The year 2013 was another year of change, some good, some not so good, in Gilmer, Upshur County and East Texas.
The Gilmer Mirror will review some of the top stories of 2013.
This first installment covers the months of January, February and March:
January—Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd announced that three people charged in the murder of Ronnie Joe Gammage, 27, of Longview would be tried for the crime in Upshur County, since they allegedly brought the man to southeastern Upshur County where they allegedly tortured and killed him, before burning his body.
The suspects were Sarah Haslam, 20, and Daniel Jones, 19, of Longview, and Andrew Conrad Norwine, 21, of Arlington.
Before the year was out, Jones would plead guilty to capital murder and receive a sentence of life in prison without parole.
The other two are awaiting trial.
Upshur County continued its move from once being a one-party Democrat county to being a one-party Republican county, as an all-Republican contingent of county office holders was sworn in. They had been elected in November, 2012.
They included Sheriff Anthony Betterton, Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry, Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka, Pct. 1 Constable Gene Dolle, Pct. 2 Constable Jason Weeks, Pct. 3 Constable Stanley Jenkins and Pct. 4 Constable Phillip Hill.
Former longtime Gilmer funeral home partner Steve Sansom become Gilmer Housing Director, replacing Gordon and Betty Finney, who retired.
A dispute between the Sheriff’s Office and the County Auditor over procedures continued, with the sheriff saying the then-Auditor was unreasonably holding up payments to some of his vendors.
Shortly thereafter, the Auditor resumed payments to vendors, including those supplying jail food.
Andrew George Bassler, 36, of Ore City was sentenced to 18 months in a state jail on animal cruelty charges, after he pled guilty to hanging a donkey.
Fire of unknown origin destroyed a home at 219 E. Butler St. The home was once the residence of Henry Lee Davis, a well-known local grocer for 60 years.
John Anthony Adams, 51, of Gilmer was sentenced to two 20-year prison terms for child molestation.
Union Grove ISD decided to allow school staff to carry arms, after they had received training.
The Commissioners Court appointed Chuck Mears as county building maintenance supervisor.
Don Holeman of Gilmer, one of eight falsely accused in the infamous Kelly Wilson disappearance, had his record cleared and was fully exonerated after a long 20-year battle. He described the battle to clear his name as “20 years of hell.”
Bradley William Wood, 20, of Gilmer received nine years in prison for sexual assault of a child.
Etex Telephone Cooperative announced that it was leaving the cell-phone business.
February—Steven “Andy” Jordan, 36, was appointed by Commissioners Court as County Road Administrator.
The Gilmer City Council ratified the choices of the Gilmer Volunteer Fire Department for officers. Jerry Taylor was confirmed as chief, and Phillip Wilburn was assistant chief of Company A and Ken Sheid as assistant chief of Company B.
A former Harmony High School substitute teacher, Judy Lynn Langford, was sentenced in 115th District Court after pleading guilty to having sex with a former student.
Dewey Randal Hankins, 56, of Diana died in a fire at the camper in which he lived.
The annual Black History Month Visions of Excellence program at the Gilmer Civic Center had as its theme “Looking Back to Move Forward.” Keynote speaker Rev. Forrest Curry emphasized that “Everybody is God’s Somebody.”
Union Grove ISD began participation in the “Outdoor Education Pilot School” program. The school was one of only 20 in the state with an Explorer Bow-Hunting Curriculum.
The Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce named Rev. Huey C Jones as its Citizen of the Year. The Upshur County Shares Food Pantry was honored as Top Hand, and its coordinator, Mel Small, was Humanitarian of the Year.
Bill Patterson, who had served on the board of Gilmer National Bank for many years, was honored for his 40 years of service with a plaque and a Rolex watch.
A former Mt. Pleasant police officer, Sgt. Eric Jason Campbell, received 50 years in prison after pleading guilty in 115th District Court to sexual assault of a child.
Milton Wylie and Walter Reynolds, both of Gilmer, were recognized by the Long Distance Riders organization for completing a motorcycle endurance ride.
A fire of undetermined origin destroyed the home of Big Sandy entrepreneur Jerry Gentry. Five fire departments responded to the scene.
March—Charles Turner was promoted to Senior Vice President at Gilmer National Bank.
State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) introduced a controversial bill in the Legislature that would have allowed downsizing the number of Justice of the Peace and Constable precincts. The bill would not make it out of committee.
Harmony’s Daven Murphree won the pole vault competition at the invitational New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City. He would later set a personal best of 17 feet, 6 inches in winning the Ore City Rebel Relays.
Wesley Oaks, a memory-care facility, was opened by Wesley House Assisted Living in Gilmer.
Astronaut Jerry Ross was keynote speaker at an event hosted by First Methodist Church of Gilmer to benefit the Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center.
The Gilmer FFA Ag Mechanics team won the coveted Dr. Billy Harrell award in competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
ETMC Gilmer received designation as a Level III Stroke Support Center.