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Photo: Members of the McNeill family are seen with Carolyn Hooker (holding Microphone) during the dedication of McNeill Park in Tenaha. The family members include (from left) Larry McNeill, Dave McNeill, Dawn McNeill, Tracy McNeill Pullen,Tara McNeill, and Rose McNeill.

December 15, 2014 - The Tenaha Beautification and Events Committee hosted a dedication of the new McNeill Park on Thursday, December 11, 2014. Community members gathered for the event just off the square and to visit with Santa.

Carolyn Hooker opened the dedication of the park by publicly thanking Larry McNeill and the McNeill family for the land. Hooker then related some history of the McNeill family.

Dave McNeill Sr. lived from 1885 to 1958, he purchased his drug store building in 1914 from Robert Spivey after graduating in 1912 with a pharmacy degree from Texas Christian University (TCU) and opened the McCreary and McNeill Drug Store with Archie McCreary. In 1924 the pharmacy became McNeill Brown when Happy Brown became a partner and they remained in business until 1950 followed by McNeill and Son in 1955.

McNeill was elected to the board of aldermen, now called the city council, and remained in that capacity until 1927 when he was elected mayor of Tenaha. He was re-elected for each following term until his retirement in 1944.

During McNeill's tenure as mayor, Tenaha began its public water system in 1941, "This was a giant step for our community that previously had no indoor plumbing," said Hooker. "Mayor McNeill was also very proud of a creation of a city park inside the city of the town square. At its high point in the 1940s it had trees and lawn, benches and street lights and was heavily used by farmers and their families who came into town each weekend filling the square with so many people the sidewalks in front of the store buildings were full."

Hooker remarked on the appropriateness of there now being the McNeill Park. She then continued to share some McNeill family history. "Dave McNeill Jr. lived from 1916 until 1998 and unlike his father he did not live his entire life in Tenaha, but considered it his home, "He would tell you, as a child he spent as much time with his father in the drug store building or roaming the town square as he did at their residence and he became well acquainted with the merchants and businessmen of the town," said Hooker.

Dave McNeill Jr. graduated from Tenaha High School in 1933 and went on to earn a law degree from the University of Texas school of law. He held the position of Tenaha ISD Superintendent until 1942 when he became Shelby County Attorney. He resigned from his six year law partnership with W.I. Davis Sr. in Center in 1952 and moved to Houston with his family to join the law firm Vinson, Elkins, Weans and Francis where he practiced law until his full retirement in 1986.

It was rare for Dave McNeill Jr. to not be in Tenaha from 1952 and into the 1990s during each month with his wife Lois, the daughter of Dr. J.M. and Anna Baldwin Parker, and their two sons Dave and Larry. Dave McNeill Jr. was often called upon by his father and other town leaders to provide legal counsel, "Like his father he cared deeply about the town and its citizens," said Hooker.

Hooker then introduced members of the McNeill family and presented them before those present. The family members included Larry McNeill, Dave McNeill, Dawn McNeill, Tracy McNeill Pullen,Tara McNeill, and Rose McNeill.

The park is located just next door to the family drug store which was recently restored. Several items have been donatged to the park by various individuals and businesses. The sign for the park was donated by Tony Willoughby, tables and benches have been donated by the Crawford family; Viskosky family; Ben D. Hooker Family; Wayne Christian Family; Scull Timber Company; Howard and Elaine Ballard; George, Teresa and Naylor Bowers; John Shellhorn; and Floyd Watson Family. Roland and Diane Cross and family have made donations toward future lighting of the park.

The park has decorations including lights and trees decorated by the children at Tenaha ISD.


(Photo: The City of Center Council (seen above from left) consists of Jerry Lathan, Leigh Porterfield, Howell Howard, Mayor David Chadwick, Jim Forbes, Charles Rushing and Joyce Johnson.)

December 12, 2014 - Newly elected Center City Council members were sworn in at their recent regular scheduled meeting held on Monday, December 8, 2014.

