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By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he looks forward to signing a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks, the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy.
House Bill 1400 passed the House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill has exceptions. Abortion would still be allowed at or after 20 weeks if the pregnant woman could die or face permanent injury, or in cases of severe fetal abnormality.
Mississippi’s only abortion clinic says it stops doing abortions after 16 weeks’ gestation.
The Health Department says 2,176 abortions were done in Mississippi in 2012. Two were listed at 21 weeks or later, and 382 were unknown gestational age.
Several states have a 20-week ban, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Craig Sword has been Mississippi State’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons.
The 6-foot-3, 193-pound guard earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2012-13 averaging 10.5 points and followed up by scoring 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.
But with 64 collegiate games under his belt, Sword wants to take more of an ownership role on the Bulldogs roster entering Year 3.
“I’m trying to be a leader going into my junior year,” Sword said. “I want everybody to follow me, but that means now I’ll have to put in more work so that everybody will know I can be the go-to guy at the end of the game if they need me.”
Sword, affectionately known to his teammates and coaches as “Chicken,” led MSU in assists (88) and steals (60) but also in turnovers (96). That is one area the Montgomery, Ala., native is hard at work at to correct this offseason.
“I’ve got to cut down on my turnovers,” Sword said. “I’ve got to work on my ball handling in the offseason. As a team, we’ve just got to work on staying together and finishing games. We’ve got to come out in our individual workouts and get better. Every individual has to get better every day.”
Sword was one of three high-profile recruits, along with Gavin Ware and Fred Thomas, signed by Rick Stansbury and inherited by Rick Ray as freshmen in his first season. That trio has been the nucleus Ray is building his team around for the future.
“You’ve got to keep in mind that these guys are still young basketball players,” Ray said. “We’ve relied on freshmen and sophomores these past two years to really be the bell cows for our guys. When we have juniors and seniors in our program, those guys are going to be really good players and will be guys we can rely on in the future.”
The Bulldogs ended the regular season on a 13-game losing skid but turned things around in the SEC tournament playing three solid halves of basketball before bowing out to Ole Miss in the second round.
“I think for 60 minutes in the SEC tournament we showed how good we can be and how bright our future is,” Ray said. “Once we get some depth in our program and get some guys through some maturation process I think you’ll see we’ve got a lot of talent in this program.”
By Parrish Alford
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A three-run rally in the seventh had Ole Miss ahead 4-2 and counting outs Saturday night, but Alabama countered against the Rebels’ bullpen.
Ole Miss relievers Josh Laxer and Wyatt Short combined for six walks and a hit batsman, and the Crimson Tide got a walk-off single in the 10th to defeat the No. 13-ranked Rebels 6-5 before a crowd of 4,001 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The second one-run win of the weekend for Alabama (18-8, 5-3 SEC) gives the the Rebels (21-7, 4-4) their third straight loss and their second conference series loss in three weekends.
One of Short’s four walks was intentional. After Sikes Orvis’ RBI hit put the Rebels ahead in the top of the 10th, Short walked his first batter and hit his second in the bottom half.
The runners were bunted forward, and Alabama tied the game with a sacrifice fly and won it when Hunter Webb singled to left.
It was the only hit allowed by Short in 2.2 innings of work.
“It’s been a bad week for the bullpen starting down at Pearl,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “The last three games we’ve lost we’ve had the lead.”
After Ole Miss starter Christian Trent and reliever Preston Tarkington issued no walks over seven innings.
Trent went 6.1 innings, and Tarkington fanned the only two batters he faced to get Ole Miss to the eighth with a lead.
Bianco said Trent felt good but was about at the “limit” of how deep he pitches with success.
“There have been times we’ve pushed him and tried to squeeze some more out of him, and it wasn’t good,” Bianco said.
It wasn’t only about walks.
Freshman shortstop Errol Robinson committed errors in the first and eighth innings, and both baserunners came home to score.
After a poor throw put the leadoff man aboard in the eight, Laxer gave up a basehit and a walk to load the bases, then walked home the third run and kept the bases full for Short.
The Tide got a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4, and Short got out of the inning with a 5-3 double play.
After trailing the first six innings Ole Miss scored three times in the seventh on two hits – one of them a two-run single by Braxton Lee – a walk and an error. All the action came with two outs.
