Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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44 years at Bascom: Hon. George L. Hall to be recognized

Since becoming incorporated in 1961, Mayor George L. Hall said Thursday, the Town of Bascom has never needed to hold an election for council member; candidates qualify but they always go in unopposed. And Hall should know; he was town clerk for 40 years (1972-2012). In 2012, he was elected—or chosen rather—mayor of Bascom after John Russell quit (and has since passed).

The public is invited to a special recognition at the town hall tonight, Thursday July 14, from 6-7:30 p.m. Mayor Hall will be celebrated for his 44 “years of service to the Town of Bascom, as clerk and mayor,” the new town clerk said Wednesday morning. Town hall is in downtown Bascom, a municipality of 120 persons that, like the saying goes, you might miss riding through it if you close your eyes. That’s 4969 Basswood Road.  It’s right before the turnoff on Hummingbird Road to Neal’s Landing, the Civil War-era loading area for paddleboats carrying cotton up and down the Chattahoochee River. (Bascom has not changed a great deal since those days.)At that intersection, you will see Bascom’s only general store—Bryan’s Store (now owned by James Miller of Malone). After the county commission voted last year to open up the unincorporated areas to beer and wine package sales on Sunday, the town council felt it wouldn’t be fair to penalize Bryan’s for being inside the city limits—so they voted to allow Sunday sales in Bascom as well, George said.

Hall actually is from Malone, the nearby city of 2,153 residents (that’s including the inmates at the state prison).  George Lathrom Hall, 78, moved to Bascom in 1966, after marrying Jamey Westbrook’s sister Ann in April 1962.  “Jamey was in the last class, in grade 8, of the 1-8 grade school,” Hall said.  The Bascom School closed in 1963; it’s most famous student was actress Faye Dunaway. (Sadly, George says, someone took the last school photo of Faye in the Peanut yearbook.  It was on display at a table in town hall but somebody “needed it worse than we did,” he explained. “I never knew there was a school in Bascom until we started seeing all the new faces at Malone High,” Hall remembers.  George was born in 1938 to salesman George C. Hall and Martha, who worked at the Malone Post Office for 18 years.  He graduated from the school at Malone in 1956. During the same year the city fathers incorporated the Town of Bascom with a special act of the state Legislature, 1961, George was drafted into the US Army, serving two years active duty and six years in the Reserves.      

Soon after high school, George got a job with the state HHS, then called HRS.  He worked as an adult supervisor and investigator dealing mostly with nursing and group homes. He retired in 2003 after 39 and one-half years with the state of Florida.  In 1972, Harold Bevis departed as town clerk and dependable George was appointed by the council to the strictly part-time job. He’d probably still be clerk but a mayor was needed, so he was chosen for that in 2012.  This year’s “election” is on July 19, next Tuesday. Per the celebration today, George is stepping down from the council.  Lori Anderson qualified earlier this month to replace him, and of course she drew no opposition.  The city clerk who replaced George four years ago is still Crystal Bryan, she explained Wednesday morning.  

Mayor Hall mentioned a few of the accomplishments of the Town as he showed the TIMES the “new” city hall, the ball park, the playground and of course the old school building, now the subject of a community-funded and grant-secured renovation effort. The current Bascom Town Council consists of members Bobby Rogers, Bill James, Ann Bryan and the mayor. (George’s wife Ann was the first woman on the council, he said, and served for 14 years.) The new clerk is Crystal Bryan. Here are some of the notable projects that took place during Hall’s time with Bascom:    

$165,000 grant for Bascom Town Park.

The spacious new city hall was built in 2000.  Until then, the town used the old school house.  “It was getting decrepit,” George explained.  “The reason the new city hall is so large (outside measurements are 30 feet by 50 feet) is that it sits on what used to be a tennis court.  We paid for this outright, no grants.  We sucked up and paid for it with the money we had squirreled away for years.”  

No public water or sewer system in Bascom and no plans for one.  But they really want to fix up the old school.  The Town has applied for three grants for that purpose, Hall said.  The community raised a few thousand dollars recently with the Spring Festival.

McKee Engineering closes after 53 years

Joe and Joyce Toman are closing McKee Engineering at Marianna’s Industrial Park and moving to Tallahassee.  All seven employees have found new jobs elsewhere, Joe said in a Tuesday afternoon interview at the shop, but the closing is necessary due to lack of business. That’s because of the economic situation in the US and the exodus of manufacturing jobs to overseas locations, he explained.

