Year in Review: Athens Review's Top 10 Stories of 2022

Dec. 31—Editor's Note: We took a look at the stories that made the news in 2022 and narrowed down our picks for the Top 10 to include stories that captured the most attention or affected the most readers throughout the year.

We invite you to follow along with the news of the day in 2023 through our print and digital outlets: The printed edition of the Athens Daily Review; our web presence at; our Facebook page at; and our Twitter feed, found @AthReview.

Best wishes for a happy and successful 2023 from the staff and management of the Athens Review.

Now, our picks for the Top 10 Local Stories of 2022:

Community dedicates Blackshear Fisher Bishop Heights Memorial Wall

A dream was fulfilled in March in front of a large crowd of former students, community members and officials. The Blackshear Fisher Bishop Heights Memorial Wall was dedicated with gospel hymns and the Fisher High School song.

The wall serves as a touching tribute to the first public school for African Americans in the area. It started off in a church more than 100 years ago. The original structure was demolished in the 1970s, along with much of its history.

Sister Mary Henderson opened with the prayer. Larry West, the project founder, spoke on the importance and his heartfelt desire to see the community togetherness required to bring his vision to fruition continue.

The day was completed with fond memories of times with friends and beloved teachers. A written statement was read aloud from Janice Criner Kelly, a former student who talked about the integration process in Athens. She said the entire process was a grand experiment proving that Black students could learn the same as white students when given the same lessons, resources, compassionate instructors and opportunities.

Henderson named Citizen of the Year, passes away

Eldress Mary Henderson, Pastor of the Church of the Living God Athens, was announced the 2021 Citizen of the Year in February at the annual Athens Chamber of Commerce Gala. She passed away Aug. 4, 2022.

Having served in ministry for over 40 years, including helping in Sunday School and singing, Henderson took over as Senior Pastor of The General Assembly Church of the Living God in the '90s and has been leading the church with exemplary service and leadership for the past 27 years.

Eldress Henderson grew up on Hamlett Street in Athens and graduated from Fisher High. On June 29, Mary and her husband Tom, celebrated 59 years of marriage and their daughter described them as a "prime example of what God can do if only you keep Him first."

In Henderson's years as pastor at COTLG, the church constructed a Family Life Center, which is a gathering place for special events, brought high-speed internet capabilities to the infrastructure, and installed a microphone system in the sanctuary.

Community was something that was very important to her and over the years, Henderson blessed many organizations with her servant's heart. Some that she has been affiliated with include Henderson County Arts Council, Lady Cards foster parent, Jail Ministry, Athens Race Task Force, Henderson Co. IMA, NAACP-B.A.T., Athens Ministerial Alliance, March for Jesus, ETMC Chaplain, Athens ISD Crime Fighters, and many others.

TVCC celebrates Diamond Anniversary

Trinity Valley Community College has been making an impact on the lives of their students and staff for 75 years and the Athens campus threw a giant party to celebrate in April.

The community was invited to a carnival at the TVCC campus where past and current staff and students were greeted by a huge balloon arch that danced in the high winds, as music spanning the decades played in the background.

Families enjoyed playing carnival games like balloon pop, bean bag break, Nerf gun dart games, basketball and football skill tosses, and more. Guests enjoyed complimentary food from Dickeys and Schlotszskys, Treehouse Cupcakes, Tacos Perez, and hamburgers from TVCC dining services.

Dr. Jerry King, who has been with TVCC for 45 years, spoke about how the college was funded to provide opportunity for students and veterans and how 75 years later, they are still providing those opportunities.

The 1997 time capsule was not easy to open and it took many people multiple tries to pry it apart. Once open, Mike Peek and Kelly Fishback, an SGA Officer at the time of the capsule's sealing, revealed the fun and interesting contents from that decade, as well as some items that had a few people laughing, including the VHS tape of a band performance.

A 75-year historical video was presented at the brunch and included commentary from alumni about how TVCC changed their lives.