“We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be better out of the bullpen, and we’ve got to be better in the field,” Bianco said. “We’ve got to make plays at the end of the game to win the game.”
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – The Alcorn County Board of Supervisors isn’t making any changes to public comments procedures at its meetings in response to questions from county Tax Collector Larry Ross.
Ross, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, asked the board at its meeting last week to clarify rules on when public comment is allowed.
During the March 3 meeting, District 1 supervisor and board president Lowell Hinton denied Ross’ request to speak while supervisors were discussing a motion before taking a vote.
“I still am a citizen, and a concerned citizen,” Ross said.
Hinton told Ross at the March 17 meeting that he was well within state law that governs county board meetings in denying Ross’ request to speak while a motion was on the floor.
“That was a time for the board to discuss the matter among themselves,” Hinton said, “and unless a member of the public is invited, they are not to speak.”
County attorney Bill Davis confirmed the board of supervisors controls the agenda during the course of the meeting.
Hinton said, as he did in the March 3 meeting, any member of the public who wishes to speak must be placed on the agenda, as Ross was for this meeting.
Ross said his concern was that the matter being discussed was of concern and interest to the entire county – the sale of 129 acres of county property formerly designated as a potential site for a rubbish landfill.
The matter was not on the regular agenda and was brought up for discussion by District 3 Supervisor Tim Mitchell. Hinton made a motion, seconded by Mitchell, that the property be sold at auction and proceeds used to offset the deficit in that budget line item. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote.
Ross said the matter was not urgent and should have been placed on a future regular agenda so any member of the public with an interest could ask to speak to the issue. Ross said he heard incorrect information being shared among supervisors during the discussion and wanted a chance to address it.
Hinton said he felt Larry Ross’ family relationship with District 4 Supervisor Gary Ross played a part in his position on the subject, a statement that both Larry Ross and Gary Ross vigorously denied. Larry Ross is Gary Ross’ uncle.
Board members did not agree to Larry Ross’ request that in the future matters of a non-urgent nature be placed on the agenda of the next regular meeting if the issues were brought up after the regular agenda items were completed.
TUPELO – Robert Mann thinks he’s hit on a great idea – offering grocery delivery to customers in Tupelo.
Mann has started Tupelo Grocery Delivery, and will offer the service from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week.
For a fee, he’ll fulfill any grocery order, small or large, at any grocery store in Tupelo, and deliver it.
The fee is a percentage up to $100; purchases more than $100 are charged a flat rate of $22.50.
For now, he’ll accept only cash or checks, but plans to add a credit card option later as the business grows.
His target audience includes busy families, the elderly, parents taking care of sick kids, people who don’t want to go shopping, folks who may have forgotten something – essentially anyone who prefers someone else to do the shopping for them and to deliver it.
“You can call even if it’s just a couple of items. … I can deliver it that day or the next day, whatever works for you,” Mann said.
While he’s still working out the details and logistics of the business, Mann said the service will be limited to Tupelo for now. If it grows, he can expand his delivery area.
In addition, he’s considering making treks to Memphis to Whole Foods Market and/or The Fresh Market if there’s interest in that.
“But that’ll be down the road – I want to establish this idea first and see how it goes,” he said.
Mann can be reached at (662) 397-3818 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – When Dr. Gene Murphey came to Tupelo, North Mississippi Medical Center was still the hospital on the hill and house calls were part of the job.
Sixty-four years later, the internal medicine physician has hung up his stethoscope.
“I enjoyed helping people,” said Murphey, 93. “I just never did want to do anything else.”
He’s leaving a legacy as a physician and community arts advocate.
“He is one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” said Dr. Bill Woods, who practiced with Murphey for 36 years before retiring 11 years ago. “He’s a great physician.”
Murphey has an uncanny expertise in diagnosing patients based on their history and physical exam because of his early training before many tests and imaging studies were available, his colleagues said.
“There are things this guy knows that some of us never will,” said Dr. Ken Harvey, one of Murphey’s IMA-Tupelo colleagues.
Murphey never stopped adapting to evolving medical technology.
“Dr. Murphey was the first physician at IMA to have a computer in his office,” Harvey said, noting Murphey had an easier time learning to use them than many of his younger colleagues.
