Friday, October 31, 2008


I hadn't heard or read any local news Thursday morning, until I checked the e-mail - so the item there was quite stunning:

The burning of the Bibb Mill took a period of Columbus history up in smoke. How sad that Columbus has lost such an important landmark . My neighbor,passed away now,had wonderful stories to tell about coming in from a rural area as an orphan and working in the mill. Up until her death she spoke of the administration,employees and the neighborhood as her family..The young ladies all lived in what they called the Bibb Hotel. THe rent was taken out of their salaries..When one of them would get married they would take up a collection and walk to Kirven's and buy material to make her a dress. They bought in the nearby grocery and shops where they could carry a debt until pay day..She met her husband in the mill and they were married a life time.

It's not only Columbus history which was lost -- but another old town. Would there have been a Bibb City without a Bibb Mill? Would it have been nothing but a baby Bibb?

But anyway: Columbus fire crews may need all weekend to completely put out the smoke and flames from the old Bibb Mill on First Avenue. There are so many potential "hot spots" that people may drive by today for two reasons -- to look at the damage, and light scary Halloween candles.

The "River Mill" as it's now known caught fire around midnight Wednesday night. If I understood the evening news correctly, 11 alarms were called - meaning units were needed from all corners of Columbus. Let's be thankful this fire developed after all the barbecue restaurants closed.

Even Phenix City provided a fire truck to help bring the mill fire under control. To me, there's something strangely fitting about that - because aren't Columbus and Phenix City rising beyond being "mill towns?" Admittedly, base realignment could make them more mil-itary towns....

The Columbus area is developing a curious trend for fires in the fall. Thursday's flames came almost three years to the day after the Jordan Mill on Talbotton Road caught fire. And in September of last year, fire destroyed the Phenix City Moose Lodge. At least members are trying to rebuild that lodge - and if all goes well, Sarah Palin might show up to honor the Mooses someday.

The River Mill complex covers several blocks, from the Chattahoochee River to First Avenue. It's a bit surprising that crews didn't try to use river water directly on the fire. After all, I doubt that many people are out kayaking at 3:00 a.m.

But firefighters did a good job confining the damage to the River Mill. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire. And it did NOT spread to surrounding homes in Bibb City -- even though it would have been nice for crews from California or Colorado to return the favor from several years ago.

WRBL showed a piece of damage from the River Mill fire, which was blown several miles from Bibb City to midtown. This sounds like an interesting souvenir for the Columbus Museum. And for the right price, Fire Chief Jeff Meyer might even autograph it.

As our e-mail noted, the Bibb Mill has plenty of history. It was in operation for nearly 100 years before closing in 1998, and apparently became a community of its own. All the people needed was a little church near the river, and it could have been marketed like Amish country.

Only two weeks ago, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation listed the old Bibb Mill on its 2009 list of "Places in Peril." Talk about a terrible title! After what happened Thursday, that historic CME church in Americus might want to start a round-the-clock security watch.

In recent years, the River Mill had been used for shopping and banquets. In fact, a kickoff event for the Steeplechase was supposed to be held there tonight. It's apparently been moved to a downtown home - as opposed to serving guests blackened fish and flambee desserts.

I can understand why long-time Bibb Mill employees were saddened by what they saw Thursday. But in a way, I wonder if Columbus might be a bit better for it - by helping the city look forward economically, as opposed to living in the past. "What progress has preserved" does require having some progress, you know....

Firefighters are calling the Bibb Mill fire the largest in Columbus history. In fact, it was SO LARGE that a few out-of-towners may hear about it, and try to park nearby overnight. They're the ones holding early cookouts for the Fountain City Classic.

Our newest blog starts with poker, then goes in directions which could surprise you. Visit "On the Flop!"

BLOG UPDATE: The Columbus NAACP officially expressed outrage Thursday, over the Frank Lumpkin III case. It took about a week to organize its news conference. Imagine how outraged this group would be if police had waited that long to arrest Lumpkin.

The Columbus NAACP is appalled that Frank Lumpkin III was allowed to leave jail on a $2,500 bond, after allegedly shooting a man inside his stolen SUV. Members want additional charges filed, so Lumpkin is arrested again. But the District Attorney is trying to be evenhanded -- since that visitor from Griffin received a low bond of his own.

Failing that, the NAACP wants a special prosecutor appointed in the Frank Lumpkin III case. And of course, members remember how well this worked to bring justice in the Kenneth Walker case....

Darren Dowdell is the attorney for the teenager that Frank Lumpkin III allegedly shot. Dowdell says his client did NOT steal the SUV. So give the young man charged with auto theft a little credit - he believes in sharing, at least with his friends.

Darren Dowdell also claims Frank Lumpkin III said racial slurs before opening fire last week. So has Dowdell filed a complaint with the Justice Department's civil rights division yet? Or might be waiting for a better time - perhaps after inauguration day in January?

Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose attended the news conference, and declared his opposition to "vigilante justice." He said Columbus "is NOT a lawless city" - which might be the nicest compliment Police Chief Ricky Boren has ever heard from him.

There might be a connection between this case, and the first item in our Thursday news summary....

+ WOKS-AM aired a commercial for Sheriff Ralph Johnson's campaign, with a man who said he was convinced by last Sunday's forum at the library. Now hold on here - I thought the sheriff said the forum was NOT timed for "purely political" reasons. Maybe the timing was only 30-percent political?!

+ The 5:00 p.m. TV news included three "negative ads" in a row, against Sen. Saxby Chambliss. If I didn't know better, I might have concluded he replaced Michael Registe on the FBI's most wanted list.

+ Russell County Sheriff's officers reported someone found a touch-screen voting machine at the end of their driveway. I don't think the "motor voter" law is supposed to work quite this way....

+ WRBL's Phil Scoggins introduced two candidates for Muscogee County School Board by saying they're running to replace "James Roberson." This error may sum up the impact Joseph Roberson had over the last four years.

+ Carver collared LaGrange in a big high school football game 24-0. The Tigers may have been helped by the fact that LaGrange quarterback Jamius Gunsby was suspended -- not merely from the team, but the school. You don't think the athlete called "Jay-Gun" got caught with one in his car....?!

(The WOKS broadcasting team noted Carver linebacker Jarvis Jones flies to Los Angeles today, to visit the University of Southern California. If he signs an athletic scholarship there, he might qualify for that campus's more notorious other name - the University of Spoiled Children.)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


The temperature when I climbed out of bed Wednesday morning was 53.7 degrees F. Not outside, but inside - as registered on my living room atomic clock. At least the clock is atomic. The temperature gauge on this morning might have been cold fusion.

For all I know, the gauge might have dropped even lower during the night. Columbus had a low temperature Wednesday of 32, the earliest "first freeze" in 19 years. Didn't Al Gore say something about global warming being a major campaign issue by Election Day?

Many people probably fired up their home heaters for the first time Tuesday night, and I can't really blame them. It continues a trend I first noticed in Atlanta years ago - as I'd turn on my heater at the start of pro basketball season. Shame on the N.B.A. for going back to an opening night in October.

(This early freeze defied logic for another reason. I've argued for years that the switch to standard time makes things cold. Arizona never changes clocks, and you'll notice how comfortable Phoenix and Tucson are in winter.)

But this isn't Atlanta, I reasoned to myself. We're in Columbus, where the temperature is an average five degrees warmer during winter. One autumn several years ago, I didn't turn on the heater until December. If my neighbors can have cookouts in the courtyard on 1 January, why not?

So Tuesday night, I decided against turning on the natural gas heater. After all, this was only a one or two-night cold snap. And if I lit the pilot light, it probably would stay on until April -- slowly filling the bags for Atmos Energy executives' golden parachutes.

(No, I did NOT consider turning on the kitchen stove overnight. I've heard too many warnings about how dangerous that is. Besides, I'd have to buy a pot roast and cook it to get the most for my natural gas money -- and who eats pot roast for breakfast?)

