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Rotary Club of Marshall donates $20,000 to East Texas Baptist University

East Texas Baptist University received a $20,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Marshall to put towards the renovation of the 8th floor of the historic Marshall Grand.

“This is a really unique opportunity, and we are very excited to see what the University is doing here in Marshall. The difference ETBU is making in the lives of young adults is tremendous,” Marshall Rotary District Liaison Ted Huffhines said. “Rotary is about making lives better, and while we do a lot of things internationally, it is great for us to be able to make an impact here locally, and we are excited about that.”

After the building was gifted to the University in 2013, ETBU raised over $4 million to renovate the Marshall Grand, with significant contributions from the Andersen Foundation, Moody Foundation, Meadows Foundation, and J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation.

The School of Nursing Campaign also garnered support from foundations across the state, including the Rosa May Griffin Foundation, the T. J. and LaVerne Plunkett Foundation, and the Wece and Martha Johnson Foundation.

While donor support provided the means to complete the academic spaces, three floors of the Marshall Grand remain unfinished as the University continues to raise funds and make decisions on how to best utilize the additional spaces.

“The Rotary Club of Marshall has certainly given a gift to East Texas Baptist University, but they have also given a gift to the City of Marshall,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “We would not have this building here if it were not for the generations of people in Marshall who came before us, and for those who have provided resources to help make this building restoration happen. I value the work that the Rotary Club does, and the investment that they have made in our community and now in our University. The Grand Hall will be a beautiful banquet/large event space, and we want it to be something special for the community of Marshall.”

Positioned at the highest elevation in Harrison County, the University has begun renovating the 8th floor into the Grand Hall, an open ballroom-type facility that can accommodate up to 280 guests in banquet-style and 400 seats theater-style.

The space is intended for use by ETBU for dinners, dances, ceremonies, and other University life activities. Community organizations such as the Rotary Club will also be able to utilize the building for meetings, conferences, seminars, and other events.

“When this was the old hotel, Marshall Rotary met here, so in my heart and the hearts of other members in the club, this is a very worthwhile project,” Huffhines added. “Just having the opportunity to see what East Texas Baptist University has done to put the nursing school in, we’re excited to see this and to be a part of these next steps.

“We look forward to its completion and the opportunities for our community to utilize the space in the future.”

Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards kicks off in downtown Jefferson

JEFFERSON — Music was in the air in downtown Jefferson as the annual Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards kicked off Thursday and is set to run throughout Sunday.

The East Texas Performing Arts, Inc. of Jefferson organizers forged ahead with plans for the event this year, despite challenges brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which kept many international performers from being able to fly in to the U.S. for the event.

“We had all 26 acts booked back in March,” ETPA’s Preston Taylor told the audience on Thursday. “That’s 40 individuals that had their airline tickets booked and they all were not allowed in so they’ll be here next year.“

Some of the singers who were lucky enough to already be in the U.S. visiting when the pandemic hit were able to stay and make it to Jefferson to perform live this week, while many other performers are competing live, virtually.

Opening night of the event kicked off Thursday with seven bands competing. The performers were from across the globe, including the Netherlands, Mexico, Spain, Norway and even a local band, The Purple Hulls from Kilgore who performed live.

The event continues today and wraps up Sunday with an awards show.

“These are not just your average bar acts. Some have had number one records in their home nations, or hold gold or platinum records,” ETPA President Sara Whitaker said. “One band has accumulated over 50 million YouTube views of their songs. Many are new to Texas Sounds, and some are returnees. That is part of the magic of Texas Sounds. Acts travel from around the world, perform for charity, and want to return. We even had to initiate a rule — acts can compete no more than two consecutive years, then they then must take a one-year hiatus before they are eligible to come back.”

For the virtual performances, audience members get to watch the singers on a big screen.

“Since so many international acts cannot currently enter the U.S. we added several U.S. based live acts, from Nashville, New Orleans, California, and Texas. A large investment was made in a huge, 13 ft-wide, professional projection system so that restricted international acts can participate through video and streaming. It will be almost like sitting in the front row of a movie theater,” Whitaker said. “The 2020 Texas Sounds is possible because the producers were diligent, flexible, imaginative, and determined. Going forward during the shutdown was a huge gamble, but it paid off.”

Acts will perform throughout each day of the weekend and the awards show is set to begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

To see a full schedule of acts, or purchase tickets in advance, visit the event’s website at www.TexasSounds.org or the event’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/TexasSounds

U.S. Attorney’s Office committed to protecting the electoral process

BEAUMONT — U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox recently announced that Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) have been appointed to lead the efforts of his Office in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program for the upcoming Nov. 3 general election.

AUSA Michelle Englade has been appointed to serve as the District Election Officer (DEO) for the Eastern District of Texas, and in that capacity is responsible for overseeing the district’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters in Washington.

While AUSA Englade will operate out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office headquarters in Beaumont, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) has also appointed regional officers to oversee election integrity issues in other areas of the district, with AUSA Allen Hurst serving in Tyler, AUSA Andrew Stover serving in Plano, and AUSA Will Tatum serving in Sherman.

