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Part three of the year in review

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Newspapers 001By Emily Banks Wooten
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This is the third of a three-part series reviewing local news and events that occurred in Polk County from September through December.


September brought changes for Livingston ISD dual credit students. Dual credit courses offered by Livingston ISD were previously provided by Angelina College and Stephen F. Austin State University. Beginning in the fall of 2023, however, Stephen F. Austin State University continued, and Lamar State College-Orange, Lamar State College-Port Arthur and Lamar Institute of Technology also began providing the dual credit courses. Through the agreement with Lamar, there was no charge for any enrolled student who was socioeconomically disadvantaged, which was approximately 75% of the high school population. Further, LISD only paid $45 per credit hour for every non-socioeconomically disadvantaged student, a significant decrease from the $370 per course for dual credit courses that the district was previously paying Angelina College.

Goodrich Volunteer Firefighter Ryan Nelson sustained injuries while fighting a blaze west of Goodrich Sept. 10 and was airlifted out of town for medical treatment.

Participation was sought in a launch of surveys for a countywide strategic plan due to the overwhelming growth Polk County was experiencing and the need to plan for the future. Three distinct surveys were launched online Sept. 11 to gather insight from residents, local business owners and entrepreneurs, elected officials and government staff members as part of a collaborative effort aimed at developing a comprehensive countywide strategic plan. Once developed, the plan will serve as a roadmap to guide the collective vision and goals for Polk County. It will outline the aspirations, priorities and strategies to enhance various aspects of the community, including economic growth, public services, infrastructure development and more.

Lynnie Ray Chatman was sentenced to 32 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the Nov. 16, 2021, death of his father, Leonard Chatman. A member of the family gave a victim impact statement prior to Lynnie leaving the courtroom. Because of the nature of the charge, he will have to serve at least half of his sentence day for day before becoming eligible for parole.

On Sept. 18, John Orbon Speights, 78 of Goodrich, was sentenced to 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the Aug. 26, 2017 murder of his wife, Carolyn Carroll.

The Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers arrested a jailer at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 21. Charity Desirae Prince, 25, was charged with improper sexual activity with a person in custody, a second-degree felony. The investigation by the Texas Rangers was begun at the request of Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons.

Local law enforcement and first responders arrived at the Roy O. Martin Corrigan OSD wood processing plant Sept. 27 in response to a call that a contract worker had fallen from an overhead cat walkway and was not breathing. It was determined that no criminal acts or foul play had occurred to cause the fatality. OSHA was contacted and the investigation was turned over to their investigative division.

State Representative Trent Ashby addressed the Rotary Club of Livingston Sept. 28, providing a wrap-up of the 88th session of the Texas Legislature. The six-term representative from Lufkin told those in attendance that he considers it an honor to represent them in the Texas House. He expressed his pleasure at having Polk and Tyler counties added to his district after redistricting, commenting that “it just made sense to put an East Texas heavily-forested group of counties together.”


After 11 weeks, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved lifting the burn ban during an Oct. 6 special called meeting. The county had been under a burn ban since July 19 due to the lack of rainfall and exceedingly dry conditions.

A group of residents and business owners formed a coalition called “Citizens of Livingston for Fair and Equitable Rates” to gather signatures to petition the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a review of the City of Livingston’s electric rates. Obtaining the required number of signatures on the petition, the coalition filed its case with the PUCT on Oct. 10.

Dr. Tommy Johnson, president of Lamar State College Orange, and Dr. Wendy Elmore, provost and executive vice president of Lamar State College Orange, addressed the Livingston Lions Club Oct. 11 regarding the “great cornucopia of opportunities” that will be provided to students in Polk County in the spring when Lamar State College Orange, Lamar State College Port Arthur and Lamar Institute of Technology set up shop in the Polk County College Center formerly known as Angelina College Polk County Center.

Dr. Keith Brooks resigned as superintendent of the Corrigan-Camden ISD in October, a role he’d only held since April.

First Methodist Church of Livingston, the very first church in Livingston, celebrated its 175th anniversary on Oct. 22 with a blended service and luncheon afterward.

