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Floyd County to honor pillars of the community
• This is the second year the board will mark African-American History Month with an official ceremony.

County Clerk Erin Elrod

A pharmacist, a preschool teacher and a businessman who brought music to Main High School are among the local black citizens nominated for recognition by the Floyd County Commission.

This will be the second year the board will mark African-American History Month with an official ceremony. County Clerk Erin Elrod said she expects the tradition to continue.

"We're very excited about the level of participation," Elrod said. "We had six nominations last year and 20 this year, so that shows it is something that resonates with the community."

The six honorees won't be announced until the meeting, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave.

But Elrod said the people brought to the board's attention during the nominating period have been impressive.

Henrice Berrien, an octogenarian and Heart of the Community recipient herself, remembers many who helped lay the foundation for the Rome and Floyd County of today. Among her nominees were pharmacist Mack Lyons Sr., Rebecca Blaylock and Mene Dove "M.D." Whatley — the first black man in Georgia to seek a school board seat.

Born in 1880 in White Plains, Alabama, Whatley moved to Rome in 1903 and spent 28 years as an agent and manager of the local Atlanta Life Insurance Co. branch before opening the city's only black laundry.

It was his commitment to education, however, that strengthened his chosen hometown. In addition to serving on civic leagues and as chair of the Rome High and Industrial School board of trustees, he founded the Main High Panthers Marching Band.

"M.D. loved good music," Berrien wrote. "Many boys and girls worked hard to stay in school and hold their scholastic status in order to be able to get into the band."

Whatley also pushed to integrate the post office, police department and fire department.

Blaylock's name still resounds today as founder and first director of the Rebecca Blaylock Child Development Center on Graham Street.

Started in the basement of a church as a nursery school for black children, the center is approaching its 84th anniversary.

"Rebecca died of pneumonia at a young age, but the center is continuing to service the community by training our children," Berrien wrote.

Lyons graduated in 1924 from Meharry Medical College school of pharmacy in Nashville and opened Lyons Drug Store on Broad Street before moving it to the Five Points Business District. He was active in the Human Relations Council — ground zero for the civil rights movement in Floyd County — and a strong supporter of the Rebecca Blaylock nursery.

Elrod said that the board has chosen five living residents and one historical figure to honor on Tuesday night.

"The commissioners will make a presentation with information about their lives and the impact they've had on Floyd County, and we have a little gift for them," she said.

Mother arrested in infant death
• Adairsville police charge her with felony second-degree murder.

An Adairsville woman has been arrested on a felony murder in the second degree charge for the death of James Raylan Wheat, her 4-monthold infant who was born in May 2018. Destiney Diane Wheat, 22, of 210 N. Main St., Adairsville, was taken into custody around noon Saturday.

Back on Sept. 28, Adairsville police, along with fire rescue and EMS personnel, responded to the Wheat home where the baby was unresponsive.

Police immediately detected a strong odor of marijuana inside the residence. The baby was found in a back bedroom, and after first responders attempted life-saving resuscitation efforts, the baby was rushed to Cartersville Medical Center where he died a short time later.

Division of Family And Children Services personnel were brought in to the investigation because the house was in a highly unsanitary condition with dirty diapers strewn about, evidence of insect infestation and evidence of drug usage.

Detective Sgt. Eric Burns led a months-long investigation that resulted in the Saturday arrest based on evidence that indicated negligence on the mother's part.

The infant had been wearing supplemental oxygen as part of an ongoing issue of sickness stemming from premature birth and other health-related illnesses. The investigation determined the child had not been administered the oxygen as prescribed by doctors, according to the oxygen machine diagnostics. It was also discovered that the mother had checked the infant out of the hospital a little over a week earlier, with the warning from hospital staff that doing so could result in death of the infant.

In addition to the felony murder charge, Wheat has been charged with felony cruelty to children in the second degree and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Associate Editor Doug Walker contributed to this report.

An Evening on the Runway: The Art of Fashion

Angel's Dream becomes reality Saturday
• Volunteers remodel a home for a county employee as a Sparkle Box project.

Angel Johnson was so overcome with emotion Saturday that she couldn't speak. And that was before Harry Pierce handed her the keys to her new home on Eden Drive in the Beech Creek community.

Scores of volunteers, many of them Johnson's fellow Floyd County employees at the courthouse, turned out Saturday for the ribbon-cutting of the new home, called Angel's Dream, the latest in a series of Sparkle Box projects spearheaded by Harry and Terri Pierce and their family.

"Words can't express how I feel right now," Johnson said. "I'm thinking about my (deceased 16-year-old) daughter (Angel) right now and I know she's happy for us."

The Sparkle Box program started in 2013 after Terri Pierce read a book by the same name, penned by Jill Hardie, who drove from Ohio to Rome with her husband Tim Hardie for the ceremony Saturday.

"This book was written in an hour and a half one morning in my kitchen," Hardie told the crowd. She said she had just felt like she had made so many mistakes in life and that God had no use for her when a life coach introduced her to the grace of God. Hardie said the message to all was, "You are the light of the world, make it sparkle. It's about all of us making a difference."

Harry Pierce, a recently retired Rome businessman, said that he was in the midst of selling Big Time Products last fall and had not determined what project to undertake when his brother-in-law Sheriff Tim Burkhalter told him about Johnson.

"This guy ran through Angel's house at 2:30 in the morning. DUI," Pierce said.

He went over and looked at it the next day, saw that Johnson, her mother and teenage son were all living out of one bedroom, and knew right away that finding her a new home would be the project.

Johnson's 16-year-old daughter as well as her fiance died within a very short period of time before her home on Lavender was crashed into and subsequently condemned.

Pierce got together with Bill Temple of Toles, Temple & Wright and found the house in West Rome.

"We gutted it out from one end to the other," Pierce said. "I'll tell you what, it's a lot harder to remodel than it is to build." That revelation came from a man who was a former Home Depot executive.

Dozens of volunteers worked for months to remodel the house, and on Saturday, Pierce and scores of helpers held a ribbon-cutting and turned the three-bedroom home over to Johnson and her family.

"This is love in action," said Nathan Phillips of Battlefield Ministries.


Today's artwork is by Andrew Syverson, a first-grade student at Model Elementary School.