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November 2019
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Smith County School System sued by ACLU over promotion of religion in schools

The Smith County School System is involved in a lawsuit concerning the promotion of religion in schools. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of Kelly Butler and Sharona and Jason Carr, sued Smith County Schools to challenge the “widespread promotion of religion by officials” within the school system. 

Director of Schools Barry Smith as well as the principals of Smith County High School and Smith County Middle School are named specifically in the suit. 

The lawsuit alleges that Smith County High School and Smith County Middle School have “routinely promoted and inculcated Christian religious beliefs by sponsoring religious activities and conveying religious messages to students.”

Additionally, the lawsuit mentions “school-sponsored” prayer at athletic and school events, “religious iconography” on school walls, and teachers who “proselytize” and promote the Christian faith.

The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. 

You can read the full lawsuit here and read more about the case here.

This story has also been covered by News Channel 5 Nashville, WSMV Nashville, and Fox 17 Nashville. 

Smith County native, Deputy Stephen Reece, killed in crash

(Smokey Barn News) – A tragic motor vehicle accident Friday afternoon has claimed the life of a Cheatham County Sheriff’s Deputy, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

According to the THP, the crash occurred on Highway 41-A near the Oak Plains Rd/Carmel Rd split around 2:30 pm on November 15

According to THP PIO Bill Miller, 50-year-old Deputy Stephen Reece was attempting to cross 41A from Oak Plains Rd over to Carmel Rd when the crash occurred. According to Miller, when Deputy Reece entered the intersection he was struck by another vehicle traveling South on Hwy 41A. The impact caused the Deputy’s vehicle to overturn. Deputy Reece was pronounced deceased at the scene. The other vehicle involved in the crash is described as a Ford Econoline E-250 Van and, according to Miller, the driver, Jose Vilchiz, 38, from Madison, TN was transported to a local hospital for treatment. His injuries were not considered to be life-threatening.

“This is the saddest day for Cheatham County,” said Cheatham County Sheriff Michael Breedlove. “He was one of the most amazing people that we have ever had in our office. He came on ready to teach a lot of the younger officers. He was an amazing man, a good husband and father, so we’re hurting tonight.”

Reece had just joined the Cheathan County Sheriff’s Office back in April. According to Breedlove, Reece was an experienced law enforcement professional who started his career at the Metro Nashville Police Department in 2001.

Reece is a native of Smith County and a graduate of Smith County High School.

UPDATE: The investigating agency, the Tennessee Highway Patrol is releasing more information about the accident.

According to the THP, Deputy Stephen Reece, driving a CCSO Ford Explorer, was traveling East on Oak Plains Road and failed to stop at the stop sign. ​ A ​Ford Econoline E-250 Van traveling South on Highway 41A crashed into the driver’s side of Reece’s vehicle. Both vehicles came to rest on the Southeast side of Highway 41A. The investigation is still ongoing.

According to the THP, Vilchiz will not be charged.

Gordonsville wins 17-7 over Whitwell to advance to third round

The Gordonsville Tigers are advancing to the third round following their 17-7 win over Whitwell on Friday night.

The Tigers were able to strike first, scoring halfway through the first quarter on a 24 yard Treyson Davis touchdown rush to put Gordonsville up 7-0.

Neither team was able to score until the second quarter, when the Tigers were able to tack on 3 with a 22 yard field goal by Tanner Pierson with 4 minutes left in the half.

The Tigers extended their lead in the third quarter, with Davis finding the end zone to extend their lead to 17-0. Whitwell was able to narrow the score to 17-7, but it was too little too late and Gordonsville was able to hold their lead and advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Owls lose to Loudon 41-7 in second round of playoffs

The Owls traveled to take on Loudon in the second round of the playoffs, but were unable to take advantage of Loudon’s  five turnovers, losing 41-7 on the road.
The Owls had a bad first half, going down 27-0 in the first half of the game.
The Owls were able to put together a drive to get on the scoreboard early in the second half, with John Ross Hord scoring from a couple yards out to narrow the score to 27-7. The Owls were able to force a turnover on the next drive, but weren’t able to add another touchdown.
Loudon was able to take back the momentum and tack on two more touchdowns to extend their lead to 41-7. This would end up being the final score, wrapping up the Owls season.

GHS Project Graduation presents “Pancakes & Pictures with Santa” — December 7, 2019

You are invited to attend “Pancakes and Pictures with Santa” on Saturday, December 7, 2019, at New Middleton Elementary School, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

For $10, your child will enjoy pancakes and a drink, make reindeer food, decorate sugar cookies, and have their picture made with Santa. 

After the event, you will have free unlimited access to the photos. All photos will be posted on the RS Photography Facebook page. From there, you can download, print, and share your child’s photos.

Tickets for “Pancakes and Pictures with Santa” will be pre-sold until Tuesday, November 26, 2019.

