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Part two of the year in review - May-August, 2023

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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The second third of 2023 proved to be just as eventful in Polk County as the first. Following is a recap of local news and events that occurred in May through August:


Brad Butler accomplished a goal he set out for 13 years ago – completing half marathons in all 50 states. The hobby has allowed him to see many places he has wanted to visit. Hawaii will always be memorable because it was Butler’s last to complete the 50-state journey and was done the same year that Butler turned 50.

Camille Summer Johnson, a member of the deer clan of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, was crowned second runner-up and won best public speaker in the 2023 Miss Indian World Pageant, held in conjunction with the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, N.M. The Miss Indian World Pageant is the largest and most prestigious cultural pageant for young native women who compete in various categories including public speaking, personal interview, talent and dancing. Miss Indian World serves as a cultural goodwill ambassador to all those across Indian Country. Camille is the daughter of Retha Johnson and the granddaughter of the late Principal Chief Mikko Skalaaba Herbert Johnson and the late Deloris Sylestine Johnson.

Indian tacos, Philly cheesesteak eggrolls and brisket mac and cheese were just a few of the offerings at the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Bitez Expo at the Polk County Commerce Center May 2. Thirty-two local businesses manned vendor booths in which they distributed bite-sized snacks, information and merch to the crowd.

If you happened to be traveling in the Boldspring area May 5-7, then you probably saw the Union Jacks festooning the beautiful Bar None Ranch owned by Patricia Cartwright Pruitt and her daughters, Karen and Sharon Pruitt. The local family with British ties pulled out all the stops to commemorate the historic coronation of King Charles III. Patricia’s mother, Harriet R. Cartwright, was named a Member of the British Empire for her philanthropy on June 12, 1965, the same day as the Beatles. A proclamation signed by both Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Phillip hangs in a place of honor in the Pruitt home, next to Cartwright’s glass-encased medal that is inscribed “For God and The Empire.”

There were several key takeaways from the May 6 General Elections. The cities of Livingston and Onalaska both had long-serving councilmen ousted, Corrigan-Camden ISD’s board of trustees experienced a fruit basket turnover with none of the incumbents being reelected and Chester ISD passed a bond election, albeit narrowly.

Over $1 million in scholarships was awarded to the Livingston High School Class of 2023 during the 34th annual Livingston ISD Honors Night May 9. Richard L. Gilbert, a 1965 graduate, Dr. Erich Morris, a 1995 graduate, and Stacy V. Smith, MD, a 2002 graduate, were all recognized as Outstanding Graduates. A highlight of the evening was the presentation of a $230,000 Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship to Kaleb Hebert by SSG Trevor Yaste.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas made important gains during this year’s session of the Texas Legislature, with more than two-thirds of the members of the Texas House of Representatives voting to express support for the tribe. The tribe was also encouraged by developments at the federal level. Earlier this year, Congressman Morgan Luttrell introduced the Tribal Gaming Regulatory Compliance Act, which seeks to ensure that all federally recognized tribes that are eligible for gaming in the United States are regulated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn have opposed efforts to put Texas under the IGRA framework. Still, the tribe enjoys strong support from fellow Texans. More than 85 civic, business and political organizations have approved resolutions stating support for the type of legislation that Luttrell introduced.

May 22 was Jury Appreciation Day in Polk County and breakfast was provided for everyone that arrived for jury duty that day. Polk County Clerk Schelana Hock and Polk County District Clerk Bobbye Christopher presented insulated lunch bags to everyone, and local attorneys contributed funds for the clerks to purchase numerous gift cards which were given away as door prizes to show appreciation to the potential jurors.

A traffic stop at the end of May resulted in the discovery of five large, clear plastic bags of white pills, identified by law enforcement to be made of fentanyl. Two people were arrested and charged with manufacturing and/or delivery of a controlled substance, a first-degree felony. Each of the five bags contained over 100 fentanyl pills.


Leonard Woolsey, outgoing president of the Texas Press Association, presented a Golden 50 Award to Donnis Baggett in recognition of 50 years of service to journalism during the 143rd annual Texas Press Association Convention and Trade Show held June 1-3 at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Round Rock. Baggett was born and reared in Livingston and is a graduate of Livingston High School. Baggett is a recipient of the Mayborn Award and is a member of the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas hosted its 53rd annual Powwow June 2-3 at the Alabama-Coushatta Veteran’s Pavilion 16 miles east of Livingston on U.S. Hwy 190 East, welcoming around 5,000 guests each day.