Working together with the FBI, and state and local partners, these AUSAs will be collectively responsible for overseeing the District’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses, in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters in Washington.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Cox said, “The right of every citizen to vote is a cherished hallmark of what it means to be an American. Whether it is the fraudulent obtaining of dozens of illegal ballots as has recently been alleged in the northern part of our District, or the intimidation of citizens intending to cast their vote, EDTX will act swiftly, in coordination with our law enforcement partners, to protect the fairness and integrity of the democratic process.”

The Department of Justice has an important role in deterring election fraud and discrimination at the polls and combating these violations whenever and wherever they occur. The Department’s long-standing Election Day Program furthers these goals, and also seeks to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the election process by providing local points of contact within the Department for the public to report possible election fraud and voting rights violations while the polls are open on election day.

Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them.

For example, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law.

Further, federal law protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice (where voters need assistance because of disability or illiteracy).

The franchise is the cornerstone of American democracy. We all must ensure that those who are entitled to the franchise exercise it if they choose, and that those who seek to corrupt it are brought to justice. In order to respond to complaints of election fraud or voting rights abuses on November 3, 2020, and to ensure that such complaints are directed to the appropriate authorities, citizens can reach out directly with reports of fraud or intimidation.

AUSA Englade can be reached by the public in Beaumont at (409) 839-2538, AUSA Hurst can be reached in Tyler, Texas, at (903) 590-1400, AUSA Stover can be reached in Plano, Texas, at (972) 509-1201, and AUSA Tatum can be reached in Sherman at (903) 868-9454.

In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day. The FBI can be reached by the public in the Eastern District of Texas at the following telephone numbers:

  • Beaumont – (409) 832-8571
  • Frisco – (214) 705-7000
  • Lufkin – (936) 637-3834
  • Sherman – (903) 892-8754
  • Texarkana – (870) 773-3382
  • Tyler – (903) 592-4301

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.

U.S. Attorney Cox said, “Public cooperation is essential to guaranteeing an open and fair election. If citizens have specific information regarding election fraud, discrimination, or voter intimidation, we urge them to make that information available immediately to my Office, the FBI, or the Civil Rights Division.”

Local NAACP publishes inaugural quarterly newsletter

The NAACP Harrison County Branch No. 6185 has launched its first quarterly newsletter, paying tribute to the organization’s two past presidents, the late Mrs. Charles Wilson and the late Jim McCutchens.

McCutchens, who passed from a heart attack in April, had gracefully taken the helm of the organization after the March 2018 passing of Wilson, who had faithfully led the chapter for more than 55 years.

“We hope that these newsletters will go off well,” current president, Zephaniah Timmins, stated, noting that the newsletter highlights the organization’s mission and goals, and also spotlights local businesses.

This first newsletter covers Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

“Each quarter, we would like to feature some of the groups, colleges that we have here in town,” he said.

The newsletters are also a fundraiser for the NAACP, which traditionally hosts an annual MLK banquet to raise money for operations.

“The first edition is in color, so we’re asking people to donate to the newsletter,” said Timmins. “It’s just a minimum $3 donation just to pay for the printing of the newsletter.”

“We’re asking to pick up a newsletter so you can see what we’re doing there,” he added.

Businesses are invited to advertise their business in the newsletter. The cost will be $25 per quarter to advertise a business card.

“That’s four newsletters per year, so that’s only $100,” said Timmins.

“That way people would know that you are friends of the NAACP and we are pushing for people to do business with you,” he said.

Under the section, “The President’s Desk,” Timmins outlines the goals and mission of the organization. Newsletters can be picked up at the NAACP office at 103 Young Street or by calling Zephaniah Timmins at (903) 930-7230. For more information, see the “NAACP Marshall” Facebook page.

According to its history, the NAACP nationally was organized on Feb. 12, 1909, by a group of white and black citizens who, believing that the treatment of blacks in the United States violated the Constitution, felt positive action should be taken.

The NAACP launched as a result of race riots in the summer of 1908 in Springfield, Illinois.

The organization’s program efforts today focuses on education, housing, labor and industry, legal redress, political action, veterans affairs, community coordination, youth outreach, consumer protection, economic advancement, church works, voter registration and more.

Membership helps to combat discrimination nationwide and locally.

Marshall Amtrak station to be staffed

The Amtrak station at 800 N. Washington St. in Marshall is in the process of hiring a new staff, according to Amtrak Customer Service Representatives.

A news release from Amtrak stated that the previously unmanned station is now looking into hiring a new staff to aid in booking trips and the boarding Amtrak Texas Eagle trains.

The company said that they plan to soon have representatives for every Amtrak arrival and departure, which is approximately three times a week, reduced down from daily.

The station waiting room is open for passengers at all train times with an Amtrak Quik-TrakSM kiosk available for ticketing and printing of boarding documents.

For a listing of all available services, hours and train status information visit Amtrak.com, use our free mobile app or call 800-USARAIL (1-800-872-7245).

Amtrak is not accepting cash for ticket purchases at this time.