In early May, the Black Belt found themselves basked in the moonlight from a historic “Super Moon.” The full moon in early May was captured by Tim Reeves rising over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in this photograph picked as the best of 2012.

A look back at what made 2012 special

Published 2:42pm Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We can all take a deep breath knowing the Mayans were wrong. The world didn’t end in 2012, in fact life went on.

There were moments we all celebrated and moments were we all leaned on each other and cried.

While this is an opportunity to look back at 2012 and recount the largest stories of the year, it is also an exercise in understanding what we might have learned from the past year to help us move forward.

As we take advantage of the fresh start offered by the start of a new year, we pay homage to 2012 and how it changed all of us.


No. 1: New Selma High School Opens

After exhausting debates among members of the Selma City School Board for the last several years, A new $27 million facility opened its doors to the students of Selma High School. Boasting architectural features that tie in features from the previous building and new features, the school is equipped with anything a school could need. It has tornado shelters, wifi and two gyms for competition and practice. Advanced science laboratories and eight computers rooms will allow for many possibilities.

Selma High School principal Wanda McCall said Wednesday, Aug. 8 was better than Christmas morning, as she and other school and system administrators welcomed the public to view the new Selma High School.

“This is just amazing. What an amazing day; an amazing event,” McCall said, as she watched as guests began their tour of the new, massive, $27 million building, set to welcome students on their first day of classes on Aug. 20. “This is better than Christmas morning.”

The school construction began in 2011 and the old building was demolished in the summer of 2012. One piece of the school remains, and that is the façade of the old school. It is now the window to the back of the school media center.


No. 2: Evans wins again

August municipal elections made history in 2012 when Mayor George Evans won again defeating former mayor James Perkins and when Louvenia Lumpkin became the first black, and first female, mayor of Orrville.

Evans held a 172 vote lead over Perkins, well within the margin of the 1,032 absentee votes cast in that race alone.

But, in that box, Evans ended up earning 719 votes to just 319 for Perkins, giving the incumbent mayor the cushion he needed to finally celebrate. Overall, Evans earned 54 percent of the vote, winning by a margin of 578 of the 17 precincts, which included the absentee box, Evans carried eight of the boxes, while Perkins carried nine. But, in the eight Evans won, he did so by a much larger percentage — and carried the absentee box by a more than 2-to-1 margin — than those boxes Perkins won


No. 3: murder suspect manhunt in Selma

The tense feeling of a manhunt underway could be felt across the city of Selma and even in neighboring towns. Deandra Marquis Lee, 22, was the suspect in a triple homicide case in May and June that occurred in Lowndes County.

The horrific murders of three people — two of which were children — may not have taken place in Selma, but the city served as ground zero for the search of wanted murder suspect Deandra Marquis Lee.

As the manhunt continued throughout June, U.S. Marshals posted a $5,000 reward for information that would to an arrest of Lee. Lee is the primary suspect in the murder of two 9-year-old twins and their 79-year-old caretaker Jack Girdner. Their bodies were found dumped along a dirt road off of Alabama Highway 21 in Lowndes County. Girdner’s car, a white 1988 Mercedes, was reported missing, but was discovered in the Minter community in south Dallas County with all four doors missing.

That search came to a calm end Saturday, June 9 as an Alabama State Trooper tactical team stormed Merrimac Apartment’s 410 and discovered Lee, and an unidentified woman, inside.


No. 4: Historical

Society get old YMCA

At the start of 2012, the old historical YMCA building on Broad Street was falling in and in almost irreparable condition. By the close of 2012 the old building, which is the oldest standing Y building in the south, made slow strides once the Dallas County Historic Preservation Society negotiated with former owner Tom Bolton in March.

The society is working to simply stabilize the building and then seek out potential buyers who would restore the space completely to its original grandeur and beauty.

The YMCA storefront has housed business like a confectionery shop run by two widows, a Chinese laundry mat, and the Booker T. Washington Insurance Company, all before the 19th century. The building has played many roles in the history book of Selma.

Because of the way the building defines the unique historic landscape of Selma, the society is working towards raising funds to accomplish the construction of a new roof this year.


No. 5: Selma lands new industry

It was announced in May that a new industry would call Selma home and occupy an industrial building that already existed in Selma.

