At 11 a.m. on Friday, February 1, the Warren Heritage Society (WHS) will unveil a new exhibit in the Front Royal Town Hall to celebrate the achievements and contributions of African-Americans prior to and after the establishment of Warren County.
The exhibit will be officially opened by Letasha Thompson. “As the first African-American woman elected to the Front Royal Town Council,” Thompson said, “I have a special interest in this exhibit, as it features the achievements of African-American women.”
The unveiling coincides with the opening of African-American History Month. Warren Heritage Society Executive Director Connie Marshner hopes that this exhibit will help to make known the Society’s ongoing effort to gather and preserve the African-American history of Front Royal and Warren County.
“This history is in danger of being lost without the help of the local community,” Marshner said. “I hope that this event will alert the community to the need to collect memories and memorabilia before they disappear forever.”
For many years, the southwest corner of Front Royal was known as “Freetown” or “South Town”. Now included in the U. S. Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places, it was bounded by Prospect Street and Criser Road and included Laurel, Pine, and Osage Streets. Letasha Thompson grew up on Osage Street, and remembers some of the buildings.
As this area has experienced “development” over the years, however, many of the old buildings have disappeared. In its heyday, however, it was a vibrant community with homes, schools, at least one church, a hotel, stores, businesses, and entertainment. Businesses had the names of Cozy Ace Restaurant, Elks Grill, Harlem Café, Lilian Davenport’s Beauty Shop, Toddy’s Grocery, Elks Hall, Pride of Warren Lodge, Pete’s Barber Shop, Timber’s Pool Room, and the Free Will Benevolent Society.
Sadly, however, neither the National Register nor the Warren Heritage Society has any pictures of Freetown. Nor are any memorabilia of Freetown to be found anywhere. The Heritage Society is seeking to save the history of Freetown before it is gone, and is actively seeking the help of the community.
If anybody has pictures or memorabilia – or even memories – of the area, it’s likely that somebody with roots in Front Royal has them or knows about them! Please share with us what you have. If you have information or pictures, please contact Archivist Deborah Corey at 540-636-1446, extension 2. “We will copy your pictures and return them to you, if you wish,” said Corey.
Marshner went on to say: “If someone is willing to talk about his or her memories or experience in Freetown, we will be happy to arrange an oral history interview with that person, either at the Heritage Society or in some other mutually convenient location.” She noted that oral history is something the Heritage Society has not done before, but because the clock is ticking so fast, “It is something we certainly will do if it will capture some memories.” Marshner stated.
The Laura Virginia Hale Archives, a section of the Warren Heritage Society, has a wealth of material documenting the African American experience in our area. “Our collection spans the centuries, from slave rental forms to desegregation. We have extensive genealogy and research tools to help anyone find ancestors. The Archives also has a collection of fiction and nonfiction books written by local African Americans writers about their and their families’ experiences,” Corey explained.
The Warren Heritage Society, www.WarrenHeritageSociety.org, is located at 101 Chester Street in Front Royal. We are open to the public Monday thru Friday from 10:00 to 4:00, and as of April will also be open on Saturdays from 11:00 to 4:00 p.m.
As Republicans tout Parole Board report, some Democrats see ‘a whole lot of nothing’
The top Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates said Thursday that the GOP is considering “every possibility” in response to a new investigative report alleging systemic violations of law and state policy at the Virginia Parole Board under the watch of a former leader who’s now a sitting judge.
But House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said the decision on whether the General Assembly should remove Virginia Beach Judge Adrianne Bennett from the bench will rest largely with the Democrat-controlled state Senate.
“We intend to ask them if they are as shocked by the findings as we are,” Gilbert told reporters Thursday on the House floor. “I know the Democratic leadership told us how silly the whole thing was then. I think the report reveals a number of things to the contrary.”
While announcing the release of a 69-page report outlining a series of missteps at the Parole Board in 2020, Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares on Wednesday raised the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Bennett, a judge with the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
In Bennett’s final weeks as chair of the Parole Board in early 2020, according to the attorney general’s report, the board she led repeatedly failed to properly notify victims and prosecutors of pending decisions to release violent offenders. The report alleges Bennett went as far as falsifying records and declaring some inmates eligible for parole even though courts had said they were not.
Miyares said his office concluded Bennett could have been charged with criminal offenses over the allegedly altered paperwork and overriding of court decisions. But because his investigation didn’t begin until 2022, after he and Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office, Miyares said the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses had expired.
The General Assembly appoints all state and local judges, but the legislature almost never removes a judge over misconduct allegations. Gilbert said he believes judicial impeachment proceedings would begin in the House and then go to the Senate, but he acknowledged such a process would be fairly uncharted territory.
“We don’t have any modern precedent for it in Virginia,” Gilbert said.
Democratic General Assembly leaders had not formally weighed in on the report as of midday Thursday, nearly 24 hours after Miyares released it. In interviews, several Democratic senators said they had not yet read it and could not comment on its substance.
Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said he was skeptical of any suggestion a judge could be removed over conduct that occurred before they were serving on the bench. He also raised doubts about whether the misconduct of which Miyares is accusing Bennett without charging her should rise to the level of impeachment.
“To paraphrase Allen Iverson, we’re talking about a misdemeanor. Not a felony. A misdemeanor,” Petersen said, stressing that he was not up to speed on everything laid out in the report.
Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun, whose call for a bipartisan legislative investigation into the Parole Board affair was not acted upon in 2021, said he was concerned by what he’s heard. But he, too, said he would need to read the report before commenting further.
“I really wish it had been done in a clearly nonpartisan way,” Bell said. “I think it would be more credible.”
Other Democrats seemed to have already concluded the report isn’t the bombshell the Republicans are portraying it as.
“All politics,” said House Minority Leader Don Scott, D-Portsmouth.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said it appears to him the headline should be “The Parole Board granted parole.” He said Miyares seems to be trying to “play racial politics with a basic government function.”
“I know that my conservative friends don’t like it when the Parole Board does its job,” said Surovell, who acknowledged he had not read the report. “And they continue to try to demonize the board for doing what we’ve charged it to do under the code.”
Surovell noted that the time period in question was the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when the state was trying to protect elderly inmates who were most at risk of dying from a new disease few understood.
However, former Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Brian Moran — whose duties included overseeing the Parole Board during Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration — told the attorney general’s office the board wasn’t given any special authority to release offenders because of the pandemic.
Instead, according to the report, Moran felt that authority should have rested with the Virginia Department of Corrections. At the time, the state prison agency had a more public and detailed plan for which offenders would be eligible for early release, emphasizing nonviolent offenders with less than a year left on their sentences.
“We weren’t going to do it randomly,” Moran is quoted as saying in the report. “I mean, that was insane.”
The General Assembly approved budget language dealing with the early release of prisoners during COVID-19. That language specifically excluded prisoners convicted of serious felonies like murder and rape from the emergency COVID-19 accommodations. The Northam administration also asked the Parole Board to expedite pending cases. Still, state watchdog reports stressed nothing about the COVID-19 emergency allowed the Parole Board to sidestep its own policies or state law.
On Thursday, Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, called the report “a whole lot of nothing.”
“This idea that there’s probably a lot of criminal stuff that’s gone on, but we can’t charge any of it because the statute of limitations ran out? It’s a political tool. It’s more political theater,” Simon said. “I don’t think there’s any real there.”
Senate Republicans have called for Bennett to step down on her own accord rather than forcing the legislature to consider removing her. She has given no indication she plans to do so, and a lawyer representing her released a statement saying the report was an attempt to “vilify” a “dedicated public servant.”
Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said the Miyares report offered a much more thorough look at the Parole Board’s problems than any of the various reports made public under Democratic leadership.
“It’s a well-documented investigation,” he said.
by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: email@example.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
An electrifying career
Working as an electrician is exciting and unpredictable. Every day, there are new challenges and problems to solve. Therefore, if you’re looking for a career that will be interesting and keep you on your toes, becoming an electrician is a great option.
Electricians are paid well and respected for their intelligence and technical knowledge. After all, they’re responsible for people’s safety and must take various safety precautions to avoid injury.
Furthermore, electricians work in many specialty areas beyond construction and maintenance work. For example, they’re also needed for underwater cabling and fire alarm and security system installation.
Additionally, electricians have a good work-life balance. They typically work eight-hour days during the week and have weekends off. This is important if you value your free time with friends and family.
Finally, becoming an electrician is a great option if you dream of becoming your own boss. After completing the appropriate training, you could open a franchise or build your own company.
Don’t hesitate to find out about electrician training programs in your area.
Town Police Chief Magalis acknowledges departmental personnel movement and promotions accomplished in-house
At the January 23rd Front Royal Town Council meeting, Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis introduced officers recently promoted in the department and others recently brought on board. Near the meeting’s outset (beginning at the 6:30 mark of the Town video below), Chief Magalis brought six of seven FRPD officers forward for acknowledgment. Now-Major Jason Ryman was not present for the presentation.
“I always look forward to this type of a presentation where we can talk about some new folks that we’ve brought on and folks that we’re moving into different areas of the department,” the chief told Mayor Cockrell and council in opening his presentation.
Magalis noted the recent retirement of Major Kevin Nicewarner at the outset of the new year, whom Chief Magalis noted was “Florida” and “Gulf Coast bound” after nearly 30 years with the department, in explaining the personnel juggling involving incumbent officers Captain Brian Whited, Sergeant Tony Clingerman, Corporal Michael Gallagher, and Major Jason Ryman.
Chief Magalis then introduced recent departmental additions (from right to left in photo and Town video) Jacob Dodson, and Richard Williamson, both on patrol duty since September, and Jack Weaver, a Front Royal native who transferred to FRPD from the Winchester Police Department.
