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Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke Clayton
April 16, 2024


Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke ClaytonThere was a time back when I was in my twenties and thirties that I thought I would be hanging…
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April 13, 2024

Close-to-home fun

Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
As an outdoors writer for the past 39 years, I’ve become accustomed to “gallavanting” around the country fishing, hunting and collecting material for my articles. Lately though, I’ve been sticking pretty close to home. Kenneth Shephard with a good “eater…

Part one of the year in review

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas introduced its newly inaugurated chiefs as 2023 kicked off in Polk County, beginning a new chapter in the tribe’s proud history. Mikko Choba (Principal Chief) Kanicu Donnis Battise and Mikko Istimatokla (Second Chief) Poliika Istaaya Millie Thompson Williams were elected by tribal members at the end of 2022 and were inaugurated into their new roles by the tribe during a private ceremony on New Year’s Day. It was especially historic in that Williams was the first woman to serve as a chief in the history of the tribe.

The new year also brought changes for the Corrigan-Camden Independent School District (ISD) when its superintendent, Richard Cooper, accepted the superintendent’s position at Wills Point ISD.

“This was an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” Cooper said, adding that the move would put him closer to family members, friends and his hometown. Before leaving, he told someone that Corrigan-Camden ISD is the job that has been most difficult to leave. “This is a great place right here. Somebody is going to be very fortunate to get to be the next superintendent here, because this is a great place.” 

  Gary Lee Brown, 56 of Livingston, died following injuries sustained in a train/pedestrian accident that occurred in downtown Livingston Jan. 12. The Livingston Police Department received a call at 4:04 p.m. Thursday that a train had struck a pedestrian at the Polk Street railroad crossing. Livingston police officers along with first responders from the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and EMS responded to the scene. Union Pacific Railroad Police also responded and the scene was cleared approximately two hours later.
Christopher Lima, a former detective with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County District Attorney’s Office and Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, was charged with theft on Jan. 11 following after leaving the Dollar General Market in Onalaska without paying for his merchandise.

Habitat for Humanity of Polk County broke ground on its 20th home Jan. 17 off of Old Woodville Road. The local affiliate started in 2003.

Hershel Mackey of Ace was feted with quite the celebration for his 100th birthday Jan. 18. Well-respected and loved by many, Mackey served many years as the chief of the South Polk County Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) and was also instrumental in the creation of the Ace Community Park. Numerous firefighters from the South Polk County VFD, North Liberty County VFD, Livingston VFD, Segno VFD and Holiday Lake Estates VFD celebrated with him, as well as folks with Texan EMS and Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

Two student-athletes from Stephen F. Austin State University died from a vehicle accident Jan. 20 in Corrigan. A 2007 Nissan Versa was traveling southbound on Highway 59 in Corrigan, when an 18-wheeler was exiting Plant Road onto the highway. The 18-wheeler made a left-hand turn traveling north bound onto the highway. According to Corrigan Police, the Nissan Versa struck the trailer of the 18-wheeler, causing the vehicle to become entrapped under the trailer. The driver of the Nissan Versa, Micah McAfoose, 18, died upon impact. The passenger, Graylan Spring, 19, was airlifted to HCA Houston Healthcare in Conroe, where he later succumbed to his injuries received in the accident. The driver of the 18-wheeler suffered no injuries.

Dr. Joseph Goin M.D. and Dr. Angela Goin PhD. were presented the Outstanding Polk County Citizens of the Year award at the 87th annual awards ceremony of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce Jan. 26. The Goins both own and operate local businesses and have made numerous contributions to the community over the two decades that they have lived here.

The Large Business of the Year award went to Timberwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, the only five-star facility in the Livingston/Polk County area as rated by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid. HomeGrown, a local boutique owned by Amy Hendrix and Tammi Ogletree, was the recipient of the Small Business of the Year award. Sarah Ege, an English teacher and the UIL Academics Coordinator at Livingston High School, was presented the Community Service award.

Chamber President/CEO Yvonne King presented the Chamber Directors of the Year award to Kim Jernigan and Joyce Knierim and the Chamber Ambassadors of the Year award to David Burns and Shirley Johnson. Outgoing Chamber Board Chairman Craig Jones recognized retiring directors Dan Ellis and Kim Jernigan before passing the gavel to Incoming Chamber Board Chairman Andrew Boyce.

            Livingston High School Senior Lilly Kate Haynes was crowned Miss Polk County during the 46th annual Miss Polk County Pageant Jan. 28. She is the daughter of David and Lisa Haynes. Big Sandy High School Freshman Paige Cox was crowned Junior Miss Polk County during the seventh annual Junior Miss Polk County pageant. She is the daughter of John and Autumn Cox. Thirteen high school juniors and seniors were vying for the title of Miss Polk County and nine high school freshmen and sophomores were vying for the title of Junior Miss Polk County.


