• 45°

Year in Review: January-March

Editor’s Note: This is the first of our four-part series, taking a look back at some of the most notable stories of 2019.

The last year of the decade was a memorable one for Oxford and Lafayette County in many ways. The LOU Community experienced much change, heartache and celebration in the span of 12 months. Join the EAGLE in the final days of 2019 as we count down the stories that captured readers’ attention and stayed with us long after the news was printed.

Election Year

The final year of the 2010s was also an election year for Lafayette County officials. Change was coming to the Board of Supervisors, with the announcement of current supervisors Jeff Busby and Kevin Frye choosing not to seek re-election and running for other posts.

Busby announced his bid to run for Lafayette County’s next circuit clerk, stepping into a role his mother, Mary Alice, had filled for 24 years. Current circuit clerk Barretta Mosley announced she would be retiring at the end of 2019, after spending the past eight years working in the Lafayette County Courthouse.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for many, many years,” Busby said. “I grew up going over there. I was in and out of that office and it very much interested me. When she retired eight years ago, I wanted to get into service for this community. At that time I felt like I couldn’t follow in her footsteps. I felt like I needed to make a name of myself in another part of the county.”

Frye, who was District 2 supervisor, announced his bid to run for the Mississippi Senate in District 9.

The County supervisors’ races were some of the most competitive in recent election cycles, with every incumbent facing tough challengers.

Another family connection came into play when then-Oxford Police Chief Joey East qualified his name for the Lafayette County Sheriff’s race. East announced his intentions in late December 2018, but could not make his bid official until January. In September 2018, East’s father F.D. “Buddy” East passed away at the age of 76 while still serving as acting sheriff. He was the longest-tenured sheriff in the state, second-longest tenured in the United States. He served the county as sheriff since 1972.

“This is something that me and (my father) had talked about a lot,” East said. “When he passed, (the idea) just kind of lost a little thing to it. It was something I always wanted to do because he’d done it. Then, the people of the community reached out and it was heavy on my heart. I just had to do it. I had to try. So, I just said ‘I’m going to get in there and try my best.'”

Protests and Rallies

In the winter months of 2019, the Confederate statues located on the Downtown Square and on the University of Mississippi campus came back into the spotlight.

Two pro-Confederacy groups, Confederate-901 and The Highwaymen, took the streets of Oxford and marched from the Lafayette County Courthouse to the Lyceum Circle at Ole Miss in favor of keeping the statue where it currently resides on campus.

The week leading up to the event resulted in heavy police planning and concerns of students for their safety, due to threats made by a member of one of the groups online. A counter protest took place, coinciding with the two Confederate groups on a rainy Saturday in February and led to a very docile affair.

Across campus on the same day came much bigger news. Inside the Pavilion during the national anthem, six players on the Ole Miss men’s basketball team in response to the protests.

“We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus. It’s our actual University having these hate groups in our school,” Breein Tyree said. “We saw one of our teammates doing it, and we didn’t want him to be alone.”

Flooding

Heavy rainfall in late February proved disastrous for portions of Lafayette County and North Mississippi. The rain led to flooding, which devastated farms such as Yokna Bottoms Farm south of Oxford and also caused erosion, which led to water mains breaking in the city.

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a state of emergency declaration, which eventually led to aid to those effected by the flooding.

Top Educator

For the second straight year, Lafayette County was home to the best teacher in the state.

Hannah Gadd Ardrey was named the 2019 Mississippi Teacher of the Year by the Mississippi Department of Education during a ceremony in March. Ardrey, who was in her fourth year at Lafayette High School, teaches music appreciation to sixth through 12th grade and is the choir director.

“I was in shock. I think I’m still in shock,” she said after winning. “I definitely got very emotional. It was a relief, but it was also really exciting, especially thinking about how excited my students were going to be. It’s just such an honor represent all the fantastic teachers and students at Lafayette.”

Ardrey follows fellow Lafayette County School District teacher Whitney Drewery, who won the honor in 2018.

Sweet 16

In early February, the Oxford Film Festival celebrated its 16th year with red carpet events and special screenings. The five-day event featured hundreds of films from local and international filmmakers and was capped with the annual awards ceremony. The 2019 edition saw an 18.75 percent overall growth from the year prior, with ticket sales up roughly $2,500 from 2018.