Feb. 26, 2016
                 Tifton, Georgia

         (478) 227-7126


Gary Patton (Pat) Hall Jr., 50, of Tiftonwho was president and CEO of the former  Tifton Banking Co., was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $3.9 million in restitution to government agencies that experienced losses from fraudulent loans.

Hall was sentenced in U.S. District Court in ValdostaHe had faced a potential statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a potential fine of up to twice the loss amount, or both. 

In  December, he had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States, agreeing  that he owes restitution to the bank and federal agencies in the amount of $3,931,018 for the losses suffered.

Prosecutors say Hall hid past-due loans from other bank executives and federal regulators, resulting in millions of dollars in losses after delinquent loans were renewed. They say Hall in 2009 obtained $3.8 million in taxpayer-funded bailout money from the government to help the bank recover from losses caused by his own acts of fraud.

Tifton Banking Co. was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance in November 2010 before it could repay the bailout money  it received from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

According to the government, Hall was president and CEO of Tifton Banking Co. (TBC) from August 2005 until June 2010. During that time, he was engaged in an ongoing scheme to mislead the bank and its loan committee about loans TBC made to local individuals and businesses.

As part of the scheme, Hall hid past due loans from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the TBC loan committee, which resulted in the bank continuing to approve and renew delinquent loans and loans for which the collateral was lacking, authorities say. Several borrowers eventually defaulted on the loans, resulting in millions of dollars in losses to TBC and others.

Hall admitted that in certain transactions in which he exercised approval authority, he  hid his personal and business interests. In one case, Hall approved loans to the buyer of a condominium in  Panama City Beach, Fla., owned by Hall himself. In doing so, he made false representations about the loans to TBC's loan committee and failed to disclose his personal interest. When the buyer's loan payments became delinquent, Hall hid the loans from both the FDIC and state regulators.

Hall received $50,000 profit from the sale of his condominium in that transaction, the entire purchase price being funded by an unsecured loan to the buyer approved by him. The buyer eventually declared bankruptcy, resulting in a  loss of more than $400,000 to TBC.

Hall also admitted to making  fraudulent representations which led to commercial loan guarantees being issued by the  U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on two other loan transactions. The loans were made by TBC, and guaranteed by the government agencies, to refinance earlier non-performing commercial loans made by TBC as part of the scheme to mislead bank regulators and hide the bank's true financial condition. Those guaranteed loans resulted in losses to the bank and the agencies of more than  $2 million.

"The  greed of Mr. Hall and the  abuse of the trust placed in him by the  Tifton Banking Co. and its depositors, investors and employees, as well as the taxpayers of the United States, has had a  deleterious effect on his community and its faith in the banking industry. Others have paid a high price for his misdeeds," acting U.S. Attorney  G.F. Peterman III had said during Hall's plea hearing in December.


Two candidates have announced for the position of clerk of Superior Court for Tift County to succeed the retiring Gwen Pate.

Charleston Carter and Gail Taylor Drayton announced their candidacies during the past week.
Charleston Carter, at right, with campaign manager Mike Brumby

Carter currently serves as Circuit Court administrator for the Tifton Judicial Circuit (Irwin, Tift, Turner and Worth counties). He said the position has broadened his interaction with the public and with judges in the circuit, clerks of court and others. He prepares and administers a yearly budget, prepares various reports, keeps abreast of new technological trends, and said he has an extensive working knowledge of various legal documents and court orders in both civil and criminal proceedings.

Carter previously served as Tift County's director of the state Court Victim Assistance Program for seven years and director of court case management of Fulton County for three years. In the latter position, Carter said he gained experience in working as a department head with 42 staff members under his supervision and learned the importance of listening to people and showing compassion during their time of stress.

Carter received his early education in the Cook County School System, and he graduated in 1994 from Cook High School. He received his undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Valdosta State University in 1999, and he received his master's degree in criminal justice in 2001

In 2010, he received his master's certification in judicial administration from Michigan State University. By 2011, he had received certifications in both judicial administration and court administration through the Georgia Council of Court Administrators. Through this training, he learned the 10 key core competencies which are necessary to operate a court system. He also attends various conferences, seminars and lectures to continue his education.

Carter is involved in community organizations such as the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce, Tifton Rotary Club, United Way of South Central Georgia, Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence, Lifehouse Ministries, Tifton Museum of Arts & Heritage, PL.I.G.H.T, Inc., Lion's Club, Community Service Board, Brothers Helping Others, Right Track Program and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He works with youth through his service as an adjunct professor at Valdosta State University, a tutor for the ABAC Upward Bound Program, SAT PREP, GRE PREP and general subjects. He was also instrumental in implementing the Explorer Troop Program, Cop for a Day Program and Community Policing in Cook County.

