“Thank you” might have been the two words spoken more than any other Thursday at the James H. Quillen U.S. District Courthouse.
Forty people representing 26 nationalities were officially recognized as United States citizens after completing background checks, enduring an interview process and passing an exam.
“Naturalizations and adoptions are the two happiest things to happen in a courtroom,” said Judge Marcia Phillips Parsons, who presided. “In a way, what is happening here today is like adoption, because you are adopting our country.”
Of the 40 people, 11 of them requested that their names be changed in order to reflect their new identity as American citizens. Parsons said that each exhibited the positive moral character that is reflected in the Declaration of Independence.
“I have seen that you are not the type of people to shy away from a challenge,” she said. “You inspire all of us to be better Americans.”
Becoming a United States citizen, Parsons said, brings both possibility and obligation. Citizens new and old have the responsibility to be active in their communities, vote in elections, serve on a jury when called, serve in the military and obey the laws of the land.
Roseline Young, who was born in Egypt but hails from Canada, wept when she received her certificate. The first thing she did following the ceremony was register to vote.
“This has been a very long journey,” she said. “I’ve been working for this for 18 years.”
She told the story of how a man had broken into her house and stolen her passport.
“Then I was in the country but without a passport, which made things very difficult,” she said.
Olivia Salamanca agreed that gaining U.S. citizenship is a long, difficult road.
“I worked very hard for this moment,” she said. “But through this hard work I have gotten a lot of opportunities today for my family.”
Sora Ali, whose family is from Iraq, has always considered America to be home.
“I am looking forward to being a certified American, and I’m really excited to vote,” she said.
Ali is a sophomore in college studying psychology, and she hopes to receive a doctoral degree.
Anup and Meghna Mistry moved to the United States from India in the early 2000s. They now reside in Knoxville, but came to Greeneville for the naturalization ceremony.
“Today means everything,” said Meghna. “It’s been too many blessings to count, and we are very proud.”
While each came from different cultures and backgrounds, all walked away from the ceremony with the commonality of citizenship.
“This ceremony today embodies our country’s motto: e pluribus unum, which means ‘out of many, one,’” said Parsons. “This belief is so cherished that it is on our currency, and we think of it every time we open our wallets.”
Parsons made her closing remarks, saying that the most important word in the United States is “we.”
“If you live your life in this way, thinking of ‘we the people’ like our beloved preamble states in the Constitution, it will change the way you see the world,” she said.
Camp Creek Ruritan Club is celebrating its 64th year of community service.
“Ours is an active Ruritan club,” said Bob Johnson, treasurer, at the club’s open house on Saturday.
Hosting the open house were several club members, including President Allan Brown and Secretary Betty McCue.
Ruritan dignitaries dropping in for a visit included Larry Cassell, current Ruritan National President, visiting from Maryland, and past Ruritan National Presidents Calvin Shelton and Wayne Bettis.
Shelton and Bettis are from Greeneville, and Bettis is a member of both the Camp Creek and Hardin’s Chapel Ruritan clubs.
On May 23, 1955, 31 community leaders decided to charter the Camp Creek Ruritan Club, and its volunteers’ achievements in the years since are numerous and impressive.
They include helping establish the Greeneville Emergency and Rescue Squad; leading efforts to bring the Camp Creek Medical Center to the community, which opened a new facility in 2016; lobbying for development of Kinser Park; establishing the first Camp Creek Ruritan volunteer fire department; key roles in rebuilding in the wake of deadly tornadoes that struck the community in 2011; building and maintaining the Camp Creek Elementary School baseball field; sponsoring numerous teacher and student awards programs at Camp Creek Elementary School; naming and installing the first road signs in the Camp Creek community; and bringing the community together by hosting events like sock hops, movie nights, yard sales and music festivals.
“We try to see what the community needs, including individuals, and support several programs” at the elementary school, Brown said.
The club built a pavilion to open up for activities like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, family reunions and Girl Scout groups. The Gideons meet there in August for their annual picnic as well.
“It’s for the community. That’s why we put all the effort into it,” Brown said.
The club supports its community in difficult times as well.
Bettis developed Operation We Care in 1993, when he was national president of the Ruritan Clubs. Ruritan National operates the program, and it aided the Camp Creek community after major flooding in 2001.
Ruritan Clubs nationwide also donated over $80,000 to the community after the 2011 tornadoes, and clubs continue to donate to communities recovering from disasters.
“The good that came out of (the 2011 tornadoes) was people got off their front porch and started helping their neighbor,” Bettis said.
A Memorial Garden was built in front of the current pavilion to honor those who died as a result of the tornadoes. Bettis said it was built in 60 days with donated funds. The club is debt-free, always raising enough funds for each of its projects, and takes no government funds.
A donation made by an attendee at a 2011 memorial service helped build the pavilion. “It is in a beautiful setting ... a great place for anything,” Bettis said.
In addition to serving as national president, Bettis was a national director for three years, and traveled much of the U.S.
The Ruritan Club organization overall is “a tremendous organization,” he said. “It blesses my heart to see the volunteer spirit of this country. We’ve still got a really good country; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
The open house on Saturday provided club members a chance to list the activities and achievements of its different committees and an opportunity to recruit new members.
The club recently added a storage building at the pavilion, and it continues hosting its country breakfast the third Saturday of every month. Food items served include country ham, biscuits, sausages, pancakes, waffles, and eggs with peppers and onions, said Brown. He said an average of 50-65 people attend the breakfasts, and the club charges just $8 for the meal.
“The 2011 tornadoes changed the (Camp Creek) community a good bit,” Brown said. “We initially thought of building a shelter, but there were too many regulations and expenses. To get a basement, the government requires a big expense, and they retain control of it.”