Please complete the form below and return to Tracy Clemons at NMS, Lindsey Grisham at GES, or Renee Keeton at GHS, or at the office of Gordonsville Family Wellness.

This is a community-wide event and is not limited to students. All monies raised will be used for GHS Project Graduation 2020.

Applications for Christmas Toyland, Angel Tree, and Santa’s Shopper’s programs open at the Smith County Help Center on Monday

The Smith County Help Center will be taking applications for the Christmas Toyland, Angel Tree, and Santa’s Shoppers programs starting November 18 and continuing through Dec 13, 2019. 

These programs are designed to assist families in need in Smith County during the upcoming holiday season.

Applicants can pick up an application at the Help Center and return it between 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday and call 615-735-8090 to be scheduled for a Toyland visit in December.

To be eligible you must present:

    • parent’s ID and social security card
    • proof of income
    • proof of Smith County residency.

If you or your organization would like to donate toys to needy children, please stop by the Smith County Help Center between now and December 13, 2019, with a toy or other donation.

Thanks to all who have made this a success in the past!

The Smith County Help Center is located at 318 Main Street North in Carthage, Tennessee. 

Dr. Roger Duke appointed to fill vacant County Commission seat

Dr. Roger Duke, newly-appointed District 6 County Commissioner

During the November meeting of the Smith County Commission on Tuesday night, Dr. Roger Duke was appointed to fill an empty seat on the commission. 

This seat became vacant on September 6, 2019, when District 6 Commissioner Barbara Kannapel turned in her resignation.

Registered voters living in District 6 (Carthage) had the opportunity to submit their names for consideration.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, two candidates submitted their names: Dr. Roger Duke and Steve Babcock. 

Both candidates were nominated by the commission, and current County Commissioners took a vote to decide which candidate would fill the empty seat.

Dr. Roger Duke was elected by a vote of 13-8.

Dr. Duke is a longtime Carthage resident and physician. He currently serves on the Carthage City Planning Commission and Carthage City Board of Zoning Appeals.

You can watch the November 2019 meeting of the Smith County Commission below. 

40th Annual Miss Smith County Pageant held on Saturday

2019 Miss Smith County, Ashby Long

The 40th Annual Miss Smith County Pageant was held inside the Smith County High School Auditorium on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Ashby Long was crowned 2019 Miss Smith County.

Mattie Ray received 4th Runner-Up, Kloey Brazle recieved 3rd Runner-Up, Mary Massey received 2nd Runner-Up, and Dominique Hebert was awarded 1st Runner-Up.

Mattie Ray -4th Runner-Up; Mary Massey – 2nd Runner-Up; Ashby Long – Miss Smith County; Dominique Hebert – 1st Runner-Up; and Kloey Brazle – 3rd Runner-Up

To celebrate the pageant’s 40th year, past Miss Smith County winners were also honored onstage. 

Past winners L-R: 1979 Tressa Bush, 1980 Susan Kirby, 1986 Misty Yeaman, 1988 Chasity Clay, 1998 Samantha Kemp, 2019 Ashby Long, 2016 Shelby Prichard, 2002 Lori Pitman, 2004 Kristen Allen, 2008 Hannah Rich, 2014 Peyton Daigre

The Miss Smith County Pageant is sponsored by the Delta Omega Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi. Proceeds from the pageant will go toward a $500 scholarship for the pageant winner and for scholarships for a senior from Gordonsville High School as well as Smith County High School. 

Get your Smith County Heritage Museum 2019 Christmas ornament today!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Smith County Heritage Museum! 

This year’s limited edition Christmas ornaments feature a beautiful pencil drawing of the Cordell Hull Bridge by local artist Bill K. Reece. The title of the drawing is “Almost Home.”

Ornaments can be purchased at the museum for $10 each.

The Smith County Heritage Museum is located at 107 3rd Avenue East in Carthage, Tennessee. The museum is open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. 

If you have any questions, please call 615-735-1104.

November 2019 Meeting of the Smith County Commission

The Smith County Board of Commissioners held its November session on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. 

You can watch the full meeting below. 

Thanks to Powell & Meadows Insurance Agency for sponsoring the live broadcast of this meeting.

Subscribe to Smith County Insider’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on meeting coverage, business spotlights, video features, and more!

The Smith County Board of Commissioners meets on the second Monday of every month except December. Commission meetings are held in the General Sessions Courtroom of the Smith County Jail and Courts Facility, located at 322 Justice Drive in Carthage.

All meetings are open to the public and are streamed live at

Smith County Chamber Corner — November 2019

Watch the November 2019 edition of the Smith County Chamber Corner Show to learn about many exciting things happening in and around Smith County.

This month’s show features interviews with folks from local businesses like BankTennessee, The Candy Bar, and Bass Funeral Home, as well as updates from the agents with the Smith County UT Extension Office.