Carter is thankful for his roots in New Prospect Baptist Church, which he joined at an early age.

Gail Taylor Drayton
Gail Taylor Drayton  has a law enforcement background and clerk experience. Since July, she is serving as a clerk at the Tifton Municipal Court. Drayton is a p eace officer standards and training-certified officer, and was a patrol officer and clerk at the  Ashburn Police Department.

She began in law enforcement as an officer at the ABAC Police Department in December 2006.

Born and raised in Tifton, Drayton graduated from Tift County High School in 1987. She graduated from the ABAC Police Academy in December 2006. She has also completed the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College program, a 400-hour training program through Columbus State University, which she completed in May 2013

In January 2015, she got her managerial and supervision certificates. In November 2014, she attended a training for the National Center for State Court for court management and court performance tools, where she received a certificate. 

Drayton is currently pursuing an associate's degree in criminal justice.

She said she's a certified municipal court clerk and terminal agency operator, able to access the Georgia Career Information Center network, and is a certified terminal agency coordinator. She was also the local agency security officer in Ashburn and is a member of the Georgia Municipal Court Clerks Council and is a notary public.

A member of Short Street Church of Christ, Drayton and her husband of 19 years have a blended family of 10 children and 16 grandchildren combined. She is one of 13 children.

Tifton kicks off 'Read Aloud'  initiative  with nationally known mural artist Gale Hinton painting murals inside local schools. She is joined by Richard
Fisher, principal at Len Lastinger Primary School, which received Hinton's first local mural promoting reading.


Since November 2000, Tifton has been the undisputed "Reading Capital of the World." Now, the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence is promoting Tifton to become the "Read Aloud Capital of the World" as well.

"The Reading Capital of the World is going vocal," said Mike Brumby, executive director of the education foundation.

"Inspired by a national Read Aloud movement, Tifton is throwing its hat in the ring  to become the 'Real' (Read Aloud) Reading Capital of the World. There could be no better place for such aspiration. Feelers have been put out in our community to get a pulse on such an ambitious undertaking. The schools -- public, private and home -- are all in,"  Brumby  said. "Head Start (program) and the Tifton Housing Authority will be in the thick of the effort. Enthusiasm is emanating from entities as diverse as the animal shelter to churches  to Hospice."

Kicking off the initiative in style, nationally known muralist Gale Hinton of Knoxville, Tenn., has been in Tifton all this week creating murals on walls inside Len Lastinger Primary School, Annie Belle Clark Primary and the Tift County Pre-K Center.

Hinton has painted hundreds of one-of-a-kind murals in homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and churches nationwide, including   Carraba's  restaurants and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn

She has created numerous murals promoting reading for the Read Aloud Chattanooga program. Bill Thurman, an Atlanta area resident and founder of the Read Aloud Chattanooga movement, brought Hinton to Tifton after he visited the Friendly City and met with local school officials and education foundation members.

"There's definitely something special about Tifton," Thurman said.

"We are excited about this initiative," said Frank Sayles Jr., education foundation president and a Tifton city councilman. "Reading is the true foundation of education. By encouraging our citizens to read aloud, we hope to further enhance the reading experience for young people, stimulating their imaginations, enlarging their vocabulary and fostering what we hope is a lifelong love of books and reading."

Sayles said there will be more "Read Aloud" initiatives in the coming weeks.

"We want individuals and organizations to make a 'Reading Promise' -- a commitment for a specified read-aloud effort. Stay tuned because we're just getting started," Sayles said.


Controversial religious freedom legislation sponsored by a local state senator has drawn opposition from several businesses and business organizations, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group.

The organizations say that  House Bill 757  will negatively affect Georgia's business and tourism reputation.
HB 757 would allow faith-based organizations and individuals to  opt out of following anti-discrimination requirements if they cite religious beliefs or moral convictions for doing so. In addition, ministers will be cleared from
having to perform marriages, such as same-sex unions, that violate their religious beliefs. One proposal making the Capitol rounds would more strictly tailor the definition of a faith-based organization to exclude private organizations and businesses.

The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, who represents Tift County, told t he Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the revised bill is about equal protection and not discrimination.

"It only impacts the government's interaction with faith-based organizations or a person who holds faith-based, sincerely held beliefs as it relates to marriage," Kirk said.

