2021 brought many achievements
From a February ice storm to three Madison County football teams winning state championships, 2021 was an eventful year in Madison County.
Below is a recap of some of the more significant stories from Madison County in 2021.
A February ice storm blanketed much of the South, including Madison County, from approximately Feb. 14-17. The storm downed trees and tree limbs, knocking out electricity to many residents and freezing residents in their houses for several days.
While most customers had their electricity restored power fairly quickly, city work crews were busy for several weeks after the ice had melted. Workers collected downed tree limbs that residents had piled on the curbsides and filled potholes created or made worse by the ice storm.
Ridgeland City Hall
As the ice storm was beginning the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 14, approximately 100 people, including Madison County residents and local, state and national political figures, gathered on the grounds of Ridgeland’s new City Hall for a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony.
The new 32,000-square-foot, two-story “City Center,” as it is called, is located at U.S. 51 and School Street and had been in the works since 2008 when leaders purchased 25 acres.
The City Center is located near Freedom Ridge Park, the Ridgeland Police Department and Ridgeland Public Library. In addition, the City Center includes a Veterans Memory Park where a Veterans Day ceremony was held on Nov. 11, the first time the city had held a Veterans Day Ceremony in many years.
Work was nearing completion in mid-December on a Rice Road extension project to provide an alternate entrance to the City Center parking lot. City officials said the Rice Road extension should be opened to traffic in January.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler and Ridgeland Mayor Gene F. McGee are two of the state’s longest serving mayors and both were reelected to their positions after drawing no opposition.
As the candidate filing deadline passed on Feb. 5, both Hawkins-Butler and McGee were in effect relected to their positions as no candidates filed to run against them.
Hawkins-Butler is serving in her 11th consecutive term and McGee is serving his ninth.
Justice for Sullivan
Edgar James Egbert of Canton pleaded guilty in February to six counts of attempted murder in relation to the shooting of two Madison County deputies in 2019, including Brad Sullivan, who survived multiple gunshot wounds and has been on the long road to recovery ever since.
Egbert was sentenced to 210 or 35 years per count to be served consecutively in prison.
In September, Madison County Sheriff’s deputies launched a campaign to rebuild Sullivan’s home to accommodate Sullivan’s needs so he could live as independently as possible.
Sullivan has been wheelchair-bound and lost vision in his right eye since Egbert shot him as he fled deputies on Sept. 5, 2019.
In mid-April, the state Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler’s challenge to Initiative 65, the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November 2020 to allow medical marijuana in the state.
Hawkins-Butler’s arguments concerned the language of the state Constitution and a reduced number of Congressional districts, not the issue of legalizing medical marijuana itself.
The state Supreme Court agreed in December 2020 to hear the appeal filed by Hawkins-Butler and the city of Madison in October 2020 before Initiative 65 was passed overwhelmingly by voters in November 2020.
On May 14, 2021, the state Supreme Court ruled in Hawkins-Butler’s favor, invalidating Initiative 65 and the state’s medical-marijuana program.
Since then, state legislators have crafted legislation to create a medical marijuana program for the state. Gov. Tate Reeves said he did not call for a special session because he believes the amount of marijuana that can be prescribed under the proposed legislation is too high and would amount to a recreational marijuana program.
A state medical marijuana program is expected to be one of the major topics in the 2022 legislative session that begins Jan. 4, 2022.
In early May, Gluckstadt got the go-ahead to proceed with incorporating 10.8 square miles in Madison County into a city. The go-ahead came after a two-decades-long, hard-fought battle when the state Supreme Court upheld a Madison County court’s prior decision on Canton’s proposed annexation of certain areas.
Gluckstadt was officially incorporated with a charter effective June 6, and since then, the appointed city leaders, including Mayor Walter Morrison and five aldermen Miya Warfield-Bates, John Taylor, Jayce Powell, Wesley Slay and Lisa Williams, have been working to establish Mississippi’s newest city.
In late January, a green metal archway bearing the words “Historic Madison” in gold cursive letters was installed across the west end of Main Street.
“We have more work to do,” Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler declared at the time. “When it is completed, y’all will be so proud.”
Indeed, after brickwork was added to the scaffolding and the archway was complete in August, it now serves as a grand entrance to the Historic Madison district, which is bustling with new houses, businesses, restaurants and office buildings.
In 2021, several Madison County restaurant developments were in the news, including the addition of a new Chik-fil-A location in Ridgeland that is under construction on Highland Colony Parkway across from the Costco Wholesale.