The Polk County Economic Development Board introduced its first economic development president and executive director, John Tarver. Tarver retired from Entergy Texas where he was the Senior Manager for Business and Economic Development. During his expansive 42-year career, Tarver established and developed economic growth and planning programs within retail, commercial, wholesale and industrial businesses. He was instrumental in recruiting businesses to Entergy Texas service areas and was successful in helping a number of existing businesses with expansion efforts. Tarver is an accredited Certified Economic Developer and is active with the International Economic Development Council, Industrial Asset Management Council, and the Texas Economic Development Council. The Polk County Economic Development office is located within the Livingston Municipal Library at 707 N. Tyler Ave.

A large contingent from Polk County traveled to Austin to celebrate Alabama-Coushatta Day at the State Capitol Feb. 7. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas provided a barbecue lunch on the south lawn of the state capitol, in addition to the tribal dancers, artisans, cultural and history displays. Numerous citizens from Polk County attended the event to celebrate the tribe and its heritage.

Polk County Cares hosted its 10th annual crawfish and shrimp boil, raffle and auction Feb. 11, raising over $125,595 to benefit local charities. Polk County Cares is a 501(c)3 organization that puts community donations to work in the community. Its purpose is to raise funds to be distributed to qualifying non-profit organizations within Polk County. Proceeds from the event were divided three ways to benefit Center of Hope Cancer Support, F.A.I.T.H. Military Support Group and Polk County Cares.

Ja’Derrian James, Livingston High School student and member of the Livingston Royal Brigade, was selected as a member of the Association of Texas Small School Bands All-State Symphonic Band. He was chosen for the honor in competitive auditions held across the state at region and area levels. A percussionist at Livingston High School, he is the son of Dr. Derrick and Donna James.

Mallory Lester, a member of the Livingston High School Chorale, was selected as a member of the Texas All-State Small School Mixed Choir, also through a competitive process across the state at the district, region, and area levels. This was her second time performing as a member of the All-State Choir. She is the daughter of Brett and Joy Lester.

         With efforts underway for some time to improve broadband internet access throughout rural East Texas and the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) leading the charge with its broadband initiative, local citizens were encouraged to complete a quick internet survey from their home or business, regardless of their provider or level of service. Participation in the survey would allow Polk County, DETCOG and the State Broadband Office to make more educated decisions with regard to internet and broadband capabilities.

John Tucker Drake, 9, competed in the World Championship Barbecue Junior Cook-off Contest held Feb. 24 in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. While John Tucker’s father, Marty Drake, is the one that got him into cooking in the first place, he later learned that his maternal great grandfather competed in the cookoff 49 years ago. John Tucker was sponsored by the Polk County Go Texan Committee. He came in 12th of the 32 youth that competed. John Tucker is the son of Marty Drake and Rachel Slocomb Drake.


Livingston High School’s Halle Hawkins won Grand Champion for her market barrow at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. Her father, Livingston Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins, said it is the hardest barrow show in the world and is referred to as the Super Bowl of pig shows.

An employee of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was arrested by the Texas Rangers and booked into the Polk County Jail March 10. Jessica David, 38, was charged with theft by a public servant, a second-degree felony, for misappropriating inmate funds for personal use for approximately three years. The investigation began in February 2023 at the request of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

         A replacement Texas Historical Marker was unveiled and dedicated at the site of the old Andress Inn, the county’s first hotel on March 11. Located at what is now 101 W. Mill St. and the site of the Polk County Judicial Center, a marker was erected in 1967 and dedicated in 1968. However, when the demolition occurred prior to the construction of the judicial center, the marker was lost. Howard Davis, a descendant of James Andress, took it upon himself, with the assistance of the Polk County Historical Commission, to see that a replacement marker was erected at the site. A large group of people witnessed the dedication of the new marker during the ceremony.

“We owe Howard Davis an enormous thanks for his desire to have this marker replaced, after the original, dedicated in 1968, was lost during the demolition and construction of the beautiful new Polk County Judicial Center in 2011. Contrary to popular belief, the historical commission does not purchase these markers. They must be sponsored by an individual or group. Howard footed the bill for this marker. We would like to encourage folks with historic properties, cemeteries included, to apply for these markers which will provide education for many generations to come,” Gary Davis, a member of the Polk County Historical Commission, said.

A new report commissioned by the Texas Forest Country Partnership, revealed that the total economic benefit of Naskila Casino, the electronic bingo facility run by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas on its reservation east of Livingston, continues to grow, with the facility injecting $212 million into the Polk County economy in 2022. Naskila is responsible for 825 permanent local jobs with a collective payroll of $22.5 million, including 400 jobs at the casino.  According to the study, the economic impact and these jobs would simply not exist without Naskila. Because 95% of Naskila’s customers come from outside of Polk County, and more than 80% come from outside the region, Naskila is an economic engine that benefits every stakeholder in the region.

