GALLERY: Historic African American Cemetery could be preserved by DNR under House bill

A cemetery that is historically significant, especially for the African American community at Clinton, Missouri, could be preserved by the Department of Natural Resources under a bill signed into law this year.

One of the veterans buried in Antioch Cemetery is Otis Remus Lyle, who served during World War I.  He is buried next to his father, George.  Otis’ wife, Nellie, remarried after his death and is also buried in Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The legislation authorizes the state DNR to acquire Antioch Cemetery in Clinton.  It could turn the cemetery into an educational site to be operated by the state Division of Parks.

Many of those interred in the five-acre cemetery are people who were once enslaved.  It was established in 1885, but the first burial occurred 17 years earlier; that of 36 year old James F. Davis, who died in 1868.  Two acres of the site were deeded to Clinton’s African American residents in 1888, for $50.  More land was gifted in 1940.

Representative Rodger Reedy (R-Windsor) sponsored the original version of the Antioch Cemetery language that became law this year, in his House Bill 395.

“The African American Community has been very instrumental to the development of this area.  They’ve been a very big part of the history, and I just felt like it needed to be preserved,” said Reedy.  “My concern was a lot of the cemetery board members were getting older and they were concerned about  how it would be maintained in the future, and I just saw this as a way to make sure this is maintained from here on out.”

There are many homemade headstones at Antioch Cemetery, including that of Charley Kerr, who died in 1914 as the result of a stab wound.  (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I think our history is important and I think it’s always important to realize how we got to where we are today, and if we let places like this cemetery go by the wayside and not be maintained, our future generations are not going to be able to come back and look at the history,” said Reedy.

The earliest born individual in Antioch Cemetery is identified only as Aunt Mason, who was reportedly 106 years old when she died in 1887.  Contemporary newspaper accounts said she was “probably” the oldest person in the state at the time.  Papers recalled that while enslaved, Aunt Mason had been owned by at least four families, serving as a nurse for one.  One of those may have been the family of a man who was a state representative at the time the Civil War broke out.  It was around that time that she was freed, and for much of the time after that she lived alone.  Papers claim she was later shunned by her neighbors as a “witch and a soothsayer,” but recall she was “remarkable,” and retained vivid memories of her early life.  Hers is one of the many graves in Antioch that lacks a marker.

Representative Rodger Reedy stands at the grave of World War I veteran Gove Swindell, in Antioch Cemetery in Clinton. Reedy sponsored a bill aimed at ensuring the long-term preservation of Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The cemetery is also the final resting place of several veterans, including Jackson “Uncle Jack” Hall, who fought in the Civil War and died in 1911, at the age of 108.

It also includes brothers Charles and Clarence “Pete” Wilson, who served in World Wars I and II, respectively.  Charles served in France with the 92nd Infantry Division; a segregated infantry division of the U.S. Army that inherited the “Buffalo Soldiers” nickname given to African American cavalrymen in the 19th century.  Clarence was a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps.

Those in the cemetery haven’t always been allowed to rest peacefully.  In 1891, about two weeks after he was buried, the grave of Mat Wilson was desecrated and someone stole his body, leaving behind only his head and feet.

Burials at Antioch Cemetery have continued into the modern era, and the legislation will allow that to continue.

Click the left and right arrows below for more photos from Antioch Cemetery:

Antioch Cemetery

Veto session: House votes to fund programs fighting child abuse, neglect; Senate disagrees

      The Missouri House voted Wednesday to override Governor Mike Parson’s (R) vetoes of several spending proposals in the state budget, including one aimed at stemming the sexual abuse of children in Lincoln County. 

Representative Randy Pietzman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The Senate did not concur on those overrides and allowed the governor’s actions to stand, and those proposals to fail.

      House members including Lincoln County representative Randy Pietzman (R-Troy) took to the floor expressing anger and frustration that Parson rejected $300,000 to fund a 3-year pilot program that would’ve hired investigators, a prosecutor, and staff to address an increase in sex offenders in the region.

      “I have children in my district that are getting ravaged … I’d like to read you the list of the cases but I think it’s just too much.  Children in my district getting raped and made child pornography with them.  It’s going on and we’ve got to stop it,” said Pietzman.