“We lost our anchor companies,” Toman said, “and there is not enough to maintain business.  The horizon is not good.”  A tool and die manufacturer that employs both machinists and engineers, McKee Engineering is noted for manufacturing machine parts that enable producers to make products, such as the big contract they had with the Mars Company, maker of the “Combos” snack. The pretzel/cheese Combos snack is made from McKee parts. Joyce just happened to have a bag during part of their Tuesday interview in their Walnut Lane home.   

McKee’s reliable “anchor” company Honeywell International Inc., the worldwide firm that had a location in nearby Lynn Haven, recently moved its plants to Brazil, Toman explained.  The Federal-Mogul Corporation of South Carolina closed two years ago and moved its plants to Mexico. “The declining economy and the world trade policies have sent most manufacturing abroad,” he said.  “McKee could no longer depend on significant stateside business.”

The situation was quite different in 1963.  Manufacturers were looking for plant sites in the South to get away from the unions up north.  The oft told story of McKee Engineering goes like this:  Murray McKee, a pilot as well as an engineer in Indiana, had stopped over at the Marianna Airport in 1963.  He was in the South looking for a good second location but the weather was so bad, he was stuck in Marianna for three days—“weathered in,” as the Tomans tell it.  While Murray was here, he thought he’d check in with the chamber of commerce in town and the rest is history. He ended up leasing two buildings at the Industrial Park adjacent to the airport.  Joe was married to Murray’s daughter Joyce and living in Ohio.  They were reluctant to leave the North, Joyce explained Tuesday, but Joe jumped at the chance to “become part of a smaller company that he might someday own,” Joe added. He became the owner of the Marianna plant when Murray McKee retired. 

McKee Engineering’s second location was successful.  Their contractors over the years included Lehigh Furniture and UniMac. Before 9-11-01, the firm employed 22 persons.  But after 9-11, companies stopped using tool and die operations with the previous level of frequency. The economy contracted after the terrorist attack and the industry never recovered, Joe explained. In 2013, the total number of employees at McKee-Marianna was down to eight.   

Joe, now 78, will soon leave town with Joyce to live in Tallahassee near their son John and the two girls, the grandchildren.  One of them, Lucy Toman, is an engineering student at the University of Florida—“the third generation engineer in the family,” Joyce said.  Joe and Joyce, who have attended the First United Methodist Church in Marianna for all of their 53 years here, will soon take up residence at the Westminster Oaks Retirement Community. They have been married 55 years. “We will miss all our significant connections to Marianna,” Joe said.  

A key employee at McKee Engineering, Paul Michels, is married to the Tomans’ daughter Jane. He’s been with the company for the past 16 years.  Michels has accepted a position with Williams International in Ogden, Utah, so they will be moving the two boy grandchildren with them.  

“Marianna is a great place,” Joe said, “a wonderful place to raise a family.  We have a lot of close friends here.  It’s unfortunate that manufacturing has suffered so much. The situation in Marianna might have become a lot different if not for that.”  McKee Engineering was 71 years old when it closed on June 30, Toman said.  The Marianna plant, in operation since 1963, is still working on its last two contracts but when that ends soon, the city-owned 16,000 square foot building at the Airport/Industrial Park, originally a fire station, will be available for lease.  McKee Engineering added several thousand feet in the 1980s, Joe said.

A “proud” member of “The Greatest Generation” Kenny Dunaway served in the USAF during Korea

The Korean War was raging when Robert Kennedy Dunaway of Greenwood enlisted in the US Air Force at the age of 20.  He’d never been away from home and never known any jobs except the one he had at the “Greenwood Mercantile” grocery store. He worked there after graduating from Greenwood High School in 1949. Of course, there were also the jobs that went along with growing up on the family farm with his three brothers, one sister and parents Omie C. and Sarah Edell (Dickson) Dunaway. Kenny was a good student, but he would have to wait until after his service before he could go to college with the help of the GI Bill. 

So Kenny and two of his close friends, Billy Spencer and Jimmy Pender, decided to join the Air Force. “On the cold morning of Feb. 1, 1951,” Dunaway explained at the TIMES offices last Thursday, “the three of us went to Panama City and were sworn in at the Air Force Recruiting Station. Although I was somewhat apprehensive, I felt that I had an obligation to fulfill. My two older brothers had served in World War II.  O. C. Dunaway Jr. served with the 81st Wildcat Division in the Army infantry, seeing action in Okinawa and the Philippines and earning the Purple Heart in the process. James Bryant was in the Army and at Hickam Field when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”

And Kenny didn’t know it yet, but he had a Patriot ancestor in the Revolutionary War, William Dunaway (1751-1830). His cousin Fletcher Dunaway discovered that fact a few years ago and formed the William Dunaway Chapter/ Marianna--Sons of the American Revolution, (SAR) in 2008.  Kenny’s other brother Harry “Hap” Dunaway, who was profiled in the TIMES last year, served in the Army from 1947 to 1949.

