In a Jan. 6 article, 'AAFB closure list rumor nixed', Gwen Brewer of Altus Air Force Base's Public Affairs office said, "Rumors of Altus Air Force Base being on an existing BRAC closure list are just not true. The bottom line is that there is no official list. Since there is no list-- Altus Air Force Base cannot be on it."
Daniel Juan Revilla execution scheduled. Revilla was executed on Jan. 16 by lethal injection for the Jan. 26, 1987 first degree beating death of his teenage girlfriend's 13-month old son, Mark Gomez, in Altus. Revilla was the first Oklahoma inmate in the state to be executed in 2003.
On Jan. 23 Joni Moore, a 24-year-old mother of three, died from a single gun shot wound to the upper portion of her body in Mangum.
Ashley Bledsoe was crowned Miss Altus 2003 on the evening of Feb. 22. First runner up was Holly Anderson; second runner up was Lauren Ellis; Jill Powell took the third runner up award.
'First State Bank Robbed' was the headline in the Feb. 25 edition, with additional follow-ups on Feb. 26 and 27. The man apparently entered the building shortly after 9 a.m. and issued a demand to a teller to give him money. He left the bank with a small amount of cash. The suspect, described as a white male wearing a brown jacket with a hooded, multi-colored sweatshirt and sunglasses, left the scene on foot.
Feb. 27 and 28 carried a two-part story 'Pilot for a Day' about a 4-year old named Brian Briscoe who has neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that attacks the kidneys. Young Brian was the eighth participant in the program, which was founded by TSgt. Brian Williams in 1993 to lift the spirits of chronically ill children through an eventful day spent on the Air Force base, interacting with military personnel, getting hands-on experience in a simulator and touring aircraft.
The city of Altus was sued over its English-only policy in March. The suit claimed city officials not only discriminated against Hispanics, but also retaliated with discipline, slurs and denial of promotions and pay. A dozen out of 26 Hispanic city of Altus employees filed a federal lawsuit against their employer because of an English-only policy implemented in 2002.
In the March 16 edition, 'Manpower reductions ahead for Altus AFB' told that the Air Education and Training Command will lose more than 1,400 positions in fiscal year 2004 as part of the Air Force's man-power reduction initiative. AETC will lose about 830 military and 590 civilian positions in 2004 with increased reductions in later years.
March 18 gave a short account of how the new Jackson County Jail was nearing completion. Sheriff Morris Roberts spoke of how he was really anxious to move, that it would be a state of the art facility upon it's completion and that it could possibly be one of the best in the state.
'Construction of a new water treatment plant could begin soon' was good news to the people of Altus on April 13. The city of Altus advertised for bids for the estimated $10.6 million dollar improvement project. Public Works Director Robert Stephenson estimated construction to begin in July and should be completed sometime around the middle to late 2004.
Tax day also brought tornadoes spotted in the Duke, Blair and Elmer areas and winds reportedly reached as high as 90 miles per hour. High winds caused downed power lines, tree damage and storage sheds. No major damage was reported.
In mid-May the first wheat taken in Oklahoma was processed in Jackson County. The test weight of the wheat was 62.7 and the moisture content was 14, making about 43 bushels to the acre. According to Barney Trammell of Eldorado, it was high quality wheat which graded number one.In addition, approximately 18 bushels of wheat from the Tom Adams farm was processed at the Eldorado grain elevator.
It was also announced in mid-May that a local airplane would represent Oklahoma in a program commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first powered flight. The Luscombe Sedan Model 11E aircraft was selected to make the prestigious flight. Each state was represented in the program named "50 Flags to Kitty Hawk."
The big story in June was weather. To be more specific-- rain! Heavy overnight rains on June 1 and 2 dumped 2-3 inches on Altus. The deluge caused temporary flooding in portions of Altus but no significant damage reported.
Lightning struck a transformer on the fifth, leaving power out in northeast Altus. Heavy rains hit Altus and the surrounding area, leaving high water in city streets and across area roadways. The heavy rains caused further delays in the end of the wheat harvest.
Golf ball sized hail with high winds and a funnel sighting came June 11 in the Blair, Warren and Friendship. Winds were clocked as high as 72 miles per hour. There were no reports of major damage to the area.
Heavy thunderstorms raced through the Altus area early in the morning of June 26, dropping a large amount of rain in a short period of time. For the month of June, Altus had an unusually high amount of rain-- nearing eight inches. The sun was expected to return the following day.
July brought the news of the West Nile Virus in Jackson County.. State veterinarian Burke Healey reported that a horse in Headrick and another in northeastern Oklahoma, had the illness. The horses were treated with anti-inflammatory medicine and were recovering.
In early July Ronald Keith Passmore, 36, was charged in the shooting death of 24-year old Joni Moore on Jan. 24 in Mangum. The weapon was determined to be a 9 millimeter hand gun and was recovered.
After a wet June, July brought drought. "Another week without moisture and our dry land crops will start hurting," said Gary Strickland, the educator for agriculture with Oklahoma State University's Extension Office. "We had such a wet June, which did our crops a lot of good, but that soil moisture is running out," said Strickland.
An Aug. 10 headline read 'Sheriff set to move into jail Aug. 18'. It appeared that Jackson County Sheriff Morris Roberts was finally getting his wish-- to move into the new county jail on Aug. 18. "I don't care if it's ready or not. We're moving in," Roberts said jokingly.
Col. Mark Solo took over command of the AFB from Brig. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 23 years to the day after he graduated from C-141 training at Altus Air Force Base. "You are the luckiest people in the world to be assigned to Altus," outgoing commander Brig. Gen. Mark Zamzow told Solo and his family at the change of command ceremony on Aug. 8.
In late August, Carl Scott, a 48-year old Jackson County man who lives between Blair and Quartz Mountain, was in critical condition at Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City after contracting West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne illness. In addition to Scott, 16 other Oklahomans had contracted the virus. Except for two cases, all were in western Oklahoma.
In September, Milton Kerr, a Western Oklahoma State College basketball player, was pulled unconscious from the water at the campus swimming pool. Kerr was a freshman forward from Staten Island, N.Y. He was pulled from the pool at a depth of about four feet and was unresponsive. He was taken to Jackson County Memorial Hospital and then to Presbyterian Hospital in Oklahoma City. Doctors were unsure what caused Kerr to pass out underwater.
Late September brought the Red River Cultural Fest. The food of the vendors was enjoyed over and over, as vendors continued to leave throughout the day and shop for additional supplies, then cook and return to feed the masses. Craft booths were set up in the Altus Community Center with much to choose from. The music provided entertainment for everybody.
In October, Altus firefighters competed the weekend prior in the firefighter combat challenge held in Springfield, Mo., finishing fourth in the team relay division out of 22 teams participating at the national event.
Oct. 26 brought reminders to take the flu vaccine that proved to be prophetic.
Farrell Faye Davis, Altus' oldest resident passed away peacefully on Oct. 27 at English Village Nursing Home at the age of 106. She was born near Mangum on Aug. 18, 1897 and her passion was fishing.
On Nov. 2 a marker was unveiled commemorating both the settlement of Friendship and the Western Cattle
Headlining the Nov. 11 edition was 'Arrest made in John Cargal killing. Vantine Alfonso Martin was charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Cargal on Oct. 5.
A story on Dec. 14 brought bad news in 'Jackson County reaches end of vaccine supply. Perhaps this news will help our readership when the next flu season arrives.
While Jan. 24 brought sadness to the family Joni Moore, who was shot and killed, the Christmas season brought better things. Altus came to the rescue of her three small children, and if their year started out with sadness, Altus ended it with joy.
Happy News Year, Altus!