Essays/Opinion

Recent Articles

God is with US!

Cross

cross silhouette

Opinion – This morning as I reviewed the updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, looked at the facilities I work with in Texas, and listened to reports, I heard the first report of a death in the Texarkana area. Like many others in the area, while not surprised as we expected this would happen, I was certainly struck at the heart. I felt a sense of loss for the family, our nation, and for our area. This loss was not someone from New York or another place, it was someone here in our hometown area. This person died right here in Texarkana, USA from COVID-19. Continue Reading →

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The Most Powerful, Overlooked Tool Against COVID-19

Praying Hands

Opinion – We see a lot on television and the Internet right now about ways to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even today a postcard arrived with information from the CDC and the White House on how to slow the spread. The postcard is titled “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America” and it clearly outlines things like what to do if you feel sick, working from home, and keeping social distance. The many suggestions we see are powerful and helpful guides as America and the world face a pandemic like never before. But, in my opinion, it seems that a lot of people are forgetting the most powerful tool we have against this virus…prayers to God. Continue Reading →

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Leading Miller County, Arkansas

The First Female Judge of Miller County Answers The Call of Leadership During a National Crisis

Miller County Judge Cathy Hardin-Harrison

Miller County, AR – On January 1, 2019, Cathy Hardin-Harrison was sworn in as the first female county judge for Miller County, Arkansas.  From the start of her campaign to the day she started work, Harrison knew she wanted to be a different kind of county judge.  Traditionally, county judges in the area had focused on roads.  One former county judge even used the catchphrase, “We fix roads.  That’s what we do.”  Harrison felt there was more a judge could do and should do for a county, and she set out to prove it.  Not only has her administration focused on county roads, but she has also had a focus on grants, revitalization of the county park, improvements in business development, and working on a state level for improvements to the county.   Now facing one of the worst national emergencies the country has ever faced, Harrison has had to rise to be a leader for the county, a voice of comfort and a voice of support for the citizens as the county, state, and nation faces an uncertain future. 

Fortunately for the county, in January 2020, Harrison was
appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Security and Emergency Preparedness.  The group of select emergency leaders from
around the state places Miller County in a unique position to be on the inside
track for preparedness.    The
appointment means that Harrison is not only involved when disasters or emergencies
like the COVID-19 are being faced on a county level, but she is also active on
the front lines working on plans for the entire state.  

Cathy Hardin-Harrison is at the mid-term of her first time
as a county judge.  Already parks are
being updated, grants are being provided to the county, the industry is being
encouraged and grown, and cooperation between the county and cities is
improving.  Harrison has also worked to
help improve the volunteer fire departments across the county.  During all the on-going work, the COVID-19
emergency rose. Even before there was a joint operation with daily briefings
and updates, Harrison was online reaching out to citizens.  The county has had a website for a long time,
but Harrison has taken it a step further and developed a county judge page
where updates are feed directly into social media for citizens.  It was on this Facebook Page that Harrison
first reached out to reassure citizens. On March 13, Harrison broke previous records for the page
with a post that started “Citizens of Miller County.”  Harrison went on the reassure, encourage, and
layout the plan clearly to citizens.  Her
message was direct that the county was working and on top of the crisis.  The post reached over 13,000 people, had
2,794 engagements, and was shared over 120 times on social media posts.  It was one of the first posts made by leaders
in the community, and it was appreciated. 
Responses from citizens were as simple as “Thank you” to
“Thank you for such a great message,” and “God bless you.” Since the March 13 message, Harrison has continued to
provide updates on the page and through the media with other community
leaders.  She has answered questions,
taken calls, and provided information from the state, national, and local level
physicians and professionals.  Harrison
has maintained constant vigilance and, on more than one occasion, directly
interacted with citizens.  She has
provided leadership, confidence, and information in a way that has remained
compassionate and understanding.  Like
all community leaders, she has taken some criticism as well, but that comes
with any elected official’s office. Despite everything going on and all the projects happening in the county, the citizens of Miller County should be thankful that Judge Cathy Hardin-Harrison has a broad view of the duties of a county judge.  When the crisis arose on a national level, she has proven her ability to stand and lead the county forward even in what some might consider the darkest of hours. Continue Reading →

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Those Keeping It Moving Need a Thank You

While many people are staying inside and away from the world in the four states area, there are those who simply are unable to stay home from this current COVID-19 crisis. Most of us know some, if not many, of these people. They are the police, sheriff officers, firefighters, city employees, utility employees, city management, emergency people, and medical and health professionals. They are the volunteers working to bring food and provide food and supplies during this time. These folks are just as much at risk from this virus as you and me. Continue Reading →

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2020 Marks First Online Census Option

Amid the current Covid-19 virus crisis, citizens still need to remember it is also a Census year. I recently received two copies of the paper form and joked online about the Census Bureau sending all of us additional paper for the toilet paper shortage. I was reminded by City Ward Director 6 Terri Peavy that this is the first year everyone can complete the Census online. When you receive your Census package, you can turn the envelope over to find the Internet address for the online option. You will find it in red where it states my2020census.gov. At that point, you can toss the Census envelope into your recycle stack and complete the census on your computer, tablet, or phone. Continue Reading →

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2020 Documentation Considerations

By now, most of us are just getting used to the idea of no
longer writing “2019” or only “19” on everything from
checks to legal documents.   If you’re
like me, for about the first week, you had to scratch out “2019” and
try to make it appear to be “2020” on just about everything.  A few years ago, I even sent in a water bill
for January with the previous year’s date on it.  Within a week, I received a sweet note back
with my check stating that they could not take a check over a year old.  As you finally settle into 2020, you may not
realize that this year is unique in the documentation and offers some minor
concerns needing to be considered. 2020 is the first and only year in our lifetimes that we
will deal with a unique issue in dating documents.  This individual issue can cause problems for
legal documents, contracts, checks, and almost any potentially binding
document.  In the past, if you have
signed a document, you may have signed it like “Clinton S. Thomas,
1-15-19” or “John Doe, 12-10-16”.  Anyone looking at those two examples would
know that I signed the first one in 2019 and that John Doe signed the second
one in 2016.  Unless you are looking at
some ancient documents, nobody would assume I signed the paper in 1919.  This year presents a problem for the
potential of date changes.  Consider this
signature, for example, “Clinton S. Thomas 1-15-20”.  Most of us would automatically think the
document was signed in 2020, correct? 
However, what if someone else added to the signature and made it look
like this “Clinton S. Thomas 1-15-2015”?  The addition of a couple of digits to the end
of my signature can change the date from 2020 to anytime back to the year 2000. 

While the issue may be small for most people, you may want to
consider legal documents, checks, and even contracts.  The fact is there are unscrupulous people
living in 2020.  Those people, with ill
intent possibly toward you or others, could easily take a signature or document
signed in “20” and make it appear to be approved many years before
the actual signing date. Most of us will never face any problems with merely signing
with a “20” as the year. 
However, if you want to play it safe and ensure that nobody comes behind
you and changes your date, I would suggest you consider signing everything with
“2020” this year. If you’re worried that this problem will arise again in the
future, don’t.  I’m sure that when 2121
rolls around, the Four States News will issue a story reminding people to
consider writing out the full date at that time.  I think I already have the opinion piece on
the calendar for January 2121. Continue Reading →

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Brawl in Fouke Does not Represent the Community

If you haven’t heard about the “Fouke Brawl” at last week’s game, then maybe you’ve been under a rock or blessed.  The fight was recorded between the local Fouke High School team and a visiting Glen Rose High team.  According to most reports on social media and the news from Little Rock to Dallas, the fight was allegedly initiated by a Glen Rose player.  By the end of the conflict, multiple players were involved.  Now, a fight alone is not unusual in a football game.  It’s not uncommon for several players to join in a fight during a game.   Spirits and frustrations can be high for many reasons in football. Usually, coaches and referees break up the fight, a team gets an unsportsmanlike penalty, and the game moves on to the next play.  There were marked differences in the fight at Fouke. The fight seemed to quickly spiral out of control in the video and referees, coaches, and local law enforcement can be seen trying to break it up.  One recording shown on Facebook has the sound of some fans in the crowd laughing when all at once what appears to be adults run out onto the field.  One adult, or assumed adult, tackles a Glen Rose player from behind.  The player appeared to be standing on the sideline away from the fight when the man tackled him.  Bravely, (yes, whoever you are, sarcasm is intended here) when the student turned to face the adult, he quickly backed up.  The adult moved away in a dancing motion that made him appear to be either doing a lousy dance or a pathetic attempt to imitate Muhammad Ali.  On second thought, this guy’s actions should not be compared to anything Ali did in the ring.   Ali faced his opponents straight up and would never have hit a kid (a minor most likely) from behind.  Needless to say, that one incident alone was enough to make anyone sick.  Several people on Facebook and other social media sites made comments about it.  So far, to my knowledge, the guy has not stood up to be recognized.  It’s likely if he does stand up, the Miller County Sheriff will want to visit with him a little – as well they should. 

Within a few minutes of the video, the fight is over.  The result has been suspensions on both teams, and an investigation by the sheriff’s department with possible prosecution for some local adults.  There has been a lot of suggestions online like “cancel the rest of the season,” or “forfeit all games.  The fact is Fouke will miss a game this week since they do not have enough players because of suspensions.  However, we need to stop and remember a few things before we allow ourselves to judge the Fouke School District, team, or city and community too harshly. 

The first thing that must be considered is that the actions
recorded represented a few people.  In
the 2010 census, the population of Fouke was 859.  When we look at the video, it appears to be
somewhere around maybe five adults or so going onto the field.  Five out of the population does not represent
Fouke.  The second thing to consider is
that punishment for the entire team, such as canceling the season, in my
opinion, is just not fair.  Canceling a
season would harm seniors, cheer, dance, band, and others.  The players who took a knee during the fight
and showed actual sportsmanlike conduct would be punished as well.   To punish all for the actions of five or so
adults and a few players would be wrong to other students and the community.  Finally, we must consider that these five or
so adults and the few players involved do not represent the values and the
people of Fouke.  

Fouke is a thriving and growing community with a rich and beautiful history.  Fouke has a couple of stores, a fantastic community center that is always in use, thriving neighborhoods, a great school district, and some of the best people you’ll ever meet. I have never gone to Fouke, and not met a smiling face or someone that treated me like I had lived there all my life.  The city is vibrant with churches, a masonic lodge, restaurants, shopping, and that one unique thing that nobody else in the state has, a Monster Mart.  The city is always looking for ways to grow, with a farmer’s market,  the Miller County Fair, and who can forget having the Fouke Monster Festivals related to that delightful little history.  Finally, if anyone is on social media looking for the current weather forecast, rest assured that the Fouke Mayor has posted it somewhere online.  He always has all of us in the county and area covered for weather issues. Continue Reading →

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Two Local Organizations Dedicated to the Preservation of History

Paul Gramling, CIC, of the SCV speaks

Members of two Sons of Confederate Veteran (SCV) camps came together this evening to discuss history, plan a dedication, and hear from the Commander-In-Chief (CIC) of the organization.  Paul Gramling, CIC,  and his wife Lynda were in attendance which meant leadership from a national level was in Texarkana to hear about the joint work of the camps.   Throughout discussions with Paul, trips to grave dedications, and attendance at various meetings, it has become clear this organization is dedicated to the preservation of history.  The mainstream media, for the most part, continues to ignore the SCV and the work they do.  Outside observers can only assume that the overwhelming positive qualities of the organization are overlooked by the media because it does not fit into their agenda.  SCV members come from all races, and they work to ensure the preservation of the history of the Civil War. Like any organization, the meeting opened with business, new
members, planned events, and charities. 
While the Red Diamond Camp hosted the meeting, there were also plenty of
members present from the Major J.B. Burton Camp.  The two camps from Texas and Arkansas
discussed the preservation and dedication of a recently found cemetery in
Arkansas.  The central focus was a planned
dedication day.  The United States
Government has provided memorial headstones for the Confederate Soldiers buried
at the cemetery.  The stones have been
placed, and the actual dedication day is being planned for October.  Some people may not understand Confederate
veterans have been made American veterans. 
When Congress completed this act, the men who fought for the Confederacy
were given the same rights and privileges of any veteran of the United
States.  These rights include a headstone
and dedication. 

During the meeting, the group was informed the land at the cemetery
had been donated to the SCV.  Future
maintenance of the cemetery will now be the responsibility of the  SCV. 
The Texas unit will provide cannons for the dedication ceremony.  Had it not been for the research of the SCV
and the work put into this project, the cemetery may have been lost to history
forever. 

During the meeting, Robert Edwards, Treasurer of the
Arkansas SCV Division, spoke briefly and commended both SCV units from two different
states for their work in the history and preservation of the cemetery. 

Paul Gramling then spoke and provided an update on the SCV
national museum being completed by December of this year in Tennessee with a
dedication planned sometime in early 2020. 
The museum will hold both temporary exhibits and permanent exhibits
regarding the history of the Civil War. 
Paul also provided a copy of “The Southern Defender,” a small news-like
handout that contains history, information, and pictures from around the SCV in
the United States.  Interestingly, Paul
is one of the people who has continuously said that current attacks and removal
of Confederate Monuments will not be limited to those memorials only.  His words rang more accurate than ever as it
was noted on the front page of “The Southern Defender” that “Vandals
defaced” a Baltimore monument to Francis Scott Key.  Key is the author of “The Star-Spangled
Banner.”  

The cemetery in southern Arkansas and the continued joint efforts of two SCV groups to preserve the cemetery is an integral part of historic preservation.   The work protects graves which are vital for all histories and decedents.  Cemetery research has also retained the history of what was going on around the area during the Civil War.  The movement of troops and camps in southern Arkansas was reviewed extensively.   Colleges and universities will likely use the work of these two SCV units in the future as they study the history of southwest Arkansas.  The dedication to preserving history by the SCV should be appreciated by all students of history. Continue Reading →

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Community Spirit Restores Ed Worrell Memorial Park Sign

Red River Softwash picture before and after

The Texarkana business Red River Softwash, LLC recently cleaned the Ed Worrell Memorial Park sign and City Beautiful members followed up with painting.  Red River Softwash, as they described it on Facebook, was between jobs when they spotted the need for the sign to be cleaned.  Without contracts and pay, the company stopped, power washed the sign, and went on about business.  The post immediately made the rounds on Facebook for the company’s willingness to give back to the community.  Wendell and Mary Warner, members of the City Beautiful Commission of Texarkana, Arkansas, decided to follow up with the lettering and paint needs on the sign. Surprisingly, Mary said they found that the sign had black
cardboard inserted as letter filling on the sign.  She stated that she and Wendell had to remove
the lettering and it made the 15-minute touch-up job take about an hour, but
they were glad to do it.  Mary said she
assumes the letters have been cardboard since the sign was put up and she has
no idea how they lasted that long.  A
small plaque on the back of the sign states the foundation was put up in 1994,
which would mean at a minimum the cardboard letters have lasted twenty-five
years.  

Wendell Warner painting sign

Mary and Wendell reported on the project at today’s City
Beautiful Commission meeting.  Other members
did not realize that the sign was being addressed and the two were commended
for stepping out and stepping up for the community.  When asked by other members about how hot
it’s been, Wendell responded, “Oh we went in the evening.  There was no way we could do it in the heat
of the day.” 

If you know Mary and Wendell Warner, then you likely know
they have restored homes here in Texarkana and they have a long history of
service.  Mary and Wendell’s service at
the sign is just another example of the spirit of community that shines through
these two amazing people.  If you know
them, take a moment to say thank you for all their hard work.  In truth, you have no idea how many little
projects likes this one they take on all the time behind the scenes. Sign after cleaning and painting

As for Red River Softwash, check out their Facebook page and keep them in mind for all your power washing needs.  They do windows, sidewalks, homes, etc.  If you have a project that needs attention, spend money with someone that invests and donates time back into your community.  Red River Softwash took the time to go above and beyond for our community, and they deserve our business and support as they grow in Texarkana.  See the link below for more information or call them up at 903-276-3990. On Facebook -click here: Red River Softwash LLC. Continue Reading →

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T-Town: Texarkana Town or Trash Town

A recent photo of Bobby Ferguson Park. It seems that the old “T-Town” reference to
Texarkana may mean “Trash Town” for the Arkansas side of town.  If you drive down the north side of Stateline
Cemetery, you cannot help but notice litter along the fence line.  It seems to blow into the fenced area and
become trapped there.  If this was the
only area of town, then it might be a unique issue, but unfortunately for
Texarkana, Arkansas it is not the only area.  

I had been noticing trash around Texarkana, Arkansas for some
time.  Not only was the cemetery area on
Stateline affected, but I was seeing it downtown, along the main streets and
even on less-traveled streets in Texarkana. 
The trash seemed to range from aluminum cans, to drink cups, to plates,
to paper, and even entire bags of household trash at some places.  To further the issue, it seems to be
everywhere.  So I decided to experiment. 

On September 4th, I got into my trusted pickup
truck with my son, and we drove around Texarkana.  We targeted the main roads for the Arkansas
side.  On Stateline, we quickly found
that we could not go even a half a block without seeing trash either on the
road or on the property beside the road. 
I traveled from the Federal Courthouse downtown clear to the Interstate.  I could not find one single block, or half-block
for that matter, where some form of trash was not on the ground.  I then traveled Arkansas Boulevard, and it
was not surprising to find the same level of trash along both sides of the road
there.  For Arkansas Boulevard, I went
from Stateline to the loop access.  For
Jefferson, I traveled from I-30 to Arkansas High, and for County, I moved from
Kline Park to I-30.  Surprisingly, the
results of this little experiment were all the same.  Trash could be found within every single
block of those roads. 

After noting all the places where the trash was located, my
son commented that we could quickly fill up the back of the truck and more with
all the trash.  Sadly, I had to agree
with him.  Apparently “T-Town” now means
“Trash Town” for those of us living on the Arkansas side. 

The question should be, “Who is at fault for this
trash?”  Should the city be cleaning
it up?  Should property owners along the
way clean it?  Should organizations such
as the City Beautiful Commission clean it up? 
Should local church and youth organizations clean it up?  Where should we look for someone to clean it
up? The facts are simple. 
The city does not have the employees to keep the city clean.  Often city employees are mowing vacant or
abandoned lots.  They have assigned areas
to water and care for around the town, and they have several parks to maintain
as well as streets and other duties.  The
fact is the city employees do not have the time or the employees to keep
Texarkana, Arkansas cleaned up. Property owners could be held accountable, but most of the
trash appears to have been dumped on edge, or it has merely blown there with
the wind.  Even if property owners went
out daily and cleaned up the trash, there would be new trash there the next
morning.  I know, I have that problem in
my neighborhood as well. The City Beautiful and other volunteer organizations try to
help make a difference.  However, even
with their help, the fact is they are all volunteers, and many of them have
other full-time jobs and obligations. 
They cannot be the city trash collectors.  Church groups and other volunteer
organizations have the same issues as the city. 
They are often short of volunteers or help, and many times their
volunteers cannot get out in the heat to work. 
To depend on these organizations to clean up the city is not logical. Continue Reading →

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