During a press conference and unveiling at the St. James Hotel, Zilkha Biomass Energy announced plans to begin manufacturing wood pellets at the plant once owned by Dixie Pellets.

But while what they will produce is officially called wood pellets, the product coming out of Selma’s plant will be the only one of its kind in the world.

“We own the patent to what is called the black pellet,” Zilkha CEO Jack Holmes Jr. said. “We are the only manufacturer of this in the world, and the only place it will be produced in large quantities will be right here.”


No. 6: icon Striplin dies

Selma lost an iconic community member Monday, Jan. 23 as the death of Larry D. Striplin was announced. Striplin, 82, died in Birmingham.

For a man whose bio is nearly too long to publish, the list of those who credit his developmental spirit and vision for restoring and preserving some of Selma’s history is much longer.

“He was a man who believed in coming back to his hometown,” said Nancy Bennett, president of the Selma-Dallas County Historical Preservation Society. “He has left a legacy of appreciation and preservation. Not only was it important for Selma, but as an astute businessman, it was also good for him.”

In an article published in the 2011 Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Membership Directory, Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said Striplin was the driving force behind the restoration of the historic St. James Hotel.

“We have the St. James Hotel because of him. Before Larry’s involvement it was the nastiest, greasiest falling-down place you’ve ever seen,” Ballard said.


No. 7: Trustmark buys out BankTrust

In late May, BancTrust, the holding company that owns BankTrust, announced it had agreed to be purchased by Trustmark, a company in Mississippi.

The $55.4 million transaction went through months of regulator review and shareholder scrutiny before it was announced the completion of the purchase would be pushed back into early 2013.

BankTrust has 49 offices in Alabama and Florida, with $1.3 billion in loans and $1.8 billion in deposits as of March 31. Trustmark, based in Jackson, Miss., has more than 170 offices in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

In Selma, BankTrust is the No. 1 bank in the market with the 28.1 percent of the market share.


No. 8: Corps plan for River lock and dam

Residents and stakeholders along the Alabama River spoke out against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan — a plan that was originally slated to restrict the river’s recreational traffic and permit commercial traffic by appointment only through the locks and dams — leading Alabama representatives to send letters urging the Corps to reconsider and prompted stakeholders to fight for a listening session with the Corps in Monroeville on Sept. 19.

The Corps unveiled their revised plan for the locks on the Alabama River on Oct. 10, and states the locks will be manned 10 hours per day, four days per week. Commercial boaters will be allowed to lock through 24 hours per day, seven days per week by scheduling an appointment. Recreational traffic can lock through in conjunction with maintenance operations. These changes will go into effect Feb. 1, 2013.


No. 9: American

Apparel cuts jobs

Caught in the middle of a tough government decision, American Apparel, which employs many in Dallas County, had to cut hundreds of jobs leaving many in tough financial situations.

The bulk of those staffing cuts came when the company closed its Fort Deposit plant in March 2012, eliminating 246 positions.

American Apparel learned the contract for the manufacturing of the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) coat — used by the U.S. Army — had been awarded to Alaskan Native Corporation, SNC, which has sewing facilities in Puerto Rico, where the product will be manufactured. American Apparel said SNC is a company that has never manufactured the product.

Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority, said he learned of the contract issues about 10 prior and had been working to get company officials in front of state and federal lawmakers, who could hopefully help in fighting this contract being awarded to Alaskan Native Corporation, SNC.


No. 10: The City Cracks down on clubs

2012 saw the temporary closure of another downtown club after there were multiple violent incidents in and around Club Entourage owned by Clyde Richardson.

The council voted to pull Richardson’s business license for the Alabama Avenue club, citing a series of incidents in the past three years city and police officials said created an unsafe environment for residents in downtown Selma.

The incidents included murder, assault first, criminal mischief, delinquency of a minor and others. During the report, Riley said in 2010 police were called to the club 22 times, 24 times in 2011 and already in 2012, 30 times.

One of those times was June 1, when two shooters entered the club early and opened fire. A club security guard returned fire, reportedly killing one of the suspects and injuring another. In the process, four club patrons were injured.


Staff writers Katie Wood and Sarah Cook contributed to this article

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