Category Archives: local news

Time for answers in young man’s death

Thomas Kelly Brown’s loved ones — his family and his friends throughout Hemphill County, Texas — need more than what they apparently got from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

The AG says Brown, who disappeared on Thanksgiving 2018, was not the victim of “foul play.” Never mind that his body was found far removed from his laptop and his backpack. As others have noted already, this case has “foul play” screaming from it.

Yet the AG says there was no “evidence” that foul play occurred.
OK, so how did this young man die? Shouldn’t the attorney general, who along with the Texas Rangers and Hemphill County authorities searched for clues surrounding the young Canadian High School senior’s disappearance and death, provide some form of closure to the young man’s death?

Hey, these aren’t just a gaggle of nosy Noras wanting to satisfy their idle curiosity. They have a serious emotional stake in this matter.

They are entitled to a full explanation into how the authorities reached what many of us believe is a faulty conclusion.

Canadian teen’s loved ones get punched in the gut?

I will have to step aside for any detailed analysis of what the Texas Attorney General’s Office has concluded about the mysterious and heartbreaking death of a Canadian High School senior, Thomas Kelly Brown.

The expert on this tragedy is my friend and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who wonders aloud whether how in the world the AG’s office could find that “there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

He disappeared on Thanksgiving Day 2018. His body was discovered near Lake Marvin. His laptop and other personal belongings were found miles away from where police found Brown’s body.

So … the AG’s office says that Brown did not die as a result of someone doing him harm. No evidence? Good … grief!

As Jon Mark Beilue said in his social media post: These findings go “beyond the pale.”

The powers that be — the AG’s office, the Texas Rangers, the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office — all need to come up with some plausible explanation for what happened to this young man.

Here is Beilue’s rant. It’s worth your time to read it:

“…There is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown…”

You mean except for the fact that his body was found near Lake Marvin and his vehicle was found miles away with video evidence of it being driven that night, or that his backpack and laptop computer were found several more miles away?

Who wrote this, the Attorney General’s office of Texas or Deputy Barney Fife? Unfortunately, it was the former in an announcement on Wednesday.

As someone while with the Globe-News who wrote multiple stories on Thomas Brown, the Canadian senior who suddenly went missing in the early hours of Thanksgiving 2016, this is beyond the pale.

It is absolutely unconscionable that a reasonable person would not conclude that foul play was involved. This whole case has all but screamed of foul play since the very murky outset. Investigators said time and again they knew it to be foul play, but could not bring sufficient evidence.

Suppose the powers that be go ahead and tell the public exactly why a reasonable person should not conclude foul play was involved? Or is this just a way of throwing up your hands and saying we can’t solve it.

I feel for those closest to Brown in all of this. I can’t imagine what this latest bit of news brings. I could go on and on, but just leave it at this. To paraphrase the AG report: “Any reasonable person can conclude that someone got away with murder in Hemphill County in the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

Thomas Brown’s family and all of those who loved him have been kicked squarely in the gut.

Bush library and museum produces a delightful surprise

I made a trip into Dallas today with my brother-in-law to show him the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. But when we walked in I received a peculiar surprise from one of the docents who greeted us.

She asked where we lived. I told her I live in Princeton and said my bro-in-law lives in Dripping Springs. Then I said, apparently with a joking tone in my voice, that I go back a ways with President Bush. “Oh, really?” she answered. “Tell me about that.”

I told her about the time in the spring of 1995, while I was working at the Amarillo Globe-News, I had the chance to interview the then-Texas governor in his State Capitol Building office in Austin. I mentioned that we chatted for more than an hour and that I came away impressed with the governor’s grasp of Texas government policy; he had been elected only a few months earlier and took office that January, the same month I started work as editorial page editor of the Globe-News.

She then told me to fill out a special card and give it to one of the receptionists at the welcome desk. They would forward it to the president’s staff and perhaps, maybe, possibly the former president himself might see it and respond in some personal manner to what I had written on the card.

The card asked for my name, address, phone number, e-mail address and then asked me to tell my “story” on the space provided at the bottom of the card. I mentioned that I interviewed the president, that we chatted for a good while and that it was “one of the highlights of my career.”

I mentioned to the docent that I doubted the president would remember my name, but that he might remember it he were provided some context associated with my name. She agreed, assuring me that President Bush is “very good with names.”

My wife and I visited the exhibit during the Christmas holiday to see a special display provided there. I did not fill out the card that I filled out today. Hence, the surprise at visiting the George W. Bush library and museum.

We shall see if he responds. As I told the docent, “If the president still drank, he is the kind of guy I would love to have a beer with.”

I won’t hold my breath. Still, it was nice to relive that true story.

Texas House tumult claims a victim

The tumult surrounding Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s recorded conversation with a right-wing rabble rouser has claimed its first victim.

Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Burrows of Lubbock has resigned his leadership post. He was allegedly caught taking part in some secret conversations involving Burrows and Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who reportedly were targeting some House Republicans for defeat in the next election cycle.

