Originally created 12/29/96

Augusta's year in review: July - December



>JULY

July 1: Georgia speed limit changes from 65 to 70 miles per hour on rural interstates.

July 9: In Georgia primary voting, Clay Whittle is re-elected Columbia County sheriff; Jack Connell is re-elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.

July 11: Columbia County inmate and former escapee Christopher Jeburk is sentenced to life in prison.

July 14: The Olympic Torch passes through Augusta, carried by more than 50 community hero torchbearers and seen by an estimated 100,000 people.

July 19: The Centennial Olympic Games begin in Atlanta.

July 28: Augusta rowers Tim Young, Brian Jamieson, Eric Mueller and Jason Gailes take the silver medal in the men's quadruple sculls.

AUGUST

Aug. 1: U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., backs the historic welfare reform proposal sent to President Clinton.

Aug 1: All five members of the New Ellenton City Council resign rather than follow a judge's order to begin paying for a controversial $5 million sewer project plagued by fraud and mismanagement.

Aug. 3: The Augusta Chronicle reports that Westinghouse will be awarded a five-year, $6 billion contract to continue operating Savannah River Site.

Aug. 5: Former Augusta National Golf Club chairman Hord W. Hardin dies.

Aug. 6: Augusta attorney Neal Dickert, riding a huge vote out of Columbia County, ousts Judge Bettieanne Hart in the runoff for Superior Court Judge; Bill Jackson edges Lee Anderson in the Republican primary runoff for Georgia House District 112. In a nasty battle for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, Guy Millner defeats Johnny Isakson.

Aug. 8: Thomson nursery owner reveals that he has been growing the replacement hedges for Sanford Stadium's famous rows, removed to accommodate soccer for the Olympics.

Aug. 8: Aiken resident Christopher Romanek is part of the team that shocked the world with the possibility of life on Mars, revealed in fossils found in a meteorite.

Aug. 14: The silver-medal-winning Olympic scullers who trained in Augusta are honored at a Riverwalk ceremony.

Aug. 14: The Chronicle reports that the Georgia Attorney General's office is investigating Medical College of Georgia researchers for possible diversion of research funds into their own private companies.

Aug. 14: A judge dismisses theft charges against Richmond County fire mechanic Hugh Barefield in a case stemming from an investigation of missing parts and materials at the county garage.

Aug. 15: A federal judge allows spent nuclear fuel rods from other countries to be shipped to SRS, despite South Carolina's lawsuit to block the shipments.

Aug. 22: Augusta junior golfer Charles Howell advances to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur only to be ousted by eventual champion Tiger Woods.

Aug. 28: New Ellenton officials return after the state refuses to accept their resignations and town funds are used to pay sewer bills.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 3: Richmond County school trustees vote 8-2 to approve a $115 million dollar bond referendum for the Nov. 5 ballot. The money will be used to fix crumbling, crowded schools.

Sept. 6: Dewayne McCord, 20, is convicted of murder and sentenced to three life terms in the 1994 robbery and shooting deaths of pawn shop owners Marie and Floyd Thigpen. District Attorney Danny Craig had opted to withdraw his request for the death penalty after a jury deadlocked in a March trial.

Sept. 7: Patti Rhodes, 44, is shot to death at the Gordon Highway bar where she works, and police later arrest her husband, who had been released a day earlier after spending three days in the Richmond County Jail on a domestic violence charge. Kenneth Lyle Rhodes, 46, was admonished to stay away from his estranged wife, but death threats against her reported in a police incident report were not taken into account at the hearing, officials say.

Sept. 9: Evans lawyer William H. Lumpkin, 49, is arrested in the beating death of Martinez real estate agent Stan White, 64, whose rope-bound body was found in the Savannah River near Allendale, S.C. Mr. White bought Mr. Lumpkin's house at auction after Mr. Lumpkin defaulted on a $95,000 mortgage, authorities report.

Sept. 11: About 3,000 area residents gather at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater to rally for Jack Kemp as the GOP vice presidential hopeful makes a stop in Augusta to talk about taxes, the economy and the work of community activist Ruth Crawford and her Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center. Mr. Kemp, with a $100 check, leads a collection that nets $1,870 for the center.

Sept. 16: Three Department of Social Services workers in North Augusta are killed when a man searching for his children barges into the office and begins shooting. Police mount a search, aided by bloodhounds and helicopters for David Mark Hill, 36. Mr. Hill is found the next day in a wooded area where he appears to have attempted suicide by shooting himself.

