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Steely Dan tribute act playing Woodville show

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Bad Sneakers, Houston’s own Steely Dan tribute act, will appear in Woodville at the Emporium Stage on Sunday, Sept. 12. (PHOTO COURTESY OF BAD SNEAKERS)Bad Sneakers, Houston’s own Steely Dan tribute act, will appear in Woodville at the Emporium Stage on Sunday, Sept. 12. (PHOTO COURTESY OF BAD SNEAKERS)

By Chris Edwards
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 WOODVILLE – As proprietor of the namesake Wild Bill’s Grill, Bill Spurlock is known for serving up tasty meals (with enormous portion sizes) around Woodville. There is, however, another side to Spurlock that is rooted in the intricate, yet smooth, jazz-rock sounds of a certain band that took its name from a William S. Burroughs novel.

As part of the band Bad Sneakers, Spurlock knows the music of Steely Dan like the back of his hand. Spurlock, who is an ace singer and guitarist, fronts the band, which is a tribute act named, naturally, after one of “The Dan’s” classic songs.

Bad Sneakers will play a show in Woodville on Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Emporium Stage, located at 216 W. Bluff. The show begins at 5 p.m.

Sam Haney, of the Emporium, said the show will be a surefire, can’t miss event. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic show, and it is going to surprise a ton of people,” 

Haney said.

Most casual listeners and classic rock radio fans know Steely Dan for hits like “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” but the band, which was centered around the duo of Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker, released several best-selling albums, which routinely pop up on “best of all-time”-type lists in music magazines.

Spurlock said that his interest in all things Steely Dan comes, originally, from his older brother Jim. Although he was too young to experience them in their own time, “I always had a great supply of music from the greatest music decade, via Jim,” he said.

When he was looking for good tunes to use for improvisation on his trumpet, he discovered Steely Dan. 

The genesis of the band came about 20 years ago, according to Spurlock. He had some buddies over for a Saturday jam session. “No agenda,” he said. “It took a bit for us to figure out that we all knew some SD tunes and the rest of the afternoon was spent kind surprised that we could pull off the Dan. The rest is history.”

The band features a 10-piece band that includes four horn players. The band is based in the Houston area and bills itself as “the only band of its kind” in the area in which it is based. 

Bad Sneakers plays such venues as Dosey Doe in the Woodlands; Main Street Crossing in Tomball and the Continental Club in downtown Houston.

For advance tickets to Sunday’s show (recommended), call the Emporium Stage at 409-283-3832. The pricing for tickets are: general seating, $15; reserved first row seating, $25 and reserved second row seating, $20.

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Arrest made in ATM theft

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Lamont GreenLamont GreenBy Chris Edwards
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SPURGER – A Houston man is currently incarcerated in the Tyler County Justice Center on multiple charges, including felony theft.

Lamont Green, 28, was one of several individuals on the scene of the Citizens State Bank in Spurger when deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office were patrolling and discovered the subjects running from the back of the bank. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, the incident occurred at 2 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 3, when the deputies on patrol observed two dark passenger cars following one another closely, pulling into several different parking lots and moving around town.

Weatherford said that a short time later, the deputies saw a third vehicle, which was followed by a white Ford pickup truck, make a quick turn into the bank’s parking lot, and the other vehicles they had observed pulled up and parked just south of the bank, while additional vehicles continued to drive past the bank slowly.

When the deputies arrived and the subjects ran, the ATM door had been ripped open. The deputies chased the subjects and captured Green. 

Weatherford said that the deputies were able to recover the ATM’s money boxes, with the money still inside, from a nearby wooded area. The white Ford F-250 was discovered as stolen from a Jasper County residence, while a black car on the scene was a rental out of Houston.

“Several Southeast Texas law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Rangers and the Tyler County District Attorney’s Office are assisting in the investigation of the case,” Weatherford said. 

Green remains in custody on charges of felony theft; engaging in organized criminal activity, and active warrants for his arrest out of Harris County.  His bonds have been set, combined, at $130K with the theft charge, itself, set at $100K.