You’ll also learn about limited edition Christmas ornaments and the Smith County History Book flash drive that can be purchased at the Smith County Heritage Museum, the upcoming Smith County Sheriff’s Office Santa’s Shoppers Program, and the GriefShare program, which is sponsored by Bass Funeral Home.

If you would like to promote your event or local business on the Smith County Chamber Corner Show, contact the Smith County Chamber of Commerce by calling 615-735-2093 today!

Watch the full show below.

Man killed in Pleasant Shade house fire

Phillip Evitts, age 61 of Pleasant Shade, was killed in a house fire that occurred around 6:30 p.m. on Monday evening.

The Evitts home, located at 9 Stone Branch Road in Pleasant Shade, was entirely destroyed in the fire.

The Pleasant Shade Fire Department, the Central District Fire Department, and the Defeated Fire Department all responded to the incident. 

According to a statement made by the Pleasant Shade Volunteer Fire Department, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Smith County EMS, Smith County Rescue Squad, Upper Cumberland Electric, Mid Tenn Natural Gas, and TBI Bomb And Arson were also involved in the incident response.

At this time, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Check back to Smith County Insider for more information as it becomes available.

This house fire is the second to occur in the Pleasant Shade community this month. On Monday, November 4, the home of Mike and Rachel Dunn, located at 737 Pleasant Shade Highway, burned.

A “Shower of Blessings” was held for the Dunn family at the Pleasant Shade Community Center on Saturday.

In both cases, the Smith County community has rallied around the affected families with love, support, and prayers.

Two Smith County veterans honored at Cumberland University

James Bass and Dr. Gordon Petty stand in front of Cumberland University’s World War II Maneuvers Monument | Photo courtesy of Alex Apple, Fox 17 News Nashville

Two Smith County veterans returned to Cumberland University during a monument re-dedication ceremony on Veterans Day, which was observed Monday.

James Bass, age 98, served in the Army during World War II, and Dr. Gordon Petty, age 99, served in the Navy. The two are Cumberland University’s oldest living alumni.

On Monday, the two were honored for their brave service to our country.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Army’s occupation of Cumberland University during World War II. 

Read the full story on Fox 17 Nashville here.

Pleasant Shade Community Center 9th Annual Fall Festival set for November 23, 2019

The Pleasant Shade Community Center will host its 9th Annual Fall Festival on Saturday, November 23, 2019, from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

A turkey dinner with all the fixin’s will be served at the festival. Take-out or delivery orders can be placed between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Dine-in meals will be served from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Concessions will also be available for purchase at the event.

The cakewalk will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Please bring donated items to the cakewalk by 6:00 p.m. Any item is okay to donate. It does not have to be food!

All proceeds from the Fall Festival will be used to maintain and keep the Pleasant Shade Community Center open. The Pleasant Shade Community Center is located at 743 Pleasant Shade Highway in Pleasant Shade, Tennessee.

If you have any questions, please contact Wesley Rigsby at 615-677-6514 to Ann Gregory at 615-677-6388. Leave a message if no one answers. 

See flyer below for more information.

Smith County hunters can help feed the hungry this holiday season

Hunters for the Hungry connects hunters in Smith County with those in need, during the holidays and beyond.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 12, 2019) – With deer season in full swing and the holidays quickly approaching, Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program is accepting donations in Smith County to help feed local families in need. Statewide, more than 75 processors are collecting donations to feed fellow Tennesseans.

In Smith County, that includes Mink’s Deer Processing. Contact information and a full list of processors is available at

Thanks to the generosity of hunters, Hunters  for the Hungry has provided more than 7 million meals of healthy, lean protein to hungry Tennesseans. This is important all hunting season long but takes on special meaning during this time of year.

“Hunters for the Hungry had its second-best year in 2018—providing more than 581,000 meals to families in need,” said Matt Simcox, Hunters for the Hungry manager. “We are looking to keep that momentum going during the holidays and into the New Year. Smith County hunters can play a big part.”

When hunters harvest a deer, they can donate it—in part or whole—to the program at a participating processor. The deer is processed, and the venison is delivered to local hunger relief organizations. One deer provides as many as 168 meals.

In an abundance of caution, Hunters for the Hungry is partnering with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to test every deer donated within Unit CWD for the disease. Hunters for the Hungry will also test many of the donations made outside Unit CWD in Region 1.

There is no evidence CWD is transmitted to humans, but the CDC still recommends against eating CWD-positive meat. So, all donations that test positive for CWD will be discarded.

Only whole deer donations will be accepted in Region 1, which includes Unit CWD. Pound or Pack donations, which allow hunters to give a portion of their harvest, will continue to be accepted in the rest of the state.

Currently, hunters can drop off a whole deer donation at no cost to them. Each year, Hunters for the Hungry covers tens of thousands of dollars in processing fees for donations. If deer donations surpass available funding for this season, hunters can pay a reduced, $50 processing fee or redeem a Deer Coin.

For more information about Hunters for the Hungry or to purchase a Deer Coin, visit


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