Archived, searchable stories of people, particularly in the North MS area, who have done something of interest or of benefit to the community and its citizens. Also includes people on the national or international scene who have noteworthy achievements and/or connections to MS, etc.

NEMiss.News Nanney named Service First Champion



NEW ALBANY, Miss., October 26, 2022 – Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County recently announced that Keighly Nanney, RN, has been named Service First Champion for the quarter. Nanney, a nurse in the Women’s Center, was nominated by several colleagues for going above and beyond by volunteering to help in the emergency department during a busy shift.

Service First Champions are individuals who consistently exceed all expectations for the purpose of serving others and are nominated by colleagues, physicians, patients and their family/support persons for outstanding service.

In one nomination, a colleague wrote, “Keighly showed great teamwork by coming to another department without being asked to help.”

Another colleague stated, “Keighly took initiative and voluntarily came to the emergency department to help us and to help meet the needs of the patients.”

“Keighly’s compassion for others exemplifies what a Service First Champion should be,” said James Grantham, CEO and Administrator. “It is outstanding team members like Keighly who truly make a difference at Baptist Union County.”

Baptist Union County offers a variety of services, including adult and pediatric inpatient care, sleep lab, maternity, surgery, a 24-hour emergency department and diagnostics. The hospital also has PET/CT, 3D mammography, TeleHealth services and an eICU. Baptist Union County has an excellent reputation for providing quality care and recently earned an “A” Safety Grade from the Leapfrog Group and Outstanding Patient Experience and Patient Safety Excellence awards from Healthgrades.
For more information about Baptist Union County, please call 662-538-7631 or visit Joyce Sumners and children


Editor: This story was originally published September 21, 2020 as “Still Smiling, A bouquet for Joyce Sumners.” At that date, Mrs. Sumners was at Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo and not expected to live more than several days. However, she surprised everyone by recovering enough to leave hospice and move to St. Catherine’s in Madison County. She was noted for her unusual ability to recover from ailments and injuries. She battled on and lived two more years. She did not fully recover at St. Catherine’s, but was mentally alert and in remarkably good humored until a few weeks ago. Her health worsened about October 1, and continued to decline. Her extraordinary life ended Saturday, October 15, 2022. 


Look up the word noble and you will find synonyms including honest, honorable, upright, decent, magnanimous, trustworthy, and sublime.

Many in northeast Mississippi know all those words can be correctly applied to Joyce Sumners.

Invariably gracious, kind, and cheerful, Joyce Sumners comes as close as anyone I have known to being a natural aristocrat. Not an aristocracy of birth or wealth or power, but that kind of aristocracy esteemed from the earliest days of the American republic: The Aristocracy of Merit.

She has the gifts of beauty, empathy, grace, wisdom and humor and has shared those gifts generously. For more than eight decades, Joyce Sumners has been giving and giving and giving still more.

The UNITE organization honored her as its “Volunteer of the Year” in 2016. As with other UNITE Volunteer of the Year award winners, the philanthropic work of Joyce Sumners has actually extended over a great many decades.

Trying to list all of the individuals and organizations that have benefitted from the tens of thousands of hours of volunteer work Joyce Sumners has performed would be futile.

Among the most visible of her efforts has been her work with the auxiliary at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County. By even a conservative estimate of her half century of volunteer work at the hospital, Joyce Sumners has given well over 25,000 hours. From running the hospital gift shop to delivering books, newspapers and flowers to patients in their rooms, she has been on the job at the hospital. Thousands of Baptist patients and their families have been cheered by the light of her thousand-kilowatt smile.

Joyce’s late husband Les Sumners, a prominent attorney, who served as president of the state bar association, was an original member of the Tupelo Symphony Board. Thus, her work on behalf of what is now known as the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (NMSO) began with its founding 49 years ago in 1971. She served on the board after her husband’s death in 2005. In recent years she has been the key player in the successful effort to bring NMSO here to play with and for New Albany public school children.