Local American Legion Post No. 312 conducted a flag disposal ceremony for unserviceable flags on June 14 which was also Flag Day. According to Post Commander Jeanette Jackson, the Flag Code suggests that when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be retired and destroyed, preferably by burning. American Legion members disassembled a ceremonial flag starting with the blue field and then stripe by stripe and following a brief ceremony burned it, along with other unserviceable flags that had been dropped off at the post for proper disposal.

A milestone for the Rotary Club of Livingston and the children of Polk County was reached June 22 when Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and R.E.A.D. (Reading Encourages Advanced Development) presented the 100,000th book to a child in Polk County during the regular meeting of the Rotary Club. The local program started in 2012 with 4 children in Polk County and there are now 1300 students in Polk County receiving books each month. Children are eligible for the program from birth to five years old.

Colleagues, friends and loved ones gathered to express their gratitude and admiration for Dewayne Coburn and his contributions at a reception celebrating his retirement from the Trinity River Authority of Texas following 45 years of service.


The 62nd annual Polk County Youth Rodeo was held July 5-8 with nightly events include chute dogging, breakaway roping, mugging ribbon roping, tiedown roping, cloverleaf, straightaway barrels, pole bending, goat tying, goat ribbon pulling, team roping and mutton bustin’.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office busted an illegal cockfighting ring that was discovered in Leggett on July 9. Detectives seized 31 roosters. Of the 31 seized, two were found dead, along with another three roosters found buried in the ground that appeared to be from prior fights. Twelve subjects were arrested and charged with cockfighting and 14 vehicles were towed from the property.

Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy on July 19 issued a local declaration of

disaster that included an order prohibiting outdoor burning for the unincorporated areas of the county due to the dry weather conditions and the threat of wildfire. The purpose of the order was the mitigation of the hazard posed by wildfires by curtailing the practice of outdoor burning.

Daniel Adams, 45 of Goodrich, was found guilty on July 28 of multiple federal charges in

connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Adams was arrested a few weeks after the riot and was identified through photos and videos posted to Facebook. The federal court verdict found Adams guilty on charges of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, assaulting/resisting/impeding officers, entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.


The City of Livingston changed its solid waste provider to Piney Woods Sanitation effective Aug. 1 and went to a once-a-week pickup schedule, having previously been with Republic Services for many years.

More than a dozen volunteer fire departments responded to a fire at USA Recycling in Goodrich on the morning of Aug. 4, battling the fire for numerous hours well into the afternoon.

St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Livingston earned a 5-star Quality Rating from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The 5-star is a symbol of quality that reflects the hospital’s commitment to providing safe and quality patient care. The certification is based on safety of care, mortality, patient experience, readmission rates and timely and effective care. St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Livingston is one in only 483 hospitals across the nation and one in just 35 in the state of Texas to receive this rating by CMS. With this recognition St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Livingston is in the top 8% of hospitals in the nation.

During its regular meeting Aug. 22, the Polk County Commissioners Court presented a proclamation to local architect, historian and veteran J.D. Coogler Jr. in recognition of his 100th birthday on Aug. 29.

Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) provided a “State of the State” address to the Rotary Club of Livingston. First elected to the Texas Senate in 2006, Nichols represents 18 counties in East Texas. He said representing East Texans in the Texas Senate has been one of the greatest honors of his life.

Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the Indian Gaming Association, visited the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to express support for the tribe and applaud the success of Naskila Casino. Stevens visited with members of the tribal council and the tribal gaming agency. He also presented Tribal Council Chairman Ricky Sylestine with the 2023 Chairman’s Leadership Award for Rebuilding Communities Through Indian Self-Reliance.

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Second Chief, Mikko Poliika Istaaya, Millie Ann Thompson Williams, 67, died Aug. 25 in a Lufkin hospital. Williams made history as the first woman to ever be elected to a tribal chief position for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. A lifelong resident of the Alabama-Coushatta tribal community and a proud member of the Bear Clan, Williams was inaugurated as the second chief of the tribe on Jan. 1, 2023. She was married to the late Kenneth “Woody” Williams for 47 years. She worked most of her life as a teacher with the Alabama-Coushatta Head Start Program and eventually became the program’s health and mental health manager.

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