      He said that line item would be enough to get the program started and after 3 years local officials could sustain it after that.

Pietzman said he was approached with “offers” by people who didn’t want him to even propose the override.

      “Screw those guys.  I’m fighting to the end for these kids.  They deserve justice.  This is small piece of pie of our budget but it can do so much good if we get it into the hands of the right people, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

      Pietzman directed his criticism squarely at the governor, saying this was a plan he and others in the county worked for years to develop.  The governor has said that a federal grant program can be used to address this issue but Pietzman says that will not work.

      “Unlike [the governor] I’m not looking for a photo opportunity saying this is what I’m doing.  I’m doing it for those kids,” said Pietzman.

      The House voted 150-3 in favor of that override.

      The chamber also voted 151-3 to reverse the governor on a $2-million item that included 3-percent pay raises for caseworkers and supervisors in the Children’s Division.  These employees deal with abuse, neglect, and other issues facing children in the custody of the state.

Representative Raychel Proudie (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Representative Raychel Proudie (R-Ferguson) said Missouri is having a hard time retaining those workers, partly because of how much they are paid.

      “Some of these workers [are] being spat at, cursed at, threatened  [while] trying to protect the children of this state when they can just go down to the local wizard stand or the local Wal-Mart and get paid more, and deal with less.  We owe them better than that,” said Proudie.

      On another vote, the House voted to restore funding for court costs to the owners of certain wedding venues.  St. Louis Republican Jim Murphy said these owners were years ago told by the Department of Revenue they did not need to pay sales tax, but years later the Department sent them bills for tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes.  Eventually everything was paid back to those owners but the court costs.

      Murphy said the Department harmed and lied to those Missourians.  “This year there was $150-thousand put into the budget to do the right thing, and that’s give these people their money back … well the governor, in his wisdom, and I cannot explain why, vetoed this,” said Murphy.  “We have promised these people over and over again that we would do right by them, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.”

      The House supported that override 152-2.

      It also voted 112-38 to override a veto on $700,000 for a Community Improvement District along Business Loop 70 in Columbia.

      These overrides were sent to the Senate, which voted to reject two of them and did not vote on the other two, so the governor’s vetoes stand.

Missouri WIC recipients to get farmers’ markets vouchers under new law

      A new law could soon have more Missourians on nutrition assistance going to farmers’ markets.

Representative Martha Stevens (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Language in House Bill 432 will bring the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) within the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program back to Missouri.  This will allow those receiving WIC assistance to use vouchers at farmers markets. 

      Missouri previously participated in the program up until more than a decade ago. 

      The FMNP language was from a standalone bill (House Bill 652) filed by Representative Martha Stevens (D-Columbia), whose background is in social work. 

      “It’s a way to address food insecurity, which is a significant issue in our state for low-income families.  It’s a way to support new moms and young children that are at nutritional risk.  It’s a way to draw down federal dollars to be distributed in our local economy, and it’s a way to support local farmers, but also for some families, potentially this might be their first introduction to a community farmers’ market, so the hope is that they’ll continue to use those markets going further even when they don’t potentially qualify for WIC benefits.”

      She said initially it will be couched in the existing Seniors’ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in the counties that offer it.

      “The hope is that after this is established that this is a program that can grow across the state.  We could even, potentially, receive more of the grant money from the USDA to grow that program,” said Stevens.

      The program will be maintained by the state Department of Agriculture, which must submit to the USDA by November an implementation plan.   Stevens said it will likely be next year before WIC recipients in Missouri can get vouchers, as the program funding is grant based.

VIDEO: New license plate supporting Negro Leagues Baseball Museum soon available

      A museum telling an important story in the nation’s sports and cultural histories is featured on a new license plate that will soon be available to Missourians.

      The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City began in a one-room office in 1990 and today is in a 10,000 square-foot home among the Museums at 18th & Vine in Kansas City.  It is the only museum dedicated to the Negro Leagues, which originated in Kansas City in 1920 and offered people of color a chance to play professional baseball at a time when they were barred from playing in the major and minor leagues due to racism.

      License plates bearing the Museum’s logo will soon be available. It will cost $15 more than a regular license plate registration, and applicants can opt to donate $10 to the museum.  This is the result of legislation carried by Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City)

      Sharp said the legacy of the Negro Leagues goes far beyond sports, having just as much to do with United States’ history and culture, and it meant a lot to him personally.