Other restaurant developments include the relocation of Burgers and Blues from Rankin County to Main Street in Madison and the addition of Bulldog Burgers that opened on Lake Harbour Drive in Ridgeland. A Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux opened on the Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland, and Full Moon Barbecue opened on the Madison Parkway near the Grandview Shopping. Flora residents were excited about Annie M’s Cafe opening on U.S. 49 there.
While technically not a restaurant, many Madison County residents were excited about opening a Crumbl Cookies location in November in the Colony Crossing shopping center next to Sal & Mookies.
Many Madison County residents died in 2021, including some well-known and beloved public figures who dedicated their lives to community service.
Among those Madison County public servants who died in 2021:
• Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper John Martin Harris, 44, of Madison who died in late May on Mississippi 16 west of I-55 near Old Yazoo Road after a dump truck west of Canton struck him during a routine traffic stop.
• Dale Danks Jr. of Madison, who had served as a Hinds County prosecutor before serving as Mayor of Jackson from 1977-1989 and later moving to Madison where he served as a municipal judge for approximately eight years, died in June.
• Melvin Ray, who served as assistant Superintendent of Madison County schools for 20 years and as Superintendent for 10 years, died in June.
• Lucille Nichols, who served for five decades as director of the Willard Bond Home/The Home Place, died in August.
• Corey Ray, Madison Central School Resource Officer, who was loved and respected by students and community members, died in July after a lengthy illness.
Kangaroo on the loose
In mid-November, Madison residents reported seeing a kangaroo hopping around Madison and posted numerous photos on social media of the kangaroo in public places throughout the city.
It turns out Rocky the kangaroo is owned by Dr. Alyssa Killebrew, who uses him in youth therapy retreats she holds on the family’s farm in Flora.
Rocky had escaped his Lake Castle Road-area backyard enclosure after a neighborhood child had visited him and failed to secure the gate upon leaving.
Killebrew estimated Rocky’s trek was within a 5-mile radius of their house, but he came home on his own the same day. Rocky was later reported to be safely back on the Flora farm.
Sadly, Alyssa Killebrew’s husband, Keath Killebrew, 44, died weeks later, on Dec. 3, in an airplane crash while on a mission scouting land in the underdeveloped Chaco region of Paraguay, where he and his family planned to plant a cotton farm.
Keath Killebrew is survived by his wife, Alyssa, who is expecting a son, and their daughter, Vivian Keeler Killebrew.
Madison County experienced several high profile shootings in 2021:
• In April, Lakendric Cortez Francis, 16, of Canton, was shot as he traveled south along 1-55 through Ridgeland. Two Canton teenagers were later arrested in Canton and charged in connection to the murder.
• In November, the driver of a Chevrolet Tahoe, Tyrone Lewis, 30, of Canton, was injured when someone in a nearby car shot into the Tahoe as it traveled along Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland near the Costco Wholesale. Two passengers in the vehicle were not injured. Lewis had a gunshot wound to the left arm and what appeared to be a wound where a bullet grazed his chest. He has undergone surgery and was later released.
No suspect has been arrested for shooting into the vehicle.
• As of mid-November, Canton had recorded its seventh murder of the year. Canton recorded 10 murders in 2020.
• In late November, Marcus L. Hemingway, 15, an Olde Town Middle School student, was shot and killed in a Ridgeland apartment complex. Police later arrested Trenton Leahey-Lofton, 16, of Ridgeland, who faces murder charges as an adult in the killing.
• Three more shootings were reported in Canton this week
Madison County is home to top-notch athletes bringing home numerous state championship titles throughout 2021.
Three Madison County football teams — Madison Central, Madison Ridgeland Academy and Tri-County Academy — won state football championships in 2021.
Below is a recap of some of Madison County’s championship titles from 2021.
Madison Central brought home the school’s first football state championship since 1999 in MHSAA Class 6A. Madison Central also brought home MHSAA Class 6A championships in boys soccer, tennis and baseball, and Class II Championships in boys and girls swimming.
Madison Ridgeland Academy brought home the Patriot’s third-straight Midsouth Association of Independent School’s 6A football championship. MRA also brought home state championships in boys basketball for the seventh straight season, archery, boys track for the third time in the past four years and second straight, girls track for the third consecutive year, swimming and girls cross country for the fifth time.
Tri-County Academy brought home its fifth state football championship and its first at the MAIS Class 4A level. Tri-County Academy also claimed the Fastpitch 4A championship.
Jackson Academy, which has many Madison County resident students, claimed the division 1 girls soccer title and the division 1 volleyball championship.
Jackson Preparatory School, which has many Madison County resident students, claimed the men’s overall swimming title.