December 29, 2003 — Posted at 6:46 CST
2003 drew Arkansas' native son Wesley Clark into the political arena. Clark entered the presidential race after several Arkansans drafted him for the position.
2003 was also the year for political returns.
Another Pryor went to Washington. Mark Pryor, son of former U.S. Senator and Governor David Pryor, defeated incumbent Tim Hutchinson.
Former President Clinton visited Arkansas State University for the first time since 1995. While in Jonesboro, Clinton dined with businessman Wallace Fowler. A few months later, Clinton came back to ASU, kicking off a distinguished lecture series at the University.
In 2003, the eyes and ears of Region 8 also brought some local public figures into the spotlight. Jonesboro's Public Safety Director Floyd Johnson was put on the hot seat for making racial comments to a police officer. Jonesboro Mayor Brodell later imposed a 30 day suspension without pay against Johnson.
Two Region 8 educators were also accused of improper sexual activity. Rivercrest Junior High Assistant Principal Roger Brooks was arrested on one count of computer child pornography. That case was recently moved to circuit court.
Meanwhile, Robert Jennings, a former coach from Marked Tree, pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and rape, even though one of his accusers came forward on KAIT. Jennings is scheduled to go to trial in February.
And while some public figures were trying to save their reputations, one obscure individual was signing a record deal. Osceola's Buddy Jewel won the Nashville Star Competition. He's currently making a name for himself in the country music scene, in the same year that country music fans said goodbye to "The Man in Black."
Sadly, 2003 was also the year of an unsolved murder, a murder suicide, and the end of a murder trial.
Billy Green was formally charged for his alleged role in the deaths of the Carl Elliot Family.
In the same week in Jonesboro, Billy Wayne Winters shot his estranged wife Donna at her workplace and later killed himself. Two days later, Valley View High School went under lockdown, because of a nearby standoff that ended in a suicide.
And Joel Holloway was sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing his cousin's wife, Tracey. An attempt to get him a new trial was shot down by a circuit court judge.
Some of the year's past stories affected more than just a hand-full of people.
Severe weather, including 2 weeks of tornadoes, ripped through the area.
But not all big news is bad news.
Jonesboro is feeling an economic boom. Nestle had its dedication ceremony, and what about the additions of Home Depot and Sams Club.
Of course who can forget the state's education woes. We all know the details. This story will indeed be continued.
And finally, probably the biggest story to affect Region 8 and the whole country for that matter has to be the war in Iraq.
We sent off our troops. We prayed for our troops, and in the end Saddam was caught, none other than by a Region 8 native, Colonel Michael Moody.