Much of her work has been in encouraging others, quietly supporting whatever she knew was beautiful and good. She worked to support institutions such as the Methodist Church, the Union County Heritage Museum and the public schools. She worked privately to recognize and support individual accomplishments, perhaps simply complimenting a young girl for her good manners or congratulating a Boy Scout on his latest merit badge.

Joyce never sought or needed the limelight. She creates her own light wherever she is.

Margaret Anne Murphey, executive director of NMSO for its first 42 years, spoke to me recently of her long friendship with Joyce Sumners. We discussed that Joyce is not well, perhaps going through the “valley of the shadow.” She added another word to describe her long-time friend. “Joyce is valiant,” said Mrs. Murphey.

VALIANT. I wished I had thought of it. Valiant, of course, valiant!

Joyce Sumners has endured and overcome more ailments than most people in her 87 years. Her resilience and positivity have been astonishing. Cancer, broken bones from falls and car wrecks, multiple joint replacements, heart surgery — she bore the pain and frustration of therapy and recovery time after time.

And she rarely stopped smiling.

She lost Les, whose nobility matched her own, 15 years ago. She kept on smiling through the tears. Then, a few years after Les died, the home in which their three children had grown up caught fire. She escaped unharmed, but the house was seriously damaged. She had it repaired and rebuilt, never despaired, kept on smiling, and moved back in when the craft people finished.

A leading professional woman in Union County, herself a notable warrior-princess, told me last week: “I’ve always wanted to be like Joyce.”

Joyce Sumners is having some rough days right now.

She is still smiling. Valiant.

Sumners Volunteer of the Year:



NEMiss.News Mike Staten in his BNA office



Mike Staten of New Albany is the 2022 inductee into the Alumni Hall of Fame of the Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) Foundation.

Staten is noted for his extensive community service work in Union County and throughout northeast Mississippi.

He is president of BNA Bank and a member of the bank’s board of directors.

His record of service runs the full range of community betterment work. His strongest interest over many years has been in improving educational opportunities.

Why has Mike Staten, in addition to a long and successful career as a banker, devoted literally thousands of hours to civic work?

“I simply care about Union County and northeast Mississippi,” he says. “It is my home. My great-grandfather came here from Pontotoc County. I am the fourth generation of my family here and my sons are the fifth.

“As far as our people are concerned, I want to see everyone have the opportunity to better themselves by getting the education that is suitable to their talents and ambitions,” he said. “I want them to be able to be educated here, stay here, earn a good living, and raise their families.

“I have had opportunities to go elsewhere, but I wanted to stay here, raise my family here and do all I possibly can to make it a better place.”

He believes education at all levels is the key to improving the overall quality of life in Mississippi.

Staten serves on the board of trustees of NEMCC. He is also a long serving member of the board of Blue Mountain College. He is the Union County representative to the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund Committee.

Mike Staten graduated from W. P. Daniel High School (now New Albany High School). He attended NEMCC 1972-1974. After two years at NEMCC, he then earned the Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Mississippi. He has completed graduate courses in banking and finance at Vanderbilt University and Louisiana State University.

Staten was the recipient in 2018 of the Jack Reed, Sr. Community Leadership Award presented by the CREATE Foundation.

He is a board member and secretary of the Three Rivers Planning and Development District and a member of the advisory board of North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.

Staten said his wife Angie has made it possible for him to work and travel the many miles required for his community work. “She kept the home fires burning, making it possible for me to do the little I’ve been able to do,” he said, “Needless to say, the bank has also been very supportive.”

Mike and Angie have two sons, both of whom are Northeast alums. Matt Staten and his wife Ellen live in New Albany. Luke Staten and his wife Amy live in Houston, Texas.


NEMiss.News Ken Nowlin of Ecru named Home Town Hero


Businessman Ken Nowlin’s full scale renovation of downtown Ecru, Mississippi, has been honored by a prestigious award from Modern Woodmen of America.