You might say I was "roughing it" at bedtime, but it wasn't really that bad. I added a bedspread knit by my grandmother to the blanket and sheet which already were on the bed. And I wore my socks from the day to bed -- since whatever sweat is lurking there only adds to the insulation.

I slept for several hours, with little problem at all. But once I awoke, I really couldn't get back to sleep - since the sun is rising at nearly 8:00 a.m. right now. That means no warmth through my south bedroom window. And the street is too far away to gain any warm air from exhaust fumes.

To be clear: this lack of overnight heat was simply a choice - NOT due to poverty. If I let my car's gas tank get close to empty while waiting for prices to drop some more, it's only fair that I treat Atmos Energy the same way.

But weak overnight heat is something that's familiar to me. I lived in a small duplex in suburban Atlanta which had a small standing natural gas heater in the kitchen, because the big one built into the floor didn't work any more. I straddled the old heater all year, shivered a bit in the nearby bedroom in winter - and rejoiced at the blessings you get from tithing to a church.

There's one advantage to keeping your home somewhat chilly. The roaches which try to rule the kitchen during summer were hard to find Wednesday. They were looking for any warm spot they could find - hopefully at the next apartment over.

Thankfully, the sun warmed things up a bit Wednesday. The high was 61, allowing me to take a nice late-afternoon run. The fat I shivered away during the morning may have helped me last more than two miles.

Hopefully all is warm and well with you, as we check other noteworthy Wednesday items....

+ A trip downtown revealed The Roadhouse on Broadway has stopped its Wednesday night poker tournaments. An employee told me not enough people showed up - so maybe the Wednesday night church activities a few blocks down 11th Street are accomplishing something.

+ The Muscogee County Marshal's Department received a national second-place award, in a contest involving more than 550 law enforcement agencies nationwide. But this honor comes from the International Association of Chiefs of Police - and Greg Countryman's a Marshal, not a police chief. Does he plan to apply for one of those 100 Columbus Police openings?

+ Public safety personnel staged a mock disaster drill at Columbus Technical College. WLTZ reported students who pretended to be victims and survivors were rewarded with a free lunch. Let's all hope it wasn't blood sausage....

+ U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin cast an advanced voting ballot in Atlanta. He had to wait in line more than two hours - but he accepted it, like the veteran politician familiar with government bureaucracy that he is.

+ The Columbus State University women's soccer team crushed Georgia Southwestern 11-0. This score reflects one of the problems with women's soccer. You can't call for a "running clock," because it runs non-stop anyway. And you can't invoke a "mercy rule," because the two halves are too long.

+ Instant Message to McDonald's: No no no - I think you misunderstood me. When I mentioned the $2.99 "double cheeseburger extra value meal" costing more than a gallon of gas, I wanted you to lower the price. I didn't want you to change the billboard -- even though that probably justifies the higher price.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In all my years in Columbus, I don't recall an election year with so many "political forums." The next one is planned today during lunchtime, at Sugga's Restaurant on Wynnton Road. Now this could get interesting - as mudslinging could be exchanged for an outright food fight.

The latest meeting in what the late wrestling announcer Gordon Solie might have called the "television political forum" occurred Tuesday. This one brought together long-time state Rep. Calvin Smyre and challenger Zeph Baker -- a man who took office at age 27, and an opponent critics call too young for the job at age 32.

Zeph Baker is running for the Georgia House as an Independent, while incumbent Calvin Smyre is a longtime Democrat. That explains our title today - as voters in District 132 need a "photo ID" to choose between an I and a D.

(If only Sigmund Freud was alive to see this race. He could analyze two ID's trying to suppress their egos.)

But I digress: Zeph Baker declared during Tuesday's telecast that he is NOT an inexperienced political candidate. No, he's a "first-time candidate with experience." So is he ready to start right away, like Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan? Or does he need to sit on the sidelines for awhile first, like David Price did in Columbus?

Zeph Baker explained his "experience" comes from developing education centers on both sides of the state line. That's interesting experience for a man whose web site says majored in biology at Columbus State University. I can't imagine a church pastor's son opening centers to teach sex education.

Zeph Baker justified his Independent campaign for the Georgia House by saying, "A bird needs two wings to fly." He'll never win an endorsement from the Disabled American Veterans with phrases like that....

Zeph Baker says an Independent House member can work to unite Democrats and Republicans. He accused Calvin Smyre of being part of a "do-nothing legislature" this past year -- the sort of legislature which might make Lynn Westmoreland wish he'd never left for Washington.

In response, Rep. Calvin Smyre said he's worked across party lines in Atlanta for years. I suspect those years didn't really begin until Republicans began winning elections and claimed a House majority.

Calvin Smyre wondered during the telecast which side Zeph Baker might take, when the parties hold caucuses in Atlanta. If an Independent House member tried to sit in the middle of the aisle, one of two things would happen. Either the fire marshal would intervene, or a civil rights protest would break out.

Rep. Calvin Smyre also said education is a major priority for him. He claimed he's spent years "trying for smaller classrooms" - which could be a big mistake, if the child obesity reports are true.

The Georgia Democratic Party rallied to Calvin Smyre's side Tuesday. It issued a statement blasting Zeph Baker for putting Barack Obama's picture on his campaign literature. But maybe the Independent had no choice. Maybe Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney turned him down.

So after all this, you may be wondering if I'm predicting a winner in House District 132. Sorry, I really can't. Who do you think I am, the Wizard of I-D?

People in several countries have visited our other blog, which starts with poker and expands from there. Visit "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Monday post about a different forum brings this reaction....

I heard a lot of negative comments today about Sheriff Johnson having town meetings about the Walker case right at election time. I hope his plan was to inform and no capture votes. I think he is an honorable man,but his shadow grew a little longer.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson denied at the start of Sunday's meeting that the timing was "purely political." And you'll notice the Walker family hasn't called a news conference yet to respond to the forum. If John Darr showed up with them, I think THAT might be political.

Now for other items of interest from the Tuesday news:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was only 53 degrees F., and an overnight freeze warning was issued. But the weather was NOT the reason why I took a day from running. I chose to rest after Monday evening's long run -- and settled for walking into Taco Bell for free tacos.

+ The price of gasoline dropped below $2.50 a gallon in parts of Columbus, reaching $2.45 around 14th and Veterans Parkway. But one station in Alpharetta has cut its price all the way to $1.79 - which tells me it must be the only place in that city selling cigarettes.

+ Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington announced Fort Benning's Commandant will retire from the Army. General Walter Wojdakowski will hand over his position 18 November - and only then can young privates joke out loud that he's Wojo-a-go-go.

(I didn't realize until Tuesday night that a complaint is pending in Germany to put Gen. Wojdakowski on trial, for alleged war crimes in Iraq. If Congress hadn't passed that big financial rescue plan, Fort Benning's Commander might be behind bars eating sauerkraut.)

+ Mayor Wetherington publicly objected to City Manager Isaiah Hugley bringing up a proposal to use some Local Option Sales Tax money for an ice skating rink. The mayor said he never knew the idea would be mentioned. Pssst, Mr. Hugley - the City Manager's job is about to come open in Phenix City.

(The mayor doesn't seem to like the idea of skating rinks being added to a "public safety" sales tax project. But he should think creatively about this. If the Police Department can have officers on bicycles, why not one on a Zamboni?)

+ The Russell County Commission voted to establish rules for electronic bingo halls. WRBL reported promoters will have to make an investment in the county of at least $150 million. Wow - I don't think even St. Patrick Catholic Church can afford that.

(WRBL reported the company planning Dothan's Country Crossing development wants to open an electronic bingo hall on U.S. 431. It would have not only bingo machines, but some kind of sports facility. At last - a domed baseball stadium, to recruit more players to Russell County High School.)

+ Instant Message to Zell Miller: O brother, where art thou? I haven't seen you make any campaign appearances, or endorse any candidates in commercials. Are you planning the ultimate "zig-zag" surprise this weekend, by backing the Georgia Libertarian slate?

COMING SOON: An election survey, and why I do NOT plan to fill it out....