Despite some hardships, the Polk County Jail received confirmation from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in October that the most recent limited compliance review, conducted in September, demonstrated that the facility remained in compliance with Texas minimum jail standards, quite an accomplishment considering the jail was working short-handed at the time. Sheriff Byron Lyons and those that operate the jail, Captain Lawrence Dawson and Lieutenant Matthew Brown, were quick to attribute the successful compliance review to the jail staff and the tenacity with which they do their jobs.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas secured its 100th formal statement of support from a business, civic or governmental group on Oct. 24 when the Port Arthur City Council passed a resolution supporting the tribe. The first resolution of support was approved in March 2018 by the All-Pueblo Council of Governors. The tribe began gathering the statements to demonstrate support in Texas for its citizens and for the right to offer electronic bingo at Naskila Casino.


Residents of the Big Sandy Independent School District in Dallardsville passed a bond issue election with 171 votes “for” to 165 votes “against” during the Nov. 7 election for the issuance of $13,000,000 of bonds for the improvement of bus and car routes, the addition of sidewalks, awnings and parking and the addition of extracurricular facilities, specifically baseball and softball fields and a track. Statewide, voters had the opportunity to vote on 14 proposed amendments to the state constitution. Of the 42,669 registered voters in Polk County, only 4,944, or roughly 12%, voted in the constitutional amendment election.

An explosion attributed to a “forklift incident” at Sound Resource Solutions, an industrial chemical manufacturing plant located at 731 FM 1127 in Shepherd, wreaked havoc in East Texas Nov. 8. A major highway was closed, a school district was evacuated and multiple other school districts were placed in lockdown mode and shelter-in-place orders were issued by the respective offices of emergency management in San Jacinto, Polk and Tyler counties as numerous area fire departments and first responders fought the ensuing blaze for most of the day. Fortunately, only one employee was injured, having sustained “minor burns.”

A Nov. 9 head-on collision on Hwy. 146 tragically killed a young mother and three of her children and resulted in life-threatening injuries for a fourth child. Shemikia Brown, 34 of Livingston, was traveling south on Hwy. 146 shortly after 10 p.m. when she slid out of control on the wet pavement and crossed into the northbound lane, crashing into a 2023 GMC Sierra pickup truck driven by Joshua Gorman, 30 of Livingston. Brown and three children, a 13-year-old girl, an 11-year-old boy and a 2-year-old boy were all pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Terri L. Mayer. A 6-year-old girl sustained life-threatening injuries. Gorman was uninjured.

St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Livingston earned an “A” Hospital Safety Grade from The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit watchdog that sets standards for excellence in patient care. Leapfrog assigns an “A,” “B,” “C,” “D” or “F” grade to general hospitals across the country based on over 30 national performance measures reflecting errors, accidents, injuries and infections, as well as the systems hospitals have in place to prevent harm.

The commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, Dawn Buckingham, M.D., was the featured speaker for the November meeting of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and the highlight was Buckingham’s presentation of over $100 million dollars of funds to various cities and counties within the 11-county DETCOG region. Polk County was awarded $15,510,000 for water facilities, street and drainage systems improvements and $1,588,000 for road and water control systems improvements at three plants. The City of Livingston was awarded $2,541,000 for street improvements and the City of Onalaska was awarded $679,000 for street improvements. The City of Corrigan was awarded $561,000 for water storage rehabilitation.


A 15-year-old Livingston High School freshman was killed getting off the school bus, and a Texarkana truck driver was arrested and charged with criminal negligent homicide, a felony offense, following a crash that occurred on U.S. 59 just north of Livingston Dec. 7.

  Filing ended Dec. 11 for county, district and statewide offices for the 2024 Texas Primary Elections. Local races that will be on the March primary ballot include: sheriff, tax assessor-collector, Precinct 1 commissioner, Precinct 3 commissioner, all four constables and the 411th district judge.

Following a public hearing to receive public comment, the Livingston City Council on Dec. 12 approved a resolution moving the city’s general election from May to November.

U.S. Congressman Morgan Luttrell spoke to a crowd of Republicans Dec. 19 while making the rounds throughout U.S. Congressional District 8. He gave a brief overview of 2023 and fielded questions from the audience.




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