The award presentation says:

“Modern Woodmen is proud to be able to recognize Ken Nowlin as our Home Town Hero.

“Ken has taken our small town that was fallen off the grid and bring it back to life…restoring older historic businesses..and filling downtown with old and new businesses..Thank you for making our small town come back to life.”

During recent years, Nowlin has bought up most of the commercial structures in downtown Ecru. He has renovated most. Those that were beyond being saved, have been torn down and replaced by architect-designed structures that fit in with the rest of the early 20th century buildings that face Ecru’s broad main street.

Unique and high-end tenants have been recruited to operate in those structures, making Ecru among the most attractive of small town business districts anywhere.

Nowlin operates commercial real estate and farming operations in Union and Pontotoc Counties. A few years ago he acquired a run-down 60-70 year old strip center at the intersection of Bankhead St. and Central Ave in downtown New Albany. He gutted the old buildings and upgraded the plumbing and electrical systems, interiors and exteriors. The New Albany facility already has several upscale tenants and more will open there in the near future.

NEMiss.News NAFD members at Mississippi Fire Academy graduation



Jared Dillard, a firefighter with the New Albany Fire Department (NAFD), has graduated, from the Mississippi State Fire Academy.

Dillard completed the seven-week program to be certified NFPA 1001-I-II and graduated Thursday, Sept. 22.

NEMiss.News Jared Dillard and Mark Whiteside

Jared Dillard (left) is shown with NAFD Chief Mark Whiteside. Photo courtesy of NAFD

The National Fire Protection Association certification is necessary for a young fireman to continue his career as a firefighter in the state of Mississippi. The graduation ceremony was held in Natchez.

Dillard is about to complete his first full year of experience with the NAFD.





UPDATE, Friday, September 2, 8:47 p.m.

Both the New Albany Fire Department and the Southeast Volunteer Fire Department made the first run on this truck fire early Thursday afternoon. The original vehicle fire was on Abermar Rounds, a street in the Abermar subdivision, located 12-15 minutes from downtown New Albany on Highway 178 East. Part of the Abermar subdivision is within the municipal limits of New Albany, and part of it is not. Thus both NAFD and Southeast respond to fires there.

Fires in motor vehicles can be tricky.

Firemen from the New Albany Fire Department made two runs Thursday, September 1, to put out a fire in the same Honda pickup truck.

NEMiss.News Cow Creek Towing

Cow Creek Towing

The first run about 1 pm was to a subdivision two miles east of Highway 15 on Highway 178. Firemen extinguished the fire — or so they thought — and went back to the fire station.

Cow Creek Towing Company then loaded the damaged pickup onto a flatbed truck and hauled it to Cow Creek’s place of business on Carter Avenue.

However, at about 4 pm Thursday someone observed fire and smoke — a billowing cloud of black smoke — coming again from the same pickup. This time the pickup was about three miles from where it originally caught fire.

Firemen raced to the towing company lot on Carter Avenue. This time they soaked the truck thoroughly. The Honda truck was a total loss.

No firemen or civilians were injured. No information was available about the original cause of the fire.



Dr. Richard H. Russell, a longtime Union County physician, died Sunday, August 28, 2022.

Dr. Russell was born at his family’s home in the Hurricane Community of Pontotoc County on May 3, 1942.

He had thousands of friends and was deeply involved in the community. He delivered approximately 2,000 babies during his 39 years as a family practice physician.

With Dr. Sam Creekmore, he co-ran the emergency room at Baptist (Union County) Hospital; just the two of them, 24/7, for seven years. He served three years as chief of staff at the hospital.

Among other things in his long and productive life, Dr. Russell served on the New Albany School Board and as the Union County Republican Chairman.

A complete obituary will be published as soon as funeral arrangements are complete at United Funeral Home.


NEMiss.News Deya Kent, Daisy Award winner


Deya Kent, RN, at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County, recently received the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, an award given in appreciation of the work nurses do. Kent, a nurse in the surgery department with fourteen years of service, was nominated by a patient.