Murphey, who was born in West Point, but primarily grew up in Itta Bena and Long Beach, was inspired to go into medicine by his grandfather, the original Eugene Murphey, a general practitioner in Macon.
“He would let me go on house calls with him when I was in town,” Murphey said.
Medicine has evolved exponentially during Murphey’s professional career. He clearly remembers the arrival of penecillin at Charity Hospital in New Orleans during his residency, and ranks antibiotics as the most significant development he has seen as a physician.
“It made a real difference,” Murphey said.
During his early days in Tupelo, Murphey had the first and only EKG machine in town.
“If I needed to do an EKG on a patient, I had to take mine with me,” Murphey said. “It weighed about 50 or 60 pounds, and it had a handle so I guess you would call it portable.”
In 1966, Murphey was joined by Wood. In the 1980s, they would join with Drs. Antone Tannehil and Frank Lummus to form Internal Medicine Associates, the predecessor of IMA-Tupelo.
Murphey and wife Margaret Anne, who serves as executive director of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, have a long history of involvement in the arts. He is a founding member of Southern Light Photography Club, and both Murpheys have been active with Tupelo Community Theatre through the years, even reprising their performances in “Plaza Suite” at anniversary events.
As Murphey kept practicing long after typical retirement age, outlasting many younger physicians, his colleagues would poke fun at him as they worried over the increasing shortage of internal medicine physicians.
“Soon there’s not going to be anyone left but Gene Murphey,” was the punch line, he said.
However, lymphedema has taken a toll on his body. He continued to see patients well past his 93rd birthday. He officially retired on March 4, Mardi Gras day.
The grandson of one of his original house call patients called this week after learning of Murphey’s retirement. The long-ago patient wouldn’t go into the hospital so Murphey made a few trips out to the country home to treat his pneumonia.
“He said he remembered me clearly,” Murphey said, adding that the grandfather had lived to be 103.
By John Hanna
TOPEKA, Kan. – The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., the fiery founder of a small Kansas church who led outrageous and hate-filled protests that blamed almost everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and U.S. soldiers, on America’s tolerance for gay people, has died. He was 84.
Daughter Margie Phelps told The Associated Press that Fred Phelps, whose actions drew international condemnation, died around midnight Thursday. She didn’t provide the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.
Throughout his life, Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation made up almost entirely of his extended family, tested the boundaries of free speech, violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians. In the process, some believe he even helped the cause of gay rights by serving as such a provocative symbol of intolerance.
Phelps believed any misfortune, most infamously the deaths of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was God’s punishment for society’s tolerance of homosexuality. He and his followers carried forward their message bluntly, holding signs at funerals and public events that used ugly slurs and read “Thank God for dead soldiers.” God, he preached, had nothing but anger and bile for the moral miscreants of his creation.
“Can you preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God?” Phelps asked in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press. “The answer is absolutely not. And these preachers that muddle that and use that deliberately, ambiguously to prey on the follies and the fallacious notions of their people, that’s a great sin.”
For those who didn’t like the message or the tactics, Phelps and his family had only disdain. “They need to drink a frosty mug of shut-the-hell-up and avert their eyes,” his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, once told a group of Kansas lawmakers.
The activities of Phelps’ church, unaffiliated with any larger denomination, inspired a federal law and laws in more than 40 states limiting protests and picketing at funerals. He and a daughter were even barred from entering Britain for inciting hatred.
But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the church and its members were protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and could not be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families.
Helping the gay cause?
Yet despite that legal victory, some gay rights advocates believe all the attention Phelps generated served to advance their cause.
Sue Hyde, a staff member at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said plenty of churches and ministers preach a message that attacks gay people. But Phelps and his family had “taken this out on the streets,” forcing people to confront their own views and rousing a protective instinct in parents and friends of gays and lesbians.
“It’s actually a wonderful recruiting tool for a pro-equality, pro-social acceptance movement,” she said. “To the Phelps family, that is not particularly important or relevant. They are not there to save us. They are there to advise us that we are doomed.”
Once seen as the church’s unchallengeable patriarch, Phelps’ public visibility waned as he grew older and he became less active in the church’s pickets, with daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps — an attorney who argued the church’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court — most often speaking for Westboro. In the fall of 2013, even they were replaced by a church member not related to Phelps by blood as Westboro’s chief spokesman.
