Around East Texas 06/19/07


Lufkin community leaders are getting together to celebrate this year's annual Juneteenth celebration. Members of the Friendship Social Club are hosting their annual event to celebrate the day Texas slaves found out about their freedom. The group fired up B-B-Q pits at the crack of dawn on Monday to smoke ribs, brisket and sausage. Today's program and barbecue dinner is underway and will last all day. Everyone is invited to attend the Juneteenth festivities at Brandon Park in north Lufkin. June 19th is the official day for food, fun and fellowship, but the cause behind the celebration is much more important. More than 140 years ago, 250-thousand slaves were freed in Texas, but they didn't find out about their freedom until June 19, 1865. That was nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln officially freed slaves around the country. That memorable day is now celebrated as Juneteenth. "We decided to bring it back so our youngsters could know about slavery and what the Juneteenth was because we all celebrate the Fourth of July so we started this back some years back and we've been very supportive and people have been supportive of us to have a good time and we're continuing it," said Ivies Ford, President of the Friendship Social Club. This year's Juneteenth celebration will feature local talent who will be singing and praise dancing. The event is all day today and is free to the public.

Teacher alleged Misconduct Update

Evidence against a former Center Middle School computer teacher is expected to be presented to a Shelby County grand jury today. Janet Parker is accused of sexually assaulting one of her former 14-year old students. The teacher and teenager allegedly had a mutual, but inappropriate relationship. In all, Parker is facing 23 charges surrounding pornography and sexual assault. Parker's 450-thousand dollar bond was reduced to 75-thousand dollars following a bond reduction hearing. She has made the lower bond and is out of jail. We'll have results of the grand jury session tonight on the East Texas News.

Summer School Construction

Local school districts are already busy this summer preparing for the start of school in August. Nacogdoches Independent School District's maintenance and ground crew workers are on the job this week making improvements to all the schools. The district says with increased product costs and higher fuel charges a lot of the work that needs to be done can be more than what's in the budget. "They all start major cleaning, stripping and waxing floors, deep cleaning on bathrooms, taking furniture and scraping gum out from underneath that builds up over the years," said Chris Davis, Buildings and Grounds supervisor. School plant directors and their staff say they are ready to tackle the job because they know it's a team effort. As of now, finance directors haven't made to many changes to N-I-S-D service budgets.

Overnight Robbery

Tyler police are investigating an aggravated robbery overnight. Police were called to the Chevron in the two thousand block of West Grande. The clerk says a man entered the store holding what appeared to be a handgun. The man is described as Hispanic with a mustache and goatee, about five feet six inches tall, wearing a long sleeve gray shirt and blue jeans. The man left with an undetermined amount of money and the clerk was not injured.

Road Closures

In Smith County, there are a handful of roads still closed today form rain on Saturday. They are county roads 26, 2301, 472, 474, and 440. The Smith County engineer says it could take at least 30 days to fully repair the roads. There are also a handful of roads down to one lane. For a complete look at both lists go to the KnowMore section of

FEMA Trailers for Sale

FEMA has dozens of trailers for sale in Lufkin. The trailers were purchased by Twin City Housing, near Loop 287 across from Love's Truck Stop. The trailers were used for victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and now thousands of these trailers have been auctioned off and re-sold. Twin City Housing bought about 75 of the trailers and have already sold more than 20. You can purchase them for between five and ten thousand dollars. Contact Twin City Housing for more information. The American Red Cross has nothing to do with the sell of these trailers.

Retired Officers and Weapons

Smith County Commissioners have approved a program that would allow retired officers to continue to carry their weapons. The move is part of a new federal law passed after 9-11. The measure requires commissioners' approval. This, as long as they stay current on their handgun qualifications.

New Cold Case Information

he went missing just months after moving to East Texas. Now, more than ten years later, police say this cold case is getting warmer. Investigators say they have new information on the disappearance of 31-year old Damon Billiot. He moved to Tyler from Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1996. He was last seen at his home on Pleasant Drive. Damon's family says they are still hoping he will be found alive. "When you're driving down the road, you keep looking at all the hitchhikers or you think maybe he's on the road walking. You pass somebody and you say well maybe that's him and you take a double take. I guess not knowing, there's still hope," said Shirley Billiot, the mother of the missing man. If you have any information that might lead to Damon Billiot's whereabouts, please call Tyler police.

Shooting on Lake Tyler

Investigators say a shooting Monday on lake Tyler was an accident. A 16-year old went to the hospital after being shot in the leg on Lake Tyler. Game wardens tell us the boy was with three friends on the lake pier. One of them reportedly was showing off his father's gun when it went off. The boys initially told police the shot came from a boat. So far, no criminal charges have been filed.

Philanthropist Dies

Sad news today. A philanthropist and well-known community servant has passed away. Dr. Ben Fisch was 82 years old. For many years, Dr. Fisch and his wife quietly gave significant amounts of money to almost every East Texas charity. Funeral services for Dr. Ben Fisch are scheduled for Thursday morning at 10 at Lloyd James Funeral Home in Tyler.

Stolen Air Conditioners

As the heat rises in East Texas, theft of air conditioning units is on the rise. Lufkin police say one was stolen Monday from a home on Bonner street. The thief then went across the street and tried to steal another unit form the Office Furniture Warehouse, but police suspect the thieves are taking the units for the scrap metal, copper and other things that they can sell. Police say you should also be aware that lawnmowers, weed eaters and other lawn equipment are also popular among thieves during the summer months.

Disabilities Camp

The Lufkin Host Lions Club is looking for East Texas children to send to camp. It's a special camp specifically designed for children with physical disabilities or Type 1 diabetes. The Lions Club is looking for students to sponsor to send to the Kerrville camp. At the camp, there are physicians, nurses and counselors to help students and to make sure they have a good time. There are several summer sessions that go through August for campers between the ages of 7 and 16 years old. Contact a Host Lions Club member or call Don Lynberry at 936-634-5438 to apply.