      “Without seeing black athletes and black players I’m not sure that I would’ve had the confidence in myself to do some of these things.  To see other folks and to know the story of what these gentlemen – and a lot of women – that get lost in the Negro Leagues’ history, what they had to go through really sets the standard for moving forward,” said Sharp.  “Without those players and what they’ve done I’m not sure a lot of young athletes would have the confidence to go out there and do what they do.”

      “The license plate will, one, create a bigger awareness of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  A lot of folks in Kansas City are aware of it but I’m not sure everyone across the state is aware of it, of this gem of a museum that we have here in our state,” said Sharp.  “Also, it will provide another funding mechanism for the museum.  For museums like this we also have to have enough ways and means to get funding to them to make sure they can stay up to date with current trends and make sure that the museum is in good condition.”

      Sharp carried Senate Bill 189 which included language that he also sponsored in House Bill 100, to create the plate.  The proposal received broad, bipartisan support in both chambers. 

      “We are just absolutely thrilled with this level of recognition and the opportunity to generation additional support,” said Museum President Bob Kendrick.  “I gotta tip my cap to all of the legislators who made this possible and what a tremendous nod that is to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

      SB 189 took effect August 28. When the new plates are available Missourians will be able to get them through local license offices.

Benton Mural model bids ‘fond farewell’ to his likeness

      The last living model for one of the Missouri State Capitol’s best-known artistic features paid a visit to his likeness today, giving in what could prove to be a “fond farewell.” 

Harold Brown, Junior, in front of his likeness (the baby whose diaper is being changed) in the Benton Mural, “The Social History of Missouri,” in the Missouri State Capitol (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communcations)

      In 1935, the legislature commissioned Thomas Hart Benton to paint the walls of the House of Representatives’ Lounge on the Capitol’s third floor.  Benton called it “The Social History of Missouri;” a history that he felt would be incomplete without a baby, for without children there would have been no expansion into the west.

      Enter Harold Brown, Junior, then the 1 year-old son of Missouri Adjutant General Harold Brown, Senior.  While Benton was visiting the General’s home he saw young Harold crawling on a blanket and asked to include him in the mural.  The Browns agreed and Benton sketched the youngster. 

      It is Harold’s likeness that became a baby having his diaper changed while a political rally plays out behind.

      “It’s been an honor,” said Brown of being included in the mural.  He said he likes to share the piece, and his story, with people.  “I’m fortunate to be there.”

Thomas Hart Benton’s sketch of one year-old Harold Brown, Junior, who he later included in his mural on the walls of the House Lounge in the Missouri State Capitol. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Brown, now 86, said with a wry smile that he’s “getting pretty feeble,” so he’s not sure how many more times he will be able to visit the mural.

      His father is also in the mural.  Benton was actually at the family’s home to sketch Harold, Senior’s likeness when he got the idea to include Harold, Junior.  The elder Brown is the foreman of a jury in a courtroom scene near the southeast corner of the Lounge.

      Brown also has the sketches Benton made of him and of his father.  The sketch of his one-year-old self includes blotches of paint; the artist’s reminders to himself of what colors to use for the infant’s skin and eyes.

      Benton signed the sketch, “To the Browns with apologies.”  Brown explains, Benton was concerned Brown’s parents wouldn’t appreciate his rendition of their baby boy.

Harold’s father, Harold Brown Senior, also made it into Benton’s mural. He is the jury foreman in this scene – he can be seen with his left hand over his wright wrist. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “My mother said, ‘Why with apologies?  That’s such a beautiful thing.’  [Benton] said, ‘Because that’s my style.  It’s bold and the baby is much prettier than that,’ and that’s why he signed it like that.”

      Brown said he never met Benton after he was old enough to have remembered him, “and I can kick myself.  I should have found out where he was in Kansas City or wherever he was and introduced myself to him and shake his hand.  I think he would have appreciated that too,” said Brown.  “You know, you think that you’re too busy to do a lot of things that you should do until it’s too late.”