Incumbent council members Leigh Porterfield, Jerry Lathan, Jim Forbes and Charles Rushing were all sworn in by Barbara Boyd, City Secretary, and following the swearing in the council members voted to keep Charles Rushing as the Mayor Pro Tem.

Lathan was the only council member seeking re-election whom had a challenger in the race; however, he retained his seat following the election.

The council approved Ordinance 2014-16 - Water Conservation & Drought Contingency Plan which is mandated by the state for the city to submit to the state. Chad Nehring, City Manager, explained the contingency plan is redone every five years as mandated by state law, "The only significant changes other than the data values for recent water usage consumption does adapt the goals for gallon per capita for daily down slightly, I do think they're achievable and obtainable and quite honestly there's no penalty if our customers don't end up meeting those goals."

According to Nehring, one part of the plan which may be of interest to customers is the drought watering schedule, "We have adjusted and adapted the drought watering schedules several times, the last several years, particularly after the 2011 drought."

Nehring states the plan is as lenient as the state allows. The schedule shows stage 1 of the plan to allow a two day a week watering cycle, stage 2 allows for one day a week and stage 3 would not allow any outdoor watering or excessive usage.

Resolution 2014-32 - Authorizing 2015 CDBG Application was approved by the council. This is the bi-annual application cycle for US HUD funds distributed regionally throughout the state by COG regions for low to moderate income area community development projects.

A benefit of $275,000 in grant funding is possible should the grant be awarded to the city with a required local match of $56,000 in funds. The system Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) uses to decide if a project meets specific requirements has been altered and different projects have moved up the ladder.

"Historically water and sewer projects used to score at least one point better than streets, which then subsequently scored at least one point better than parks, other community activities," said Nehring. "This last year they changed the scoring, only in DETCOG, to make parks and other community facilities score one point better than water, sewer and streets."

Nehring stated a plan was drawn up two years ago for work to be done on Perry Sampson Park; however, the funds were not available at that time. According to Nehring, with the changes in the scoring system Perry Sampson Park would have a greater chance of scoring well in the new system.

During January 5 - 19, Nehring reported a biannual water maintenance program will be in progress as the water department as they flush chloramine from the water system with chlorine. He explained residents will take notice of the bleach odor of the water during that time period.

Several 100s of thousands has been returned to DETCOG for re-appropriation within the region for disaster recovery projects not fully funded or were not completed, "We did submit a letter two years ago asking for those funds to be considered for a project that we had to downgrade. One of the generators got cut at our water plant, at the lake actually. We had the mayor go ahead an reiterate a couple of weeks ago the same request to at least attempt to garner those funds that had to be backed off in the first place."

During the meeting recognition was given to Howell Howard for one year of service on the council and to Jim Forbes who was recognized for his 20 years of service on the council.

Items on the agenda receiving approval include:
1) Minutes of the Regular Meeting on November 17, 2014.
2) Elect Charles Rushing as Mayor Pro Tem.
3) Ordinance 2014-16 - Water Conservation & Drought Contingency Plan.
4) Resolution 2014-32 - Authorizing 2015 CDBG Application.
5) Resolution 2014-33 Authorizing Land Acquisition.
6) Resolution 2014-34 Authorizing Agreement for IP Telephony System.
7) Award of bid - Hutcherson Drive - TCF Project: Drewery Construction in the amount of $336,210.50.
8) Award of bid - Utility Treatment Chemicals.
9) Authorization of contract with Terra Renewal for Sludge Lagoon Maintenance.
10) Award Grant Management to Gary Traylor &
11) Associates for 2014 Downtown Revitalization Texas Capital Fund Project.

Photo: Center City Council members are seen being sworn in by Barbara Boyd (in blue jacket), City Secretary.

Pictured above are council members (from left) Jerry Lathan, Jim Forbes, Leigh Porterfield and Charles Rushing.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Department is hosting Concealed Handgun License classes so that those seeking to carry a handgun may do so legally.

Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell has allowed use of the Sheriff's Department facility in which the four hour classroom course is given. He has also generously allowed the shooting portion of the class be done at the Sheriff's Department firing range.

The most recent class was on August, 16, 2014 and the next one is scheduled for September 13, 2014. Leon Miller is a Sabine County Sheriff's Deputy and he is the officer providing the instruction for the course. Kevin Windham, Shelby County Sheriff's Department Investigator, has also been assisting with the course.

"The Sheriff volunteered the use of our training room and the firing range for us to have the classes out here," said Investigator Windham. "The Sheriff has been really supportive of it because of the fact that we've had so many recent incidents -- especially with the people on PCP (Phencyclidine)."

Although PCP is not a new substance to the Shelby County area, there have been many incidents that have been reported in the news relating to the intoxicant.

Officer Miller says the motivation for an individual to protect their family is a driving force for many people seeking to get a concealed handgun license. Although law enforcement officers are a phone call away, they aren't always able to get where they are needed as immediately as they would like.

"People have got to want to protect themselves and their family. When you need us in 10 seconds or less we're five minutes away. They kick in your door, you might have 9-1-1, but we've got to get there and we could be [on the other side of the] county," said Officer Miller.

Officer Miller described some of the reasons for having a concealed handgun license and how it is more limiting to not have a license, "They can carry the weapon with them in more places, because right now in Texas you can carry a loaded gun in your vehicle, you just can't take it out. So, out of sight out of mind, it's concealed in your [vehicle] you just can't take it anywhere," explained Officer Miller. "You get out at a gas station while you're traveling somewhere that's not a good neighborhood with a handgun license you can actually have it on you."

Concealed handgun licenses can serve as a second form of ID and can also expedite the purchase of a firearm as a carrier has already passed a background check. Officer Miller explained a concealed handgun class is not meant to teach someone how to shoot; however, those taking the class will be informed about their rights under the law.

It's preferred a participant in the class bring their own firearm, but if for some reason they are unable to attend the class with their firearm one may be made available for use, "If you just don't have a gun, you can borrow your buddy's if y'all came [so if you take the class together, you can share] only five of us can shoot at once," said Officer Miller.

For the written portion of the test, Officer Miller provides the application and two forms that are necessary for notarizing, which conveniently he is also a notary. Several other visual aids are also included in the class to help instruct the participants on some of the kinds of signs that they may see in the public relating to concealed carry. Some of these signs include what are referred to as the 30.06 sign and the 51% sign.

The attendance for the most recent class was at 27, which is the highest number yet. The classes are expected to have a cap of about 25 participants, so availability is limited. For information on this program, contact the Shelby County Sheriff's Department at 936-598-5601.

November 6, 2014 - In the summer of 1960 a tragedy occurred in Center changing the lives of a 15-year-old boy's family for over half a century. Fifty-four years later, James Thorn, who was 13 years old at the time, is on a mission in search of those responsible for the death of his brother, Charles Thorn, on August 9, 1960.

Shelby County Sheriff's Investigator Christopher King is now investigating the cold case and is helping Thorn in his search for what happened to his brother on that day. No investigative file exists as when law enforcement files get to a certain age they are destroyed. Investigator King has searched for any documentation explaining the circumstances that occurred; however, the only traces that remain are a newspaper article written on August 11, 1960, a death certificate and the funeral home hand-out.

Thorn accepts that files are destroyed once they reach a certain age, but that there is no written explanation anywhere leaves him extremely suspicious of the situation. "I suspect there was a cover-up, I suspect the law enforcement was either trying to protect somebody at that time, or my brother walked in on something he saw and potentially, whatever it was, he was stripped and murdered."

James Thorn decided that he would wait until his mother, Maxilene Thorn, had passed on before he would begin the inquiry into his brother's death as it was such a traumatic situation for his family. That is when he contacted the Sheriff's Department.

Thorn described the house where the incident occurred as a house that had a great deal of traffic, from children to adults, the house was playground to children and speakeasy at times to adults as well as rest area for transients. The house was located at the end of Pine Street at the intersection of Terry Street, was known as the Jack Brady home and at the time of the incident was owned by then Sheriff candidate Grady Jarratt.