In Phelps’ later years, the protests themselves were largely ignored or led to counter demonstrations that easily shouted down Westboro’s message. A motorcycle group known as the Patriot Guard arose to shield mourners at military funerals from Westboro’s notorious signs. At the University of Missouri in 2014, hundreds of students gathered to surround the handful of church members who traveled to the campus after football player Michael Sam came out as gay.
Phelps’ final weeks were shrouded in mystery. A long-estranged son, Nate Phelps, said his father had been voted out of the congregation in the summer of 2013 “after some sort of falling out,” but the church refused to discuss the matter. Westboro’s spokesman would only obliquely acknowledge this month that Phelps had been moved into a care facility because of health problems.
Asked if he was surrounded by family or friends at his death, Margie Phelps would only say that “all of his needs were met when he died.” There will be no funeral, she said.
Fred Waldron Phelps was born in Meridian, Miss., on Nov. 13, 1929. He was raised a Methodist and once said he was “happy as a duck” growing up. He was an Eagle Scout, ran track and graduated from high school at age 16.
Selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy, Phelps never made it to West Point. He once said he went to a Methodist revival meeting and felt the calling to preach. Ordained a Baptist minister in 1947, he met his wife after he delivered a sermon in Arizona, and they were married in 1952.
Phelps was a missionary and pastor in the western United States and Canada before settling in Topeka in 1955 and founding his church. He earned his law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1964, focused on civil rights issues.
But in 1979, the Kansas Supreme Court stripped him of his license to practice in state courts, concluding he’d made false statements in court documents and “showed little regard” for professional ethics. He called the court corrupt and insisted he saw its action as a badge of honor. He later agreed to stop practicing in federal court, too.
Westboro remained a small church throughout his life, with less than 100 members, most related to the patriarch or one of his 13 children by blood or marriage. Its website says people are free to visit weekly services to get more information, though the congregation can vote at any time to remove a member who they decide is no longer a recipient of God’s grace.
The church’s building in central Topeka is surrounded by a wooden fence, and family members are neighbors, their yards enclosed by the same style of fence in a manner that suggests a sealed-off compound.
Most of his children were unflinchingly loyal, with some following their father into the law. While some estranged family members reported experiencing severe beatings and verbal abuse as children, the children who defended their father said his discipline was in line with biblical standards and never rose to the level of abuse.
Phelps could at times, in a courtly and scholarly manner, explain his religious beliefs and expound on how he formed them based on his reading of the Bible. He could also belittle those who questioned him and professed not to care whether people liked the message, or even whether they listened. He saw himself as “absolutely 100 percent right.”
“Anybody who’s going to be preaching the Bible has got to be preaching the same way I’m preaching,” he said in 2006.
Despite his avowedly conservative views on social issues, and the early stirrings of the clout Christian evangelicals would enjoy within the Kansas Republican Party, Phelps ran as a Democrat during his brief dabble as a politician. He finished a distant third in the 1990 gubernatorial primary, and later ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and Topeka mayor.
It was about that time that Westboro’s public crusade against homosexuality began. The protests soon widened and came to include funerals of AIDS victims and any other event that would draw a large crowd, from concerts of country singer Vince Gill to the Academy Awards.
He reserved special scorn for conservative ministers who preached that homosexuality was a sin but that God nevertheless loved gays and lesbians. When the Rev. Jerry Falwell died in 2007, Westboro members protested at his funeral with the same sorts of signs they held up outside services a decade earlier for Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death in 1998.
“They’re all going to hell,” Phelps said in a 2005 interview of Christians who refuse to condemn gay people as he did.
It wasn’t just the message, but also the mocking tone that many found to be deliberately cruel. Led by Phelps, church members thanked God for roadside explosive devices and prayed for thousands more casualties, calling the deaths of military personnel killed in the Middle East a divine punishment for a nation it believed was doomed by its tolerance for gay people.
State and federal legislators responded by enacting restrictions on such protests. A Pennsylvania man whose 20-year-old Marine son died in 2006 sued the church after it picketed the son’s funeral and initially won $11 million. In an 8-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2011 that the First Amendment protects even such “hurtful” speech, though it undoubtedly added to the father’s “already incalculable grief.”
