right to vote and Babe Ruth was a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Foster celebrated her 102nd birthday in style with a party at Signature Lifestyles in Jefferson City.

June 18: William David Phillips, 33, of Jefferson City, who reported a voice told him to ‘kill the meth addicts’ allegedly murdered a 31-year-old woman, Sierra Cahoon, her two-year-old son, and her unborn child, on West Main Street in Jefferson City after the man became convinced the child’s baby stroller contained methamphetamine. Matthew Cahoon, husband and father of the victims, is an assistant athletic trainer at Carson-Newman University.

June 19: On a 5-2 vote, the Morristown City Council passed the $39.9 million dollar 2019-20 fiscal year budget which includes funding for construction of a community center.

June 21: The Hamblen County Commission voted to fill the seat held by the late Louis “Doe” Jarvis with a former Marine and soldier who has an extensive background in public service. Mike Minnich was picked as the new District 5 commissioner.

June 23: Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society has moved into a spacious, modern shelter at 5251 East Morris Boulevard in Morristown, the former Shelby Williams Union Hall.

June 30: If you build it, they will stay. The Clinch-Powell RC&D received a $750,000 grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.