Weatherford said that with the evidence collected at the scene, as well as additional information that investigators were provided, more charges and arrests are expected.

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Clean, drain, dry: How to protect your favorite East Texas bodies of water

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Sam Rayburn waterways suffering from Giant Salvinia.Sam Rayburn waterways suffering from Giant Salvinia.

By Adam Conway

Lake Sam Rayburn is suffering from an invasive species of plant known as Giant Salvinia. This plant not only disrupts swimming and fishing but is also an obstacle for local fish and birds trying to use the lake’s native plants for food and shelter. According to Cody Turner, Environmental Specialist from the US Army Corps of Engineers, treatments such as biocontrol weevils and aquatic herbicides are used to try to eliminate the plant.

Biocontrol weevils are released into areas where Giant Salvinia is present. These insects eat away portions of the plant. Turner explained that they also lay their eggs in the same area, and their offspring eventually eat the plant as well. By spraying aquatic herbicides and releasing biocontrol weevils, the US Army Corps of Engineers helps mitigate the spread of Giant Salvinia.

To assist the US Army Corps of Engineers, Turner stated that visitors of Lake Sam Rayburn should use a simple three step process: clean, drain and dry. Fishermen and other boaters should make sure to clean the parts of their boats that touched the water, drain the water that may be held inside the boat, and let the boat dry before entering the water again. This process removes Giant Salvinia from the boat, which helps prevent the spread back to Lake Sam Rayburn and other local bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry should be utilized after boating in any body of water to ensure potentially dangerous plant species do not spread to other lakes and rivers in the area.

Lake Sam Rayburn has been a popular destination for boaters and fishermen from around the country since its creation in the 1960’s. Help protect this local treasure and other local bodies of water by using the guidance from Environmental Specialists with the US Army Corps of Engineers. 

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Legal legend Umphrey dies

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Walter UmphreyWalter UmphreyBy Chris Edwards
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BEAUMONT – Walter Umphrey, an attorney of international renown and philanthropist, died on Tuesday at the age of 85.

Sources indicate that Umphrey died in Beaumont. He owned Timberline Ranch in the southern end of Tyler County, and donated his time and money to numerous causes and public works in the region.

In a statement from his widow, Sheila, Umphrey was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. “He was my best friend and the love of my life for 63 years,” she wrote.

“I’m broken-hearted, but it’s for the best,” she added, before explaining his diagnosis. 

Umphrey was the founding partner of the Beaumont-based Provost-Umphrey Law Firm, and he was named “Lawyer of the Year” in 2012 in personal injury litigation.

Terry Allen, the county’s chief juvenile probation officer, wrote on Facebook that she and her husband, Kenneth, moved to Tyler County in 1989 so that he could work for Umphrey on Timberline Ranch. 

“We have lived at Timberline Ranch for 30 of those years. It has been a wonderful place to raise a family,” she wrote. “Mr. Umphrey was a defender of the ‘common man,’ and he will be missed.”

A section on the Provost-Umphrey website devoted to him stated that if a chronicle of his achivements were printed, they “could fill a hefty tome to rival the loftiest Larry McMurtry novel.”

Umphrey, a Port Arthur native, attended college at SMU on a football scholarship prior to receiving his BBA at Baylor in 1959. He later enrolled in Baylor Law School, where he graduated with his JD in 1965.

Throughout his 50-plus year career, he worked in a variety of capacities in law, from prosecutorial duties with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office to Chief Felony Prosecutor, before he founded his namesake law firm in 1969.

Umphrey came to national prominence when he pioneered asbestos litigation. He was, as the Provost-Umphrey website states, lead counsel of a five-man “dream team” of attorneys who represented the State of Texas in its historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which led to a $15.3 billion award to the state, plus an additional $3.3 billion the tobacco industry agreed to pay Umphrey and the other attorneys for their fees.

He received numerous accolades and titles throughout his life and career, including “Legal Legend” from Texas Lawyer magazine.