      Brown, Junior’s bare-bottomed likeness and the rest of the “Social History of Missouri” can be seen during guided tours of the Missouri State Capitol, which are offered by staff of the State Museum.

Missouri college athletes to be able to profit from name, likeness under House bill

      Student athletes in Missouri colleges and universities can now profit off of their name, image, and likeness and hire an agent, under House legislation that has been signed into law.  The change would be effective beginning July 1 of next year and comes after the NCAA adopted a new policy on the matter.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communciations)

      Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) was one sponsor of a proposal on the subject.  He said even before other states began passing such legislation, he saw it as an issue of freedom.

      He said students who weren’t athletes could make money, especially on social media, or sign endorsements.  This included anything from teaching piano lessons for pay to having a popular YouTube channel on a subject that could have nothing to do with what they were studying.

      “However if you’re a student athlete, the walls of liberty are blocked off, and for me it wasn’t fair.  Our free market should be something that everyone can take advantage of in our state and across the nation.  That was the biggest compelling point for me,” said Schroer.

      Representative Wes Rogers (D-Kansas City) agreed with that and other points, and noted that as long as Missouri didn’t have this kind of law its institutions were at a disadvantage in recruiting, to counterparts in other states.

      “We’re seeing that,” said Rogers.  “I represent parts of Kansas City and they didn’t do it in Kansas and they’re worried about us, and so absolutely it’s going to help.  Every state [with an SEC school that Mizzou plays against] have passed this, so if we didn’t pass it we would fall even further behind.”

      Rogers said this wasn’t just an issue for football and basketball programs in major schools.

      “This actually got started by women’s athletes in the PAC-12 out west who were Olympic-level athletes who were sleeping in their cars.  So you’ve got these women who are winning national titles on a track that can’t afford their basic needs because their scholarship doesn’t go far enough … it wasn’t big time football that got this rolling,” said Rogers.

Representative Wes Rogers (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Schroer said it also just makes sense to let students begin making money with which they can begin to control their educational debt even before they graduate.  He thinks it is that argument that led to many lawmakers supporting the language.

      “Let’s allow this freedom across the board – the same freedom that’s made this country phenomenal, the same freedom that has allowed people to pull themselves out of poverty.  I think we’ll be able to tackle this student debt issue by allowing this freedom here in the State of Missouri.”

      Colleges that use students’ names, images, and likenesses in commercial deals would have to have a financial development program for each of those students once a year.  Students who have entered into endorsements could not display a company’s name or logo during team activities if that display would conflict with the school’s contracts and licenses.

      The NCAA’s new policy adopted earlier this year allows students to profit off their name, image, or likeness within the bounds of their state’s laws.

      The language passed as part of House Bill 297, sponsored by Representative Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau).

House language will allow chance at parole for Bostic, others sentenced as juveniles to long terms

      A House amendment that will give some juvenile offenders in Missouri a chance at parole will become effective later this month.  The provision was driven by the case of a man sentenced to 241 years in prison when he was 16.

Bobby Bostic

      The amendment was signed into law as part of Senate Bill 26.  It would make anyone sentenced while a juvenile eligible for parole after serving 15 years of any sentence.  It doesn’t apply to convictions for first-degree or capital murder.

      Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) sponsored the amendment, which he stresses does not automatically grant freedom to any offender.

      “Ultimately it falls into the hands of the Parole Board.  It’s up to their discretion.  Every juvenile that’s in the system currently has a different criteria they have to meet obviously.  I think it’s our duty to trust the Parole Board to do their job, and if anybody can be rehabilitated I do believe that we should put that faith into our youth.  I trust them far more than someone else to be rehabilitated in the correctional facilities,” said Sharp.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Sharp and numerous other lawmakers in both parties think Bobby Bostic has been rehabilitated.  In 1995, Bostic and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy.  He shot one victim, who sustained a minor wound.  The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman.  He was sentenced for 18 crimes and would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.

      None of the victims of Bostic’s crimes oppose him being given a chance at parole.  The judge who sentenced him said that sentence was disproportionately harsh, and she favors giving him a chance at freedom.  

