NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Rev. Will Campbell, a white minister who drew acclaim for his involvement in the civil rights movement, has died at the age of 88.
John Egerton, a close friend of Campbell’s for nearly 50 years, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Campbell died Monday night from complications following a stroke he had about two years ago. Egerton said he was contacted by Campbell’s son, who was at the minister’s bedside in Nashville when he died.
“He never really recovered from it,” Egerton said of the stroke.
Campbell was born in 1924 in Amite County, Miss.
After a stint in the military, he attended Yale, where he got a divinity degree in 1952 and then headed to Taylor, La., to preach at Taylor Southern Baptist Church.
He later came to Nashville, where he was described as a staunch leader for civil rights, and was well respected by others in the movement.
HUNTINGDON, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican candidate for state Senate who once tore up a dying widow’s last will and testament while she was unconscious has been named in an ethics complaint.
A complaint to the Board of Professional Responsibility says Virginia House and her husband paid Huntingdon attorney John Stevens $500 to write their will and set up an irrevocable trust.
WNWS-FM (http://bit.ly/SglFjX ) reports it was provided a copy of the complaint by the House family. In it, House says Stevens never performed the work and didn’t return the money.
Stevens released a statement saying that BPR complaints are confidential and the public release of any complaint is a desperate attempt to influence the election.
House said she was moved to file it by news stories of the widow whose will was destroyed.
Six days after Republican state senate candidate John Stevens admitted ripping up an unconscious widow’s last will, he released a statement Monday saying he was acting “on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
Further from the Commercial Appeal: Stevens’ Democratic opponent in District 24, Brad Thompson, last week circulated court filings involving the death and the estate of Huntingdon resident Ruth Keras. They included indications Stevens created a revocable trust on behalf of Keras, whose assets after her death were to be divided equally between Keras’ brother and Peggy Wilkes of Carroll County.
The will Stevens ripped up named St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a major beneficiary and hadn’t mentioned Wilkes.
…In his statement Monday, Stevens said the Thompson campaign’s suggestion of wrongdoing on his part “is a lie by a desperate campaign that is down double-digits. It is what you expect from an Obama-Pelosi Democrat.”
Stevens said Keras hired him in Huntingdon and “was fully competent … I was one of the last people Ruth met with. I carried out her wishes in the last days of her life. I acted on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
“Ruth wanted her will changed — for the third time,” the statement continues. “After she lost consciousness, the only legal option left open to me was to tear up her second will in her presence — as required by law … My sole purpose in this matter was to carry out Ruth’s wishes as expressed to me in the hospital in Huntingdon.
“The idea that Brad Thompson would cruelly use this for political gain is disgusting,” he added. “I carried out my duty as a lawyer.”
The statement does not address why Keras wanted St. Jude and Youth Town jettisoned as beneficiaries days before her death. St. Jude’s lawyers, in their lawsuit, maintained the change in beneficiaries was contrary Keras’ written instructions in 2002 and 2003, and contrary to her late husband’s wishes.
The matter was settled out of court and the terms remain confidential. Stevens was not a party in the legal dispute, but his affidavit was made part of the court record.
In response to Stevens’ statement, Thompson’s campaign manager, Carol Andrews, released a statement: “John Stevens knows he has no defense for preying upon a dying, elderly woman who for many years had simply wanted to leave her estate to sick and troubled children,” she said. “If he didn’t do anything wrong, then why did he sign an official affidavit stating that he did?”
The state Democratic party is emailing media copies of a story by West Tennessee radio station WCMT on allegations about Republican state Senate candidate John Stevens, raised by his Democratic opponent, Brad Thompson. It starts thusly:
MARTIN – Carol Andrews, Campaign Manager for District 24 State Senate Candidate Brad Thompson, today released official court documents showing that candidate John Stevens admitted to an unethical and unlawful act involving interference with the wishes of a dying woman to leave her estate to helping sick and troubled children.
In 2010, Stevens signed an official affidavit admitting to his wrongdoing. Andrews made the following statement and provided background materials on the story:
“Some disturbing news has come to my attention regarding our opponent in this race. This is an incredible story and one that voters deserve to know. It illustrates that John Stevens is a man who simply cannot be trusted.
“The story I am relating is all readily available in the Circuit and Chancery Court Clerks’ offices in the Carroll County Courthouse just across the street from John Stevens’ law office.
Official court documents show that John Stevens broke Tennessee law by interfering with a dying woman’s wish to leave her estate to St. Jude’s Children Hospital – to a hospital known around the world for caring for children with cancer — and Youth Town of Tennessee, a center here in West Tennessee that helps troubled youth.
“According to official court documents, John Stevens lied to nurses in a Jackson hospital to gain access to the dying woman’s bedside to tear up her will.
“Her name was Ruth Karas.
“Mrs. Karas was in a coma. John Stevens had already drawn up other papers putting other people in control of the woman’s estate.
“Mrs. Karas died a day after John Stevens tore up her will.
“John Stevens’ acts were unethical and according to the Tennessee Code Annotated, a felony.
“On his web site, John Stevens claims that “he is an attorney in private practice helping families and farmers with elder law and estate planning,” yet he helped prey upon an elderly woman as she lay dying.
“John Stevens later signed an official affidavit admitting that he committed this act. He agreed with a nurse’s deposition that he tore up the will of an elderly woman as she lay dying in a coma. John Stevens had even been so craven as to ask this nurse to video his act on his telephone.
