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Lifetime of service: Hugh Barnett is 103

Hugh Barnett has been a member of Rotary Club for more than 40 years, starting when he lived in Clarksville and continuing now that he’s in Maryville.

On Wednesday, with friends and fellow Rotarians surrounding him, he reached a milestone few others will — he turned 103. It’s estimated he’s attended 2,200 Rotary meetings over the years.

Those friends made sure the Wednesday meeting was one big party. For 24 hours, it was all about Hugh Barnett.

Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor and Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell both issued proclamations that Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, be deemed “Hugh Barnett Day” in their communities. Taylor attended the birthday celebration for Barnett at the Maryville Rotary Club meeting.

Richard Cook, an Oak Ridge writer, rented a digital billboard with Barnett’s picture on it along Pellissippi Parkway near Solway as part of this birthday bash.

Taylor shared with the crowd details of Barnett’s life, including his work on the Manhattan Project, first in New York and then in Oak Ridge. He was one of only about 300 workers on the site in Oak Ridge that knew the top secret purpose of the plants. The fuel for the Hiroshima bomb dropped in 1945 was made in Oak Ridge.

Ironically, President Harry Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan on Aug. 14, 1945 — Barnett’s 29th birthday. That was also the day his son was born.

Barnett was born on Aug. 14, 1916, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Mississippi.

While in Oak Ridge, Barnett worked at both K-25 and Y-12 plants, overseeing 1,000 workers at one point. His career took him all over, from New York to Tennessee, Indiana to Canada.

Taylor thanked Barnett for his service to this country and for his leadership. He also let this centennarian-plus-three know that Wednesday also was special for one more reason.

“When a citizen gets a day named especially for him, he can’t get arrested,” Taylor teased. “So from now until 12 midnight, go wild, Hugh. You won’t get arrested. If anyone asks questions, just show them these documents and say Tom Taylor and (Blount County Mayor) Ed Mitchell said it’s OK.”

Attendees also watched a video of Barnett being interviewed about his life. He talked about meeting his wife, Shirley, when he lived in Connecticut. He said his landlord and Shirley’s mother arranged the meeting.

When asked by his landlord if he wanted to meet her, Barnett said he responded with an enthusiastic “yes.”

But when Shirley was asked if she wanted “to meet a boy from Mississippi,” she had a difference reponse.

“Heavens, no!” Barnett said Shirley said.

The two did meet, and Barnett said he tried to steal a kiss that first day. Shirley pushed him away.

A second chance

But on that second day, they listened to music and she even let Barnett beat her at ping pong. “It was obvious,” Barnett said.

He also got that kiss.

The two were together for almost 70 years. Shirley died in 2011. They have two sons, Lee and Larry, who both attended the 103rd birthday party. Lee shares his father’s birthday.

Barnett also shared on the video about earning the rank of Eagle Scout in Mississippi when he was only 14. He built a log cabin for his project. He has a photo of fellow Eagle Scouts in the Rose Garden at the White House. He’s standing next to President Herbert Hoover.

That was 1931. Barnett said he and his fellow Scouts rode to D.C. on a school bus. “Some of the roads weren’t too good back then,” he said. They broke down at one point along the journey.

“We had a real good time,” he said.

When asked how he has managed to live such an active life, Barnett said he exercises every day. He loves to read and also play bridge. “And I have a good happy hour,” he confessed.

He is the oldest person to ever travel on the Knoxville HonorAir flights. Barnett was 100 when he made the trek to Washington, D.C.

At the end of the meeting, Maryville Rotary presented Barnett with a bench that he will find a permanent place for at Asbury Place.

He stood to acknowledged the gift. He told the crowd he wouldn’t take up time with any speeches but he did want them to know his heart.

“It’s so nice to be with friends,” Barnett said. “They are my biggest asset.”

Clayton-Bradley students win medals at 2019 National History Day

Once again, students from Clayton-Bradley Academy captured awards at the National History Day competition held June 9-13 in College Park, Maryland. CBA students have participated in the national competition since 2015 and have won awards in both 2017 and 2018.

Fourteen CBA students participated in National History Day and six of those students won medals for projects based on the theme “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”

Back in March, seventh through 11th grade students from Clayton-Bradley students participated in Tennessee History Day. Seven of those student projects, a total of 14 students, moved on to the national level of competition.

Clayton-Bradley Academy uses National History Day as a part of its curriculum, as it is a yearlong research project. All seventh and eight grade students are required to create a project to submit for National History Day. However, all students from sixth grade to 12th grade can participate.

Nicole Whitecotton, an eighth grade teacher at Clayton-Bradley, is one of the two teachers over NHD. The other teacher is Liz Shugart. In the first quarter, Whitecotton and Shugart take their students to the library at the University of Tennessee and to the Lawson McGhee Library in downtown Knoxville to check out books about their potential project ideas. From there, students develop their own research databases filled with their source information.