The  House had  passed a less controversial version of the bill before sending it to the  Senate , which
passed an amended version Friday following three hours of debate after combining the bill with a more controversial one. The amended 
bill  blends the Pastor Protection Act, allowing religious leaders to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and the First Amendment Defense Act, which critics said would allow tax-funded groups to deny services to gays and lesbians

A group named Georgia Unites Against Discrimination called the bill "state-sanctioned discrimination" and that the  legislation would "allow tax-payer funded organizations to legally discriminate against LGBT Georgians."  The group has previously said the bill would also hurt single or unmarried parents and people of different religions. 

The Huffington Post reported that  Georgia-based telecom startup company 373k  announced plans to relocate to Nevada following the Senate vote of  38-14.

Because the Senate amended the bill, the new version must get the House's OK.  House Speaker David Ralston said that lawmakers have heard concerns from film industry executives and others that the legislation could cost Georgia jobs.

"It's a very emotional issue," Ralston was reported as saying. "It's an issue that is going to have consequences."

But  Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told the Atlanta newspaper that the bill "in no way interferes with our world-class tourism or business communities whatsoever.  We are simply ensuring that no Georgian suffers at the hand of our government for their view on marriage."


Wisham Jellies of Tifton is one of 33 finalists in in the final round of the University of Georgia's 2016 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest to be held March 14-15 at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta.

Wisham's Wild Mayhaw Pepper Jelly is selected as a finalist in the Jams and Jellies category.

In the 2015 Flavor of Georgia competition, Eric Wisham of Tifton, owner and creator of Wisham Jellies, received the People's Choice Award for his c ranberry pepper jelly, which was voted the tastiest of 29 products sampled by hundreds of people.

Another finalist in this year's contest is Carroll's Sausage and Meats of Ashburn for its medium smoked link sausage in the Meat and Seafood category.

This year marks the 10th annual Flavor of Georgia contest. During the past decade, the contest has grown and remains the state's premier testing ground for both small, upstart food companies and time-tested products.

The 33 finalists, who have passed the first round of judging, were selected from a field of more than 135 products in 11 categories, the largest field in the contest's history.  Finalists will bring their products to the final round of judging as part of Gov. Nathan Deal's Ag Day at the Capitol.

Judges for the final round will include food brokers, grocery buyers, chefs and other food industry experts. They will judge each entry based on commercial appeal, Georgia theme, taste, innovation and market potential in each category.

The Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest is organized by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, with support from Georgia Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, the Office of the Governor, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

"Best-Selling Truck for 39 Straight Years"

511 West 7th Street


Young Farmers' Day was recently observed at the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta.

Young farmers from across the state met with lawmakers to discuss issues of concern.

In the photo, pictured from left, are  Chris House, Tift County Young Farmer president;  Carl Nichols, Tift County Young Farmer advisor;  Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville; and  Corey Thompson, Tift County Young Farmer past president.


ABAC's "First Tuesday" concert series March 1 features "A Night with Choral Music" with Dr. Paul Neal and The Berry Singers at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of All Faiths at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

 The Berry Vocal Jazz Ensemble will also perform. This concert is free and open to the public.

The Berry Singers are an auditioned select group of vocalists directed by Neal who represent a wide variety of majors and interests at Berry College. The chamber choir has performed a vast array of music over its long history to acclaim throughout the eastern United States and Europe.

Neal is director of choral activities at Berry College . He joined the faculty this year after overseeing the choral program at Valdosta State University and serving as assistant director for the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra . His resume also includes service as assistant conductor for the Angeles Chorale , one of the largest community choruses in the Los Angeles area, and as musical director for the Texas Shakespeare Festival . In addition, he spent two seasons as a performer for the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Master Chorale .

For more information, contact Susan Roe at

The Stallion student newspaper at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College received four overall awards and eight individual awards at the recent Georgia College Press Association (GCPA) competition in Athens.

Dr. Thomas Grant, advisor to The Stallion, said the publication received second place for General Advertising Excellence and third place for Best Website, Best Campus Community Service - Sports, and Improvement Award. All general awards fall under the GCPA Division B.

In individual categories, the ABAC newspaper claimed nine awards. All individual awards fall under the Group One division.

Jenna Pope, a politics and modern cultures major from Norman Park, received first place for Best News Article Based on Investigative Reporting. Remington Miller, a writing and communication major from Tifton, was awarded third place in the same category. Mary Roy, an English major from Miami, Fla., won second place for Best Editorial or Editorial Series. Second place for Best Entertainment Feature was awarded to Lisa Stephens, a writing and communication major from Turin.

In the Best Review category, Dalton Spangler, a diversified agriculture major from Groveland, Fla., took second place. Joshua Clements, a writing and communication major from Chula, won third place for Best Column.