Throughout Southeast Teas, Umphrey was equally as well-known for his philanthropy. The Umphrey Pavillion at Sam Rayburn was funded, in part, from a donation made by Umphrey. 

In 2005, the Umphreys donated $5 million to build the Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center, which opened two years later, at Lamar University. He also provided financial assistance to LU when it revived its football program. When the stadium was renovated, it was renamed the Provost-Umphrey Stadium.

Umphrey also donated $1 million to the Humane Society of Southeast Texas to build a new facility.

In his own remarks on the Provost-Umphrey website, Umphrey wrote that in his life, what he enjoyed the most was building the law firm and helping people. 

“We don’t represent the big corporations. We help individual people. That’s what I’m most proud of,” he wrote.

Walter Umphrey

Image courtesy of Provost-Umphrey 

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WISD board discusses new year, proposed budget

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Representatives from Tyler County Farm Bureau were on hand at Monday night’s meeting to present Woodville ISD with a $500 donation to go to school supplies. (CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB)Representatives from Tyler County Farm Bureau were on hand at Monday night’s meeting to present Woodville ISD with a $500 donation to go to school supplies. (CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB)

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – The start of a fresh school year and planning the upcoming budget were among the topics discussed at the regular monthly meeting of the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees on Monday night.

Before giving her monthly report, district superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke about the WISD Strong Start program, an initiative the district adopted, Meysembourg said, out of necessity to apply for ESSR funding.

The Strong Start program rolls out a series of guidelines and recommendations set in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders and guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA.) Meysembourg said the guidelines set forth in WISD’s plan cover COVID prevention, mitigation and sanitation techniques. Currently, the state is under an executive order from Abbott prohibiting entities from enacting a mask mandate. Meysembourg said if individuals on WISD’s campuses want to wear masks or facial coverings, it will be encouraged. The jist, she said, was for those within the district (students, faculty, staff and administrators) to monitor their health, and to not come to school if they are sick. 

Another part of Monday’s meeting that addressed a change in educational structure dealt with the recently passed House Bill 4545. The bill requires Texas school districts to supply a minimum of 30 hours of accelerated instruction to students who did not pass the STAAR testing.

Curriculum Director Ashley Weatherford spoke on the topic, and how WISD is complying with the new law. Weatherford said WISD’s campuses have set up intensive remediation classes during the regular school hours, and are calling the classes “Eagle SOAR,” with the latter word an acronym meaning “Student Opportunity for Academic Readiness.”

Meysembourg reported that for the first two days of school, which began last week, the enrollment figures stand at 1,204 pupils, which is 130 more than last year’s starting numbers. She said the figure represents fewer students than the district counted at the end of the last school year, but she hopes the number will increase with students returning in the coming weeks.

WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott echoed that optimism about returning students during his report. He presented the preliminary budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. “I firmly believe the students will come back,” Jarrott said. 

Based on attendance, Jarrott said the projected revenue for the next fiscal year is $13,748,000, from the state, as well as local M&O revenue. 

The proposed tax rate for WISD is $0.891 per $100 of valuation for WISD taxpayers, a decrease from the previous rate of $0.91664. Tax values are up by 12%, countywide, Jarrott said.

In other business, the WISD board also approved the following items during Monday night’s meeting:

  • The Student Code of Conduct was approved for the 2021-22 school year. The document reflects changes due to updates made during the legislative session, Meysembourg said.
  • An action to approve 10 days for employee leave, due to COVID diagnoses, was approved. The measure adds two days to the eight allowed by the state and existing local policy.
  • The price for adult lunches at WISD was raised to $4.25, an increase from the $4 price. This measure, Meysembourg said, is based on federal policy and reimbursements.
  • The purchase of a new bus, from Longhorn Bus Sales, to add to the district’s trip fleet for extracurricular travels, was approved. The bus is priced at $105,993.
  • Representatives from Tyler County’s Farm Bureau were on hand to present a $500 check to WISD to be used for supplies.
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