Kenny’s good grades on his enlistment aptitude tests got him a job as a clerk typist and ended up keeping him out of warfare.  After basic training, he was privileged to attend “tech school” at the University of Connecticut due to the huge influx of volunteers for the war effort. The tech schools at the USAF bases were jammed. Following his instruction, Dunaway was sent on a 14-day troop ship journey to Japan, landing at Yokohama. His service consisted of providing support for the Air Force bombers and other planes sent to the war from the big US base in Japan--located about 30 miles from Tokyo--Johnson Air Force Base.  Dunaway was assigned to the 528th Aircraft Control and Warning Group (ACWG) under the 41st Air Division.  “All this was under what was then called the Far East Air force,” he explained.  “It’s now called the Pacific Air Command.”

Dunaway had a security clearance to handle secret messages, special orders and memos that were distributed throughout the chain of command.  “We had radar sites all over Japan,” he explained, “monitoring the skies over the region that included all of Korea.  Some of the planes we had at the base included the F-86 Saber jets, the F-94 Starfire and the B-29s.  Johnson was the largest Air Force Base in Japan and flew missions on a daily basis.”

Dunaway and the troops were instructed to treat the people of Japan with extra courtesy.  “We were advised that we were in their country,” he said. “We were to respect them and their culture.  The Japanese people had high respect for us.”  Hiroshima and Nagasaki had come just six years earlier, but Japan’s positive attitude was to respond with democratically building one of the largest economies in the post-World War II world.  “It was highly-populated and everybody went by train,” Dunaway explained. “And if you go by train, you better be on time because they sure were—every day.” 

Kenny enjoyed Japan’s hospitality so much, he climbed Mt. Fuji—twice.  “I spent three Christmases in Japan,” he explained, “in my two and one-half year tour of duty.  I saw the ‘Rising Sun’ from the top of Mt. Fuji, climbing the volcano twice when I was there. That was very humbling and inspiring to look down and see the sunrise coming up below the clouds.  That’s why I climbed it a second time.”

Dunaway was in Japan when the treaty was signed in 1953, ending the war but sadly, not doing away with North Korea.  However, America won the war; South Korea (and Japan) remain free and out of the hands of North Korea to this day. North Korea remains a threat to peace everywhere.

Kenny Dunaway served the rest of his four-year Air Force term back in the states at Donaldson Air Force Base in beautiful Greenville, S.C.  Known as “the Airlift Capital of the World,” Donaldson handled all the famous cargo planes, and Kenny still remembers their names:  “the C119 Flying Boxcar, the C124 Globemaster and the C130 Hercules, among others.”

Kenny came home to Nubbin Ridge in January 1955 and by September was enrolled in the new school in Marianna called Chipola Jr. College.  He graduated in 1957 and transferred to Florida State University in Tallahassee where he received a degree in business administration.  He began a career with the State of Florida beginning with the Department of Revenue in Tallahassee and ending as Environment Health Director with the Gadsden County Health Department in Quincy.  Kenny had moved back to the Nubbin Ridge Road house he was born in for the last few years before he retired in 1986.  

That house was built in 1914, Kenny explained.  In 2012 he and brother Hap who lives next door applied for inclusion in the state’s Century Farm historical program and won that designation for “Dunaway Family Farm at Nubbin Ridge.”  (The story goes, Kenny explains, that the community was named after a particularly bad crop of corn resulted in the kernels developing into only “nubbins,” not mature ears of corn.) Kenny enjoys his membership in not only the William Dunaway SAR Chapter, but the Chipola Historical Trust and the Florida Baptist Historical Society as well.  He is a member of the VFW Post #12064 and the Greenwood Baptist Church which the history buff says is the “third oldest Baptist Church in the state that is still worshipping.”

Dunaway was privileged to go on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., last year, along with a local Korean combat veteran, Tommy Granger and cousin Fletcher.  “To see Arlington National Cemetery and think of all those sacrifices,” he said, “was a truly humbling experience.  I’m proud to have served our country during the 1950s, a time that was--I think--the best years of the country. It is an honor and I am thankful to be part of ‘The Greatest Generation.’”

