Chamber of Commerce announces

awards in advance of annual banquet   

Smithfield's Warren Grimes (right) will be honored as "Citizen of the Year" and Smithfield's Mayor Andy Moore (left) as a "Distinguished Citizen" at the annual banquet of the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce January 28.
In the past the Chamber has not announced the award winners until the night of the banquet, thereby surprising the recipients. This year the Chamber's leaders decided to announce the winners in advance to give more friends and family members a chance to attend the dinner.

Other recipients of this year's awards: "Small Business Person of the Year," Melissa Overton of; and several more "Distinguished Citizens" --- for Selma, Tom and Kathleen Hinnant; for Kenly, Jennifer Holloman; for Princeton, Carlyle Woodard; for Wilson's Mills, Johnny Eason.

Here's the link to register for the Chamber's banquet.

All stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter unless noted otherwise

Will local state legislators support request

for earlier opening of Johnston's schools?

The Johnston County Board of Education voted unanimously last month to ask the N.C. General Assembly for permission to open next year's school term here in mid-August rather than the state-mandated opening date of August 26.

The Sun contacted Smithfield's representatives in the Legislature for a response to the school board's request.

Larry Strickland and Donna White, former school board members who represent Johnston in the State House, said they supported a similar request last session and will support the school board's request again this year.

State Senator Brent Jackson is not ready to lend his support, his spokesman said.
"Constituent input is vital to the legislative process, and helps to paint a clearer picture of what the citizens of District 10 want and need," said Christopher Stock of Senator Jackson's staff. He said the senator will take that input into consideration when the school board's request comes up for a vote.

"Representative Strickland and I introduced a bill during our first term in 2017 to allow Johnston County Public Schools to have a customized start/end date," Ms. White noted. "It was not successful."

"The issue is the tourism industry," Representative Strickland said. Save our Summers is a lobbying group that protects the current statewide calendar from earlier school openings, he noted. "This issue has been going on in Raleigh for at least 15-20 years. We in the House chamber passed in 2017 House Bill 375 that allowed flexibility and did exactly what Johnston County Public Schools is asking for. It was referred to the Senate Rules Committee and never heard from again."

Mr. Strickland pointed out that the Rules Committee's chairman, Senator Bill Rabon, is a resident of Oak Island and represents several counties that include the major beach resorts of southeastern North Carolina.

The 2019 session of the General Assembly convened January 9 for a one-day organizational session. The Legislature will reconvene on January 30 for its biennial "long session" that usually lasts till summer.

North Carolina General Assembly photos
Senator Brent Jackson Rep. Larry Strickland Rep. Donna White

Introducing a page for Opinions

What better place to start than the editor's comments about a couple of issues facing our public schools: high-school attendance districts, and the annual school calendar. So let us begin with this week's edition


Johnston County Public Schools photo

--- The Johnston County Board of Education recognized during its January meeting these four students who have demonstrated "dependability" at their schools: in front (from left) are Selma Elementary's Sa’Niy Bartell and Smithfield Middle's Abraham Aguilar. In back are Selma Middle's Israel Barajas and Smithfield-Selma High's Diana Martinez.

Get to know your local schools . . .   

Here are links to the websites for Smithfield's schools - with all sorts of information about personnel, operations, activities, and more:






Johnston County Public Schools' Superintendent Ross Renfrow will present his annual "State of the District" address on Tuesday, January 22 at 6 p.m. The event will be "live-streamed" on the school system's website:

SSS senior Anthony Council scores 51   

He led the Smithfield-Selma Spartans to victory over conference rival West Johnston High School last Friday, 73-55.



