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Letter from former slave to former master found

The Wilson Post

This is a genuine document.

So began the introduction to a letter appearing in the Aug. 22, 1865 edition of the New York Daily Tribune dictated by a Jourdon Anderson to a Wilson County landowner, Col. P.H. Anderson.

Jourdon Anderson was a former slave. Colonel P.H. Anderson was his former master. The Colonel lived in Big Spring, Tennessee, a small community in East Wilson County in the area of Old Rome Pike and Big Springs Road.

Thanks Danny

Long before he thought about folks eating in a restaurant with a country, almost hokie, theme, where the first menus would spell eggs as aigs, Dan Evins earned a reputation locally as a dreamer.

Today he would be considered a visionary, but in his early days he was best known as the guy with all those crazy ideas. In his 76 years, he did much.

Theres no way to tell the whole Dan Evins story in the space provided on this page, but there are some things worth knowing that say a lot about this man, whos credited with being the force behind the founding of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

He was a U.S. Marine, a Shell Oil distributor, a devout Republican, and an admirer of Newt Gingrich. His uncle, U.S. Rep. Joe L. Evins, a Democrat, was one of the most powerful members of Congress representing Tennessees Fourth Congressional District, which at the time included Wilson County. Dans politics and Uncle Joes were completely opposite.

He was the first, at least in these parts, to introduce what today is commonly known as corporate casual. A handsome gent, he seldom ever wore a neck tie and preferred for office wear cardigan sweaters when the weather was appropriate.

He was a huge Tennessee football fan. In 1968, he and several friends made a trip to Miami to see the Tennessee Vols play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

At the time he was the owner of a semi-professional softball team, the Shell Oilers. Based in Lebanon, the team played a national schedule and was ranked as one of the best teams of its kind in the U.S. The team traveled in what looked to be a converted Trailways Bus. For the trip to Miami, Danny commandeered the bus.

But that wasnt the end of the story.

Once in Miami, the group got caught up in the glitz and excitement of the surroundings and crashed the Orange Bowl parade. For several blocks before being escorted out of the parade, a dozen or so folks from Lebanon were waving out the windows of their Shell Oiler bus to spectators who had lined the streets along the parade route.

In the mid-1980s, Dannys prep-school alma mater was in serious financial trouble. He had a passion to save Castle Heights. He spent countless hours on campus and tried desperately to rally the community in an effort to save the once prominent military academy. Despite his efforts, his mission failed and the school closed in 1986. He gave money and raised money.

He brought in a well known chef for the dining hall and made a number of other changes trying to get the school back on track. He had one idea after another, but in the end it wasnt a very popular era for prep-school military academies and Heights became a victim, as did other schools in the South, to the challenges of the times.

When he and a best friend Tommy Lowe, another Lebanon native, launched Cracker Barrel in 1969, few around town gave the idea much of chance.

One tobacco chewing country lawyer said Why would I want to buy stock in a restaurant chain started by Danny Evins? Who knows, tomorrow he may be wanting to buy a train. Dozens, perhaps even hundreds were offered the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of Cracker Barrel at 50 cents a share. And still one of the towns favorite haunts by those old enough to tell it, is No, I passed because I thought it was another crazy idea.

The ones who didnt pass and made the initial id=mce_marker0,000 investment saw their return multiply over and over again. They made millions.

Today Cracker Barrel has some 600 locations and a national reputation that is second to none.

Who would have ever thought back in the late 1960s that Uncle Herschels Breakfast, an item still on the menu today, would be so important to Lebanon, Tennessee, the place known nationally as the home of Cracker Barrel?

When he opened the first Cracker Barrel near the corner of Leeville Pike and Highway 109, another one of Dan Evins dreams was begun.

But this one was the big one. It was the real deal.

Hes left quite a legacy.

His death has been publicized by newspapers and media outlets all across the U.S. including the likes of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and others.

The Silicon Valley had its Steve Jobs, but we, too, have a national icon.

Thanks Danny for continuing to be persistent with all your crazy ideas.

That Cracker Barrel restaurant thing is a keeper.

Power of One event deserves big thanks

Kudos are in order for a group of Leadership Wilson alumni who have taken it upon themselves to organize, promote and orchestrate an event planned for January 20, that will focus on bringing elected leaders countywide together for a conference on what they might do to help build a better Wilson County.

The day long conference, to be held on the Lipscomb University campus in Nashville, is the work of a small group that has built a branding around its effort on the theme Power of One.

Essentially the message to be disseminated is "look how powerful we can be if we act together as a Power of One."

