Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted

SPORTS & RECREATION: Three Little Pigs Triathlon
FEATURE PAGE: SSS honor graduates listed
OPINIONS: Who are our high-school graduates?

57 of Smithfield-Selma High's graduates

receive newly instituted academic honors

This is the first year Johnston County Public Schools has replaced traditional valedictorian and salutatorian awards with classic Latin honors to recognize outstanding academic achievement by high-school graduates.

At Smithfield-Selma High School, 33 seniors with GPA (grade point average) of 4.25 and above graduated Summa Cum Laude (Latin for "with highest praise"), 11 seniors with GPA of at least 4.00 graduated Magna Cum Laude ("with great praise"), and 13 seniors with GPA of at least 3.75 graduated Cum Laude ("with praise").

Principal David Allen reports that SSS graduated 310 seniors this school year. That number includes 48 who graduated in December and 262 on May 31.

He also notes that more than $5 million in college scholarships have been awarded graduates from the Class of 2019.

View the list of SSS honor graduates plus the Principal's List and Honor Roll for the school year's final nine-week grading period>

School board revises dress-code policies

The Johnston County Board of Education approved a few changes in dress-code policies for students and staff at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. The board also approved a number of administrative reassignments as the system's staff makes preparations for the new school year that begins in late August.

READ MORE from Tuesday's school board session>


Johnston Health photo


For the second year in a row, Johnston Health --- including its hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton --- has achieved the Healthgrades Outstanding Patient Experience Award, ranking the local system among the top 15 percent of hospitals nationwide so honored. Healthgrades, a company that provides consumer information about health-care providers, evaluated 3,449 hospitals that submitted "patient experience" surveys from 2017 admissions to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a result, Healthgrades rated 434 of those as "outstanding." Pictured at the award presentation: (from left) Amber Stanley, Johnston Health patient experience specialist; Chuck Elliott, Johnston Health president and CEO; Alicia Dreyer of Healthgrades; Dr. Peter Charvat, chief medical officer; and Ruth Marler, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer for Johnston Health, which has been part of UNC Health Care since 2014.

Traffic advisory for a busy weekend

Two events this weekend will affect travel on a couple of primary thoroughfares in and around Smithfield:

THE ENDLESS YARD sale on Friday and Saturday will bring extra traffic to Highway 301 through town. Motorists are advised to be alert for slow-moving vehicles and frequent stops as shoppers hunt for roadside bargains.

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS TRIATHLON on Saturday will temporarily close Booker Dairy Road between Buffalo Road and Smithfield-Selma High School from 7:00 till 10:30 a.m. At the same time, motorists traveling Buffalo Road to the north of Booker Dairy are advised to be cautious in approaching bicyclists competing in the event.

More information about the Three Little Pigs Triathlon>

Attorney at Law
102 S. Third Street
Downtown Smithfield


Commissioners hear final funding appeals, plan to adopt county budget next Monday

Johnston's County Board of Commissioners heard from several organizations Monday evening seeking appropriations presently not included in County Manager Rick Hester's proposed budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1. As it now stands, the manager's plan is based on keeping the property-tax rate of 78 cents per $100 --- in effect, producing an increase in property-tax bills for most residents and businesses because of recently completed real-estate revaluation.

Agencies and projects seeking funding from the county in the year ahead but presently not included in Mr. Hester's budget:
• Special Olympics, $10,000.
• Partnership for Children, $25,000.
• Harmony Playground in Clayton, $100,000.
• Soil & Water Conservation District, funds for a new vehicle.
• Smithfield Rescue Mission, $22,000.

Commissioners received those requests Monday but made no commitments.

Besides setting the property-tax rate, the big issue confronting the board as it heads towards next Monday's anticipated adoption of the 2019-20 budget is how much will be allocated to Johnston County Public Schools. The Board of Education has asked for an increase of $20.5 million above the current year's $63.5 million --- a jump of 32.35%. The county manager is recommending an increase of just under $1.7 million --- a modest 3.9%.

Johnston County NCAE president April Lee along with citizens Jennifer Medlin and Margie Riedel urged commissioners at Monday evening's session to "do all they can" to fund the school system's request.

On an unrelated budget matter affecting Johnston's schools, commissioners approved a request made last week to appropriate an additional $1.5 million before the end of the current fiscal year June 30 to cover a shortfall in the school system's operating expenses. At the commissioners' June 3 session, Superintendent of Schools Ross Renfrow blamed a shortfall in state revenues for educating "exceptional children" as well as state revenues diverted to local charter schools as big factors for the $1.5 million in additional county funding.

Superintendent Renfrow pledged to return to the county's General Fund at the end of this month whatever, if anything, is left unspent of the additional appropriation.

  real-estate broker


SSS teachers get Cullman grants of $52,000

Pictured: Quinn Novels of the N.C. Community Foundation;
Kate Cullman Hedges, eldest daughter of Nan Ogburn Cullman;
and Smithfield-Selma High's Principal David Allen.

Story and photo from SSS

Smithfield-Selma High School teachers have received over $52,000 in grants from the Nan Ogburn Cullman Education Endowment "to promote student engagement and learning."

The grants are administered through the North Carolina Community Foundation, which works with an advisory committee to review the applications.