"I was out on a birthday party, came home on August the 9th, approximately 4:15pm I would imagine, and that's a guess on my part. My mother told me to go get my brother, 'he's down at the old house playing with some friends,'" recalls Thorn. Although he does remember searching through the house for his brother and running home, part of what Thorn recalls at this time is a blur as he doesn't remember everything he saw when he arrived at the house that traumatic day. "I ran back to my house and my mother, I remember her standing sort of in front of the refrigerator, I remember her face, but I can't remember anything else. Dad comes walking down the hall and she told him to go find Charles down at the old house."

Thorn described his father, Travis Thorn, going to the house and locating Charles' body in front of the house, next to the porch, "Charles, according to all statements was found nude and a quote at that time 'his clothes were neatly folded beside his body.' Well it wasn't, because my father had brought them back with him. My mother was crying in his clothes, screaming and so-forth."

The second person to arrive at the scene was Ted Adams who worked with Mangum Funeral Home, and who also happened to be Thorn's first cousin. According to Thorn, Adams described his brother's body and the ligature that was around Charles' neck. This ligature has been described as having been cheese cloth torn from the walls of the house and rolled into an improvised rope. Thorn says that he has heard different accounts of his brother's death such as his brother hung himself, he was hung from a room in the house, he was hung from a tree, "he was in some bushes that has some limbs [about the size of a man's finger]," explained Thorn.

According to Thorn, Sheriff Charlie Christian arrived at his family's house a couple of days following his brother's death. Thorn listened through the wall as Sheriff Christian spoke to his parents and surmised what happened by indicating Charles Thorn hung himself accidentally, was nude and that his neck or back was broken, "Could his neck have been broken? I don't know, but I want to know how the Sheriff knew that."

Investigator King is convinced not everything adds up and is alarmed by indications that Thorn's death may have been more than an accident, "The one thing that really stands out to me is the disrobing. That is consistent with trying to humiliate someone, it's a very personal thing. If he had walked in on say bootleggers why would they go so far as to disrobe him? That's just really odd to me," said Investigator King. "The porch on the front of the residence, which is no longer standing, from what I understand it had a bannister and he was found midway along the porch on the ground, so that means he had to come over the bannister."

Thorn says that Adams related to him what was done when law enforcement arrived at the scene as he was there the entire time. He said they looked around the scene a little bit, no fingerprints were taken and no real investigating was performed. No medical examiner, doctor, or investigator was ever called to the scene. Beyond that, Adams stated to Thorn that no medical examination or doctor was ever at the funeral home either previous to Thorn's preparation for burial.

"Charles walked in on something, now what that was I don't know, but why was he nude? Was he sexually molested? Was he sexually molested and then strangled? Something happened that's out of the norm and it stinks," said Thorn as he continued to question why there was no medical examiner or doctor and why the police didn't do more than they did.

Thorn remarked that Sheriff Willis Blackwell and Investigator King have been "unbelievably cooperative" in helping him to learn the circumstances of the investigation of his brother's death.

A reward has been offered for any information leading to the identification and/or conviction of the parties responsible. Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator Christopher King at the Shelby County Sheriff's Office by calling 936-598-5600.

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued the following statement regarding the State’s oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of House Bill 2.

“Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 2 to protect women’s health and the unborn. The Bill’s requirements that abortion practitioners have hospital admitting privileges and that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers are not only constitutional but common sense. Courts shouldn’t take the Texas Legislature’s decision to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly elected representatives.”

Notice is hereby given that a Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Tenaha Independent School District will be held on Monday, January 12, 2015 beginning at 5:30 p. m. in the Boardroom of the Administration office located at 138 College Street, Tenaha, Texas 75974.

The Subjects to be discussed or considered, or upon which any formal action may be taken are as follows:
(Items do not have to be taken in the same order as shown on the meeting notice.)