Those producing the conference are quick to point out that it's not going to be a hand holding, hugging affair, but rather an opportunity for elected officials from one end of the county to the other to share with each other; discuss their individual visions for the county; what challenges they believe may exist in the future; and what they can do as government leaders to help ensure a bright and progressive future for the home community.

Those invited to the conference include members of the county commission and members of each of the three county municipal legislative bodies including the county mayor and city mayors. Also invited are a limited number of community leaders.

The day will begin with conferees boarding the Music City Star for an early morning ride into Nashville. From Riverfront Station the group will be transported to Lipscomb and returned late that afternoon to the downtown area for dinner and the return trip home via the commuter rail.

Many of those attending the workshop are taking a day off from work and in doing so are sacrificing a loss of pay. Others are obligating themselves to spending a day of their own time without compensation for the good of Wilson County.

You might say this is something they ought to do because of their roles as elected officials.

But the truth of the matter is that this is something that they really don't have to do and are doing this because they are dedicated public servants.

The response to the call to attend the conference has already been very good. A large majority of those who have been invited have replied that they will attend, others have said they're trying to make arrangements to attend, and a few, only a few, have registered themselves in the doubtful to attend column.

This is going to be a very good experience for those attending.

And no doubt the results will be very good for Wilson County.

Thank you Power of One for stepping forward and making this happen.

Our community is upset, and for good reason

Our community is very upset and rightfully so. Some members of the Lebanon City Council are proposing to eliminate the citys fulltime mayor position.

This proposal represents a significant change in the structure of city government.

It may be a change that is needed, but what bothers many is whether or not the change is being proposed for all the right reasons. Are those suggesting the change doing so with a pure heart?

Are they doing it because they genuinely want a better Lebanon or are they just trying to even a political score?

Is this an issue about what will make Lebanon better? Or is it an issue about petty politics?

This town doesnt need a city manager. The truth be known, it may have too many city managers now.

What this town needs is harmony.

It needs, as one person suggested earlier this week, a few good statesmen who want to serve Lebanon in Lebanons best interest and not for their own personal agendas.

Contact Sam Hatcher at

Its a who do you believe controversy

The riff brewing between former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell is picking up tracks quickly.

In case youve been out of the loop, a new autobiography by Vice President Cheney that appeared on book shelves for sale Tuesday has apparently been unkind to Secretary Powell and speaks harshly about his tenure in the George W. Bush administration.

According to reports, the book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, is also unkind to others who served in the Bush administration

Secretary Powell is pulling no punches and is making it clear that he is very upset about what has been written about him in the Cheney book and says adamantly that the charges are not true adding that he is disappointed that a former vice president would write such remarks to be published in a tell all book.

On CBSs Face the Nation Sunday, Secretary Powell described the books remarks about him and others as cheap shots.

At this point it looks like the matter is going to develop into a who do you believe type of argument.

Im betting most Americans will side with Secretary Powell, a well respected military leader and public servant.

But even so Mr. Cheney will surely still win because the turmoil and controversy will only help sell more books.

Wilson Co. Fair best in state?

By SAM HATCHER, The Wilson Post
Is the Wilson County Fair the best in Tennessee?

Youre darn straight it is.

Once again the Wilson County Fair has broken all records. Attendance at the 10-day extravaganza was recorded this year at 545,945. The previous attendance record for the Fair was 505,434 set in 2009.

It is an absolutely amazing event that attracts visitors to our community from distant places and neighboring communities.

The Fair is made possible each year by more than 300 dedicated volunteers. Some take time off from their regular jobs to work at the Fair without pay, others use vacation days, and many are retirees who have a strong desire, as the others, to give back to the community in which they live.

If there is a greater example in the Western Hemisphere of a community working together for a common good, we dont know where that might be.

Not only is the Wilson County Fair the best in Tennessee it is for sure the best in the South and one of the best in the U.S.

Congratulations to all who helped make this years Fair a huge success.

Hats off to all of you for a job well done.

U.S. needs statesmen to step forward

Conversation at lunch today (Tuesday) was whether or not congress and the president would come together and solve or at least mend the countrys lingering debt crisis.

Although I dont feel real warm and fuzzy about it, Id bet that there will be a deal made and that well escape the immediate problem for the time being.

Col. Leftwich will be missed

Learning of the death of Col. J.B. Leftwich has caused I’m sure many former students, as I, to stop and reflect on days long gone by that were spent on “The Hill” under his guidance.

“The Hill” at Castle Heights Military Academy was not only the highest point in the city of Lebanon (there’s a bronze marker there that speaks to this), it was also the center of all operations for this private school that opened in 1902 and closed some 84 years later.