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So let's see if I have this straight. Columbus had more than a month of "early voting," and Monday we moved on to "advance voting." Is there any real difference? I mean, other than the word "advance" inspiring Fort Benning soldiers to vote?

Stunningly long lines were seen at Columbus's four voting sites Monday. So most of the people who lined up to "advance vote" wound up falling behind in their plans....

The line to vote at the Government Center stretched across part of the basement parking garage. Who knows how many people changed their minds about a couple of races, when they saw the spots reserved for Columbus Council members?

People waited about an hour at one point, to vote at the Government Center. So why didn't these people line up to vote there over the last five weeks? They probably could have saved a lot of time -- and the line outside certainly would have been warmer.

The waiting time to vote at the Columbus Public Library was as long as three hours. You could see how disorganized things were there -- because the lines didn't go past any stacks of books, so people could read something.

You couldn't blame the long lines on the newest idea in voting. Columbus State University's Cunningham Center was the site Monday for "vote and vax" -- combining the election with flu vaccine. The candidates took shots at each other for months, and now you can take one of your own.

Mayor Jim Wetherington took part in a media event Monday, showing how "vote and vax" works. He received the flu vaccine, yet admitted to WLTZ he does NOT plan to vote until today. It's nice to know our mayor has plenty of time on his hands these days....

Mayor Wetherington encouraged people to get a flu shot, saying the 23-dollar cost was like an investment. He said the payoff will come in the form of good health. Considering what's happened to other investments during October, I'm not sure even this one is guaranteed.

Mayor Jim Wetherington says about 15,000 people in Columbus have taken advantage of early voting so far. Based on the lines which formed Monday, your best chance to avoid crowds might actually be to head for the polls on Election Day.

Did you hear about the long line at one Georgia polling place last week - where a woman waiting outside collapsed in the heat? It's hard to believe the thought of seeing Saxby Chambliss or Jim Martin would make anyone swoon....

Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court refused Monday to block the state's "photo ID" law for voters. Democrats tried one more appeal to get the rule waived - even though they could have borrowed some of Barack Obama's excess campaign funds, and made identification cards for almost everyone.

BLOG UPDATE: Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson brought up one lingering rumor about the Kenneth Walker case Monday. In an interview with Richard Hyatt's web site, Johnson said one of the four people stopped on that fateful night claimed Walker was separated from his wife. If she wasn't in the Yukon with him, they were at least separated by a few miles....

Somehow the separation story involving Kenneth Walker has spread all over Columbus since 2003. Skeptics have made it sound like evidence that Walker was doing something wrong, or wasn't the "family man" some have made him out to be. Yet somehow, no one seemed to make these claims when Dan Amos was between marriages.

Of course, the statement by one of Kenneth Walker's fellow passengers does NOT necessarily mean the separation claim is true -- and the Sheriff was never asked in the interview if it was true or not. But this public statement may settle the issue once and for all. It could take a defamation of character suit by the family, but it'll be settled.

We returned to the poker table last week, after a few weeks away. Read how we did at our other blog, "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: In these shaky economic times, one reader is mulling over money....

Ways to become wealthy within 50 miles

----start a real newspaper

----open an affordable private school in Russell County in Fort Mitchell

Ways to improve budgets and schools

---Have one or two sports magnets to save on sports/coach funding

( check out the attendance at football games)

---Northside could have had that auditorium a long time ago by charging a toll for every car entering the driveway with an out of county and/or state car tag.

Hmmmm - what do you mean by a REAL newspaper? Do you mean something from the "good old days" of the 1990's, when Tim Chitwood stuck to a humor column?

I'm not sure people would accept "sports magnet" schools in Muscogee County. But people in Phenix City seem to like that idea - at least the ones who send their children to Glenwood.

Let's see what items we found Monday, which could fit in that real newspaper....

+ A freight train derailed along U.S. 80 in eastern Muscogee County. It spilled some bags of wheat and corn -- so we can say the train with grain went insane on the plain.

+ Reports from Russell County indicated steelworkers might be on the verge of setting a strike date against MeadWestvaco. Their contract expired almost a year ago - so with timing that good, I hope they hired an outside professional to invest their strike fund.

+ Carver High School linebacker Jarvis Jones was named to play in a national high school all-star game in January. Jones revealed his college choice is down to six schools, including Southern California. Carver's English teachers may spend Thanksgiving break rapidly writing screenplays.

+ Alabama football coach Nick Saban told reporters he's still trying to sell his team on "the idea of playing 60-minute football games." You'd think that would be easy right now. The team playing 30-minute games is Auburn.

+ Instant Message to all the TV meteorologists: Nice try, but you didn't scare me. I went running outside Monday evening, and made it 3.3 miles non-stop despite that strong north wind -- although that wind DID dry the sweat off my T-shirt.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: FREE tacos at Taco Bell from 2:00-6:00 p.m. (one per customer).... gas for $2.56 a gallon at Pyramid Food Mart on Buena Vista Road.... and negative campaign ads outnumbering positive ads by a ratio of 7:1....

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


The most dramatic event in Columbus Sunday was NOT at the Springer Opera House. It was publicized for days, yet surprisingly did NOT draw a capacity crowd. And before you get the wrong idea - it did NOT involve a Pentecostal church removing demons from a visitor.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I went to the Columbus Public Library Sunday. I knew Sheriff Ralph Johnson would present details about the Kenneth Walker case, but the big question was what would happen beyond that. Would there be fireworks? Would there be political grandstanding? Would a church choir show up to sing, "We Shall Overcome?"

The answers to all three questions turned out to be NO. What unfolded was a reasoned discussion about what happened almost five years ago, and how the Muscogee County Sheriff responded. No one even shouted during the 90-minute forum. I suppose those people were at sports bars, watching the Falcons game.

The Columbus Public Library auditorium is not that large, yet there were several empty seats for Sunday's forum. I doubt that would have been the case in 2004, shortly after Kenneth Walker was shot. For one thing, civil rights groups might have organized bus rides from Tuskegee and Albany.

It was also interesting to find the racial mix at the forum was about 60 percent African-American, 40 percent Euro-American. And amazingly, hardly any of the Euro-American people in the house wore badges - much less campaign buttons.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson began his presentation by addressing speculation that the forum was timed to be "purely political." He said plainly, "That's not true." And to make sure of it, neither opponent in next week's election stood up to ask questions.

The Sheriff explained the public forum was timed the way it was because a legal settlement in the Kenneth Walker civil case was finalized only Friday. But after nearly five years of waiting, the forum certainly was scheduled in a hurry. Maybe Ralph Johnson is planning a long post-election vacation in Mexico....

Ralph Johnson explained he kept quiet for 58 months about the Kenneth Walker case because he wanted to avoid a blame game -- along the lines of, "If the Sheriff hadn't run his mouth...." If they ever bring back the old game show "I've Got a Secret," Johnson is bound to be a big winner.

But with the legal settlement final, Sheriff Ralph Johnson revealed some interesting new details about the Kenneth Walker case. For one thing, he was talking with attorneys about how to arrest David Glisson in November 2004 - and that day, a grand jury decided NOT to indict him. Instead of a "walk of shame" for Glisson, grand jury members ran away from the Government Center.

Asked specifically if he was "outraged" by what happened in the Kenneth Walker case, Sheriff Ralph Johnson admitted he was "shocked" by the lack of a grand jury indictment. In his case, the word "outrage" may be limited to some of his son's run-ins with the law.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson said he was "very upset that Kenneth Walker was killed. I was very upset that David Glisson shot him." Yet he kept quiet while the legal process and lawsuits played themselves out - so we may never know if he really planned a quiet boycott of Riverfest.

Ralph Johnson spent 30 minutes carefully going over what led to the Kenneth Walker shooting, and how his office responded to it. The sheriff said Walker's trip with three other people to an alleged drug house matched what an informant recalled seeing before - right down to the drug-dealer not answering his phone for several minutes. Of all the nights for someone to have weak cell phone batteries....

The sheriff added he visited Kenneth Walker's family within 24 hours of the shooting, accompanied by a local judge. Wow -- that means Ralph Johnson was about the only party in this case who didn't hire his own attorney.

