Thursday, June 26, 2008

William Wood....Man of Honor

Samuel Wood came to America by way of England in 1755. Though only eighteen, he soon enlisted in the Virginia Militia, a company commanded by Col. George Washington, and was with Braddock when he met defeat at Ft. Duquesne in the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War, Samuel Wood did his part to aid his adopted country in its fight for freedom.

His son, William, who was born on June 13, 1773 near the Great Falls of the Potomac River in Loudon County, Virginia, was seven years old when the family moved across the mountains into western North Carolina and settled along Little Limestone Creek, in an area later known as Washington County, Tennessee. When he turned 18, William also joined the State Militia and fought in the American Revolutionary War. In 1791, he obtained the rank of Lieutenant.

Four years later, the 24-year-old Lt. Wood was the third settler to arrive at Stockton Valley, taking up 200 acres on Lick Branch of Spring Creek. At Stockton Valley, William would wear many hats. For instance, he surveyed virtually all of the land of the earliest settlers. Later, Surveyor Wood served as Sheriff and Justice of the Peace. In 1808, Sheriff Wood was elected as State Representative to the Kentucky Legislature from the 38th District, and five years later, State Representative Wood was elected State Senator. He went on to serve a total of 24 years in state government.

Senator Wood was promoted to the rank of Captain of a company of mounted volunteer riflemen in Governor Shelby's campaign to Canada during the War of 1812. The rank of Brevet Major was bestowed to Captain Wood during the advance through Ohio as the group of mostly Stockton Valley men rode to join General Harrison's forces in the vicinity of Detroit. He was reportedly present when Tecumseh was killed. From the War of 1812, Major Wood rode on to the Battle of New Orleans.

Major Wood was known as a formidable competitor in a race before the people because of his good practical sense, proverbial honesty and plain blunt manner; and although he made no pretensions to the character of orator, his influence was always felt and appreciated. He was remembered as a man of no mean qualifications, of great moral worth and strict integrity. Amid the frontier hardships and limitations, Major Wood was a man of honor and influence in the growing settlement at Stockton Valley, and quickly assumed a position of leadership. Not only was William Wood a founding member of Clear Fork Baptist Church, but he also served 47 years, until his death, as the church clerk.

Even though he was a man who wore a lot of different hats - Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Surveyor, Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, State Representative, State Senator -I would venture to say the title he was most proud of was Christian. And, the second most title he was probably proud of was - member of the Church of Jesus Christ at Clear Fork Creek, Clear Fork Baptist Church.

William Wood died January 11, 1851, at the age of 78. He and his wife, Elinor Ryan Wood, are buried in the Clear Fork Burying Ground.

As we celebrate america's freedom this Independence Day, I hope you will join me in saluting William Wood, who's entire life was about freedom. He helped fight for it and he helped win it, and then he bravely put that newfound freedom to the test by moving into a strange new world, where one of the first things he did was help establish a Church, which he served faithfully, and freely, the rest of his days.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Uncovering The Past....On Smith Creek

(Photo by Charley Neal)

George Smith was living on Sinking Creek in West Virginia with his wife, Rebecca, and their children, when he answered the call to do his part for independence in the American Revolution. After serving in the Virginia Continental Lines under General George Washington's command, George, who's father Johann Schmidt had migrated from Germany to the west due to religious upheaval, moved his family to Tennessee. By 1793 George and Rebecca, who was an irish immigrant, had 13 children. In 1798, George and two of his sons crossed the mountains into Kentucky, to the new territory that had just opened west of the Green River. The Smith family was the third family to settle in Stockton Valley. On a stream, which would later become known as Smith Creek, George and his sons built a log cabin and prepared for the rest of the family to join them. On April 2, 1802, George Smith and 12 other frontier settlers organized 'the Baptist Church of Jesus Christ on Clear Fork Creek,' known as Clear Fork Baptist Church. But, George took ill in 1803 and died March 20, 1804.

My cousin, author and historian Gary Norris, was thumbing through an unpublished book on local cemeteries recently, when he discovered that there was supposed to have been a cemetery on John Poore's farm at Huntersville. Since he had no knowledge of there being a cemetery on this particular piece of property, Poore agreed to let Gary and his wife, Nancy, have a look around.

During their search, The Norris' came upon a piece of land that seemed as if it had been disturbed. “It did not look natural,” Gary Norris said. As he was digging, Norris began finding parts of a grave marker made out of marble. Eventually he had pieced together a headstone that marked the gravesite of Jesse and Elizabeth Smith.

I have always been happily consumed by the history of Clear Fork Baptist Church, where I am a member, and when I read Allison Cross' story on the Norris discovery in the local newspaper last week, I had a hunch that I could not wait to act on. The main reason was because the grave site was found near Smith Creek, and I knew that the George Smith family had settled there. I immediately turned to the Church minutes and other sources and right away discovered the answer that I was hoping for. History does not record when Jesse and Elizabeth moved to Stockton Valley, but according to the Church minutes, they both became members of Clear Fork Baptist Church in June of 1812. The Genealogy of George and Rebecca Bowen Smith, revealed that Jesse (James) Smith was the sixth son of George and Rebecca Smith. It is believed that Jesse met and married Elizabeth Daniels of Wilkes County, North Carolina, after the Smith family had moved to Tennessee.

From her earliest meetings as a Church, Clear Fork practiced strict Church discipline. In his book, A Lighthouse In The Wilderness (1972), former pastor Morris Gaskins said, "[Clear Fork] was a guardian of the moral life of every member, and no one escaped her watchful eye." Church minutes shows that, over the years, Jesse Smith was a leader in the Church and very active in her affairs. During his entire Church life, Jesse was consistently called on by the Church to visit fellow members in matters regarding sickness, distress or other difficulties or situations. Several times he was appointed as a delegate to represent Clear Fork at associational meetings. (At the time, Clear Fork was a member of the Stockton Valley Association).