“The Westboro Baptist Church is probably the vilest hate group in the United the State of America,” Heidi Beirich, research director for the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Associated Press in July 2011. “No one is spared, and they find people at their worst, most terrible moments of grief, and they throw this hate in their faces. It’s so low.”
By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen lost only one member of his coaching staff in the offseason.
Instead of replacing offensive coordinator/ QB coach Les Koenning with just one person, Mullen divvied the responsibilities among several members of his coaching staff, including himself.
Mullen, who has shared the play-calling duties with Koenning the last five seasons, will continue in that role and while John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales share the load as running game and passing game coordinators respectively.
Former Utah quarterback and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was brought in to coach the quarterbacks, forming a cohesive coaching unit for the fall.
“We’ve all be in that room together plenty of times as a staff,” Gonzales said. “We’ve got a great staff. There are no egos or hidden agendas. Everybody has a say in what we do.”
The four coaches were all together at Utah in 2004 with Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales serving on Urban Meyer’s staff there while Johnson was a true freshman QB for the Utes.
“It’s fun but it makes me feel old,” Mullen said. “(Johnson) was a little guy I recruited a couple of years ago and now he’s out there coaching with us. I guess I must be getting old.”
Coaching the QBs
Johnson’s first two days of spring practice have been spent working with three scholarship quarterbacks including rising junior Dak Prescott, who started seven games last season.
Prescott is impressed with what he has seen from his new 27-year old position coach.
“He’s a great coach who’s pushing us,” Prescott said. “He’s really fundamental and I like that. He’s making sure our feet go with our hands and our eyes and is doing a great job with us. We all enjoy him and like him.”
A fourth quarterback, Elijah Staley, is expected to join the mix in the fall. Staley is a 6-foot-6 southpaw from Marietta, Ga., who also plans to play basketball for the Bulldogs.
Mid-year junior college transfer Jocquell Johnson is getting his first taste of practices in the Southeastern Conference.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman from Copia-Lincoln Community College has spent his first two practices mixing in at left guard on the third team unit.
“He’s a little limited but I expect sometime soon he’ll be fine,” Hevesy said. “He’s a new guy learning a new system. The speed of the game is hard. There’s really no difference with him and a high school kid in terms of (adjusting) to the speed of the game.
“He’s done a great job adapting to the pace of practice and the way we do things. He’s lost about 15-pounds since he’s gotten here. He’s a great kid and is very conscious about what he does so we’ll get him better.”
State will return to practice Friday at 3:15 p.m. and is open to the public.
TUPELO – An arrest has been made in the robbery of a convenience store.
Willie B. Topp, 20, of Tupelo, has been charged with armed robbery. The incident occurred at NT’s Gas Station on McCullough Boulevard on Wednesday.
An employee told officers a black male had entered the store around 9 p.m., displayed a handgun and demanded money from the register. Topp allegedly took an undetermined amount of cash and fled on foot.
A witness at the scene saw Topp leave and told officers where he was last seen headed. Officers found Topp hiding under a resident’s deck, and he was taken into custody without incident.
No one was injured in the robbery.
By Brad Locke
VARDAMAN – Four men have been arrested and charged in the robbery of a Vardaman man.
Two of the four men allegedly kicked open the door and entered an elderly resident’s home at approximately 12:21 a.m. Sunday morning, choking him and taking his money while the other two suspects remained in their vehicle. The subjects who entered the house were wearing plastic bags over their heads.
All four men were arrested Sunday and Monday by multiple law enforcement agencies, according to Vardaman Police Chief Kenny Scott.
• Austen Martin, 18, of Houston, was charged with robbery and burglary of a dwelling.
• Dulany “Boomer” Collums, 20, of the Thorn community in Chickasaw County, was charged with robbery and burglary of a dwelling. He was on probation on a previous burglary charge, Scott said.
• Andrew Zeke Fowler, 18, of Tupelo, was charged with burglary of a dwelling.
• Christopher Dylan Haimes, 17, of Calhoun City, is being charged with burglary of a dwelling. He was on probation for a previous charged of robbing the same elderly victim, and at the time was adjudicated as an adult.
The suspects are being held in the Calhoun County Jail, awaiting arraignment. Their bonds have not been set.
Scott said the arrests were aided by the discovery of a cell phone that one of the suspects dropped at the scene.
The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, Calhoun City Police and Houston Police all assisted Vardaman Police with the investigation.