Improvement to major artery will help keep traffic moving


On today’s front page there is a story about the scheduled opening of the new five-lane portion of Highway 109.

This state route has become in recent years one of the county’s most important thoroughfares as it enables traffic to move from Sumner County and west Lebanon to I-40 and on south to State Route 840.

Time is right to bring white collar jobs here

Wilson County is the second wealthiest county in Tennessee. It is strategically located near the state capitol, has an incomparable network of major transportation thoroughfares, maintains a local airport that is capable of servicing corporate jet air traffic, is only minutes from Nashville’s International Airport and provides for its residents a lifestyle second to none.

More than one day needed

The past Memorial Day weekend, while providing a time for rest and recreation, was also a fitting and appropriate time to remember those who have served in military uniforms and paid the ultimate price while protecting our great country and the many freedoms we enjoy.

But what about today, tomorrow and next week? We tend to place so much importance on a single day when in fact we should recognize these heroes every day of every year.

The hideout

Did you ever have a favorite place to hide? As a child we often had hideouts that were probably inspired by the Cowboys and gangster movies that were prevalent on early TV shows. The train robbers would always go to their secret place in a canyon where no one could find them.

Civic League -- 3 decades of service

As the saying goes . . . “a lot of water has passed under the bridge.” In this instance I’m referring to the beginning of the Wilson County Civic League some 27 years ago in 1984.

On Saturday the non-profit organization will host its 26th Annual Fellowship Dinner in Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel.

Getting back to basics

Have you been bitten yet? When warm spring weather comes have you had the urge to get to a pond, creek, river, lake or whatever body of water is close by to wet a line, drown a worm, or otherwise chase a fish?

Every spring, the compulsion strikes me and as soon as the water clears up from the last big rain I simply must get to the riverside for that primeval experience.

A great night at The Mill

Thanks Gretchen & MCA

“Where have we been for the past two years?” That was the question my wife and I asked ourselves last Saturday night when we walked out of The Mill following the third annual production of McClain Christian Academy’s “Music at the Mill.”

Frankly, I’m not one capable of reviewing a show of this quality, but I can assure you, for a guy who likes to be in bed by 9 o’clock, I felt no anxiety when we got home at a little after 11.

This was one great show played to a full house just as it should have been. It was our first, but I promise we will be back next year.

Are we all not Americans?

The Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives is striving to repeal the health care bill. Why are they pursuing such a path?

Question number two is why did President Obama make this one of the highest aims of his administration? Let’s deal wit the second question first. There were between 45 and 50 million people who could not purchase health insurance. Many have pre-existing conditions and cannot get it at any price, or if they can, they cannot afford it.

Have you had enough snow yet?

How beautiful the Cedar trees were, capped in the white fluffy snow around my house. The yard turned into a winter wonderland, and I got out my heavy clothes and boots for a walk in the woods. The air was still and everything was the cleanest white you could hope for with the best wash job imaginable.

I got enough clean white snow for the first snow cream and languished over the next few days as a white covering disappeared only to be followed by another blanket a week later.

The roads weren’t all that bad, but the schools were out much to the delight of the children. Then in January, it happened again. Another few inches fell which slowed things down and brought the sleds from their dusty perches in the sheds and garages. One of the snows was the packing type (coming at near freezing temperature) which made it just right for rolling up good snow people (the politically correct term for snowmen, I guess).

Respect has fallen from the political stage

By SAM HATCHER, CEO & Publisher
I don’t know what caused the man in Tucson to go on the shooting spree he did last Saturday. In a matter of minutes he brought an enormous amount of tragedy and pain into the lives of a great number of people.

Did vicious campaign rhetoric motivate him to the point of committing this attack?

Would he have done this at some point to other innocent people whether in a political setting or not?

Was the Congresswoman selected for this attack because of her political agenda?

We don’t have the answers to these questions. We simply don’t know.

But what I believe many of us do know is that today’s political stump speaking is getting way out of hand.

Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, a statesman in every sense of the word, told me a couple of years ago when I visited with him at his home in Huntsville, Tenn., that Washington has become too mean spirited.

Sen. Baker, who also served as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff, as Senate majority leader, and who ran for president himself, told about how years ago he could stand on the floor of the senate and debate issues with Democrats and others who may disagree and then, when the day’s session was over, they’d leave together as friends and perhaps have dinner that evening with their wives.

Sen. Baker said they would disagree but do so respectfully. That respect, generally speaking, has been lost. Sharp tongues, 10-second quotes, website displays and radio talk shows that make money by igniting emotions with information that may not necessarily be factually correct or are only half-truths are all culprits undermining our country’s well being.