You may recall Kenneth Walker's family wondered why Sheriff Ralph Johnson didn't rush to the emergency room that night in 2003. Johnson indicated he was busy assembling all the facts about what happened. This is why the officers on "Dragnet" never seemed to have love lives....

Sheriff Ralph Johnson explained the Georgia Bureau of Investigation handled the criminal investigation of the case. He says his department was limited to an "administrative investigation" of whether policies were violated -- and that led to David Glisson being fired for six separate violations. In Johnson's eyes, he scored a 6-0 shutout over the grand jury.

In his strongest statement of self-defense, the sheriff noted he was the only person who took action against David Glisson for the Kenneth Walker shooting. The grand jury didn't indict him, the Justice Department found no grounds for a civil rights complaint - and Glisson apparently can't even get work on a security desk at the mall.

But as you might guess, some people were not satisfied by the sheriff's explanation. NAACP President Bill Madison insisted Ralph Johnson should have pressed criminal charges against David Glisson - but the sheriff insisted he had no authority to do that. Would Madison really believe one "rogue cop" deserves another?

Bill Madison's wife Shirley then spoke, saying a flowchart of events drawn on an easel by the sheriff was a "sketch.... passing the buck." She wondered why Ralph Johnson didn't examine the reported use of racial slurs at the shooting scene. It's almost as if one wrong word counted more than a finger wrongly placed on a gun trigger.

Ralph Johnson contended the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division exists for complaints such as that. He wondered why the African-American community would not trust that division to investigate such a claim. No one told Johnson the obvious answer - because Republicans are in the White House.

Yet Columbus Urban League President Reginald Pugh rose during the forum in the sheriff's defense. Pugh repeated some comments made to this blog in August [11 Aug], and declared Ralph Johnson did NOT kill Kenneth Walker. So that makes two Sheriff's Department employees to be cleared....

Bill Madison left the forum before I could ask him more about his complaints. And Sheriff Ralph Johnson left quickly out a side door, with assistants explaining he had a campaign event to attend. So any reconciliation between them about the Kenneth Walker case will have to wait for another day - but which sports bar is a good neutral location to host this?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION will count down to Election Day, by asking which candidate you support in the Muscogee County Sheriff's race. It's certainly the contest which has brought the most discussion here. And we've even gone one step beyond the Election Board - as you don't have to write in the write-in candidate's name.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of local law enforcement....

Any luck getting new recruits to fill all of those positions at the Columbus Police Department?

Yea, I didn't think so.

Maybe if little Ricky and the stooges stopped treating people like cr*p, the good Police Officers wouldn't leave.

Well, hold on here. I heard someone say last week that the city hired about a dozen new officers at a recent job fair. That's a start, on the way to 100 additional officers. It's not like Columbus can organize a "player draft" of spare talent from LaGrange or Valdosta.

We returned to the poker table this past week, after a few weeks away. Read how we did at our other blog, "On the Flop!"

BLOG UPDATE: Former Shaw High School pitcher Edwin Jackson took the mound for Tampa Bay Sunday night, in game four of the World Series. But when you come in with your team down 5-2 and you give up a home run to the Philadelphia pitcher - well, Tampa Bay's manager may have been a genius to leave him out of the rotation after all.

Fox's Joe Buck praised Edwin Jackson as a pitcher who can "really bring it." Well, I guess those are words of praise. But I wonder how many politicians use that phrase to describe big donors....

(It's clear that Fox Sports is run separately from Fox News Channel - because after four World Series games, no one has called Joe Buck "Joe the Plumber.")

Edwin Jackson gave up one run in two innings, and escaped a sixth-inning dilemma with a double play. But Philadelphia won the game 10-2, and can win the World Series tonight - so I hope Jackson enjoys his souvenir American League championship T-shirt.

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

26 OCT 08: RED, ALERT?

So I go online Saturday night, and one news site quotes a John McCain campaign aide as saying Sarah Palin is "going rogue." Silly me - I thought this was a spelling error, and Palin planned to start wearing more makeup.

I thought "rouge," as in red. And I can't help thinking about that color this weekend, after seeing Columbus Councilor Red McDaniel on TV Friday. He gave a "stump speech" which was shockingly strange -- and the "stumped" people may have been newcomers, wondering how he took office.

WRBL is giving free time during its afternoon news to local candidates, so they can introduce themselves and explain their campaigns. Friday's focus was on Columbus Council District 8 - and while two candidates clearly read prepared statements, Red McDaniel made what seemed like off-the-cuff unscripted comments. It's tempting to say "Red" was a bit like Rambling Rose....

Instead of using a script and Teleprompter for his remarks, Red McDaniel seemed to refer to clipped items from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Some candidates will do anything to win the newspaper's endorsement....

One article referenced by Red McDaniel quoted a former Columbus resident. That resident said our city was "nothing" in the mid-seventies compared with Montgomery and Macon, but the growth since then has been "unbelievable" and "astounding." That's true, of course - and some people still are complaining about the traffic at Columbus Park Crossing.

Red McDaniel used that article to say city sales tax money has made much of that growth possible, by building: "the RiverCenter, Riverwalk, loft apartments, Civic Center...." Now wait a minute! I thought donations to the "Columbus Challenge" paid for the RiverCenter, not city money. And if tax dollars turned downtown buildings into loft space, why isn't it considered public housing?

But the surprises didn't stop there. Councilor Red McDaniel recalled when Columbus had "hardly any restaurants" around town. Now he says there are "so many restaurants in Columbus that it's hard to find a place to eat, because it's so crowded." Looking at it that way, I'm not sure we've gained anything.

I think I know what Red McDaniel was trying to say. But it's the way he tried to say it that seemed curious to me. If I didn't know better, I might have thought the comment about the search for restaurant seats came from Bert Coker.

Red McDaniel has two challengers for District 8. Steve Miller appeared on TV wearing a suit and tie, which doesn't fit his 1970's rock-and-roll image at all....

Steve Miller sought votes by declaring: "I am a fresh voice." Well, OK - but Tony Franklin was a fresh start for Auburn University's football team, and look where he is now.

One of Steve Miller's big issues is imposing term limits on Columbus Councilors, such as the mayor's office has. But Red McDaniel has served his district for 32 years - so he has a long way to go to match the tenure of Strom Thurmond.

The third candidate in this Council race is Terry Yarbrough. He's the son of a longtime firefighter, and says Columbus needs "150 to 200 more police officers on our streets." Yeow - how many more sales tax questions are we going to have to approve?

Terry Yarbrough says he's concerned about the way Columbus spends tax dollars. He claims the financial mess on Wall Street "hasn't hit us yet." Yup, you can tell which candidate does NOT have money in a 401(k) plan.

We returned to the poker table this past week, after a few weeks away. Read how we did at our other blog, "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: The "Know Your Blogger" series during our recent vacation apparently did not impress one reader....

"Sir" Richard:

Far be it for me to critique what you put on your Blog. And, it's hoped that this is not just the first or only response to your "invite" to comment on the current series! After all, as one who is neither skilled enough or ambitious enough to create a Blog it would be akin to the pot calling the kettle black To make a comment.. Except for rare occasions, your Blog is informative, interesting,amusing and better reading than the local newspapers. When you are on track it's hard to wait for the next issue.

But purveyors of the written word, make it a rule to eliminate or limit one word if at all possible! You are sure to recognize that word immediately.

When you finish this current series; publish it as a "bio" and sell it on E-Bay. Until then, keep us informed, and amused. You are certain to be more appreciated!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

Hmmmm - what word was I supposed to eliminate? A quick check shows we never mentioned Hurtsboro during the series at all.

But here are some things which DO seem worth mentioning from the weekend....

+ Troy Public Radio finished its fall "friend-raiser" donation drive. The goal was $50,000, but as of Friday afternoon there was only $32,000 in pledges. So if you see T.P.R. staff members driving to Victoryland this week, it could simply be a budget-balancing project.