The chief then segued back to his departmental veterans (again right to left in photo and video) Corporal Michael Gallagher (promoted from Master Police Officer), Sergeant Tony Clingerman (promoted from Corporal), and Captain Brian Whited (from Sergeant), and the absent Major Jason Ryman (from Operations Captain). Chief Magalis noted that now-Captain Whited would take over Logistics Captain duties as Captain Crystal Cline, who had previously handled those duties, moved to Operations.
“So, quite a bit of movement, we’ve got some new faces, and I’m happy to report at this time,” the chief said with a nod to Town Manager Joe Waltz, the Human Resources Department, and council, “We’re actually fully staffed” whispering the last two words, observing that, “Right now, and I’m proud to say it because there isn’t a whole lot of law enforcement agencies that are operating with a full enforcement staff. And right now,” the chief added knocking on the wooden podium, “we are.”
He noted a vacancy in communications but concluded, “We’re very happy where we’ve been able to bring recruitment and retention to. And that’s something we’re going to talk to you guys about as we keep trying to move that forward … so we can continue to attract qualified people like these gentlemen here and retain all that institutional knowledge instead of letting them walk out the door because we’ve been able to staff this from in house and that’s awesome … I’d just like you to congratulate all these guys for coming on board and doing such a great job,” Chief Magalis concluded, leading to a standing ovation from portions of the crowd and council dais.
Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Line of Duty Death – Funeral Notification
With great sadness, we announce the passing of District Fire Chief Homer Larry Cross (Age 74) of the Fortsmouth Volunteer Fire Department.
On Monday, January 23, 2023, members of the Fortsmouth Volunteer Fire Department discovered District Chief Cross unresponsive at the Fire Station and began life-saving intervention procedures, but unfortunately, the Chief was pronounced deceased at the station.
Chief Cross began his career as a firefighter with Fortsmouth Volunteer Fire Department in 1983. Later serving his community as a long-tenured District Chief, he dedicated himself to saving lives and helping those in need. Through his years in the fire service, Chief Cross felt honored to work alongside a fantastic group of men and women, many of whom serve in various fire service leadership capacities across the Commonwealth’s Fire Service today.
“District Fire Chief Homer Cross was an inspiration for our Department and a fixture on almost every fire ground,” stated Fire Chief James Bonzano. “He was a dedicated fire officer but, above all else, a great friend whose legacy will certainly live on through the care and compassion he instilled in the next generation of our Fire Department.”
Arrangements for District Chief Cross are as follows:
Family Night will be held Monday, January 30, 2023, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. at Maddox Funeral Home at 105 W. Main Street, Front Royal, VA.
A Funeral Service with Fire Service and Military Service Honors for District Chief Cross will be held on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, at noon at Riverton United Methodist Church at 55 E. Strasburg Road, Front Royal, VA.
A procession from the church to Panorama Memorial Gardens will be conducted, where final respects will be paid.
The Cross Family will receive guests following the service at the Front Royal Volunteer Fire Station at 221 N. Commerce Avenue, Front Royal, VA.
Town Talk: A conversation with Michal Ashby and Erin Rooney, Samuels Public Library – February Activities
In this town talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Michal Ashby and Erin Rooney from Samuels Public Library. Michal is the Youth Services Supervisor, and Erin is the Adult Reference Supervisor at the Samuels Public Library.
Michal and Erin update us on what’s happening at the library in February. Click here to see all the upcoming events.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. Let us know if you have an idea or topic or want to hear from someone in our community. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
Attorney General Miyares joins the charge against contraband cell phones in prison
On January 26, 2023, Attorney General Jason Miyares joined a coalition of 22 Attorneys General urging Congressional leaders to pass legislation giving states the authority to jam contraband cell phones.
“Contraband cell phones are already illegal and pose a significant threat to safety and security at correctional facilities – but the reality is that they exist and are prevalent in our prison system. They allow willing inmates a way to continue running and organizing criminal activity while incarcerated, threatening the public safety of Virginians,” said Attorney General Miyares. “I encourage Congress to swiftly pass legislation permitting states to implement a contraband cell phone jamming system to stop this illicit activity and protect our communities.”
Contraband cell phones are a nationwide problem, commonly allowing inmates to continue their criminal behavior, plan escapes, and intimidate witnesses from behind bars.
The letter details that “in Oklahoma, the white supremacist prison gang, the Universal Aryan Brotherhood, used contraband cell phones to help commit murder, money laundering, assault and robbery throughout the state. In Tennessee, a Memphis inmate used a contraband cell phone to orchestrate drug conspiracy deals by sending a FedEx package full of methamphetamine to his girlfriend. Then in Georgia, inmates used contraband cell phones to make scam calls and demand payment and even texted photos of bloodied inmates to the relatives demanding cash.”
Bills have been filed regarding this issue in previous sessions, H.R. 1954 in the 116th Congress and H.R. 8645, S. 4699 in the 117th Congress. But none of the bills have moved or received a vote.