What’s more, the Texas Rangers are now involved, investigating whether there might be some campaign law violations associated with this apparently growing mess.

Bonnen at first denied taking part in the conversation with Sullivan, with whom he has had a testy relationship. He has since apologized to his fellow legislative Republicans for the things he said about them. Bonnen wants Sullivan to release the entire conversation, apparently thinking its full context might explain what the men were discussing. Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad the Rangers are involved. We need to find out what happened, who said what to whom and what precisely this clown, Sullivan, was intending to do with the information being pledged to him by Bonnen … allegedly.

I had some hopes that the new speaker would continue the kind of leadership demonstrated by Joe Straus of San Antonio, who left the Legislature at the end of 2018. Silly me. It appears my hopes have been dashed, if what we hear turns out to be correct.

The idea that the speaker, reportedly a moderate-to-conservative politician would hold hands with a far-right ideologue such as Sullivan, for whom many mainstream Texas Republicans have considerable loathing, is repugnant on its face.

Bonnen’s role in this once-secret conversation has angered a lot of GOP House members. To which I say: Perhaps a change in the House speakership well might be in order.

If anyone is interested in some names to replace Bonnen, I can think of a couple of fellows from up yonder in the Panhandle who I believe would work out just fine.

Four Price or John Smithee, are you available?

Why comment on the Soddies? Let me count the reasons

I don’t know this to be fact, but there well might be some eyebrow-raising among Amarillo baseball fans regarding these occasional blog posts from someone who no longer lives in Amarillo.

So, with that I’ll provide an answer … or three.

I am a baseball fan. A big part of me wishes I could attend Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball games at Hodgetown. I cannot, given that I now live in Collin County. Still, my interest in baseball goes back to my boyhood. I love watching the game. I loved playing the game, although I didn’t work hard enough to become good enough to play it for any length of time.

I once was a longtime Major League Baseball fan. I followed Mickey Mantle’s career from the early 1950s until it ended prior to the start of the 1969 season. My mornings from April to October every year compelled me to look at the sports pages of my hometown newspaper to see how Mickey did the night before.

I love the game of baseball! So, there’s that.

I am proud of Amarillo’s downtown revival. I lived in Amarillo long enough to watch its downtown transform from a moribund, semi-conscious business district into something that is taking deep breaths and is reviving before our very eyes. I am glad to know the Sod Poodles, the AA baseball franchise that relocated there from San Antonio, are a big part of that revival.

I want to comment on that revival whenever I get the chance or sense there’s something new and worthy of commentary.

My interest in the city hasn’t abated since our departure. My wife and I departed Amarillo in the spring of 2018. We settled initially in Fairview, tucked between Allen and McKinney just north of Dallas. Then we moved to Princeton early this year. I am getting acquainted with the politics of Princeton and Collin County.

However, one doesn’t spend nearly 18 years commenting in local media about a community’s health and well-being and live there for more than 23 years without retaining an interest in the goings-on.

My interest is strong. I like commenting on positive trends I see developing there. Yes, I also intend to keep my eyes and ears open to matters that deserve a more critical look, and I have done that on occasion.

As for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, well … I intend to make my former city’s business my own business.

I appreciate the interest in what I have to say. To those who might wonder why I bother, I do so because I feel like it.

Amarillo College, city score a winner with free bus rides

When I heard of this news item from up yonder in Amarillo, I’ll admit to a reaction that might seem a bit unflattering.

It was: What took ’em so long to enact this one?

Amarillo City Transit, the public bus transportation system, is soon to offer free transportation for Amarillo College students. The idea is so brilliant yet so simple, I was struck by the length of time it took for someone to pitch it to the City Council.

Who might be the biggest beneficiaries of this initiative? I figure it’s got to be the students who attend classes at AC’s main campus on Washington Street, just south of Interstate 40. You see, parking at that campus has been a serious problem for as long as I can remember.

I have known several AC presidents over many years, starting with Bud Joyner; then along came Fred Williams, Steve Jones, Paul Matney and now Russell Lowery-Hart. They all grappled with the parking nightmare at the main campus, as did the AC Board of Regents. College enrollment grew, but the parking capacity didn’t keep pace.

The way I figure it, if the college and the city promote this new benefit aggressively and effectively, it will fill the buses with students coming into town to attend classes. It also well could alleviate the parking problem with fewer motor vehicles being crammed onto the parking lots and along the city streets surrounding the campus.

I also must admit to a failing of my own. You see, I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years and I don’t once recall ever having a discussion with my boss, or the editorial board, or with college administrators and city officials about enacting such a plan for students.

So I’m left to ask while kicking myself in the backside: Why didn’t I think of this idea long ago?

I am hoping this idea works well for the students … as well as for the college.

Puppy Tales, Part 76: Doggie door update

Listen up. I am making an announcement.

Toby the Puppy has mastered the doggie door his mother and I purchased just for him.