Athens voters approve 'Sanctuary City for the Unborn'

Athens residents voted in November to adopt an ordinance outlawing abortion and declaring Athens a "Sanctuary City for the Unborn," with 1,579 voting for and 1,153 against.

While there are no abortion providers currently operating in Athens, the ordinance extends to residents seeking out-of-state abortions. It will allow for any Athens resident to sue any other resident who in any way assists any person to obtain an abortion.

Of 58,325 registered voters, 28,017 total ballots were cast, 18,071 early, for a 48.04% voter turnout in Henderson County.

Uvalde shootings spark local changes

The shooting that occurred at an elementary school in Uvalde in May has prompted the Henderson County Elections Committee to meet and propose making changes to several polling sites.

These changes are a "direct result of the situation that occurred in Uvalde," said Henderson County Republican Party Chair Daniel Hunt.

The elections committee, which also includes Henderson County Democratic Chairman Michael Fladmark and Henderson County Election Administrator Paula Ludtke, wants to take precautionary measures to make sure that no children are placed in a situation where someone could access the school in any way from the polling site.

Henderson County declares local disaster due to wildfires

County Judge Wade McKinney signed a declaration in July prompting a Local State of Disaster in Henderson County because of an extended drought and rash of wildfires.

According to the declaration, Henderson County firefighters responded to 40 fires that week and 134 by the third week of July.

Multiple fire departments battled to contain a grass fire that burned around 100 acres between Eustace and Athens. At one point, FM 2709 was shut down in both directions. Officials urged people to stay out of the area and an evacuation area was set up in the Eustace High School Gym parking lot, with The Red Cross onsite. While no structures were burned, one home was evacuated.

Another fire near County Roads 1200 1201 was estimated to be about 30 acres, with hay bales burning.

EPA discusses risk of ethylene oxide emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a public meeting in September about ethylene oxide to discuss the risks posed by air emissions from facilities like Steritec, Inc. in Athens.

Steritec, located at 1705 Enterprise St., uses ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment and materials.

According to the EPA, pollution is increasing health risks in the area. During the public meeting Sept. 20, the EPA explained the risks and detailed how the agency and Steritec are working to take appropriate steps to reduce emissions.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless and odorless, flammable gas used to sterilize devices that can't be sterilized using steam or radiation, like some medical and dental equipment. EtO is the only safe and effective sterilization method currently available for some devices.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, EtO is currently used to treat approximately 50% of sterile medical devices, about 20 billion medical devices annually.

Tornado hits Athens, damages homes and businesses

An EF-2 rain-wrapped tornado with winds of up to 115 mph was confirmed to have hit Athens in November, according to the National Weather Service survey team. The tornado was tracked for 15.05 miles at a width of 150 yards.

The tornado first touched down around 5:35 p.m. south of Malakoff, hitting a private family property and wedding venue just west of County Road 3441.

The tornado continued to move northeast and damaged another family home on County Road 1208. The tornado moved through Athens, damaging additional structures and uprooting and snapping trees. It exited the city and dissipated after damaging structures and trees in the Trey Meadows neighborhood, southwest of Murchison.

There were no reported injuries in the city of Athens but multiple businesses and residential buildings were affected, including the Dollar General store on West Corsicana Street which had windows blown out, and the Athens Steel Building Corporation, which had a collapse of the southern part of the structure.

King retires as TVCC President

Trinity Valley Community College President Jerry King, Ed.D announced his retirement from the college in August.

King served as a faculty member, dean, vice president and president over the last 44 years.

King joined the college in 1975, serving as a business/economics professor, Dean of Workforce Education, Associate Vice President of Workforce Education/Business Affairs and Vice President of Instruction and Chief Instructional Officer.

Athens welcomes new restaurants

After many months of speculation, paintings being done on the side of buildings, and rumors passed around social media, Twisted Root Burger Co. and Taqueria La Ventana finally opened on East Tyler Street in Athens last summer to mostly rave reviews.

Other recent restaurants also caused an economic impact by adding to the abundance of dining options on East Tyler Street including Panda Express, Chili's, Starbucks and Highway 55.