New business opens:

Coates Hearing Clinic  

Dr. Kathleen Coates and her husband, Jordan, have opened Coates Hearing Clinic at 1652 East Booker Dairy Road in Smithfield.
She grew up in Ohio, did her internship at Wake Forest University's Bowman Gray School of Medicine, and has been a practicing audiologist the past several years in Raleigh.
Coates Hearing Clinic offers "comprehensive" hearing exams, hearing aids and other devices, tinnitus treatment, balance assessment, cochlear implant evaluation, and "custom hearing protection." The clinic's hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The website:

    Johnston Health photos

Dr. Eric Janis heads Johnston Health board

Johnston Health recently welcomed new and familiar faces to its board of directors (left to right in photo above):
David Mills of Smithfield, an attorney who's a former board member and chairman of the Johnston Health Foundation; Dr. Marilyn Pearson of Clayton, director of the Johnston County Public Health Department; Bobby Parker of Clayton, a general contractor who was a hospital board member for 14 years before returning for a new term; and Dr. Dennis Koffer of Smithfield, a retired surgeon who is the medical director for Johnston Home Care and Hospice.

Newly elected officers include Dr. Eric Janis (pictured at right), a cardiologist, as board chairman; and Jeff Carver,
a Johnston County commissioner, as vice chair.
Dr. Richard Alioto, an orthopedic surgeon, is chief of the medical staff.

Other members of Johnston Health's board of directors are: Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer for Rex Healthcare; Chris Ellington, chief financial officer for UNC Hospitals as well as UNC Health Care system affiliations; Bengie Gaddis, chief deputy of the Johnston County Sheriff's Department; Ted Godwin, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners; Jim Jenkins, a retired industrialist and former chairman of the Johnston Health Foundation; Gary Park, president of UNC Hospitals; John Scovil of Smithfield, a certified public accountant; and Terry Rose of Pine Level, an attorney and nurse practitioner and educator.

Johnston Health operates acute-care hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton, which are licensed for a combined 199 beds. Since February 2014, Johnston Health has been affiliated with UNC Health Care. 


Each week we'll post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week or have funerals not yet conducted. We will monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area.

BILLY RAY BEST - died January 16

REBECCA ANN EXUM - died January 15


CATHY POWELL CREECH - died January 12

WILLIAM BRYANT - died January 11


Next Monday's MLK holiday closings   

Monday, January 21 will be observed by all federal, state, and local government offices and institutions as Martin Luther King Day in honor of the slain civil-rights leader.

That includes Johnston County's schools and U.S. Postal Service offices and deliveries to homes and businesses.

Banks and other financial institutions also observe the holiday.

The Public Library in Downtown Smithfield will be closed, along with the Johnston County Heritage Center across the street.

The Ava Gardner Museum will be open Monday (it's open seven days a week except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and Thanksgiving Day).

The Town of Smithfield's garbage and trash pickups usually done on Monday will be postponed till Wednesday of next week. The Johnston County Landfill and the county's Solid Waste Convenience Centers will also be closed on Monday.

Dr. King's actual birthday is January 15. Congress made it a national holiday with legislation passed in 1983, designating the third Monday in January as the day of national observance.
Dr. King was just 39 years old when he was assassinated in April 1968.

Johnston MLK Committee's observance   

The Johnston County MLK Committee will present "Dream Catchers 2019" at 10 a.m. Saturday (January 19) in the gymnasium at Smithfield-Selma High School.

The student-led program will feature an oratorical contest with cash prizes, a "hip hop" and spoken-word contest, and a free criminal-record expungement clinic. To participate, call Antoan Whidbee at 919-934-3222 or e-mail


A long-gone remnant of segregated schools   

This photograph from the archives of the Johnston County Heritage Center shows the abandoned main building of Smithfield's African-American high school three years after its closing in 1969 with the opening that fall of consolidated, and integrated, Smithfield-Selma High School. Located in Smithfield's Belmont neighborhood east of the railroad tracks, Johnston County Training School opened in 1921. Its name was changed to Johnston Central High School in 1965. On this site today stands the relatively new headquarters of Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, the region's anti-poverty agency.


Visit our archives

For more information about our community, visit our online "newspaper parent" via the link shown below. This website is a handy "portal" to important sources of current information about Smithfield and Johnston County.