Official qualifying results - Gainer, Rooks, Stephens and Goodson draw no opposition

“I am very thankful and blessed to have this opportunity,” Clay Rooks said Friday afternoon, minutes after official qualifying ended at the supervisor of elections office. He received no opposition after qualifying to run for Jackson County Clerk of Courts and since the deadline was noon on Friday, he will become the next court clerk, succeeding Dale Rabon Guthrie.  Guthrie earlier this year announced her retirement at the end of the present term, her 20th year in office. She was first elected in 1996. Rooks’ 11 years of experience as an employee of the clerk of courts and the ever-increasing complexity of the office were likely impediments to any challengers. Rooks has been Guthrie’s chief deputy for the past five years. And Guthrie’s endorsement, announced at the same time as her retirement, didn’t hurt any. “I had Ms. Dale behind me,” Rooks added, “my family, my dad (Buddy Rooks) who always treated people fairly, and the entire office here.  It could have easily gone the other way but they backed me and I am thankful for that.  I have learned from the best here.”

Elections Supervisor Sylvia Stephens also won Friday with no opposition.  District 3 (Marianna area) school board member Stacey Goodson, who was first elected in 2012, also had no opposition in his first reelection effort. Stephens was first elected in 1988.  This makes her technical election Friday to her eighth four-year term the longest of any sitting constitutional officer in the county. Tax Collector Sherry Brown and Property Appraiser Sharon Cox also are retiring this year, both after 12 years in office.  

A very fortunate candidate this year is George Gainer of Panama City.  When he announced his candidacy for state senate District 1 last October, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, another strong Republican, was considered by many to be the leading candidate to succeed his father, current D1 Sen. Don Gaetz, who is term-limited and must step down.  But when the incumbent in the US Congressional D1 race withdrew, leaving the seat wide open, Matt decided to run in that race instead.  The younger Gaetz is now a candidate for US House District 1. That left Gainer the only candidate and as of Friday, no one challenged him.  Gainer has been to Jackson County countless times since he announced and he promises to be available at all times to all the people in his district which represents Jackson, Bay, Washington, Holmes, Walton and most of Okaloosa counties. 

“I am humbled and honored to have been elected without drawing another candidate to run against me,” Gainer said Friday afternoon.  “From the first day I announced my candidacy, I have worked to visit with as many voters as possible throughout the district.  They have my pledge that my door is always open to them and I will do my absolute best to serve them with honor in Tallahassee.”

Jackson County Commissioner Chuck Lockey, a Democrat who is seeking his seventh four-year term to the District 3 (Marianna area) seat, will have one opponent rather than two—and not in the August 30 Primary.  Mickey Gilmore had entered the race but he ultimately chose not to seek election this term.  Lockey will face Republican candidate Dennis Carpenter in the November 8 General Election.

The deadline was Friday at noon for the District 5 state representative race.  Qualifying were Jamey Westbrook (NPA), incumbent Republican Brad Drake and Republican challenger Bev Kilmer.   

The deadline for qualifying for the US District 2 Congressional race passed in May along with the judicial races in the 14th Circuit. That also was the deadline for qualifying for state attorney and public defender.  Mark Sims went in as public defender after drawing no opposition; he succeeds longtime Public Defender Herman Laramore. Sims said earlier this month that he will keep the 14th Judicial Circuit public defender’s office headquarters in Marianna.

So the races are still on for Jackson County sheriff (Roberts, Basford and McAlpin), property appraiser (Edenfield and Morris), tax collector (Folds, Murdock and Rogers), superintendent of schools (Benton, Ellerbee and Moore), District 1 county commissioner (McKinnie and Spires), District 3 county commissioner (Carpenter and Lockey), District 5 county commissioner (Patrick, Peacock, Smith, Stephens and Williams), District 2 school board member (McAllister, Pumphrey and Rister), District 5 State House of Representatives (Drake, Kilmer and Westbrook), and state attorney (Hess and Wilson).  

In other election news, the race for US House of Representatives District 2 had one candidate drop out but had others jump in during the last few weeks.  Fort White business owner and retired police officer Jeff Moran withdrew from the Congressional race on June 23 and has endorsed former US Attorney Ken Sukhia in the Republican Primary on August 30.  Sukhia also has picked up the endorsement of US Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

According to the state Division of Elections office in Tallahassee this week, the remaining candidates for FL D2 are:  Democrats Steven Crapps and Walter Dartland; Republicans Neal Dunn, Ken Sukhia and Mary Thomas; Libertarian Rob Lapham and write-in candidate Antoine Roberts. New District 2 is a heavily Republican District and includes all or part of 19 counties.  This is why incumbent Rep. Gwen Graham dropped out of the race in May, saying she will consider a run for governor in 2018. 

All three candidates for Jackson County Soil & Water Conservation District were returned to office since they drew no opposition by Friday’s noon deadline.  All three are incumbents: Group 1 Mack Glass, Group 3 Thomas Stadsklev and Group 5 Bennie Davis Jr.

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