Nurses like Kent are nominated by patients, families, and colleagues for the DAISY Award, and from those nominations, nursing leadership at Baptist Union County selects nurses to receive the award.

At a presentation in front of nurses, colleagues, and family, Kent received a certificate and a sculpture. The sculpture, titled “A Healer’s Touch,” is hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Africa.

In the nomination, the patient stated, “With an overflow of God’s blessing and grace, I sincerely nominate Deya Kent. She was with me quite a period of one-on-one care and delivered empathy in a way not recognized in today’s world.”

“It is truly an honor to recognize Deya for her compassion and excellent nursing skills,” said Heather Reid, Chief Nursing Officer, at Baptist Union County. “Deya’s dedication to the needs of her patients exemplifies what a true DAISY award winner should be.”

The not-for-profit DAISY Foundation, based in Glen Ellen, Calif., was established by family members in memory of J. Patrick Barnes. Barnes died at age 33 in late 1999 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an auto-immune disease.

The extraordinary care Barnes and his family received from nurses while he was ill led to the creation of the DAISY Award.

Baptist Union County offers a variety of services, including adult and pediatric inpatient care, maternity, surgery, a 24-hour emergency department, sleep lab, pulmonology, and diagnostics. The hospital also has PET/CT, 3D mammography, TeleHealth services, and an eICU. Baptist Union County has an excellent reputation for providing quality care and recently earned an “A” Safety Grade from the Leapfrog Group, as well as the Outstanding Patient Safety Excellence and Outstanding Patient Experience awards from Healthgrades.

For more information about Baptist Union County, please call 662-538-7631 or visit

NEmiss.News NAPD officers trained in crisis intervention



Two New Albany Police Department (NAPD) officers have completed intensive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).

Corporal Brandon Clayton and Corporal Brandon Pannell trained for 40 hours last week at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center in Tupelo.

NEMiss.News NAPD Corporal Brandon Clayton

NAPD Corporal Brandon Clayton

Corporal Clayton said police officers are often the first people who respond when someone in the community is experiencing a mental health crisis. “I have been interested in this facet of law enforcement for a long time,” he said. “This is a major issue in our mental health system.”

Clayton and Pannell are the first two law enforcement officers in Union County to have received Crisis Intervention Training.

CIT is a program initiated by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The training was developed specifically for law enforcement officers.

Whether the crisis is an episode of schizophrenia, an Alzheimer’s patient wandered away from home, a drug-induced psychosis, or a threatened suicide, CIT training puts police officers in a better position to respond effectively.

“I love having this extra tool on our belt,” said Clayton.

NEMiss.News NAFD cools it at the Library


The New Albany Fire Department (NAFD) treated children to a spray, foam and bubbles party yesterday at the Union County Library in New Albany. Using an NAFD ladder truck, firemen hooked a spray hose high on the ladder and sent a wide spray of water onto the children below. The library provided a special foam machine for the event.

Firemen used a foam machine which created a small mountain of cooling suds that chilled the kids down in the 90-degree July heat

Children were allowed to inspect the fire fighting equipment and ask questions as they talked with fire fighters.

New Albany Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said, “There are many reasons we involve our fire fighters out in the community as much as possible. We mainly do it to be in contact with as many citizens as possible, both young and old, to promote fire safety and the fire department.”

Recently, the New Albany Board of Aldermen voted to build a new “spray park” for children in the Park-Along-the-River. The facility is expected to be ready next year at a cost of about $200,000.

Spray Day








NEMiss.News Carl Martin's fire helmet



Several dozen firefighters joined the family and other friends of James “Pappy” Carl Martin for his funeral Thursday, July 7th, at United Funeral Home in New Albany.

NEMiss.News Firefighters at Carl Martin funeral

North Haven firefighters (L-R) Ricky Taylor, Ken Owen, Jacob Rainey, Chief Jeff McKeown, Ricky Robertson and David Williams were joined by retired New Albany Fire Chief and Union County Fire Coordinator Steve Coker for this photo in the funeral home lobby.

