Now that we have welcomed 2014, the Courier takes a look back at last year’s stories, some sad, some hopeful. This is part two of a two-part series. The dates listed are the dates on which the Courier published these stories, not when the events occurred.
• Coach killed in apparent robbery — July 3
Ernie Walthour Sr., a youth-sports coach and mentor, was found dead outside a Midway mobile home, the apparent victim of an armed robbery. Walthour, 46, was well-known in Liberty County and beyond for his work with youth, athletics and for organizing the annual Summer Slam festival.
• Army facing biggest remake in 70 years — July 7
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team was slated as one of 12 brigade combat teams to be inactivated by 2017.
• Community activist Gary Dodd passes away — July 13
Hinesville entrepreneur and philanthropist Gary W. Dodd died July 13. In addition to owning and operating eateries in the area, Dodd, who had moved to the region more than 30 years before, was known for his community support and was named humanitarian of the year in 2011 by the Kirk Healing Center.
• Hinesville among major economic hub cities — July 17
The Georgia Municipal Association named Hinesville one of the 13 Georgia cities considered to be a major economic hub outside metropolitan Atlanta.
• Accused FEAR leader pleads guilty to murder — July 21
Accused anti-government militia leader Isaac Aguigui plead guilty in Long County Superior Court to hatching a plot that resulted in the December 2011 shooting deaths of Tiffany York, 17, and Michael Roark, 19.
• Community supports fallen soldier — Aug. 4
As a sign of solidarity, supporters from around the region lined the sides of Highway 84 in Hinesville when the remains of Sgt. Stefan Smith were returned home. Hundreds of people waved flags and stood solemnly as a hearse, flanked by the Patriot Guard, made its way to Carter’s Funeral Home.
Smith, 24, of Ludowici, was killed in action July 23, 3013, in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kan., church known for its extreme ideologies and staging protests at military funerals, had threatened to protest Smith’s funeral.
• Lumpkin pleads guilty to murder — Aug. 21
Kenneth William Lumpkin, 43, pleaded guilty to felony murder, kidnapping and the commission of bodily injury in the September 2010 strangulation death of Lori Arrowood. Atlantic Judicial Circuit Judge Paul Rose presided over the hearing at the Long County Courthouse. Three charges were dropped — one count each of malice murder, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another person. Lumpkin, a former corrections officer at the Liberty County Jail, was sentenced to two life imprisonments, which will run concurrently, without the possibility of parole.
• City wants to annex cantonment area on post — Sept. 6
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown asked commissioners to consider approving a request for a letter of support for the city of Hinesville in its effort to annex Fort Stewart’s cantonment area. The commission had voted to table the request for 30 days. Commissioners then approved the request during a meeting in late September.
• LRMC cuts ribbon on new ER — Sept. 15, 2013
Liberty Regional Medical Center cut the ribbon on an expanded emergency room. The $4.5 million emergency-department expansion was part of the hospital’s $8.6 million remodeling project. The new and improved emergency room is 14,000 square feet — three times the floor space of the old ER and double the emergency room’s former bed capacity.
• Nov. elections to include vote on alcohol — Sept. 29
The Hinesville City Council decided to place a referendum on the November ballot to allow voters to decide whether stores could sell wine and distilled spirits on Sundays between 12:30-11:30 p.m. Voters approved the referendum Nov. 5.
• Shutdown affects Liberty area — Oct. 2
Area residents waited in long lines of traffic outside of Fort Stewart following a partial government shutdown when lawmakers in Washington, D.C., failed to pass a temporary-funding bill. Thousands of federal workers across the country were sent home. Only those government workers whose duties were considered essential remained on the job. At Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Air Field, numerous services were canceled or modified. National parks and museums were closed, and agencies like the Environmental Protection Division and NASA were shut down.
• Shots end standoff; suspect only wounded — Oct. 9
What originally was a report of a suicide attempt turned into a potentially deadly standoff that endangered dozens of area officers and residents of a normally quiet neighborhood. In the end, Ryan Messer, 26, was wounded by a shotgun blast as he stood on top of his home in Flemington.
• Gov. Deal in Liberty — Oct. 25
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal spoke to area residents about job creation and growing the economy, educating the future workforce, benefits of the port-expansion project and criminal justice reform during a visit to Liberty County. Deal and his wife, Sandra Deal, joined local leaders and State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, and Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, on stage at Bradwell Institute’s Olvey Field. The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.
• SNF is business of the year — Oct. 30
Liberty County’s largest industrial manufacturer, SNF Inc., was named the 2013 International Business of the Year by the World Trade Center Savannah. SNF is a French-headquartered manufacturer of water-soluble polymers for municipal, industrial and wastewater-treatment facilities.
• Manic morning in Midway — Nov. 15
Midway Middle School was evacuated after a suspicious device in a vehicle caused a bomb scare.
Nearby Liberty Elementary School was locked down until a GBI explosives team deemed it was safe. The suspicious vehicle had been reported stolen out of Savannah and was parked at the woodline behind the school. Liberty County Sheriff’s Office officials said the scare had been an elaborate hoax.
At about the same time students were being evacuated, an attempted robbery was reported at Interstate Unlimited Credit Union, which is about three miles down Highway 84 from the schools.
• Community celebrates first Veterans Salute — Nov. 17
Liberty County’s first-ever Veterans Salute kicked off with the annual Veterans Day parade through downtown Hinesville. The parade was followed by the salute at Bryant Commons, which included entertainment, food, arts-and-crafts vendors and children’s games.
• Two schools earn ‘Reward’ status — Nov. 20
Button Gwinnett and Taylors Creek Elementary schools were named to Georgia’s Reward Schools list for 2013. Taylors Creek was one of 78 Georgia schools named a highest-performance school, and Button Gwinnett was among the 156 highest-progress schools across the state.
• County cuts ribbon on long-awaited complex — Nov. 24
Community leaders and east-end residents held a dedication ceremony for the newly renovated Liberty County Community Complex in Midway. The complex offers a community meeting room, an expanded branch of the Live Oak Public Library, a recreation programming room, a pool, an office for Keep Liberty Beautiful, a playground and administrative services to serve the county’s east end residents. The complex formerly housed the old Liberty County High School, which was attended by African-American students during the years of segregation.
• McMillan rolls with Ohio State — Dec. 18
Liberty County High School’s Raekwon McMillan, an Under Armour All-American and this year’s Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top high-school linebacker, verbally committed to play football for the Ohio State Buckeyes during a ceremony at the LCHS media center. The event was broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network and the Internet, and was attended by many media members, football players, coaches and McMillan’s family and supporters. McMillan had offers from more than 20 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision colleges. The young athlete’s top college choices had been Georgia, Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and Ohio State. Several weeks later, the community celebrated Raekwon McMillan day on Dec. 27, at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center. The event was organized by God’s Anointed Now Generation, or G.A.N.G., and the Liberty County School System helped promote the celebration.