Is that a big deal? You bet it is!

It’s not that I ever doubted Toby’s ability to learn how to work the door. I knew he would. I was just not prepared initially for his mastery of the device to take as long as it did.

But you know already that I believe — with all due love and respect to our grandpuppy Madden — that Toby the Puppy is the smartest pooch on Earth. Toby is so smart, he responds to people’s names. For instance, when we mention our granddaughter Emma is coming over, Toby the Puppy goes nuts. He stands at the living room window waiting for her. When we drive to her house, he knows the moment we make the turn prior to turning directly onto her street that he’s close. He starts wagging his tail and rushes out of the car when we park it.

OK, so we’ve cleared this latest hurdle. He knows how to use the doggie door without requiring us to stand nearby. He goes in and out … all by himself.

I am a happy fellow.

Is a GOP retirement announcement coming from the Panhandle?

The Texas Tribune published a story on Nov. 28, 2018 that speculated about the possibility of several retirement announcements coming from Texas’s substantial Republican congressional majority.

One section of the story said this: ” … many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021.”

Thornberry no longer is chairman of the panel. He currently serves as ranking GOP member, which gives him some clout on the panel. Still, it’s not the same as chairing it.

I want to defend my former congressman on one point. He campaigned for the office in 1994 while supporting the Contract With America, which contained a provision that called for limiting the number of terms House members could serve. Thornberry never said he would impose a personal limit on the terms he would serve representing the 13th Congressional District.

He has voted in favor of constitutional amendments in the House; the amendment proposals always have failed.

Twenty-four years later, Thornberry has emerged as one of Texas’s senior congressional lawmakers.

I, too, wonder whether he might pack it in after this term. I’ve speculated on it publicly in this blog.

I don’t talk to Thornberry these days, although I still believe we have a good personal relationship. I rarely have supported personally his policy pronouncements during his years in the House. I’ll admit, though, that my position as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News required me to write public statements in support of Thornberry against my personal beliefs; hey, it’s part of the job of writing for someone else.

The way I look at it, a Mac Thornberry retirement likely wouldn’t result in the 13th District flipping to a Democrat. The GOP majority in the Texas Legislature has created a rock-solid Republican district that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Metroplex.

If there’s a retirement announcement coming from Mac Thornberry, you can consider me as someone who won’t be surprised.

Sod Poodles’ winning ways become infectious lure

Let’s face it. Winning is a wonderful inducement for sports fans. It brings out those who might otherwise decide to stay home rather than go to the ballpark for an afternoon (or evening) of entertainment.

I present to you the Amarillo Sod Poodles, who entered the Texas League this year and — in some instances — have taken the league by storm. Why and how? They’re winning a good bit more of their games than they’re losing.

The Sod Poodles existed previously as the San Antonio Missions. Then the Alamo City landed a AAA minor-league franchise that played ball previously in Colorado Springs. The Missions needed a new home to play AA hardball. They looked around. Amarillo came calling. The powers that be in the Panhandle pledged to build a new ballpark. They offered the franchise some financial inducements.

Then the team decided to relocate. They needed a new name and a new brand. They came up with the Sod Poodles.

However, this wasn’t a team built from scratch. I mean, the franchise infrastructure already was in place. They had an organization backing them, the National League San Diego Padres.

The Sod Poodles won the first half South Division title this year. They’re in first place so far in the second half of the season. They’ll be in the playoffs once the regular season concludes.

They’re playing before full houses at Hodgetown. The cheers have been loud and throaty from what I understand.

It fills me with joy to know that Amarillo is turning out to support this team with shouts and cheers.

I won’t speculate how the fans would react if the Sod Poodles weren’t winning more than half of their games. I just know that winning does have a way of ginning up support.

This baseball franchise is off to a smashing start.

Hey Democratic candidates for POTUS, come on down!

Hey, I understand the large field of Democrats running for president of the United States have been seen scurrying around the Iowa State Fair. They’re scarfing down alleged “fair food,” kissing babies, shaking hands, begging for votes.

Good for them. Good for Iowa, which kicks off the nation’s first electoral process leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

However, we’ve got a state fair coming up right here in Texas. The Texas State Fair commences in Dallas on Sept. 27. It runs until Oct. 20. They’ll play a big college football game — Texas vs. Oklahoma — during the run of the fair.

Oh, and Texas figures to be every bit as much of a “battleground state” in 2020 as, say, Iowa. And … our primary will be early in the election season.

Here’s my point. I want to see the Democrats pour into Texas just as they have done in Iowa, are doing so as well in New Hampshire and South Carolina, two other early primary states.

I live a bit north of Big D, but I just might find some time to venture to the State Fairgrounds before the fair closes down for the year. I want to see some of these folks up close. I want to hear with my own ears what they’re telling voters, how they’re pitching their candidacies.

Come on, candidates. Big Tex beckons you to the Texas State Fair.

What’s more, the fried beer is worth a try.