+ Auburn University hosted an Alabama high school robotics competition. If only they would build something old-fashioned, which the city of Columbus could use - some Robo-Cops.

+ Calvary Christian School won the GISA state volleyball title. This school is known for being religious, conservative and pro-life -- so what does the volleyball team call a "kill?"

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths split their opening weekend of games by knocking off Knoxville 2-1 in overtime. The Snakes wore pink-tinted uniforms - so either this was a special event to fight women's cancer, or someone mixed Hardaway High School football jerseys in the laundry.

+ Alabama stayed unbeaten in college football by trampling Tennessee 29-9. Tennessee has fallen into a such a slump that the next set of "Volunteers" may be out recruiting a new head coach.

+ Instant Message to McDonald's: C'mon now - it's time to lower the price on that "Double Cheeseburger Extra Value Meal" you're advertising. The price of a gallon of gas has dropped well below $2.99.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: What could be Columbus's most explosive meeting of the year....

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 794 (+ 40, 5.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

"That man needs to read his Bible." So one person commented at a local news web site this past week, about the Frank Lumpkin III case. But what if his Bible was in the back seat of his stolen SUV?

OK, fair enough. Let's read the Bible, to see what it says about a case like this. But to read some of the other online comments, there probably would be a debate over where to read first. Each side would have a stack of verses ready, to prove its point -- almost like a cookie-stacking contest, only with the higher stack of scriptures winning.

Let's take the known events of this past week (at least according to Columbus police) in order:

1. Someone stole Frank Lumpkin III's Navigator. "Thou shalt not steal" is still in the Ten Commandments, and was quoted by Jesus. But many people will ignore this, and "steal a taco" Tuesday in a nationwide giveaway.

2. Lumpkin called Columbus Police several times about his stolen Navigator. The word "police" isn't in the NIV Bible, but Luke 18 has a parable about a widow who went to a judge several times to be avenged (in King James language) over an adversary. Hmmmm - maybe a local judge helped Lumpkin find his car.

3. Lumpkin went to the Super C on Fort Benning Road, to attempt what his attorney calls a "citizen's arrest." Uh-oh. Go back to Luke 18, and you'll find the parable doesn't end that way. The widow keeps pleading until the judge breaks down and intervenes. Admittedly, nowadays the widow might face charges for making harassing phone calls.

So here's the quick executive summary so far: It's wrong to steal cars. It's right to go to the authorities, when your car is stolen. But it's wrong to take vengeance on your own -- well, unless God tells you to do it. He did that to Moses in Numbers 31. Does Frank Martin have tapes of any unusual conversations involving Frank Lumpkin III?

4. Several young people were found inside the stolen Navigator. How many of them knew it was stolen is unclear, but Proverbs 1 warns we should NOT give in to enticing sinners -- such as the ones who use hypnosis by waving car keys in front of your eyes.

5. Friday's Ledger-Enquirer revealed three men were in a car with Lumpkin when he arrived at the Super C. Shall we go back and review point 4? Or should we wait for the newspaper to investigate those three men, like some did "Joe the Plumber?"

The point of all this hopefully is clear. If police reports are true, ALL sides in this case sinned. And James 2 indicates ANY sin which breaks the law is considered a violation of the entire law. The only difference may come in whether your judge is in a good mood or a bad mood.

But you know, the original commenter has a valid point. If people on all sides really read their Bibles, we wouldn't be having this debate in Columbus. Well, check that - if people actually applied what they read, we wouldn't have this debate. That lesson actually goes back to the old Romper Room TV show: do be a DO bee.

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 754 (- 123, 14.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, October 24, 2008


There's North Lumpkin Road. There's South Lumpkin Road. There's Lumpkin Boulevard. And coming soon to the top floors of the Columbus Government Center - yes, you probably guessed it. We'll have Lumpkin Court.

But seriously: the attorney for Frank Lumpkin III spoke out Thursday about the shooting of a man at a Benning Road gas station. Lumpkin is charged with shooting the man while making a "citizen's arrest" over a stolen SUV. At least one detail appears certain -- Lumpkin IS a citizen. In that part of town, some of the workers are open to question.

Attorney Frank Martin explained what led up to Tuesday night's shooting outside the Super C on Benning Road. He says Frank Lumpkin III's Mercury Navigator was stolen Sunday, reportedly with the family dog inside. Lumpkin somehow tracked down the SUV - but what about the dog? Did it somehow find a way home, and point toward the car?

Frank Martin says Frank Lumpkin III called police three times between Sunday and Tuesday about his missing car. But when Lumpkin saw it Tuesday night, he decided to take action -- as if Super C turned him into a Super Citizen.

Frank Martin claims the driver of the stolen Navigator had a gun in his lap. He says when the driver tried to back up the SUV to escape, the weapon somehow fired. This is why cup holders were invented - so you can keep two hands on the steering wheel, and not have to reach for something falling to the floor.

But the mother of wounded teenager Rodney Matthews explains things differently. She says Matthews put up his hands and denied doing anything wrong, only to be shot by Frank Lumpkin III. Apparently that teen did NOT steal the Navigator - but he may have thought a young friend received one of the last subprime car loans from Gateway Lincoln-Mercury.

Frank Martin suggested to WRBL the driver of the stolen car tried to injure Frank Lumpkin III, and at least possessed a firearm while committing a crime. All Lumpkin may have had was a cell phone for dialing 911. It's only a matter of time until someone adds a stun gun button, to the one for taking pictures.

Frank Martin denies Frank Lumpkin III is a "vigilante." He contends his client was simply blocking his Navigator with his truck in a parking lot, until officers showed up. Hopefully Lumpkin has learned a lesson from this - that some car thieves act like NASCAR drivers, and don't appreciate such things.

Frank Martin suggests what happened with Frank Lumpkin III is simply a sign of an "overworked, understaffed" Columbus Police Department. Someone told me Thursday the force already has hired 12 of the 100 new openings created by the upcoming one-cent sales tax. It's too bad they're not being trained already in making citizen's arrests....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Where do we stand on this issue? We plan to answer that in a separate entry on Saturday.)

We returned to the poker table Thursday night, after a few weeks away. Read how we did at our other blog, "On the Flop!"

E-MAIL UPDATE: A big stack of messages was waiting in our InBox Thursday. Let's start with the breaking news, about a contest promoted here....

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I want to thank you guys so much for sticking with us these last four weeks. We NEVER imagined we would get this many people - the support of thousands, rallying for us, rooting for us, voting for us, and sharing our story with friends and family. But we did and how amazing it all has been. Craig and I are so grateful for all the time and energy all of you have invested in supporting us. We have been blessed in so many ways by all of you.

Now to the news you've all been waiting for....we did not win the Charleston Wedding Giveaway. The contest people said we were "neck in neck" with the reality TV star couple, but in the end, they beat us.

Even though we didn't win, Craig and I still feel very thankful for this experience because we got to see how many people out there love us, support us, and believe in us.

Craig and I are now working on our PLAN B wedding. We will keep you posted!

Thank you again, so much, all of you, for your precious time, unwavering support, and sincere loyalty to us!

Deborah & Craig

So former Columbus news anchor Deborah Singer fell short of the all-expenses-paid marriage in South Carolina. As for Plan B, I have a suggestion for this couple in northwest Arkansas. My mom and dad were married at the courthouse in Rogers in 1947.

Now our next topic, which is short and to the point:


Someone must be paying attention to complaints like this -- because in my neighborhood, the price of regular unleaded dropped 15 cents Thursday. It's now at $2.59 a gallon. So perhaps it takes two days for the news about lower crude oil prices to get down Interstate 185.

I did notice a gas price of $2.53 Wednesday afternoon along Interstate 85, in the Meriwether County area. But should you really envy the people who live there? They probably have to travel a lot farther to find a restaurant with a good drive-through lane.

The more I read complaints about "my gas is higher than their gas," the more I wonder something. Would these grumblers like to see a single fixed price for gasoline - perhaps everywhere in Georgia, or even nationwide? Then everyone would be happy. Well, unless the board is appointed by Congress to six-year terms and takes "fact-finding" trips to Kuwait.

Here's another quick item, apparently inspired by our vacation "Know Your Blogger" series:

When you were at CNN in 1984 did you know Gene O'Riley?

Sorry, I don't know that name. I never even met "Mean Gene" Okerlund when Turner Broadcasting presented pro wrestling matches. But I had the thrill one Thursday night of lining up at the TBS commissary in midtown Atlanta behind wrestling manager Jimmy Hart. I didn't dare make a comment about his loud suit.

Let's take one more message before we close....

Hey Richard..Glad you are back home..Now I can read the real news..Hope your trip was peaceful and enlightening...Who are you pulling for in the World Series?..I hope Tampa wins just to show all those higher paid teams that money does not always make you a winner..(just ask Bill Heard)...Welcome Home..

I pondered this series during the road trip, and concluded Tampa Bay is the proper team for Columbus fans to support. The Rays have former Shaw pitcher Edwin Jackson. They have former Auburn University star Gabe Gross in the outfield. And have you atheists noticed how much better Tampa Bay has played since they dropped the "Devil" from the nickname?

Tampa Bay also has relief pitcher David Price, who was on the roster of the 2007 South Atlantic League champion Columbus Catfish. Weren't the Rays brilliant in preparing Price for this season, by not letting him play any games for Columbus last year?

Lest we forget: the Columbus Catfish were a farm team of Tampa Bay the last two seasons. So are the Montgomery Biscuits - and the Montgomery Advertiser seems to be emphasizing that connection during the World Series. By comparison, I'm not sure half the residents of Columbus realize the Catfish have moved yet.

Tampa Bay tied the World Series Thursday night, by felling the Phillies 4-2. The Rays split two games at their home stadium, Tropicana Field. Fox's Joe Buck kept calling it "The Trop." But since it's a domed stadium, shouldn't it be The Can?

We'll hold one more e-mail for another day, and quickly check a Thursday when sports seemed to dominate our attention:

+ The Georgia state high school softball finals opened at South Commons. We thank all the teams for doing something the Leadoff Classic failed to do in early March - bring much-needed rain.

(I walked by one field during afternoon exercise time, and saw players from Lowndes County try to knock a softball around like a volleyball. I'm not sure if they were doing this simply for fun, or if the defense is constantly bunched together toward center field.)

+ Auburn's football team was embarrassed at West Virginia 34-17, and dropped to 4-4 on the season. Somewhere in Alabama, Tony Franklin put his 4-2 record as offensive coordinator back on his resume.

(Did you see Coach Tommy Tuberville get angry and yell at quarterback Kodie Burns after a play in the third quarter? I'm not good at reading lips, but Tuberville may have uttered the words no Southeastern Conference player wants to hear - Music City Bowl.)

+ Former Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler was found NOT guilty of drunk driving near Mobile. A defense witness claimed several football-related operations could have made Stabler shaky while standing up. Well, yeah - but so could the thought of a police officer putting you in jail, and calling your wife to bail you out.

(So what do you think - was Ken Stabler the "snake" in this case, or his attorney?)

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 877 (+ 32, 3.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


"This is my fifth day on this job," the taxi driver said as we left Columbus Airport Wednesday afternoon. Then it's a good thing I asked him to drive me downtown. Name any other neighborhood, and we might have wound up in Waverly Hall.

Without any prompting from me, the taxi driver I'm calling Jimbo proceeded to tell me more. "I worked for a jeweler, and then they laid off employees." People aren't buying gold these days - they're trading it in for grocery money.

Jimbo explained to me why he was terminated from a local jewelry store: "They fire you, then bring in somebody who can do your job for less money." Plenty of former reporters for the Ledger-Enquirer and WRBL could tell him all about that....

"And then I read this about Georgia," Jimbo said as he handed Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer to me in the back seat of his cab. He then showed his lack of taxi experience - by rolling down his windows, and making the newspaper pages flap around.

A front-page headline noted Georgia ranked second among all states during September, in the number of jobs lost. The state had 22,000 fewer jobs - which is amazing, because I didn't think Bill Heard had that many people in his service departments.

Yet as Jimbo kept driving, he confused me a bit. "I opened a shoe store...."

"Just in the last few days?" I asked. Well, no. Jimbo actually was dismissed by the jewelry store six months ago. So his story was taking a long and winding road, even if his cab couldn't.

(At about this point, Jimbo turned his taxi from Airport Thruway onto Veterans Parkway - going two lanes wide to make the left turn. He's learned at least one trick of cab drivers....)

Jimbo dreamed of opening a shoe store in Peachtree Mall, but "they want a thousand dollars a month for rent." That was too high for his budget - and that's too bad, because a shoe store at the mall would be SUCH a unique idea.

Jimbo decided to open a shoe store in Columbus South, but he admits a tight economy has forced him to take a second job driving taxis. Yes, we can say it - a possible recession has shoes in a pinch.

Jimbo hasn't given up on his shoe store yet. His wife is running it, while he drives cabs. But he thinks the economy won't settle down until after Election Day. So if this is why some of you have voted early, I think you're a bit misguided....

I agreed with Jimbo's reasoning about the current economic turmoil. "I've never seen a more lame-duck President in my lifetime than President Bush," I told him. Some have compared his daily words of encouragement about the economy to Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats." But Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and it seems more like a fire sale.

(I don't want to overstate President Bush's status - but he's SO "lame-duck" that I keep waiting for Aflac to send its mascot, to waddle across the White House lawn.)

The economic pinch we discussed inside the taxi was evident at the end of the ride. A trip from the airport to the Government Center cost me 18 dollars, including the tip. Jimbo certainly could use that little extra. And come to think of it, I could use some new sneakers. But Jimbo only offered me a newspaper and magazine to read -- nothing to barter.

Yes, I took a taxi home after turning in my rental car. It was an interesting contrast to the Metra bus I rode at the start of the trip, 12 days before. The bus costs much less, but the cab is much faster. And with some cab drivers, it's a bit more adventurous -- the biggest thrill this side of a ride at the fair.

We'll share highlights from our vacation in the days to come, but now let's get caught up on some news items from Wednesday and the last week or so....

+ Our sympathies to the family of Colonel Robert Nett, the Medal of Honor winner whose funeral takes place today at Fort Benning. For people interested in military history, this truly is a Nett loss.

+ Phenix City Manager Bubba Roberts was informed his "contract" will not be renewed in November. Shouldn't we wait until the new city council takes office, for a formal vote on his dismissal? Or are huddles by Councilors-Elect exempt from the Open Meetings Law?

+ Richard Hyatt's web site quoted Columbus Council candidate Bert Coker as saying the city should spend more money on fishing. Excuse me, Mr. Coker -- but I think that's called the Riverwalk and Lake Oliver.

(Bert Coker reportedly showed up for one candidate forum wearing a suit and tie, with NO cowboy hat. Perhaps he's sharing a fashion advisor with Sarah Palin.)

+ Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson announced he'll hold a public forum on the Kenneth Walker case this Sunday - nine days before the election. The timing of this certainly raises questions. Is Johnson's campaign for re-election in trouble? Or is this his strange way of separating himself from that weird flier with Jerry Barnes?

+ WLTZ showed Rep. Lynn Westmoreland at a Georgia Southwestern State University political debate. He was outside his district in Americus, representing Senator Saxby Chambliss - which seems to show which man has the better chance of getting elected in two weeks.

+ Workers installed a new sign for the Columbus Civic Center along Fourth Street. The matrix board looks a little smaller, and no advertisements are on it yet - so for all we know, Sonic Drive-Ins could buy the space every afternoon and sell half-price sodas in the parking lot.

+ Columbus Technical College canceled evening classes and imposed a lockdown, after some kind of anonymous telephone threat. The college teaches all sorts of job skills, but I don't think construction of fireworks is among them.

+ Instant Message to Burger King on Airport Thruway: I saw your sign offering an "ALIAN CHICKEN SANDWICH." Uhhhhh - what planet does the chicken come from?