Membership fees were recently raised to $50, with $44 of that going to the national organization, said Brown. The rest goes to the Camp Creek Ruritan Club.
A judge ruled Wednesday that Greeneville lawyer Edward “Ed” Kershaw can remain free on bond while two driving under the influence charges are pending, but he must continue to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet as part of release conditions.
Meanwhile, another judge who heard Kershaw’s arguments at an April hearing regarding suspension of his law license by a Tennessee Supreme Court Board of Professional Responsibility panel recently upheld the panel’s ruling of a suspension in connection with a 2017 verbal confrontation with a judge and later published comments. The suspension must be formalized by the state Supreme Court before it takes effect, and Kershaw continues to practice law.
The hearing Wednesday before Senior Judge Don R. Ash focused on a motion by the state to revoke Kershaw’s bond as his DUI cases are pending in court.
Kershaw was charged by Greeneville police with DUI on March 28 and again on April 13. Assistant District Attorney General Blake Watson argued that because Kershaw was free on bond on the first DUI charge when the second charge was filed, that bond should be revoked until the cases are resolved.
Ash denied the motion to revoke Kershaw’s bond. Kershaw waived preliminary hearings in both cases, which have not yet been presented to a grand jury. It may be late this year before the cases are resolved, a court official said.
Kershaw, 49, spoke in his own defense. Kershaw told Ash he is complying with terms of release on bond and that he posed no flight risk. He filed a motion asking to have the alcohol ankle monitor removed as his case is pending. The motion was denied by Ash.
Judges and prosecutors in Greene County have recused themselves from the DUI cases and the Board of Professional Responsibility matter. Ash, of Murfreesboro, is one of the judges appointed by the state to hear motions in the matter. Watson normally serves in the 2nd Judicial District as a prosecutor in Sullivan County.
State witnesses who took the stand at Wednesday’s motion hearing included Derek Casteel, the Greeneville police officer who charged Kershaw with DUI on the night of April 13; a toxicology technician in in the TBI crime lab who processes blood samples submitted to the lab; and a state-retained Recovery Monitoring program manager who oversees ankle monitoring bracelets that can detect alcohol use by the wearer.
Kershaw questioned the integrity of the blood samples at the hearing, asking if there were preservatives and coagulants in the samples. The TBI technician explained the chain of possession process taken with blood samples until they arrive at the TBI lab.
A scheduling conference in the DUI cases should be held within a month, a court official said.
In April, a hearing in Greene County focused on Kershaw’s petition to review the Board of Professional Responsibility panel’s findings that recommended the one-month suspension of his law license, with three months’ probation to follow.
Kershaw maintained at the hearing that he already served a suspension imposed last year by a panel appointed to review his actions in a 2017 verbal confrontation with a judge and subsequent published comments.
The panel was appointed by the state Board of Professional Responsibility of the state Supreme Court. The BPR oversees the ethical conduct of attorneys statewide.
Kershaw argued that the finding of the three-member panel at an August 2018 disciplinary hearing should be reversed. The panel, appointed by the state Supreme Court, ordered in September 2018 that Kershaw’s license to practice law in Tennessee be suspended for four months, including one month served on active suspension, with the three remaining months on probation.
The Supreme Court appointed Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies, a former judge and Williamson County attorney, to preside at the April 16 hearing. Kershaw told the judge that he shut down his office in September and served the one-month suspension.
Davies told Kershaw that since the Supreme Court has never formalized his suspension from legal practice, it has not been served. Kershaw also continued his appeal, filing required documents to keep the appeals process going forward.
Kershaw’s legal arguments were “without merit,” Davies wrote in an order filed on May 10 in Greene County Chancery Court.
Davies wrote that the state Supreme Court has the final say in the law license suspension recommended by the BPC panel.
“The Supreme Court still reviews each case and has the authority to affirm or modify the discipline imposed,” he wrote.
Kershaw said at the April hearing before Davies that he did not act out of order during a November 2017 courtroom confrontation with General Sessions Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr., or overstep ethical rules for lawyers in subsequent newspaper ads and Facebook posts alleging “unethical” conduct by Bailey and other judges.
The actions led to a formal complaint about Kershaw’s conduct being filed by six 3rd Judicial District judges with the Board of Professional Responsibility.
The panel heard the case in August 2018, and found in its September 2018 judgment that relative to the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, Kershaw “violated ethical duties owed by him to the public, to the legal system, and to the profession, and that (he) acted intentionally,” posing “potentially serious injury to the public, to the legal system and to the profession.”
Davies issued his ruling on Kershaw’s appeal in a written memorandum.
More buildings downtown will soon be getting facelifts with the injection of $100,000 in grant funds secured by Main Street: Greeneville.
Main Street: Greeneville was recently awarded the Commercial Façade Improvement Grant dollars, from Tennessee’s federal Community Development Block Grant funds, through the Tennessee Main Street program’s revitalization initiatives. It is the second such grant to be awarded to Main Street Greeneville Inc. in a three year period, a news release said.
Planned upgrades will include metal façade removal, masonry, copper and prism repair, entrance improvements and other design upgrades.
Commercial Façade Improvement grantees and their awarded amounts are:
There were five applications submitted for consideration, the release said.
“Renovations like these in our downtown commercial district will help to put us back on track for a more vibrant downtown and, in turn, facilitate future economic development where we are ready for new investment. I am delighted that this opportunity through Main Street comes at the same time the town has initiated their revitalization program for the downtown,” said Main Street Greeneville Inc. President Sarah Webster. “This helps us continue our mission to establish partnerships between public and private sectors dedicated to the revitalization of the Main Street District and the preservation of our historic structures.”
All four grantees are required to provide a minimum of a 25% match for the funds. Main Street: Greeneville, assisted by First Tennessee Development District, will administer the facade improvement program, the release said.