Grants awarded to SSS teachers for 2019 include the following projects:
• "SSS Academy of Hospitality and Tourism & Construction Students to the Biltmore Estates" --- exposes students to culinary and architectural arts in North Carolina.
• "The Great Adventure: Learning About Our Planet and What Lies Beyond" --- helps students develop a broader prospective for the Earth and the solar system through a mobile planetarium.
• "The Nan Ogburn Cullman Brick Wing Gallery" --- showcases the artwork of students and teachers.
• "My Future Is So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" --- student travel to the Smithsonian Institute of American History and the Museum of African-American History in Washington, D.C.
• "A Leader's Legacy" --- AVID students visit the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Ga.
• "SSS Global Partnership" --- supports an educational travel exchange between SSS and the Taarnby Gymnasium in Denmark.
• "Spartan Thunder" --- supports the SSS music program through the purchase of updated drums.

Cullman grants to SSS in 2018 included "virtual reality" technology that helps students "travel the world" without leaving the classroom.

Nan Ogburn Cullman, a native of Smithfield, bequeathed $2 million to Johnston County Public Schools upon her death in 2015. At age 15, she won a scholarship to attend the Julliard School. After graduation, she performed with regional opera companies and other chorales throughout her life. She and her husband, former Philip Morris CEO Hugh Cullman, spent most of their lives together in Westchester County, New York before relocating in 1993 to Beaufort, N.C. and later to Pittsboro.



Johnston County is unveiling historical markers at five locations this summer

From Todd Johnson, Director, Johnston County Heritage Center

The Johnston County Heritage Center and Heritage Commission will unveil five historical markers in various Johnston County locations during June and July. Each unveiling ceremony will feature special speakers, historical drama, music, and refreshments. 

The first unveiling will be held at 10 a.m. next Wednesday (June 19) at First Missionary Baptist Church at North Fourth and Caswell streets in Smithfield. The church is near the original location of a two-room Freedmen’s Schoolhouse, built 1868-69.

According to the staff of the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, this is the only Freedmen’s schoolhouse known to be left standing in the state. It is thought to be one of only five or so left in the nation, making it an extremely rare piece of history.

Other marker unveilings are scheduled as follows:

Friday, June 21 --- 11 a.m. at Atkinson’s Mill on NC Highway 42 between highways 39 and 96 north of Selma.

Friday, June 28 --- 10 a.m. at Hinton’s Quarter Courthouse site near the East Front Street roundabout in Clayton.

Saturday, July 6 --- 10 at the Governor Benjamin Williams birthplace site, 3390 Grabtown Road east of  Smithfield.

Saturday, July 20 --- 10 a.m. at the Catch-Me-Eye Explosion site near the intersection of US 70 and 301 in Selma.

These historical markers have been made possible by a matching grant from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and by gifts from the Clayton Historical Association and the Smith-Bryan Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.  

US 301 South, Smithfield • 919-934-8913 •

A rundown of upcoming civic and cultural opportunities in our community
that we've been told about or seen publicized in other media:

COMMUNITY BLOOD DRIVE next Tuesday (June 18) from 10:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. at the Johnston County Health Department at 517 N. Bright Leaf Blvd. Appointments may be made at by entering sponsor code "Smithfield" at the upper right-hand corner of the opening page.

GRASSROOTS ARTS GRANT WORKSHOP next Tuesday (June 18) from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce headquarters at 1115 Outlet Center Drive. The Johnston County Arts Council is accepting applications through July 18 from non-profit organizations that promote cultural-arts programming. For more information, visit

opens its 35th annual summer series next Wednesday (June 19) at 12:15 p.m. at Smithfield's First Presbyterian Church. The first performance features Dara Edwards and students on piano.
View the full series schedule>

Saturday, June 22 to benefit the Smithfield Rescue Mission's "Blessing Baskets" program for needy families. The event begins at 7 p.m. at The Farm at 95. Tickets are $65 each and include an open beer and wine bar. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

MY KID'S CLUB SUMMER CAMP July 8-19 at South Smithfield Elementary School. It's open to the first 50 kids ages 6-12 who submit an application from a child's teacher, the office at South Smithfield School, or by contacting Mamie Moore, director of operations for My Kid's Club: e-mail or telephone 919-351-1559.


Each week we'll post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We'll 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.

WALTER LEE AVERY, 73 - died June 10

HELEN LANGLEY BROWN, 76 - died June 10

RODNEY PERCY ACTON, 73 - died June 7


CHRISTINE GILBERT, 93  - died June 6

ANNIE RUTH PARRISH, 85 - died June 6


Here's an early 1930s "colorized" postcard of newly opened Johnston County Hospital at the corner of Hancock Street and US 301 in Smithfield, complete with nurses sitting on benches out front. Replaced by nearby Johnston Memorial Hospital in 1951, the building was used for a couple of decades after that for individual doctors' offices before its conversion into the present-day home of the county's Department of Social Services. "Colorized" postcards were actually produced from black-and-white photographs "doctored" to add colors, similar to what's now done with old black-and-white movies.

(From the archives of the Johnston County Heritage Center)


SPORTS & RECREATION: Three Little Pigs Triathlon
FEATURE PAGE: SSS honor graduates listed
OPINIONS: Who are our high-school graduates?

For more information about our community, check out 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.