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 845 (- 135, 13.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: This blog is on vacation for several days. In the meantime, we offer this "Know Your Blogger" series -- excerpts from our autobiography, in the shadow of our 50th birthday in August.)

KJLA-AM was officially "The Rhythm of the City" when I was hired in May 1980, right out of college. I was supposed to work part-time -- but I kept finding news stories to cover. After all, the Kansas City area IS a little larger than Columbus....

Trouble was, sometimes I found news inside the radio station. I watched the morning host fix a contest seeking the 12th caller, by lying to a couple of callers who sounded African-American. The host explained he was following management instructions to make the station sound "less black." Removing George Benson records apparently wasn't enough.

I happened to work at KJLA with the former cheerleader who hugged me after the senior musical. She was married now, and worked in the sales department. I blabbed to her about what the morning host had done -- and the news got back to the boss. Especially when I wondered aloud about how to call the NAACP....

The owner/general manager of the radio station appreciated my work, and eventually put me on a minimal monthly salary. But he told co-workers that sometimes he wished he could pull a gun out of his desk drawer, and shoot me. Trying to be ethical can be -- well, trying.

I still lived at home with Mom for the first few months after graduating from college, but that soon changed. First she started charging me a small monthly rent. Then she sold the house, and moved to a duplex. Then the moved to a mobile home park, and left me in the duplex. Who really was breaking away from the nest here?

I had plenty of room in the duplex on 70th Terrace, and perhaps a bit too much time outside work. I started playing racquetball for exercise -- using the back wall of the duplex, and sometimes the second-story shingles above it. A few fallen shingles and one broken window later, it's no wonder the landlord didn't return the suits I forgot to take with me in a move.

It was at that duplex that I took a dramatic call from the station in March 1981 -- calling me in to work, because President Reagan had been shot. [31 Mar 06] Looking back, that shows what a serious person I was about news. After all, I didn't get called in when John Lennon was shot.

There were several big news stories to cover while I was in Kansas City radio. I won an Associated Press award for the week-long takeover of West High School by angry community residents -- when all I really did was stick around through a long gripe session. When the group decided to march to the School Board office for a late-night sit-in, I was the only reporter still around to hear it.

The biggest story I covered in Kansas City won a national Associated Press award -- the Friday night in 1981 when the skywalks collapsed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The crash killed 111 people. It left a radio friend injured for months. And it frustrated a college friend who worked with hotel public relations, because the news simply wasn't positive enough.

Yet when the Kansas City Royals made the 1980 World Series, I did NOT go to any home games. For one thing, our station had a "Royals Reporter" (on the team's public relations staff) for handling that. For another thing, I was committed to attending a college roommate's wedding in Hays, Kansas. Perhaps overcommitted -- because I only realized when I reached Hays that I forgot to pack dress shoes.

My old Impala was used to get to many stories in Kansas City -- but eventually the radio station bought a "news car." To this day, I'm not sure why people mock the AMC Pacer. Yes, it was wide -- but didn't Pontiac teach us years later that wide is better?

Yet the Impala was becoming expensive to fix -- so in February 1981, I decided it was time to change cars. I went to a dealer in my neighborhood, and traded it in for a 1979 Karmann-Ghia. Then after two days of struggling with stick-shift transmission for the first time, I was ready to trade it back in.

The Karmann-Ghia offered great gas mileage, but it also offered plenty of headaches. Things kept breaking down and needing repair. In fact, I later told one import repair shop it was the car's "time of the month."

On top of that, the Karmann-Ghia had no working heat. The only warm air which came in winter resulted from a vent circulating the heat of the engine. I rejoiced for sunny January days, and trips where the wind was at my back.

The Kansas City radio era ended in September 1981. The two-person news staff was summoned to the boss's office one afternoon, and told we were being laid off. KJLA was changing its format to "The Music of Your Life" -- and the boss didn't care if I had a life anymore.

I told a media critic for the Kansas City Star after my layoff that it was a great opportunity to find out "what I was worth in this market." Three unemployed months later, I had my answer -- as I applied to deliver phone books in the middle of winter.

The search for work in radio or television turned into a four-month struggle, where I lost about half my savings to a major car repair job [6 Jan 07]. But then one afternoon, I happened to be home taking a break from phone book deliveries when the phone rang. A radio station in Enid, Oklahoma hired me -- and thankfully, my Mom didn't object to my moving away.

The moving van arrived at my new apartment complex in Oklahoma on Super Bowl Sunday, 1982. The bill was expensive, and left me with about $900 in savings. I'm doing a lot better than that these days -- but then, this was written before Congress voted on that big economic rescue plan.

My Program Director in Oklahoma cared a lot about me -- helping me find an apartment, briefing me on the staff members' quirks before I began, and suggesting I find friends outside the radio station. Those friends didn't develop until months later. And it only happened when a church Pastor granted me permission to start attending services -- so maybe the friends didn't need me that badly.

Much like the Kansas City station, my station in Enid didn't have much of a reputation for radio news. In Kansas City, I'd stunned my News Director by turning on some mysterious items on shelves along one wall of the newsroom. Amazingly, several of the police scanners actually still worked....

The Enid station had no police scanner at all. In fact, the staff there was surprised when I lugged in my old non-electric Royal typewriter and started writing news copy. An Associated Press teletype was good enough for everybody else.

But people across Enid soon started paying attention, when I went out and actually covered news stories. When an Oklahoma City TV station accused a state-run training school near Enid of abuse, I interviewed the school's Headmaster about it. To this day, I'm not sure that TV station has....

The Enid newspaper and two competing radio stations ignored us for awhile, but that soon changed. One Monday night at a school board meeting, a newspaper reporter turned to me and said her bosses had told her to "do what you do." Now that's what I call an affirming compliment.

But that change could have a backlash as well. I never heard it, but I was told another radio station rushed out an editorial condemning me for mentioning on the air that an arrest was close in a murder case. If the police chief was upset, I gave him a chance to get even -- by showing up at police headquarters on a Saturday night and offering to be arrested. He didn't....

Sometimes news stories developed from unlikely places. Our station had a summer weekend promotion called "Zumma Beach" where we set up a hot tub in the parking lot, and scattered around some sand. I mentioned it in passing to a wire service, and before we knew it the event was mentioned by Paul Harvey -- and our station didn't even carry his newscast.

In another case, the Enid City Commission overhauled the city charter -- and decided to keep a city ban on water pistols. The City Attorney eventually named the law after ME, because he took calls about it from as far away as Philadelphia.

Toward the end of my second year in Enid, stunning news came from Kansas City. My mother had a brain aneurysm, and was in the hospital. While I drove north to see her, I had a mysterious chest pain while behind the wheel. A stop at a Kansas hospital discovered nothing unusual -- so maybe my heart simply was going out to her.

My mother was in reasonably good shape when I reached the hospital. She said a few words to me, while smoking her familiar cigarette. Thankfully, she didn't angrily chastise me for showing up late -- like she did when I left those suits behind years before.

After several days with no change of condition, I went back to work in Oklahoma. But a few days later, another call came -- and this time it was the worst. My Mom died on 24 December 1983. And to make matters worse, it was another ice-cold Kansas City day -- bad enough that my brother's house key broke in the lock after I attended church. A friendly neighbor prevented an unusual "double down."

It didn't feel right collecting Mom's items from her mobile home. But I wound up with plenty of dishes and towels -- and a merciful older brother decided I could have Mom's nearly-new Chevrolet Celebrity. It actually had air conditioning, not to mention fully working heat.

KXLS "Class FM" was easily the hottest radio station in Enid -- but after the station sale, things began to erode. You know the situation is serious when the General Manager has sit-down sessions with psychics -- and the morning news anchor (me) was assigned bathroom-cleaning duty one day a week.

Stories began surfacing that the new General Manager was secretly pocketing station money -- and after 2 ½ years in Enid, I decided it was time to move on. A salesperson came to my apartment one evening and tried to talk me out of it. But the resumes were heading out, and in August 1984 I flew to Atlanta for a job interview. Except the job forgot to pay for my plane ticket back to Oklahoma City.