Carl Martin, age 63, died Sunday, July 3, at his Union County home.

He had been a volunteer fireman with the North Haven Fire Department for more than 30 years and had served as the North Haven fire chief.

The United States flag flew over Highway 15, suspended from a New Albany fire department ladder truck. Carl Martin’s funeral procession passed under the flag as it left United Funeral Home and turned north on its way to his burial place at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church at Cotton Plant.

NEMiss.News Ladder truck with Flag

The funeral procession passed under the American flag as it left the funeral home and turned north to Ebenezer Church.

The hearse was followed by more than a dozen firetrucks driven by firefighters from several Union County fire departments.

NEmiss.News Union County Fire trucks lined up for procession

More than a dozen fire engines from local fire departments followed Carl Martin’s casket to Ebenezer Church.

Follow this link to Carl Martin’s full obituary:






When I heard the sad news that my friend John Young had died, I thought of a little scrap of humor that made the rounds 30 or so years ago.

The gag had to do with George H. W. Bush, then the 41St president of the United States, claiming he “had the vision thing.”

About three decades ago, a man who really did have “the vision thing” arrived with his family in Union County. With him, vision was no joking matter.

John Young had vision in such heroic measure that it’s hard to fathom what life here would be today if John Young and his vision hadn’t arrived.

Imagine getting onto Interstate 22 at the Highway 15 exit and driving northwest toward Memphis as far as the Glenfield exit, about three miles. Thirty years ago, of course, it was Highway 78.

As you drive westerly on I-22, look to your left along the south side of the freeway. Do you still see hundreds of acres of swamp, second growth forest and under-developed farm land? Driving that three miles 30 years ago, that’s about all you would have seen.

Thirty years ago, on your right where the highway crossed Central Avenue, you would have seen the small Parks Chevrolet dealership and the large printing plant of the then-thriving New Albany Gazette. When you got to Highway 30, you would have seen a scattering of convenience stores. On your right would have been a smaller version of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County, and you might have been able to see a little 20,000 square-foot Wal-Mart store under the rise of the hill.

What you would not have seen on the left 30 years ago would have been the Lowes Store, Tractor Supply, ElAgave, the Walmart Supercenter and all the smaller stores around it. You would not have seen hundreds of residential units, both multi and single family. You would not have passed the baseball and soccer fields of BNA Park. There would have been no tennis complex, no Walgreens, no Hampton Inn. There would have been no Barnes Crossing Chevrolet, no Barnes Crossing Ford, and no Waffle House. And no Tanglefoot Trail on both sides of what is now I-22.

This is not to say that all of those things appeared solely because of John Young’s efforts. Although, it is safe to say he deserves most of the credit for the residential and commercial development on the south side of I-22. Thorn McIntyre, BNA Bank, and the late Mayor Walter Johnson did their share of the heavy lifting in the commercial development of that part of New Albany.

But first there was John Young.

Mayor Johnson, Katherine Dye, Mayor Tim Kent, Zack Stewart, Betsey Hamilton and number of others deserve praise for the more recent development of the public facilities on both sides of the Interstate. But it should also be remembered that John never failed to support anything good for New Albany, regardless of whether he had any financial interest in it.

John Young was a classic, gutsy American entrepreneur. He had imagination. He worked hard. He was in the office the day before he died at age 82. He took risks. He took his lumps when he lost. But mainly he won, and everyone in Union County shares in the win.

John leaves behind four smart children and his longtime majordomo Frankie Prescott. They have learned from him hard work, paying attention to all of the details, the pleasures and dangers of risk and the need to always have a good measure of “the vision thing.”

Last winter we were sitting in front of the fire in his den drinking red wine. As always, we gossiped, talked about farming and airplanes and family and politics, almost never about business. The subject of risk came up and I will always remember what John Young said: “I’ve been out of money a few times, but I have never been broke.”


For information on services for John Young: