052008_obamaTwo Alabama mayors are in bigtime legal trouble, but their political adversity pales in comparison to that of Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter, who supported Barack Obama for president back before he won the Nobel Peace Prize and when many of her fellow Florida Democrats were still backing Hillary Clinton.  This week, her own father came after her with a gun.  The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that 84-year-old Ed Portner showed up at his daughter’s house with a pistol tucked in his belt after she endorsed Portner’s opponent in a race for Tarmac city mayor.  Ritter escaped out a back door.  Police later found Portner at home and led him away in handcuffs, wearing pajamas and his broad-brimmed hat.

In Alabama, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 19 on charges of accepting $236,000 in bribes from an investment banker. Meanwhile, a Tuskegee woman has sued the VictoryLand bingo operation, claiming it rigged machines to allow Langford to win $50,000 at one sitting back in August — days after reports that he couldn’t pay his legal fees.

In other bingo news in Alabama, White Hall Mayor Johnny Jackson resigned after pleading guilty to stealing $46,000 from funds the city received in the sale of land for an electronic bingo hall.  His attorney pointed out that the misdemeanor conviction would not prohibit Jackson from running for mayor again in 2012.

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.

But the credit card industry thanks you: An investigation by The Tennessean turned up receipts showing that Metro Nashville Public Schools employees used district-issued credit cards to buy digital cameras, Bluetooth headsets, iPods and gift cards.  The report said employees spent more than $94,000 dining out or ordering in from restaurants in Nashville and neighboring cities. One of the favorite spots was an Applebee’s within walking distance of the district headquarters.

hatsWhen you can’t just keep your hat on: According to the Montgomery Advertiser, someone has been nailing hats to fence posts next to a plot of land behind the Bell Station subdivision in Montgomery, Alabama, but no one seems to know why.  At one spot, a Walk of Life T-shirt is paired with a breast cancer awareness cap, although it doesn’t appear to be part of any official campaign.  “They just appear during the night,” said Charlotte Gaston, owner of Charlotte Gaston Interiors.

Flatheads? In Virginia, owners of Richmond’s new Class AA baseball franchise are sticking by the finalists in a name-the-team contest, even after the Times-Dispatch got hundreds of comments from readers sneering at the choices.  Decide for yourself.  The finalists are:  Flatheads, Flying Squirrels, Hambones, Rock Hoppers and Rhinos.

b76d081d0b_gidget_07232009Gidget is rolling over in her grave: Thinking outside the bun apparently overwhelmed a would-be Taco Bell customer in Miami.  After he was turned away at 3:40 a.m. because the place was closed, he waited in the parking lot for employees to begin exiting, then started shooting.  One employee was wounded in the leg.

Semper fido: OK, we confess.  The Post and Courier in Charleston beat us to this headline for a story about animal experts being dispatched to Parris Island to test more than 100 pit bulls, Rottweilers and canine-wolf mixes owned by Marines to see if they may remain on the base.  The base has outlawed such dogs, but owners can get waivers for well-behaved dogs of those breeds good until 2012.

burglar1jpg-f2b2f97f688458f8_mediumWhen being drunk is not enough: A video camera caught images of a naked man breaking into a Slidell, Mississippi, home where he allegedly cooked himself a meal, took a shower, stole a few things, then walked out wearing a white sheet.  The suspect later told police that he has a “medical condition.”

Not exactly PETA’s MO but … Someone broke into the Animal Supply House in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and freed the cats and the birds and at least one snake.  “The bird cages were open, and the cats were let out. Anything could have happened,” store owner Robert Beaty told the Rock Hill Herald.  During all the excitement, the snake stayed put.

clockClocking out, clocking in: The restored Louisville Derby Clock, which once sat atop City Hall, apparently will get a home at the Louisville Zoo after five years in the repair shop.  Officials of the Louisville Arena Authority and the Waterfront Development Corp. acknowledged that inquiries about putting the clock at the planned downtown arena and at Waterfront Park were rejected, according to the Courier-Journal.

Green things:  Duke Energy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have signed a contract to place one to three wind turbines in Pamlico Sound, possibly paving the way for utility-scale wind farms on the North Carolina coast, according to the Charlotte Observer.  In Tunica, Mississippi, a startup car company, GreenTech Automotive, says it will open a multibillion-dollar plant to produce hybrids. GreenTech was formerly known as Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corp. but that changed after its owner, Xiaolin “Charles” Wang, split with his Chinese partner in a messy lawsuit, according to the Clarion-Ledger.  In Tennessee, supporters of a bullet train between Chattanooga and Atlanta are moving to raise $21 million for planning.

702334_0_170A thank-you visit:  Rock drummer Travis Barker of Blink 182 returned to the Augusta burn center that treated him after he and DJ AM were seriously burned in a plane crash at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.  Barker’s assistant, his bodyguard and two crew members died in the crash. DJ AM died in August of an apparent drug overdose.  The Augusta Chronicle reported that Barker and members of Blink 182 are donating $100,000 to the burn center.

Oh, no, don’t cry for us Argentina: Among those standing by Dave Letterman in his extortion plot/sex scandal ordeal was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who knows a thing or two about getting into a domestic fix.  “Both my thoughts and my prayers are with him,” Sanford said after a speaking engagement at a Rotary Club meeting.  Sanford had a little extra trouble himself when his driver was pulled over — with Sanford in the car — by a state trooper.  The trooper didn’t write a ticket until later, when his boss, Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel, ordered him to.

Dew Droplets:   Virginia is one of the states being considered by the Interior Department for putting some of the West’s wild horses in the East … A Marshall County, Alabama, woman has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child after police said she let her teenage daughter ride in a cardboard box on top of their van … A 24-year-old Franklin County, Alabama, woman was convicted of raping a 13-year-old boy … Tennessee has cut 84,000 people from TennCare rolls this year … The youngest son of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond is getting out of politics … Former South Florida Catholic priest David Dueppen admits he fathered a baby with a former stripper and now wants custody of the girl.

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.