That flight to Atlanta marked my first time in an airplane. The flight was aboard Delta, and as I recall it was on time. But for awhile, I was lost inside then-Hartsfield Airport. How was I to know the main terminal was the same thing as the exit?

I went to a church convention in Texas in October 1984 -- and only days after I returned, an executive at CNN Headline News hired me as a news writer. Within two weeks, my radio years in Enid were over. It was time to move again. And oh yes -- my Karmann-Ghia which had sat unused for months was sold to a junkyard for 25 dollars.

(We're only halfway through the autobiography. Would you like this series to continue? Please let us know, one way or the other.)

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: This blog is on vacation for several days. In the meantime, we offer this "Know Your Blogger" series -- excerpts from our autobiography, in the shadow of our 50th birthday in August.)

Years before I selected a college, my older brother gave me some advice. I could go to any college I wanted -- "but if you go to Kansas State, I'll never speak to you again."

Kansas State was never in the running, for a young man interested in journalism. "Silo Tech" had no journalism school. My brother's alma mater Kansas did. For that matter, K.U. had no veterinary school while K-State did -- so the risk of coming across wandering animals on campus was very small.

I had nice offers to attend college from Drake and Texas Christian -- but I chose Kansas because my first year would be covered by grants and scholarships. Given that sort of thinking, maybe I should have been a business major....

Financial help also came from the fact that I was accepted for a "Scholarship Hall." It's an inexpensive cross between a dormitory and a fraternity -- with about 50 invited people in a hall, and each person assigned daily tasks to save on expenses. Think the Koinonia farm, only with a mix ranging from Christians to pot-smokers.

So I entered Room 3 of the Scholarship Hall -- and was stunned to learn the "new men" were targeted for a welcome night which walked close to the borderline of hazing. Then I was stunned to learn the "sleeping dorm" required open windows year round, for fire safety reasons. Aw, c'mon - this was Kansas, not Florida State....

My first semester in college was relatively uneventful. But I remember well one young woman in my Advanced English class -- an engineering major who some say is in line to become the next President of Royal Dutch Shell. To think I ruled out a potentially wealthy oil executive, because she was a smoker....

I did a bit of "skirt chasing" in college, but.... well, check that. I don't recall that many ladies wearing skirts, other than the s. And I was more interested in their hairstyles, because practically ALL women have legs.

But again, no real romances blossomed from my college years. I developed friendships with some women, but nothing more. Perhaps I should have moved beyond Step One -- invite a college woman out to dinner, because the last thing they want to do is cook.

(That approach didn't always work, either. We were allowed to bring guests to a Scholarship Hall Christmas dinner one year -- and nine different women turned me down. Even the Kansas football team won once or twice that year.)

One of my goals in college was to have a 4.0 semester at least once. I never did, but I came close. In one case, I thought sure I'd done it -- but the News Director of the campus public radio station gave be a B in a course. "I never give anyone an A," he explained. If only he had said that at the start....

Then there was the fall semester of my junior year. I missed a 4.0 grade point average because I sang in the top-level choir, and chose not to sing in the Christmas Vespers for religious reasons. I accepted a one-grade deduction from the conductor -- and the next fall, I found a very fun Journalism History course to fill that hour.

My broadcasting career officially began during college, beginning with volunteer reading of the Wednesday morning newspapers on a channel for print-handicapped listeners. I stunned my reading partner one morning when I read an Ann Landers advice column about "switch hitters," and openly wondered what baseball had to do with it.

That led to a regular paid on-air shift with the Audio-Reader Network. Things spread from there to campus radio stations, including the student-operated station where I did play-by-play of some Kansas basketball games. My musical tastes were evident one night when I declared: "You can dim all the lights, sweet darlin' -- this one's over."

To commute from Kansas City to Lawrence, Kansas, I needed a car -- and my older brother sold me a 1966 Impala which had been passed down through the family. I bought my first car for $500. Some say my 14-year-old Honda is worth about as much today.

(I still have a record of my first summer with that big Impala -- and for my first tank of gas 16 Jun 77, the car gave me 13.3 miles per gallon. Be honest now: how many current SUV's can beat that?)

The Impala kept me motoring through college -- except when a couple of rough winter storms hit. On one occasion, the car was parked several blocks from campus and refused to start for days. An early thaw saved me from having it towed away.

(Then there was the cold Sunday morning when the car started, but wouldn't shift into drive. I went in reverse for a couple of blocks to get the transmission warmed up -- and thankfully it was after all the potentially drunk drivers had gone to bed.)

There were some very early Sunday wake-up times for me in college, because I was hired to do the sign-on shift at Lawrence's two commercial radio stations. That meant playing a lot of religious tapes, some soft morning music -- and being stunned by a church pastor using four-letter words, when he called about a program not being on the air.

I also earned some extra money during college by umpiring youth league baseball games during the summer. I learned the last thing you want to tell upset parents after a close playoff loss -- "It's only a game."

There was also the summer I served as an "enumerator," gathering information door-to-door for the local City Directory. But one day, a dog from a block away decided to challenge me -- and within a minute, I was standing on top of a stranger's car as a group of dogs barked all around it. It took the dogs at least five minutes to determine I had no food, and wasn't worthy of being their lunch.

Walking across the college campus provided most of my exercise during college. Our Scholarship Hall had a couple of intermural teams, which didn't do so well. Take the evening I played offensive lineman in touch football, and someone ran me over so hard I did a reverse somersault....

But a roommate in my senior year of college persuaded me to start jogging for exercise. At first it was a couple of laps at Allen Field House, which has a track around the historic basketball court. Then it was several laps. Then I longed to outrun some of the sorority women, hoping to impress them.

Then came the summer between junior and senior year, when I truly lived by myself for the first time. Thanks to an internship at a TV station in Topeka, Kansas, I spent three months in an apartment building near the state capitol. It took a few days to figure I should NOT take a shower without a hanging curtain.

By piling on extra credit hours early in the college years, I was able to take things relatively easy during the senior year. But some hall-mates thought the student manager gave me a slap, by assigning me to dinner dishwashing duty. I quietly accepted it -- instead of starting a very hot "soap" opera.

(But when I back to the Scholarship Hall months after graduation as a surprise guest at the August "new man" initiation, that manager made it clear I was NOT wanted there anymore. Helping the hall win a campus "College Bowl" title as a junior didn't amount to anything -- not to mention the hall fad I started one semester, which had almost everyone playing Stratego.)

I never took a "spring break" trip during college -- even though I wanted to. I reserved a spot on a campus trip to Padre Island, Texas. But I couldn't arrange a swap to get off work, while other student employees did. Oh well -- at least when I finally went there in 2002, I saw tall tropical storm waves they never did.

So my senior year spring break was spent beginning the job hunt -- and much to my surprise, a Kansas City radio station was interested in me doing the morning news. Local legend Max Bicknell was retiring. His classic closing line, "So moves the news!" was perfect for a station playing disco music.

KJLA-AM hired me, with my starting day being the May Monday that I graduated from college. But by that point, disco was dying and the station was changing its musical sound -- so I did NOT get the opportunity to report about people dying in plane crashes to an underlying disco beat.

Monday, 19 May 1980 was one long day. I was on the air from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., then stopped at Winchell's Donuts for a celebration treat on the way to Lawrence for graduation. Before the evening ceremony, I stopped at a sorority for a nice chat with a friend who was becoming house President. You had to like a woman who wouldn't come out to see you because she had "wet hair."

(But of course, she didn't become a friend either -- and when I learned she moved to Atlanta while I lived there, I didn't take the time to look her up. Under the rules of the church I was attending, I couldn't date her. Get baptized like me, or doomed you could be....)

I could have kicked myself on that graduation night -- because students decided to stage a protest during the ceremony, several rows above me in the football stadium. I took a camera to document my march down the hill to graduate, but I didn't think to take a tape recorder to get soundbites for the next morning.

(Our series will continue in our next post, coming Tuesday evening.)

Our number of unique visitors is now up 31 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: Suspended for vacation

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or , and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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