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By Dale Neal • Special to The Smoky Mountain News

Evangelist Billy Graham — a spiritual guide to generations of American evangelicals, a globe-trotting preacher who converted millions to Christianity, and a confidante to presidents — died today at the age of 99.

Graham personally preached the Christian gospel to more people on the planet than any other evangelist in the 2,000 years of Christianity.

They said it happens.

When I was younger, and very much so in conversation nowadays, it was always said that as you get older, you tend to circle back to the music of your youth.

The day of my stepfather’s celebration of life service was a brisk, sunny Saturday morning, as good a day as any to celebrate life. We got up before daylight, made coffee, put on our nice clothes, packed the car, and hit the road for the three-hour drive up to Sparta, where we would meet the rest of the family before all the people started showing up to hug us or shake our hands as we stood in a long line to greet them.

The passing of Clyde Mayor Jerry Walker Oct. 30 has not only left a huge hole in the Clyde community, but also in its government.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Billy Mashburn discussed with The Smoky Mountain News his continued goals and vision for his hometown of Franklin.

Taken too soon.

It’s the three words one person — let alone one family or one community — never wants to here when it comes to a young person passing away before they could blossom and take over the world, usually with a signature smile or laugh (or both).

A late-night shooting near the Western Carolina University campus Friday, Oct. 6, has left a student dead.

Tom Petty.

I can’t remember a time without him and his band’s music in my life. It’s always been there, just like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson have always been there for my parents’ generation. I grew up on the sounds of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. We all did. Every single one of us, whether we realize it or not.

The attraction between people and waterfalls is nothing new, with a couple waterfall deaths per year typical between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. 

ALSO: Herculean rescue effort at Yellowstone Falls highlights dangers of waterfall play

The 911 call, coming from a gorge cut high in the Balsam Mountains, was nearly unintelligible. When the connection ended five minutes later, Haywood County Emergency Management was left with two important facts: somebody had fallen from a waterfall, and the caller was saying something that sounded like “Yellowstone.”

SEE ALSO: WNC's deadliest waterfalls

The GPS coordinates showed the call originating in Dark Prong, two drainages over from Yellowstone Falls in the Pisgah National Forest’s Shining Rock Wilderness, but GPS data isn’t always correct in the rugged terrain of Western North Carolina. In the mountains, cell reception is often scant at best — emergency responders had to make a judgment call.

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