Thoughts on public service of some special people
By Jim Turner

Posted on July 26, 2015 10:21 PM

Some thoughts on people who have served others, both at home and in time of war:

The deaths of Jackie Dunlap and Emolene Darden during the final days of June served as a reminder that the Land of Logan seems to have been hit particularly hard and often in 2015 with the lives ending of many who have provided service to the rest of us.

Whenever anyone dies, there are those left behind in pain and sorrow. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s death by omitting them. This is intended to recognize some who gave of themselves to a widespread audience.

Jackie Dunlap lost only one election in his adult life, his final one for county clerk, if memory serves correctly. He was Logan County Coroner and a Russellville City Councilman. He was also an early leader in emergency medical services here.

Emolene Darden never held public office that I am aware of, but she often put fear into those who did. Mrs. Darden went on numerous campaigns to correct what she considered wrongs and inequities. Sometimes Logan Fiscal Court was her target. Russellville City Council also experienced the stings of numerous slings and arrows from her full arsenal. Her most significant accomplishment was getting the number of magistrates on fiscal court reduced from eight to six. She had gotten a petition placed on the ballot that would have replaced the magisterial form of government with a three-member commission. The court decided to cut out two of their jobs instead of having voters take five of them away.

Otis Bilbrey was the founder and long-time chair of the Bluegrass Jam at the Auburn Park. He personally kept it going with the encouragement of two mayors, Dewey Roche and the late Oscar Wren. Otis and his wife Geneva worked tirelessly to make it happen and then spent hours mingling among the crowd, making them feel welcome in Auburn. I don’t believe Otis was ever completely well after taking a serious fall from a ladder while getting the pavilion ready for one Festival several years ago.

Bobby Young was director of public works for the city of Russellville during the administration of his friend, the late Mayor Bobby Sawyer. Bobby Young knew where every piece of infrastructure was located, even those that had been underground for decades.

Tommy Brown served as the Democratic member of the Logan County Board of Election Commissioners for many years. Like his Republican counterpart, the late Russell Porter, Tommy was partisan and dedicated to his party. But both of them were more interested in upholding the law than their side winning. They were there to see that the election was an honest one.

Wanda Coursey was pianist for Russellville Rotary Club and was one of the first female members of that organization, which had been male-only much of the 20th century.

Dr. Dick Cantrell was nota Logan Countian but filled a significant role as chairman of the board of Lewisburg Banking Company. I knew him as an economics professor at WKU and a formidable opponent in doubles tennis.

Ray Polak came to Russellville as part of the influx of management team members from St. Louis when Emerson Electric opened its plant here in the early 1960s. He became manager but chose to stay in Logan County rather than advance any further. He was a good citizen and a friend to many who depended on Emerson for a living so that they could stay in the Land of Logan. The Polaks raised some wonderful children, including daughter Denise, who traded in her Main Street Russellville upbringing for the massive Robey farming operation she and her husband Lee lead in Schochoh.

Roy Sattazahn was project manager for Land of Logan Habitat for Humanity construction when that charitable group was highly active here.

Annette Wilkerson was First Lady of Adairville while her husband Jim was mayor of Adairville. The spouse of a government official not only has to learn how to function with them away from home frequently but also how to keep criticism of that spouse from becoming upsetting and depressing.

Maria Lawson died much too young in a recent traffic accident. Among this beloved lady’s many roles was serving as treasurer of Relay for Life here.

I don’t know if they ever had titles, but the lives of Joe Bailey of Lewisburg, Scotty Woodward of Auburn and June Trimble of Adairville were all entwined into life and good works in their towns.

Although it didn’t happen in the first half of the year, the recent death of Harriett Virginia Grady Dickerson Wallace has brought back memories to many who were part of the Russellville School System. Known as “Miss Putty,” she worked in the city schools’ cafeterias for one year short of a half century. “I couldn’t have done my job as cafeteria manager at Stevenson anywhere close to as well without Harriett,” says Relda Wood.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to publish the obituaries of some of thse special people. Summers, Kirby & Sanders Funeral Home and Price Funeral Home are the two firms which report their obituaries to The Logan Journal. Unfortunately, the information from the other large funeral home in the community is not available for the thousands of readers of The LoJo.

The LoJo

One of the most special events of 2015 was a recognition program for Veterans of the Vietnam War during Flag Day Week. The Russellville Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) orchestrated and made the program a reality with hundreds of people gathered.

See the story of that Vietnam program on The LoJo at

I’m in the same age group as many of those Vietnam veterans. They were my childhood friends and many of them have been my friends all my life. To honor these heroes in a public way was very special.

As I read the list of veterans of that era, I was impressed by how many of them have continued to serve the public after their days of military service ended.

Again, at the risk of offending those who aren’t listed, the following is a look at the public service roles some Vietnam vets have filled over the last 40 to 50 years:

the late James Chestnut: served as election officer for many years

the late William Elliott: leader of the local NAACP and Human Rights Commission

the late Ken Smith: Mayor and councilman for Russellville, Logan County Coroner, National Guard officer

Sheldon Baugh: multi-term state representative, Logan County magistrate

John Blanton: president of Russellville Rotary Club

Randall Coffman: state American Legion leader

Charles Covington: Auburn councilman

Jack Crossley: current member of Logan Fiscal Court

Mike Gilliam: chairman of the Logan County Fair Board

James Greene: state leader in Optimist International

Phil Gregory: current Logan County Jailer, former Logan County Coroner, director of Logan County Ambulance Service

Jeff Grosnik: member of the Russellville-Logan County Planning Commission

Drexel Johnson: current member of Logan Fiscal Court, chair of Antique Tractor & Small Engine event in Auburn each year

Joe Harlan: frequent speaker and representative in veterans’ activities

Roger ‘Dodger’ Hollins: received state recognition for volunteer service

Gen. Jerry Humble: strategic leader of Desert Storm, first Tennessee Director of Homeland Security, current Russellville-Logan County Airport Board member

Joe Lawrence: current state volunteer of the year in veterans’ activities

Tom Luckett: chairman of the Russellville Board of Education

Mike McCormick: Logan County Board of Education, Russellville councilman, first county solid waste coordinator

Jack McLean: headed Russellville Housing Authority

John Monroe: chairman of Logan County Democratic Executive Committee

Larry Noe: chairman of the Logan County Republican Executive Committee

Gene Richmond: leader of Shriners’ Vadalia onion fund raiser

Kenny Robertson: chairman of the Logan County Board of Education

Darrell Rogers: assistant chief of Russellville Rural Fire Department

Don Rust: organizer of monthly county singings at the Historic Courthouse

Gary Sears: well-known for charitable causes

Bill Stokes: chairman of the East Logan Water District Board

Michael Stratton: Russellville chief of police

Wayne Thomas: Auburn city councilman

Jerry White: chairman of the Russellville Board of Education, chairman of the 175th Anniversary Celebration of the Russellville Area

Jimmy White: elected member of Logan Fiscal Court

Larry White: leader in forming the Logan County PastFinders

Kenneth Whitson: mayor of Lewisburg

Dr. Dewey Wood: member of Logan County Medical Association

William Woodard: president of the Russellville-Logan County NAACP

Gary Woodlee: Russellville city councilman

Fred Wright: worked with the Downtown Merchants Association

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