In photography, Rachel Frantz, an English major from Sylvester, won first place for Best Photo EssayPope earned a second plaque with a third place for Best Sports Photograph; and Grace Holland, a journalism and mass media major from Tifton, received third place for Best Editorial or Feature Photograph.


Fourth-grade  students  at  Matt Wilson Elementary  toured the  Thronateeska Heritage Center  in 
Albany  thanks to an  incentive grant  funded by the  Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence . Eleven  classes totaling 250 students were involved in the  dynamic  learning experience  through an  interactive science center and museum .

Matt Wilson Elementary students  explored hands-on exhibits about  weather, archaeology, water, astronomy, light, sound, electricity and more . The Thronateeska campus includes a history museum, science museum, rail car display and a 40-foot full dome HD planetarium system, the first in the world of its kind.
The  Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence  had awarded teacher  Jessica Fletcher  with the   $4,095 incentive grant . In the photo,  Fletcher is seated in the second row, second from right, next to TCFEE liaison Penny Peters. The incentive grant was made under the Glenn Burton Science Chair.

Ware Bostick, Abbey Bowen and Julie Smith at Sunset Tifton

The Business After Hours Event 
Hosted at the 
Golf Club of South Georgia

Thursday, Feb. 25


Belk department store recently made a $500 contribution to the United Way of South Central Georgia. Crystal Reese, store manager of Tifton's Belk, pictured at  right,  presents the check to Pat McKinnon, United Way executive director.  The contribution  represents one of Belk's core values: To be involved in the  communities and to give back in ways that make a positive difference  in the lives of its associates and customers.


The Community Lenten Lunch Series is being held on Wednesdays at noon at the Leroy Rogers Community Center on Second Street. 

Open to all denominations, a simple meal IS followed by a brief service sponsored by area churches. The cost is $3 per person.  Here is the remaining schedule:


Tifton, Georgia

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             a Glance 

  • Tiftarea House of Hope Pancake Breakfast, 8 a
  • Exchange Club's "Bids for Kids," 5-10 p.m., TV Channel 11, Tifton
  • TRMC Foundation's "A Tribute from the Heart," 7 p.m., UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center, Tifton

  • Memorial Chapel Dedication, 4 p.m., First Baptist Church, Tifton

In Memoriam

FEB. 18
John Anthony Towery, 64, Tifton
Marilee Hughes Haile, 91, Nashville
Robert C. "Buddy" Schofill Jr., 62, Adel
James Lee Powell, 67, Crossville, Tenn.

FEB. 19
Anne V. Gass, 58, Waukegan, Ill.

FEB. 20
Elijah Graham, 72, Tifton
Virginia Haddock Whitley, 87, Fitzgerald
Ronald D. "Sonny" Bennett, 70, Sparks

Claude V. Young, 87, Fitzgerald
Guy L. Harbuck, 52, Fitzgerald
Robert F. Dilling, 86, Fitzgerald

FEB. 21
Dollene Graham Starks, 73, Tifton
James Henry Clyburn Jr., 59, Adel
Louie DiPietro, 64, Sycamore
Carolyn Tipton King Cline, 95, Albany
Charles Wesley Oliver, 80, Ellenton

FEB. 22
Doris Kent Blanton, 94, Tifton
Charles Randall Plair, 63, Tifton
Bobby Eugene Sheffield. 71, Fitzgerald
Gladys Postell Hester, 107, Adel
Eugene Bellflower, 92, Fitzgerald

FEB. 23
Doris Kent Blanton, 94, Tifton
Dixie Marie Hargrove, 82, Fitzgerald
Darrell D. Tucker Sr., 78, Albany
William "Rick" Richard Moore, 52, Adel

FEB. 24
Dovie Gertrude Bruner Walker, 87, Tifton
Willie H. Braswell, 84, Sylvester
Marion S. McDonald, 70, Valdosta
Hazel Bush Melton, 74, Sylvester
Bobbie Welch, 70, Adel

FEB. 25
Mary Mullis Bishop Marchant, 99, Forsyth

380 Upper Ty Ty Road,  Tifton, GA
MLS #: L125327A

Relax and enjoy 218.73 acres surrounded by nothing but nature. This land includes a pecan grove, and plenty of farmland for cattle, horses -- anything your heart desires! Great pastures, partially wooded with small creeks and streams. This property includes a 24x30 metal barn/workshop, and a beautiful 3 bedroom/3 bath home located on the corner of Upper Ty Ty and Tifton-Worth County Line Road completes this farm. Watch the fireflies from your screened-in back porch in the summertime, or gaze at the stars without all the city lights! A must see! Do not let this one get away!
    Dwana Coleman
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