The First Amendment guarantees free speech. But our forefathers never said we had to be ugly or disrespectful when exercising this right. Surely to goodness we can restore respect in our society.

The first step to accomplish this should be to practice the Biblical teaching to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The far-reaching impact of Col. Leftwich

We were sorry to read in The Lebanon Democrat this week that J.B. Leftwich is foregoing his regular column. His contributions to The Democrat have been invaluable over the past several decades as he has shared personal observations, insights and humorous recollections with readers.

It was Col. Leftwich, his title during a lengthy career in education at Castle Heights Military Academy, who first introduced me to journalism. To this day I and I am sure many other former Heights cadets cannot call him J.B. as do many of his peers and friends, but refer to him still as Colonel.

He is responsible for and has influenced the successful careers of a number of journalists. Some of these practiced their talents locally, others in nearby Nashville at either The Tennessean or the former Nashville Banner and many won distinguish awards for reporting and editing in cities far away from the local area.

Col. Leftwich’s corps of students includes Pulitzer winners, nationally acclaimed editors, photographers, and even some who have made careers in journalism on the business side. One former student at Castle Heights, at least for a summer curriculum, went on to become a reporter for The Tennessean and eventually found his way into politics being elected first to Congress, then the U.S. Senate and finally serving as Vice President of the United States.

While many of us here see him as a columnist of significant measure, it is equally important to recognize the broad influence he has had on the field of journalism through his teachings and inspiration while still engaged at Castle Heights.

We’re assured that Col. Leftwich’s columns will continue but perhaps not at the frequency as they have in the past. He’s going to be writing but just not on a regular basis.

We have certainly been entertained and enlightened by his writing and look forward to reading his future columns.

But today we want to just say “thanks” for all you have done for the field of journalism beyond your personal column.

When the system fails, what could be worse?

A telephone call from NBC News Monday afternoon brought back a vivid reminder about how bad it can be when our judicial system makes a mistake.

NBC was doing a story on the man in Texas who was freed Tuesday after serving 30 years for crimes he did not commit.

Cornelius Dupree Jr. was convicted three decades ago on charges of rape and robbery. Recently presented DNA evidence has proven him to be innocent of each of these crimes.

So, after spending some 30 years behind bars in Texas, Mr. Dupree was set free. According to Texas law, he is eligible for $80,000 in compensation for each year he spent incarcerated. He reportedly could receive a lump sum payment of $2.4 million. But can money, any amount of money, repay this man for the wrong he has suffered?

NBC called The Wilson Post yesterday for permission to use photos and certain material we published on Oct. 28, 2009 in a similar story written by Ken Beck. In that story we told about Lawrence McKinney, 54, of Lebanon, being imprisoned wrongly for almost 32 years on charges of rape and burglary.

As in the Texas case, Mr. McKinney was proven innocent by DNA evidence presented by his attorney Jack Lowery. But even so, Mr. McKinney spent more than half of his life behind bars. He was arrested on Oct. 7, 1977, on charges of rape and burglary, and from that day until July 20, 2009, his freedom was taken.

Can there possibly be a more tragic story to be told than for a man to spend days, years, and decades in a prison for a crime he did not commit?

And perhaps there is. Putting someone to death for a crime they did not commit.

Jesus, Our Savior, was Born

I was born at Tuckers Crossroads 87 years ago. I went to Bethlehem to church. I went to school eight years at the school there. My mind rolls back across the years to all the friends I had and to the Christmas season that surely stirred the soul of a child. I remember the stage on which we stood and sang Christmas songs. Sure “Jingle Bells” was great but “Joy to the World” had meaning even to a child. “Silent Night” played on the piano by Maggie Lou Whitefield was beautiful. The season took on great meaning and I would say to you that it continues in my heart unto this day.

As I sit here my heart says I believe in Santa Claus. You know Santa Claus is a spirit and he brings love, joy, hope, kindness to our world. Why should I not believe in such attributes when I think and walk out and look at the sky at night? I see the “Grand Ole Man” coursing across the sky. As he cracks his whip and the reindeer respond, I see him pouring out buckets of love. As love floats down on the world, I see it changing mankind. We are touched by the greatest emotion God ever gave to man. God gave us faith, hope and “love,” but the greatest of these is love.

Who are the friends of my younger years who are still near Tuckers Crossroads? Harold Ingram, four or five Poston boys, Grey Neal and his son as well as Kenneth Neal’s wife and family, Jim Goodall, the Winfree family are near all who are left. Do I love all of them? I want to you that I do, and I surely believe that they love me.

