2021 Year in Review
After 2020, during which it seemed everything was canceled and all the news was bad, many Franklin Countians were looking forward to a better and brighter 2021. For many, this turned out to be true, with the return of festivals, parades, concerts, shows and other community events. From business to schools to sports and more, it was another banner year in Franklin County. COVID-19 still maintained a presence in Franklin county, from vaccine clinics to to virtual schooling stints to mask mandates, but much was back to normal.
Vaccine distribution begins in Franklin County
COVID-19 vaccinations began at the very end of 2020 and quickly began to pick up speed, with the Department of Human Resources, Russellville Hospital and Red Bay Hospital the first entities in the county to offer it. The vaccine was rolled out in waves, first to the elderly and most vulnerable populations before eligibility opened to the rest of the population.
Frog Pond resident Steve Trash opens Alabama Academy of Magic
Frog Pond resident Steve Trash, the world-traveling “Rockin’ Eco Hero” magician, opened the Alabama Academy of Magic. His program is designed to afford children the chance to learn magic tricks along with critical life skills and positive character development.
Tiffin Motorhomes sells to THOR Industries
Tiffin Motorhomes in Red Bay joined THOR Industries, one of the world’s largest companies for recreational vehicles. The Tiffin family continues to run the daily operations of the four local facilities – in Red Bay, Belmont, Winfield and Burnsville.
Tiffin said the move under THOR Industries would not change much of the business Tiffin does but was anticipated to bring expanded innovation, access to capital for facilities and process improvements and the ability to improve customer service.
Two retire from RPD after 28 years of service
Jan. 29 was the end of an era at Russellville Police Department as two officers with 28 years of law enforcement service each finished their last days at work before retirement. Capt. Scotty Lowery has served 27 years in Russellville following work as an officer in Phil Campbell, and Lt. Brian Shackelford has served 25 years in Russellville following time as an officer in Phil Campbell and at the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said it was going to be difficult losing two experienced officers like Shackleford and Lowery.
RHS construction makes progress
Construction was well underway for the new Russellville High School facility. In March, construction had progressed past the foundation, and the structure was beginning to take shape. The new building will connect the library and cafeteria and house the main office, special education department, EL teachers and the new science facilities. It will be two stories and stand 40 feet tall to provide a grand entrance to campus. Construction of the new high school building is part of a two-phase plan, with the second part including revamping the Career Tech Department.
RHS girls’ tennis duo brings home first state championship
For the first time in school history, Russellville High claimed state champions in girls’ tennis. The RHS No. 2 doubles team of Avary Miller and Roxanna Velez-Serna took first place in Class 4A-5A at the state tournament held in Mobile April 19-20. Miller and Velez-Serna were part of the Russellville varsity team that placed third overall out of 16 4A-5A schools that qualified for the state tournament. The Lady Golden Tigers, led by head coach Charlotte Dollar and assistant LeAnn Strickland, collected 37 total points.
FC Farm-City Committee receives state awards
The Franklin County Farm-City Committee received the Division 2 Best Farm-City Banquet Award and Best Media Coverage Award during the Alabama Farm-City Awards Luncheon April 8 in Birmingham.
NW-SCC holds re-opening of nature trail, naming of outdoor classroom
When the 2011 tornados damaged much of the Cecil Clapp Nature Trail at Northwest-Shoals Community College’s Phil Campbell campus, Professor Joe Marks Alls was heartbroken by the damage and devastation to the trail and outdoor classroom, where he spent much of his time. NW-SCC associate dean of academic programs Timmy James said Alls was in his office often asking when NW-SCC would be restoring the trail and outdoor classroom. Alls died in 2019, a year before the funding to restore the nature trail and outdoor classroom was acquired. The trail has now been reopened, with an outdoor classroom named in Alls’ honor. The trail is located at the back of the NW-SCC Phil Campbell campus, and the outdoor classroom is located approximately a quarter of a mile down the trail. “We had a goal of having this open by the 10-year anniversary of the tornados April 27,” said then-NW-SCC President Glenda Colagross. “Today is the 26th, so I would say we met that goal.”
Broadband gets green light
COVID-19 forced many changes to daily life, but after eight years of work, the virus was what sealed the deal on one major change in Franklin County: broadband. The expansion of broadband in Franklin County came through a $3,875,141.90 grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The areas set to be included were the communities surrounding Hodges, Vina, Spruce Pine and the eastern part of the county, east of Russellville to the Lawrence County line, including Bethsaida and Tharptown to East Franklin and Phil Campbell. “This is a huge victory for our area,” said Rep. Jamie Kiel, “but we are not through. I will continue to work through the legislative process to ensure everyone in Franklin County and House District 18 has access to rural broadband internet.”