“John Stevens was not the dying woman’s attorney and had not previously been involved in her will.
“According to Tennessee Code Annotated, Stevens’ act is against the law. It is most certainly unethical and heinous to interfere with a dying woman’s wish to leave her estate to an interest to help children with cancer.
“Voters deserve to know this about John Stevens. This shows that he certainly cannot be trusted.”
The Registry of Election Finance has had a vacancy on its board of directors for more than a year, apparently because of a failure to communicate.
Wade Hinton of Chattanooga resigned as a member of the six-member panel in April 2011, according to registry Executive Director Drew Rawlins. He held a seat designated under state law to be appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by the state Democratic Party.
Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said “a pretty exhaustive search” turned up no indication that the party ever received any notice of the vacancy. David Smith, spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said the administration has received no list to act upon.
The registry board’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 5 with two potentially controversial items on the agenda — a complaint about Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s campaign finance disclosures and a hearing on whether Nashville businessman Andrew Miller used a political action committee as an illegal “conduit” to get around limits on political donations to legislative candidates.
“At this point, we’ll be happy to put forth names to have more Democratic oversight,” said Puttbrese after being asked about the vacancy.
The seat will remain vacant at the Sept. 5 meeting since no Executive Committee meeting is scheduled until later in the month, he said.
The board was set up to have an even balance between the two major parties. The House and Senate Republican caucuses each get an appointment and so do the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Haslam is a Republican, but a Democrat was governor when the law was passed. Haslam gets two appointments, one from a list submitted by the Republican Executive Committee, the other from a list submitted by the Democratic Executive Committee.
After a decade working behind the scenes, including a stint as a political adviser to Gov. Phil Bredesen, Will Pinkston is stepping out from behind the curtain to run for public office himself, reports The Tennessean. Pinkston is running for the vacant District 7 school board seat and relying on his background as a newspaper reporter and political communications director to guide his own campaign.
Pinkston enjoys the backing of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Nashville Education Association, which acts as the local teachers union.
“This is the only political office I would have any interest in seeking,” Pinkston said. “I grew up in District 7. I’m a product of the public school system, and my children will attend public schools.”
Pinkston’s opponents are running for political office for the first time as well. Al Wilkins, an Army veteran and retired member of the local Teamsters Union, and Alan Sharp, a political novice who works in health care, also are on the ballot.
According to a Probate Court ruling earlier this year, a will leaving the bulk of the late state Rep. Ulysses Jones’ $100,000 estate to Sandra Richards was a forgery. Now, the Commercial Appeal reports,Richards and two others have been arrested and accused of faking the document. Richards, Avis Langford-Brannon and Beverly Prye were all indicted by a grand jury late last week, officials said.
All three are facing charges of tampering with or fabricating evidence, aggravated perjury and forgery over $60,000. The trio are employees of the Memphis Fire Department.
All three turned themselves in over the past few days, officials said. Langford-Brannon and Prye both made a $20,000 bond; Richards remained jailed Sunday on the same amount.
The odd saga began after Jones, who had represented District 98 in Memphis since 1987, died in November 2010 of complications from pneumonia. Jones, a Memphis Fire Department battalion chief, was 59.
After his death, Richards, who told the court that Jones was her fiancé, presented the will. Langford-Brannon and Prye, two close friends of Richards, signed as witnesses.
Jones’ two children — Victoria Jones, 19, and her half-brother, Ulysses Jones III, 35 — contested the document, saying their father left no will.
Appearing in Sunday’s News Sentinel is a package of half-dozen stories on what might be considered Gov. Bill Haslam’s cabinet inner circle, the men and women who gather around a table in the state Capitol on most days to counsel the governor on what’s happening and what should be done.
The centerpiece is on Deputy Gov. Claude Thomas Ramsey, 68, won his first state government position almost 40 years ago as a third-generation strawberry farmer running against an incumbent state representative who “didn’t have the best reputation in the world.”
An excerpt from an interview with the deputy governor: “He’s not one to get out and kick, snort and throw rocks,” Ramsey said of the governor.
Is Ramsey such a person?
“Not in public.”
The deputy governor said that in today’s Republican party politics “I’m probably more to the moderate side … (though) I absolutely consider myself a conservative.”
Shorter items, in alphabetical order, are on:
-Mark Cate, the ‘utility man’ who ‘makes the trains run on time’ and carries the title of special assistant to the governor.
-The ‘young but bright’ Will Cromer, director of policy and research.
-Director of Legislation Leslie Hafner, who is the newest member of Haslam’s inner circle but by no means new to state government. (A Hafner quip: “Thank you technology, you’re ruined my life.”)
-Communications Director Alexia Poe, a mother of two who is now serving as spokeswoman for her fifth politician.
–Herb Slatery, who is legal counsel to the governor and a friend to Bill Haslam since childhood.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Shelby County probate judge has ruled the signature on a will purported to be that of late state representative Ulysses Jones Jr. is a forgery.
The will left the bulk of Jones’ estate to his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Richards.
On Friday, Judge Robert Benham said he found Richards’ testimony to be evasive and of “dubious trustworthiness,” according to The Commercial Appeal.
That, combined with testimony from handwriting experts that the signature was forged, led the judge to rule in favor of Jones’ two adult children in the dispute over his estate, valued at about $100,000.
Jones was a Memphis Fire Department battalion chief and Democratic state representative for North Memphis and Raleigh. He died on Nov. 9 of complications from pneumonia at the age of 59. For more details, see the Commercial Appeal.