It makes me sad to see most of the Goodalls gone, the Dan Seay family is gone. Nancy lives in Augusta, Ga. The Bobos are almost all gone. Tom is still there. The Cookseys, Ships, Greers, Grandstaffs, Whitefields, Powells, Waters, Murphys, Blairs, Youngs, and I am sure there are others

There are memories with each name I have written. I love all of them and at this season of the year you yearn to put them all back in place and relive the beauty of yesterday. Yes, I listed only the white families, but I might have listed the black families for I surely loved those I was close to. God made us all and He asks me and you to reach out in love and caring.

This is the season! May it last forever!

I pray for our world, our nation, Lebanon and Tuckers Crossroads. Even when we don’t agree, we need to love and respect each other so that we may reconcile our differences. It is not for me that I want this change to come into being. It is for the whole of our citizens who have very different needs.

The Christmas tree shines as I write. The day is gray, but when I think most of my journey here has been lived, it gives me happiness to think there is tomorrow and I hope to go home to see the “King” some day. I want all of you and who believe in Jesus and God to go with me. Remember God is our judge, not you or me.

Merry Christmas to all!

Editor’s Note: Mr. W.H. Waters is a resident of Lebanon and a contributor to The Wilson Post’s Opinions page.

A way to say "thanks"

Bonus plans dies on Council floor

The City of Lebanon, as many of us, has struggled during a difficult economic environment. The City has slashed budgets, cut services and been creative in a number of ways in order to make ends meet.

Credit for stabilizing the City’s budget woes should be handed to the mayor and members of the city council. Over the past two years they have made some tough decisions.

They’ve squabbled and fought and churned and in the end made critical decisions for which we may not all agree but decisions that we all understand have been necessary because of an ailing economy.

A story of courage

(Editor’s note: The Wilson Post contacted two very good friends of the late Johnny Keel, a Lebanon businessman and community servant who died last week after battling cancer for many years, to ask if they would write a column for publication about Mr. Keel and the courage he demonstrated while enduring his fight for life. The following is their contribution.)

We hear many stories of people finding the strength to fight the circumstances that are presented to them.

Those who face these issues with the brightest attitude make those around them better for knowing them. Our friend Johnny Keel was one such person. 

TDOTs environmental initiatives leave a legacy for the future

By Commissioner GERALD NICELY
Tennessee Department of Transportation
Tennessee Department of Transportation recently opened a new section of State Route 840, the highway that makes a half circle south of Nashville connecting I-40 in Lebanon, I-65 and I-24. While the entire State Route 840 is not yet complete, this particular project is symbolic of the dramatic changes TDOT has implemented over the last several years in an effort to become better stewards of the environment. While many of those changes were focused on actual road construction, we have also seen monumental improvements in virtually every aspect of the department’s work.

The controversy over the last sections of SR 840 led to the launch of the Context Sensitive Solutions process, which forms valuable partnerships between TDOT and the citizens of Tennessee. CSS is now being used on a number of large projects across the state.

Guest Column / The Right Way

A current topic of discussion in Nashville involves former state Commissioner of Revenue Reagan Farr and his actions in resolving tax disputes between the state and businesses. Various news reports have indicated that Farr was acting at the urging of Gov. Phil Bredesen to be more business friendly.

The Governor has publicly supported Farr and has announced an intention to go into business with Farr in January. The whole thing is being investigated by the TBI and FBI.

The crux of the dispute lies in the state’s statutory scheme allowing civil settlements of tax disputes. The statutes place great emphasis on confidentiality and protecting the records of the business. That supposedly encourages businesses that innocently made mistakes in computing their taxes to privately pay the disputed amount.  The businesses can then avoid the cost and consequences of public disclosure and criminal proceedings.

However, should a business which intentionally violates the law and gets caught be allowed to hide behind a civil settlement? I think not.

Historically, Tennessee governors have appointed knowledgeable “non-political” types as Commissioners of Revenue. They must argue for fiscal sanity. It is often said that the Revenue Commissioner has to be smarter than the lawyers and lobbyists seeking to cut their clients’ taxes, and independent enough to tell the boss “No!”

Because civil settlements are confidential, the process allows a Commissioner of Revenue to give big breaks to businesses who will certainly be indebted to him after he returns to the private sector. Worse consequences are easily imagined.

The present revenue dispute settlement procedure offers too great an opportunity for favoritism and self-serving actions.

The right way to fix it is to require a good dose of transparency. It would go a long way in restoring confidence in the system.

Civil settlements of tax disputes should be open for the public to see and decide for themselves whether everything is on the up and up.

Editor’s Note: Robert T. Rochelle is a Lebanon attorney in the firm of Rochelle, McCulloch and Aulds and a former state senator.

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