      O’Fallon Republican representative Nick Schroer has been among the leaders of the effort to help Bostic.  He and others say that is because Bostic has clearly reformed.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “He’s done so much while he’s been behind bars,” said Schroer.  “Getting rehabilitated to the point of taking it upon himself paying for different college classes, getting several different degrees, writing many books, and trying to work with communities in need within our state so juveniles that might have been on the same path he was won’t make that same decision … I believe that is what we can all agree our criminal justice system is there for.”

      Sharp said it felt meaningful to pass this legislation, especially knowing that there are more than 100 more people in Missouri’s correctional facilities in similar situations.

      “This provision just allows them to be eligible for parole, and I think that for a lot of these folks including Mr. Bobby Bostic, just being eligible will go a long way,” said Sharp.

      The language becomes effective on August 28.

House Bill to fight copper, precious metal theft, takes effect this month

      A House bill recently signed into law will close what the sponsor calls a “loophole” in Missouri’s laws regarding the theft of copper and precious metals.

      Missouri law tracks every time a business purchases scrap metal, junk, or other materials that include copper, but an exemption leaves such transactions unrecorded if the material is valued at less than $50.  House Bill 69 repeals that exception so that all such sales will be recorded.

Representative Hardy Billington watches as House Speaker Rob Vescovo signs his legislation, House Bill 69. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Sponsor Hardy Billington (R-Poplar Bluff) said this will deter copper theft, which is a problem statewide.  He’s heard of thieves stripping copper from vacant houses in his district and doing tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

      “By doing this then they can track who’s been stealing copper and who’s been selling it, and if you can’t sell it, why break in and steal it?” said Billington.

      HB 69 also aims to address a dramatic increase in recent years in the theft of catalytic converters.  The bill makes such thefts a Class-E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

      “[Thieves] get a battery-powered saw and cut a catalytic converter out and probably in 2 or 3 minutes, and they’ll be gone,” Billington said.  “That’s happened again to my town just the other day.  They went to a auto dealer place and the guy had already cut out five or six catalytic converters.”

      Under the bill a detached catalytic converter also cannot be altered or destroyed for five days after it is bought.

      Another provision increases from five days to ten the time a pawn shop owner must wait before melting down precious metals, in case they’ve bought stolen items.

      “That gives more time to policemen to trace it,” Billington said.

       HB 69 also increases the length of time records on the sales of certain metals must be maintained from two years to three.

      The House voted 138-5 for final passage of the bill.  Its provisions take effect August 28.

Missourians told to repay federal unemployment can seek waiver

      The Missouri Department of Labor this month announced a waiver process for those Missourians who received federal unemployment assistance and were then told they had not been eligible for it.  Over the past few days it sent notices to Missourians who may be eligible for such a waiver.

      Any Missourian who believes they could get a waiver is encouraged to visit the Department’s unemployment system website at https://uinteract.labor.mo.gov/benefits/home.do and apply.

Representative J. Eggelston (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      House lawmakers in both parties pushed to have the state refuse to seek repayment of federal unemployment benefits.  Many had heard from constituents that the Department was demanding back money Missourians received while struggling in the midst of the COVID crisis, and typically months after it was already spent.

      Maysville Representative J. Eggleston (R) carried House Bill 1083, which he says would have accomplished the same thing as the Department’s waiver program. 

      “The feds weren’t asking for the money back so it seems silly to hassle Missourians to give back the overpayment money only to turn around and send it back to Washington D.C.,” said Eggleston.

      HB 1083 passed out of the House 157-3 in early March but did not reach the Governor’s desk.

      Lawmakers heard that some Missourians were being told the pay back in excess of $10,000 in federal and state unemployment overpayments.  The Department’s action would relieve the federal overpayment liability, which makes up the vast majority of that.

      “The Department tells me that they cannot do just a blanket forgiveness for all recipients.  Each recipient would have to apply individually, but if they go through the process and apply they can get the federal portion waived and keep that money, which probably amounted to about three-quarters of the money that they got,” said Eggleston. 

      Those who lost their job through no fault of their own and did not receive benefits owing to fraud would be eligible for a waiver.

      “The vast majority of the 47,000 Missourians effected should be eligible.  That’s my understanding,” said Eggleston.

He encourages anyone who, after applying for a waiver, continues to have problems with overpayment liability to contact their state representative or state senator.

Pronunciations:

Eggleston = (EGG-ull-stun)