The students gather both primary and secondary sources. This year’s group of students conducted interviews with Francis Collins, the director of the National Institute of Health, and documented primary source information about the Appalachia corridor. That information had never been documented before.

There are two different age divisions, the junior division for six, seventh and eighth grades and the senior division for ninth through 12th grades.

Projects can be chosen from several different categories in either the junior or senior levels. The types of projects are a research paper, a documentary, an exhibition board, a website and a performance. Many of those categories also have an option for group or individual projects.

This year, the six students that won medals at NHD were Shelby McNeal, Tate Greene, Riley Whitecotton, A.J. Camacho, Sophie Anderson and Piper Greene.

McNeal and Tate Greene won second place in the Senior Group Documentary competition for their documentary “For I Was Dying: The Triumph and Tragedy of Ms. Eula Hall.”

Whitecotton and Camacho won a special award in the category “Discovery or Exploration in History” for their Senior Group Documentary titled “X Marks the Spot: The Rosalind Franklin Story.”

Anderson and Piper Greene won “Outstanding Project in Junior Division, Tennessee” for their Junior Group Documentary “The Malaria Project: The Secret Triumph and Tragedy of Modern Medicine.”

In addition to the six students that won medals, Samuel McNeal, Melanie Band, Luke Hutchinson, Liam Garris, Ian Boghani, Lawrence Mancini, Layla Bowman and Macy Jackson placed at Tennessee History Day, securing their spots in the national competition.

National History Day creates “amazing opportunities for students,” Nicole Whitecotton said. Students have the opportunity to win prize money, scholarships and all-expense-paid trips due to their participation in NHD.

Students from the United States and American-based schools all over the world can participate in NHD. For more information, visit

Plea set for Seymour woman in child drowning case

The case of a Seymour woman who was accused of drowning one of her children in May and attempting to drown a second won’t proceed to trial.

Bethanie Carriker has waived her preliminary hearing and grand jury review, Assistant Attorney General Ryan Desmond said.

The case was forwarded to the Circuit Court and Carriker is expected to plead at 9 a.m. Monday in front of Judge David R. Duggan.

Carriker had been scheduled for a contested preliminary hearing Tuesday and would have required the state to show evidence she was connected to her 15-month-old daughter’s death and the near-drowning of her newborn daughter.

The Blount County District Attorney’s office requested in June that the hearing be moved back because final autopsy and toxicological results for the older child, who died on May 7, weren’t available yet.

The tests were conducted by a laboratory out of state, which contributed to the delay.

The office also had been waiting for toxicology results for Carriker and her newborn daughter, who survived the incident.

Those results were processed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at its state lab.

Plea details haven’t been announced, but Desmond said both charges of aggravated child abuse by neglect or endangerment were bound over as originally charged.

Carriker remains in the Blount County jail on a $1 million bond.

Judge: Captured Tennessee inmate could face death penalty

RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee convict accused of killing a corrections administrator and escaping prison could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder, a judge told the prisoner Wednesday.

Curtis Ray Watson appeared before Judge Janice Craig in a video arraignment in Lauderdale County court. Craig told Watson that he is charged with especially aggravated burglary, aggravated sexual assault and escape in addition to the murder charge.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Mark Davidson said his office is considering seeking capital punishment, but a decision would come only after Watson is formally indicted when a grand jury convenes in October. Watson, 44, would face life in prison if the state does not seek death and he is found guilty of first-degree murder.

Watson's court-appointed public defender Bo Burk made no comments in court and a plea was not entered. Watson's preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 25.

Watson was brought to the Lauderdale County Justice Center from a jail in another county but he did not appear in person before the judge after his lawyer requested the video arraignment. Only the judge was able to see Watson through her bench camera.

Watson was on lawn mowing duties at West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Aug. 7 when he went to Debra Johnson's home on prison grounds and killed the 64-year-old corrections administrator, authorities said. Johnson's body was found in the home with a cord wrapped around her neck, according to court documents.

Watson then escaped on a tractor, which was later found near the prison, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

Watson eluded authorities for four days until his arrest Sunday. He was arrested hours after he was recorded on surveillance cameras outside a home in Henning, 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the prison.

Watson has been serving a 15-year sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping. He also had been previously convicted of aggravated child abuse. Watson had access to a tractor and a golf cart as a "trusty" — an inmate granted special privileges as a trustworthy person, authorities said.

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that Tennessee prison officials followed protocol prior to Watson's escape. But he added that his administration wants to examine the Department of Correction protocols involved in the escape.

Johnson had been a state employee for 38 years, and oversaw wardens at several area prisons. Visitation and a funeral service are scheduled on Thursday and Friday.