xlThe dust from the dust-up over Obama’s back-to-school address has not settled, and his side is striking back.  A crowd of angry parents showed up this week at a school board meeting in Valdosta, where the head of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference called for the resignation of School Superintendent Bill Cason, who, like many other Southern school officials, had refused to let Obama’s televised address be shown.  Cason is white; the majority of Valdosta’s students are African-American.

“If Dr. Cason were black and 80 percent of the school children in his district were white, and he arbitrarily decided not to allow white children to watch a white president’s ‘back to school’ speech,’ and whites came here tonight in the numbers that blacks have come to protest, he would resign, or be fired. And we are here to demand no less,” local SCLC president Floyd Rose declared.  According to The Valdosta Times, Cason’s response to what the superintendent called “allegations and accusations” prompted one audience member to shout, “He lies!”

The back-to-school backlash may also have cost South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford a big photo op.  His scheduled meeting with student journalists at Summerville High School was abruptly canceled.  School officials said they decided a visit by the governor and his entourage would disrupt the overcrowded school, according to The Post & Courier.  But some students speculated school officials, who had refused to air the president’s speech, worried more about appearing to give better treatment to a confessed philanderer.

Here’s some other stories from around the South that grabbed our attention.  And check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.

gatorslayerRun gators, run: As alligator hunting season got underway across the South, a team from Yazoo, Missisippi, caught a record-sized female gator, measuring 9-feet 9-inches and weighing 192 pounds.  But that was salamander size compared to the gator pulled in by four men on their first ever gator hunt in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  That one measured 12 feet and weighed 680 pounds.  But how tough do you really have to be to drag in a gator?  Cammie Colin landed one 10-feet 10-inches and weighing 353 pounds, also in South Carolina.   Cammie weighs 120 pounds and is a 16-year-old cheerleader at White Knoll High School.

Meanwhile, in chicken news: Carrboro Greenspace, organizers of a tour of a chicken co-op in Carborro, North Carolina, canceled a “skillshare” session that was to show people how to slaughter chickens after a resident e-mailed town leaders to complain. They held a discussion instead.  PETA, of course, would prefer that no chicken die for our food, and, to that end, is moving to open a “chicken empathy musuem” in Troutville, Virginia, at a prison building the state plans to close.

We could eat pigeons: Nashville Electric Service has set up a noisemaking propane  cannon in the Donelson neighborhood of that Tennessee city to scare off pigeons after pigeons caused two partial power outages at the substation there.

armstrong05Statues of limitation: New Orleans residents are complaining about plans to spend $1.2 million on statues of famous musicians for Armstrong Park instead of establishing recreation facilities and green space for residents of the Treme neighborhood.  “We don’t need statues,” declared former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet III.  A statue of jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet already are in place.  According to the The Times-Picayune, plans are to add statues honoring gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, trumpeter Buddy Bolden, Mardi Gras Indian chief Tootie Montana, brass bands, the old French Opera House and Congo Square.

Name that school: The Volusia County School Board in Florida is considering selling naming rights.  According to tampabay,com, the proposal would grant naming rights for school facilities and allow advertising on uniforms, district property, Web sites or printed materials.

Not that you should text and drive, but … The Tennessee Department of Transportation has begun a pilot program tied to the widening of state Highway 66 in Sevierville to see if Twitter would be a good way to alert the public about ongoing road work, knoxnews.com reports.  Those who sign up for the service will get regular messages about lane closures, work progress and traffic tie-ups.  Meanwhile, motorists in South Florida are fuming over a new 511 system that asks more questions than it answers about traffic bottlenecks.  According to SunSentinel.com, callers have to wait through a long, convoluted opening greeting, then menu options before they get to ask about traffic information, then the electronic voice doesn’t seem to understand the question.

Shrimp status update:  South Carolina’s Lowcountry shrimpers are hoping to boost sales by going online.  A web portal has  been launched that puts customers, shrimpers and distributors in touch with each other, according to The Post and Courier, and some shrimpers are setting up individual websites and Facebook accounts.

Carpet balming: Dalton, Georgia, which once shipped carpet around the world, is getting some help from abroad for its ailing textile industry.  IVC Group of Belgium announced plans to open its first vinyl floor manufacturing plant in Whitfield County.  The Chattanooga Times Free Press says the plant is expected to belch out 5,000 miles of vinyl flooring a year.

Dew Droplets: The Salvation Army is closing its thrift stores in Louisville, Kentucky … A Memphis, Tennessee, man allegedly robbed a bank with a pellet pistol borrowed from his stepson … Wildlife officials seized a 400-pound python kept by its Apopka, Florida, owner in the backyard … Steve Nunn, son of former Kentucky  Gov. Louie B. Nunn, is accused of gunning down his ex-fiancee in a parking lot … Crystal Lee Sutton, inspiration for the textile union activist character  that won an Oscar for Sally Field in Norma Rae, has died in Burlington, North Carolina.

For more headlines, check out the Center for a Better South’s thinksouth blog.

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.