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In 2019, the 22nd Judicial District CASA, Inc. served 66 children and 43 families in Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes counties. 

Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the late Rev. Oliver Brown, at times garnered laughs, applause and moments of reflective, solemn silence Thursday as she spoke to those gathered in the Ataloa Theater on East Central University’s Ada campus.

In only its second year, East Central University’s Black Alumni Association is wasting no time in pursuit of its goal to increase enrollment and attendance of African American students across all academic disciplines.

The East Central University Black Alumni Association honored lifetime educator and ECU alum Donnie Nero with its prestigious Trailblazer Award as part of the program for the annual Louise Young Diversity Lecture on campus Thursday night.


Owl Creek Community Church will no longer be the polling place location for Precinct 620061. The voters assigned to that precinct will now vote at the Union Valley Baptist Church. This change does not affect any voters who are assigned to vote at the Stonewall Senior Nutrition Center.

The Tri County Board of Directors’ next regular board meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. March 10 at the Choctaw Tribal Field Office, 103 E. California in Coalgate.

Oklahoma News

NOBLE — The city is hoping its new high-speed fiber internet capabilities, made possible through a partnership with OEC Fiber, will create a more attractive community for residents and businesses.

MOORE — As a slideshow of Kolby Crum's life played during his funeral on Thursday morning, the classic Bobby McFerrin song “Don't Worry, Be Happy” played over the speakers at First Moore Baptist Church.

The fears of a recession in the U.S. seem to have evaporated, and with the 2019 benchmark rate cuts enacted by the Federal Reserve Bank, coupled with the Phase 1 trade deal with China, it looks as if our nation will avoid an economic downturn. One key aspect of the Phase 1 deal will include a section of the pact that is designed to prevent China from engaging in currency manipulation to reap trade windfalls.

A House Bill offering several exemptions to the state's plan to charge entrance fees to those entering Oklahoma State Parks has passed out of a House Subcommittee — but with an amendment attached.

With its recent history of problematic attempts at carrying out prisoner executions, one could surely expect the state of Oklahoma to be transparent if it endeavored to jump back into doling out ultimate justice.

National News

CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. — Nolan LaValley, blind since birth, does not let his disability keep him from bowling and enjoying a sport he has learned from his high school coach and teammates.

OLIVE HILL, Ky. -- It had the trappings of a scene from The Natural. A hand-crafted bat made from scratch for Tim Johnson’s son J.T.’s summer season in the North Carolina North State League, showcase for college baseball players with big league dreams.

It wasn’t “Wonderboy” made for Roy Hobbs from a tree split by lightning. But it lickety-split earned the reputation of whim-wham lumber from J.T.’s Piedmont Whitetails’ teammates, including the winner of the league’s 2019 home run derby.

From there, word of mouth spread so fast that Tim Johnson’s woodworking hobby moved to the early stage of a budding bat production company, making customized and model bats for baseball and softball players of all ages.

Located in the northeast Kentucky hamlet of Olive Hill, the informally named Big Johnson Bat Company includes marketing maven Madison, Johnson’s niece and a softball player at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. She sells Johnson bats like they were hotcakes cooked in pork fat.

“I had to tell her to quit,” said the 54-year-old Johnson. “I couldn’t make them as fast as she sold them.”

With the assistance of his brother Shawn, Johnson fastidiously lathes blank cylindrical billets of ash or maple into sanded, customized bats, each taking three to four hours. Duplicates of non-customized bats take 20 minutes on a duplicator, a machine designed to ensure the legs on a chair are identical.

Customized bats are made to a hitter’s preferred length, weight and sweet spot. A wood-burning pen brands the barrel, then Johnson hand rubs each bat with seven or eight coasts of lacquer, a task performed in the bathroom of the family home because there’s too much humidity and dust in his workshop.

Johnson’s “plant” is his 576-square-foot garage, jammed with various machines, prototypes, raw wood, tool chests and a refrigerator for drinks in one corner. To cross the sawdust blanketed workspace, you carefully set your foot with each step.

Making bats is Johnson’s night job. During the day he’s an administrator for three area vocational schools, meaning he starts his bat-making around 4 p.m. He normally turns out two customized bats before calling it a night, though he’s made as many as five hand-turned bats in one very long night, an experience he doesn’t plan to repeat.

Johnson works on and off during the week, unless “Madison goes back to a selling rampage, then it’ll be every night.”

The Johnson customized bat sells for $125. Madison-designed bats for training, with an enlarged sweet spot, go for $75. One-handed bats cost $50. Johnson also makes long, lightweight fungo bats for hitting practice balls to fielders.

The Johnson brothers learned wood working at a young age, assisting their father, who owned a used furniture store that included refinished antiques. They also played baseball in high school and college before taking up successful high school coaching careers. That background has been helpful in bat production, said Tim Johnson.

“I know what a bat needs to feel like,” he said, “if it needs to be balanced or end-loaded, how thick or thin a handle needs to be, if you need a cupped end, a smaller taper on the barrel or a longer barrel, and what type of wood has the qualities that would be most productive with each particular swing.”

Johnson never thought his bat hobby would go this far. Yet he plans to retire from his school administrator’s position sometime next year, then decide whether to make bats for a living -- with the help of his brother Shawn, son J.T. and niece Madison.

They already have a tee-shirt slogan, “Swinging hard wood.” Now all they need is a natural like Roy Hobbs to popularize the power of the Johnson bat.

Zach Klemme, sports writer for the Ashland, Ky., Daily Independent provided details for this story.  


DUNCAN, Okla. – The police clock read 9:55 a.m. Monday when a 911 caller reported an unidentified man and woman, walking calmly from the money center in Walmart to enter their parked car, suddenly were shot to death through the windshield.

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ADA [ndash] Services for Lindsay Snow, 43, of Ada are at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church. The Rev. Brian Matthews will officiate. Burial will follow at Rosedale Cemetery. Lindsay did not let a lifelong battle with rheumatoid arthritis stop her from living large. She descr…