1. Call to Order
2. Public Comment
3. Reports from the Administration

    (a.) Judy Monroe, 6-12 Principal
    (b.) Terry Ward, EE-5 Principal
    (c.) Scott Tyner, Superintendent

4. Consider for Approval Minutes of Previous Meeting(s)
5. Consider for Approval the 2014-2015 Migrant Education Program
6. Consider for Approval the Quarterly Investment Report
7. Public Reading of Board Member Training Hours
8. Call School Board of Trustee Election for May 09, 2015 to Fill 3 Regular 3 Year Term Positions

    (a.) Appoint Election Judge, Alternate Election Judge, Early Voting Clerk, and Alternate Early Voting Clerks
    (b.) Set Time and Location for the Election, including Dates and Location Times for Early Voting
    (c.) Set Date, Time, and Location of Day to Draw for Positions on the Ballot for the Election
    (d.) Set Date, Time, and Location to Canvass Results of the Election

9. Consider for Approval Policy Update 101 Affecting Policies:

    BE—Board meetings
    CH—Purchasing and acquisition
    DGBA—Employee complaints/grievances
    EB—School year
    EIAB—Makeup work
    FFG—Child abuse and neglect
    FMG—Student travel
    FNCC—Prohibited organization and hazing
    FNG—Student and parent complaints/grievances
    GF—Public complaints

10. District Employees and Officers

    (a.) Employment, Resignations, New Hire, and/or Discipline

11. Comments by Board Members
12. Adjournment

If, during the course of the meeting, discussion of any item on the agenda should be held in a closed meeting, the board will conduct a closed meeting in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Gov’t Code, Chapter 551, Subchapters D and E.

This notice posted at 10:30 a.m. January 09, 2015.

Notice is hereby given that a Regular meeting of the Governing Body of the Shelby County Commissioners’ Court will be held on the 12th day of January, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Shelby County Courthouse at 200 San Augustine Street, Center, Shelby County, Texas to deliberate and consider action on the following items:

1. Approve the minutes of the December 8th, 2014 Regular Meeting and the December 22nd, 2014 Special Meeting of the Shelby County Commissioners’ Court.

2. Approve Officers’ Reports.

3. County Treasurer to address the court to explain new reporting layout.

4. Approve and pay monthly expenses.

5. Public announcement regarding City of Center Electronics Recycling Day scheduled for Saturday, January 24th.

6. Approve Commissioner Rodgers to sell an FG85 maintainer to be sold “as-is”.

7. Discuss the oversight and staffing of the County’s Indigent Health Care Program.

8. Discuss and possibly take action on adjusting ambulance subsidy to come out of Indigent Health Care fund instead of Contingency fund and credit the Contingency fund back for one month payment.

9. Adjourn.

LUFKIN, Texas – Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) crews are getting ready for icy weather conditions forecast for the local area this weekend. Crews have already started pre-treating U.S. 59 and a few other locations in anticipation of the winter storm.

According to TxDOT, maintenance crews in the Lufkin District’s nine county area (Angelina, Houston, Nacogdoches, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby and Trinity counties) have outfitted dump trucks and pickup trucks with necessary equipment and materials for response to emergency situations as weather conditions change. Crews will continue to pre-treat some roadways Friday including Loop 287 in Lufkin and Loop 224 in Nacogdoches and will report to work when conditions warrant during the weekend. Efforts include inspecting highly exposed areas that are susceptible to wind and ice such as bridges, ramps and overpasses. De-icing materials and rock will be placed over those areas as needed to improve travel.

“Crews are prepared but if conditions get so bad that it makes driving hazardous the best and safest thing to do is to stay off the roads,” said Kathi White, TxDOT spokesperson. “If you absolutely must drive, slow down and use extra precautions especially on elevated surfaces.”

The number of Texas motor vehicle traffic crashes totaled 111,238 during the winter months (Dec. 2013, Jan. 2014, and Feb. 2014). These crashes resulted in 793 fatalities and almost 20,000 injuries (incapacitating and non-incapacitating). TxDOT offers these tips to help minimize potential hazards if you must drive:

    • Be extra cautious on bridges, overpasses, ramps, turns and shaded areas which tend to freeze first.
    • Reduce speed and allow extra time to reach destinations.
    • Increase the following distance between you and other vehicles.
    • Stay back at least 200 feet from vehicles treating roadways
    • If you start to slide, ease off the gas pedal or brakes and steer into the direction of skid.
    • Remain in your vehicle
    • Avoid unnecessary travel

Visit or call 1-800-452-9292 for statewide road conditions. Listen to local weather broadcasts too.

For more information, contact Kathi White at or (936) 633-4395. Find out more at “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, or

Information contained in this report represents reportable data collected from Texas Peace Officer's Crash Reports (CR-3) received and processed by the Department as of Dec. 8, 2014.

Drive Smart in Winter Weather

December 30, 2014 - According to a press release from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, the family of a wanted suspect was arrested for Hindering Apprehension after investigators discovered the wanted individual hiding in a large pile of laundry.

Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports on Monday, December 29, 2014 Shelby County Sheriff's Department Investigator D.J. Dickerson traveled to the residence of a Taunua Amburn located on County Road 4624 in Tenaha, Texas to execute a felony warrant service on a Dustin Bryan Estes, 27, of Tenaha.

Shelby County deputies had been to the aforementioned residence on a prior occasion in an attempt to serve said felony warrant. While at the residence, Investigator Dickerson was advised by occupants that Dustin Estes was not within the residence; however, Dustin Estes' mother Taunua Amburn gave consent to search the residence.

Investigator Dickerson asked occupants of the residence if Dustin Estes was within the residence and advised that Dustin had a warrant, to which due to the prior occasion of deputies attempting to serve the felony warrant, they were readily aware.

Investigator Dickerson also advised the occupants that if Dustin Estes was located within the residence they would be arrested and charged for Hindering Apprehension. Investigator Dickerson was told Dustin had not been there and had not been seen for about a month now and was supposedly staying in Louisiana.

During a search of the residence, Investigator Dickerson located Dustin Estes in a back bedroom hiding underneath a large pile of clothes. Dustin Estes was placed into custody for a warrant of Burglary of a Building, State Jail Felony and a Rusk County warrant for bond surrender.

The occupants of the residence were also placed into custody and charged for Hindering Apprehension/Prosecution, Felony 3. The occupants were identified as Taunua Renee Amburn, age 45; Linda Ann Parent, age 24; Taylor Kathleen Hodges, age 19; Austin Bryan Estes, age 24; and Dakota Lee Amburn, age 18, all of Tenaha.

Dustin Estes

Taunua Amburn

Linda Parent

Taylor Hodges

Austin Estes

Dakota Amburn

Emergency crews were dispatched to a two-vehicle crash involving a fatality at the intersection of Loop 500 and U.S. Highway 96 South in front of the new Nacogdoches Medical Center emergency room on Tuesday, December 30, 2014.
Patrick Beard, 59, of Sourlake was traveling northbound in a blue Toyota Highlander on U.S. 96 just before 5:15am when, according to eyewitness statements, he ran the red light and entered the intersection with Loop 500 and collided with the trailer of a 2000 Mack truck-tractor live haul chicken truck traveling eastbound and driven by Darious Hill, 39, of Nacogdoches.
The collision caused major damage to the front of the Highlander. The truck tractor received minor damage to the trailer and it came to a stop just past the crash scene.
Center Police officers and ACE EMS arrived at the scene and discovered Beard was dead at the wheel of the Highlander. Maxie Eaves, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, was called to the scene and he pronounced Beard deceased at the scene. The Center Fire Department used jaws of life to help extricate Beard from the vehicle.
Watson and Sons Funeral Home transported Beard from the scene. Center Police Officer Jake Gross investigated the crash assisted by Officer Jeremy Konderla, Sgt. Duane Gordon and Officer Bobby Walker.
The crash remains under investigation.