This was the third time that the Texas Forest Country Partnership commissioned a study of Naskila’s impact. The amount of economic activity that Naskila generates has grown from $140 million in 2018 and $170 million in 2020 to $212 million today. During that same period, the number of jobs supported by Naskila has increased from 550 to 700 to 825.

Beyond the benefits to those directly employed, revenues from Naskila provide funding on the reservation for scholarships, additional housing, as well as supporting a health clinic, day care center, and retail shops that serve the tribe and the surrounding community.

During its regular meeting March 28, Polk County Commissioners Court accepted a letter of resignation from Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones-Burks, effective May 31, due to her retirement.

Citizens of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas took an active role in this year’s session of the Texas Legislature to increase awareness of the tribe and the widespread economic benefit provided by Naskila Casino.

On March 22, Nita Battise, vice-chairperson of the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ Tribal Council, testified before the Texas House State Affairs Committee at the Texas Capitol in Austin. The committee was holding a hearing on House Joint Resolution 155 and House Bill 2843, both of which propose allowing destination casinos in Texas similar to those in Las Vegas.

Battise emphasized that any expansion of gaming in Texas should include the state’s three federally recognized tribes, all of which currently operate electronic bingo facilities on their reservations.


Polk County Publishing Company Inc.’s owner, Alvin Holley, sold the Houston County Courier, a newspaper in the PCPC group, to Kelly Nicol, owner and publisher of The Messenger, a competitor newspaper in Houston County. The merged newspapers became the Houston County Messenger. The final issue of the Courier came out April 13. The Courier served Houston County since 1890 and had several owners during that time. Holley owned the Courier for over 40 years, having purchased it from the Lamb family in 1980.

Livingston High School Senior Mallory Lester was accepted into Yale University. Lester received a message informing her of the good news on “Ivy Day,” which typically occurs in late March or early April. It is the day that all Ivy League schools release a list of those who have been accepted. This year, the Ivy League schools received a record number of applications.

“Roses and Butterflies,” an 86” by 86” applique quilt captured best of show and first place honors at the Livingston Piecemakers Quilt Guild 2023 Quilt Show April 21-22. The quilt was made by Bonnie Walker and quilted by Cathy Tullos. This was the local quilt guild’s first quilt show since 2019 due to the pandemic.

Following an executive session during its regular meeting April 25, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved the appointment of Steven Hullihen to serve as the county’s interim tax assessor-collector following the retirement of Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks effective May 31.

“With the appointment of Steve Hullihen as the interim, we can continue to maintain operations in that office, which will allow the voters to then decide who they would like to have represent them as tax assessor-collector,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

Over 100 people attended the 2nd annual Earth Day fundraiser on April 22 to benefit Polk County Recycling & Beautification (PCRB). Held at Tempe Creek Vineyard and Farms, $11,000 was raised to fund recycling and beautification efforts. PCRB is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with Polk County to provide a reliable recycling service for the residents of East Texas, sustained by grants, donations and the sale of recyclable materials.

Following a break due to the pandemic, the Dunbar Alumni Association of Livingston resumed its bi-annual reunion activities by honoring Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons and others at its scholarship/reunion banquet on April 22 in which over 200 people attended. In addition to honoring Lyons for his career in law enforcement and being elected as the county’s first Black sheriff, the alumni association also honored 11 other alumni. Educators recognized were Barbara Hayes Foreman, Dr. Demeka D. Simmons and Rebecca Johnson Banks Wright. Religious leaders honored were Pastor Clara Johnson and Pastor Scott Harrell. Entrepreneurs honored were Lady Annilia Wright-Mosley, Annie P. Cooper and Aretha Horton-Prater. Those from the medical field that were honored were Rosemary Yowman, Marva N. Eleby and Keneita Green.

Del Polikretis, executive director of the Texas Forest Trail Region Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by the state, presented a program on the economic impact of heritage tourism during the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly membership luncheon April 25.

The Texas Forest Trail Region is part of the Texas Heritage Trails Program, the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) award-winning heritage tourism initiative. This economic development initiative encourages communities, heritage regions and the state to partner and promote Texas’ historic and cultural resources. These local preservation efforts, combined with statewide marketing of heritage regions as tourism destinations, increase visitation to cultural and historic sites, thus bringing more dollars to Texas communities.

The Polk County Garden Club celebrated its 75th anniversary April 28 with a Downton Abbey-themed flower show that included a plant sale, refreshments and several raffles during festivities at Miss Effie’s Cottage.

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