RHS soccer finishes runner-up at state
For the first time in the five years of Russellville High School soccer, the Golden Tigers earned their way to the AHSAA Class 4A-5A Final Four. The RHS varsity boys traveled to Huntsville’s John Hunt Park for the semifinal contest May 6 and defeated Crossville in an overtime thriller 3-2. The following evening, the Golden Tigers faced Indian Springs and fell in the state championship match by a 2-0 score, to finish runner-up in the state.
Golden Tigers, Bobcats take state baseball titles
The Russellville baseball team opened play in the Class 5A baseball state championship series with a 3-1 victory over Pike Road in game one at Montgomery’s Paterson Field. They followed that with a 3-2 victory the next morning at Riverwalk Stadium to claim the state title. The Bobcats brought even more glory to the county by reigning as state champs of Class 3A – the first AHSAA baseball crown in the Franklin County school’s history.
Three local rocket teams qualify for national competition
Russellville and Tharptown high school rocketry teams competed in The American Rocketry Challenge national competition in mid-June and came away with high finishes among the 100 teams that qualified to compete. RHS Team One placed fifth, winning $7,500 for the team and $1,000 for the school. The team also won Best in Launch Site for Birmingham, for another $1,000 in winnings. Team members were Elijah Hawkins, Tino Soto, Carrie Ruth Jackson and Zakery Colburn. THS Team One placed ninth in the national competition. Team members included Perla Chavez, Lydia Henderson, Presley Laster and Destin Martin.
RHS Team Two placed 35th. Team members were Shiloh Willis, Carson McAlpin, Dalton Ridge and Seth Burns. THS Team Two was sixth alternate, of the 615 teams that competed for one of the 100 national slots, and ultimately did not get the opportunity to compete this year. Team members were Christian Franco, Bernardo Castillo, Danielle Cassel and Grace Beard.
Place of Grace receives land donation for women’s rehabilitation center
For Jocelynn James Edmonds, the desire to open a faith-based rehab center for women who want help to break free of addiction is a personal one. All she has needed was a building in which to house her ministry. Now she is one step closer, thanks to a donation of land from the Community Church at Hackleburg.
Councilwoman Lynn Landers founds Phil Campbell Arts, Historical Society
Lynn Landers has big dreams for promoting history and art in Phil Campbell. She, along with other interested locals, formed the Phil Campbell Arts and Historical Society, a civic organization that went on to be granted non-profit status later in the year. Landers, a Phil Campbell councilwoman, said she has been collecting items for years. Most people, Landers said, don’t know a lot about the town’s history. “Not only is it important to remember our past, but it can also inspire us as we move forward and think about what we want to do to make Phil Campbell even better.”
Community remembers Cecil Batchelor
Cecil Batchelor, age 96, beloved Russellville icon, passed away Aug. 17. His passing led many to reflect on his legacy and the impact he had on the community. Probate Judge Barry Moore said Batchelor was “a very successful businessman” who had a “positive impact on a great many people in Franklin County. “He would always speak when he saw you,” said Moore. “Cecil was very involved in community events. I was fortunate enough to have him both as a friend and neighbor. He will be greatly missed throughout the community.” Bachelor is thought to be the longest-serving Civitan in Alabama with more than 72 years of service. He also organized and was the first president of the Russellville Industrial Board, the Russellville Jaycees and the Russellville Merchant Association.
Listerhill Foundation provides new socks, shoes to every TES student
The Listerhill Foundation presented all 500 children at Tharptown Elementary School with a new pair of brand-name athletic shoes and five pairs of Bombas socks through its Kicks for Kids program Sept. 21. Listerhill President and CEO Brad Green said the initiative is designed to “celebrate all the children in the school.”
RPD, RCS partner to raise funds for families of fallen Sheffield officer, FC sheriff
Russellville City Schools and the Russellville Police Department partnered to raise funds that will support the families of two local law enforcement officers. The collection supported the family of fallen Sheffield Police Sgt. Nick Risner and the family of Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver in the loss of his wife, Tange. Risner was shot in the line of duty in Muscle Shoals Oct. 1, and he passed away because of his injuries Oct. 2. Oliver’s wife passed away unexpectedly Oct. 2.
Russellville Hospital Foundation holds first Christmas at City Lake
The Russellville Hospital Foundation kicked off its first Christmas at City Lake event Nov. 30. Events included music and the lighting of Christmas trees that were sponsored and decorated by community organizations, businesses, churches and families. Proceeds from the event will be used for a future Emergency Room renovation.