Across Georgia

Macon to upgrade auditorium for Oprah


MACON, Ga. - Macon plans to spend up to $20,000 to ready the City Auditorium for Oprah Winfrey's upcoming visit.

Ms. Winfrey's company, Harpo Productions, has offered to reimburse the city for some of the improvements to the historic building, Mayor Jack Ellis said. They include fresh paint, new carpet and the replacement of grungy curtains.

Ms. Winfrey is scheduled to tape a show in Macon on Nov. 17 as part of a series highlighting towns across the United States.

Georgia bank accepts buyout from SunTrust

GAINESVILLE, GA.--- A combination of a 10-month stock price slide and developers defaulting on loans in a slumping housing market caused GB&T Bancshares' directors to accept a stock buyout from SunTrust Banks Inc. for $153.7 million in stock, bank officials said.

Under the agreement that was announced Friday, GB&T stockholders would receive 0.1562 shares of SunTrust common stock for each share of GB&T common stock. Based on SunTrust's Friday closing price, that would amount to $10.72 per share.

Senator wants justice's name on interchange

SAVANNAH, Ga. --- A state lawmaker is pushing to name an interstate exchange near Savannah for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

State Sen. Eric Johnson, a Savannah Republican, says he plans to introduce legislation that would call for the interchange of Interstates 95 and 16 to be named for Justice Thomas, who was born in nearby Pin Point and is the second black justice on the Supreme Court.

Judge faces charges in hit-and-run wreck

ROME, GA. --- A Chattooga County judge faces charges of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident after a two-vehicle crash, police said.

State Judge Carlton Vines is accused of striking an older-model pickup with his Ford Ranger on Saturday morning, said Joseph Teet of the Georgia State Patrol post in Rome. A witness called 911, saying the vehicle that struck the pickup had fled.

Another witness called in the license plate number of the truck, which was identified as being owned by Judge Vines, Mr. Teet said.

Officials later confronted the judge at his home. After he refused a blood test, he was arrested and taken to the county jail, where he posted a $4,000 property bond, Mr. Teet said.

Coast Guard suspends effort to find boater

CHARLESTON --- The Coast Guard has suspended its search for a man who was lost when the boat he and his brother were in started taking on water and capsized.

The search for Daniel Phallan, 29, was called off Saturday night, the Coast Guard said.

Rescuers found William Phallan, 31, Saturday morning about 11 miles east of Winyah Bay.

The brothers had gone out in a 16-foot boat Friday evening, the Coast Guard said.

The men used a cell phone to call for help when their boat began taking on water and became disabled four miles east of Murrells Inlet.

Memorial service held in honor of students

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. --- Members of a local chapel honored seven college students killed a week ago in a fire at a beach house, and a leader of the service said he hoped the ceremony would help family and friends overcome the tragedy.

"It is my prayer that with this service the path to healing begins and that the light our community's love shine brightly and be felt in the hearts of the families and friends of those we honor today," said the Rev. Jerry Hannah, of Goldsboro, one of the leaders of the Sunday morning service at Ocean Isle Beach Chapel.

About 200 people attended the service.

The early morning fire on Oct. 28 at a waterfront beach house killed six students from the University of South Carolina and one from Clemson University.

A discarded cigarette or other smoking materials might have caused the fire, authorities said Friday, though a preliminary investigation failed to identify the specific origin.