Sept. 22: At the Savannah River Site, 280 spent nuclear fuel rods from Europe and South America arrive, the first of up to 300 such shipments during the next three years. A federal judge allowed the shipment into the Aiken facility, although a lawsuit filed by the state is ongoing, contending the fuel cannot be stored safely at the facility.

Sept. 24: A Richmond County jury finds Robert Eugene Fielding guilty of murdering Department of Family and Children's Services worker Mary Colley Stewart, whose body was never found after she disappeared. The next day, a judge sentences Fielding to life in prison without parole, although he could have received the death penalty, despite defense contentions he is mentally retarded.

OCTOBER

Oct. 1: The Augusta Commission selects William J. Estabrook, former Dayton, Ohio, manager, to administer county government.

Oct. 1: Maj. Gen. Michael Ackerman accepts command of Fort Gordon from Lt. Gen. Douglas Buchholz.

Oct. 3: The U.S. Senate designates the 151-year-old Augusta Canal as a national heritage area, which will earn the waterway a place on national tourist maps and make it eligible for sizable federal grants.

Oct. 8: Augusta native Lt. Cmdr. Susan Still will be a space shuttle pilot, the second woman so honored, The Augusta Chronicle reports.

Oct. 11: Otis Smart, Laney High School football and women's basketball coach, is acquitted of sexual allegations against a former player.

Oct. 14: The Augusta Chamber of Commerce censures President Al Hodge for the handling of conflicting efforts to attract the Titleist golf ball manufacturer to the Augusta area.

Oct. 21: William Estabrook changes his mind and reneges on taking the job as Augusta administrator.

Oct. 25: Augusta Commissioners hire Charles Oliver, assistant administrator for Polk County, Fla., to take the administrator post.

Oct. 31: After years of delay, North Augusta breaks ground on a new riverfront golf course.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 5: With a higher than expected turnout, incumbents were generally returned to office in Georgia and South Carolina. Locally, Columbia County voters approved sale of liquor in restaurants and hotels on Sundays and Richmond County residents passed their first school bond in years.

Nov. 6: Embattled U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary confirmed she will quit her post by January.

Nov. 13: Ruth Vaiden is charged with murdering her mother Teresa Vaiden, a popular Richmond County elementary school principal whose death earlier in the month prompted alarm among residents of the victim's Hill neighborhood.

Nov. 13: State Sen. Charles Walker of Augusta is chosen Senate majority leader.

Nov. 19: The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority votes to turn the job of running its facility over to a Houston-based management firm - Leisure Management International.

Nov. 19: J.B. White officials confirm they hope to expand to Augusta Mall. "It's not official but we are proceeding with plans," said Randolph Burnette of White's parent-company - Mercantile Stores.

Nov. 20: U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt tours the Augusta Canal and says, "This is a unique piece of American landscape and American history."

Nov. 22: Augusta learns it will be host for one of the training centers for America's Olympic rowing team for at least another four years. Officials with U.S. Rowing Association also confirm Igor Grinko will continue as U.S. sculling coach.

Nov. 25: Savannah River Site officials confirm that announced layoffs have been postponed again.

DECEMBER

Dec. 3: The Augusta-Richmond County Museum Board of Trustees chooses a 38-year-old North Carolina museum administrator - Scott W. Loehr, administrator of the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, N.C. - to direct museum operations.

Dec. 4: Longtime public employees Linda Beazley and Charles Dillard, interim administrators for Augusta's consolidated government, are abruptly dismissed. Augusta Mayor Larry Sconyers said he terminated the services of Ms. Beazley and Mr. Dillard - who were both planning to step down anyway - at the request of a majority of the board.

Dec. 6: A Wagener, S.C. grandmother, her two children and two grandchildren, are all killed when the car she was driving crashed head-on into an empty school bus in rural Aiken County. Preliminary investigations into the five deaths indicate Linda Tindal was drinking heavily.

Dec. 13: In a far-reaching legal settlement, Atlanta Gas Light Co. agrees to compensate hundreds of property owners for all or part of nine square blocks of downtown real estate impacted by toxic coal-tar contamination. The out-of-court settlement, subject to final approval by a Superior Court judge, would end a 1995 class-action lawsuit filed by the historic Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and nearby residents.