The finding of the grave site is historically significant because of this entry found in the Church minutes from the April 1818 business meeting: 'The Church directs Philip Smith and Jesse Smith (brothers) to get nails to lay the meeting house floor.' Up until that time, the meeting house, which was a log cabin structure built in 1808, had a dirt floor.

The August 1848 minutes says in one sentence, 'Elder Isaac Denton has died and widow Martha Denton (Clear Fork's first pastor and his wife) has died also, along with Jesse Smith.' The November 1852 minutes says in one sentence: 'Elizabeth Smith died 26 Oct 1852.' (Jesse Smith was a member of Clear Fork Baptist Church for 34 years. Elizabeth Smith was a member of Clear Fork Baptist Church for 38 years.)

Gary Norris said he believes it is possible that the Smiths could have had something to do with the naming of Smith Creek. Since history records that George Smith built his cabin on Smith Creek, and since Jesse and Elizabeth Smith's gravesite was found there, Gary is 100% right. More than likely, the gravesite found by Gary and Nancy is part of 'Smith Cemetery,' where one genealogy study says Jesse and Elizabeth are buried. Even though there were no signs of any more headstones or markers, Gary believes there could be others graves in the area. I hope he is right, and I wish he and Nancy good luck in finding them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Others Before You...

"Without a
sense of
caring, there can
be no sense
of community."
J. D'Angelo

Yesterday, I was one of several people who received the President's Volunteer Service Award from the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. The awards were handed out at our local chamber of commerce/community education annual awards luncheon. Even though I would rather not draw attention to anything I do or have done, I was humbled.

My long-time friend and associate, Jerry Perdue, was named Volunteer of the Year, and I was thrilled for him. He definitely deserves it. He and I have worked together in and out of the music business for the past 30 years, and I have always admired how that every day he makes it a point to put others before himself.

Like myself, Jerry has been through a lot the past few years. Five years ago, I faced the toughest challenge I've ever had to face in my life. In the midst of it all, I found myself overcome with a desire to turn what happened to me around and do something to help others. The same thing occured in Jerry's life. He could just as easily have given up, but he refuses and instead continues to put others first. But, that is his nature, and I am very proud of him.

There are so many things, so many LITTLE things, that people such as yourself can do to help others. Things like mentoring a child, coaching a little league baseball team, caring for an elderly neighbor, joining a civic group, picking up trash, being an active volunteer in your Church or school. One single act of kindness and decency will go a long way in changing America. As my commendation heart and one soul at a time.

Others before you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Remembering Dad On Father's Day

Maybe it's just me, but lately I find myself wanting to be more like my dad. More than I already am. Like, in things I say and do, my passion to write, or when I tap my fingers on the table to the rhythm of some song. Just little things that I've been noticing. Maybe you noticed them long before I did.

Dad did the best he could for us, and I know, without a doubt, that he truly loved mom and us. I have discovered lately that as my children grow, I see a little more of dad in me, and I find myself thinking back on those days when I was his young child, and then I say to myself, "Okay here's what he would do if he were me."

I like it when people say, "Your dad had the best voice on the radio." Or, "There'll never be another Darrell Speck." I don't want to ever be compared to dad on the radio, because there is no comparison. He was the best. It's hard enough knowing that I've already been in radio longer than he was. That just isn't right. Years after he retired, hardly a week went by that someone didn't say they missed hearing dad on the radio. I miss him on the radio, too. I try to pattern myself after him, but I learned years ago that I can't do it like he did it.

Dad is in my eyes, my heart and soul, my hands, my voice, my love for writing and singing. He is there. One day, when I was 11, my 9-year-old brother, Ronnie, and I were on the back porch, he on the drums and me on the piano, and we were hammering away at the song, Proud Mary. I caught a glimpse of dad peeping through the curtain over the door. I don't know how long he had been there before I spotted him, but when I turned a second time he was still there, and he was smiling.

Those 'dad shoes' are hard to fill. As long as J.D. is alive, my dad will never die. His looks, his actions, are my dad. Just take a look at the photo above. That is dad at age 12, the same age J.D. is now. Replace his red hair with J.D.'s blonde hair and you have J.D. Overall, I hope I made my dad proud. I was proud of him, and I love him and miss him a lot. I hope that, in the end, my children will be able to say they were proud of their dad.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Walking That Glory Road (Tribute to Mae Hoover)

"She always fought
for the underdog,"
said my aunt.

But, as I reflected
back on the years I had known Mae Hoover, which was just my entire life, I thought how true, except so many
times I saw HER in
that underdog role.

"She was an underdog fighting for the underdog."

Destiny called in 1966, when Mae, and her late husband Welby, walked that glory road, away from the comfort and security they had found in my town, to deliver FM radio to an awaiting community of underdogs, and thus began a media dynasty that is as strong today as it was when it began 42 years ago.

Mae and Welby immediately took on leadership roles in civic and community affairs. They began the popular Lakefest celebration, as well as starting a Food for Needy drive, which helps feed more than 300 families each year at Christmas.

Mae served Welby's term as State Representative when he died before taking office. She walked boldly and triumphantly in his shoes during those days along that glory road. She was President of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Woman, and a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. She was inducted into the Russell County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame and the Russell County Jaycees Hall of Fame, and was named Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women. 'Woman of the Century' would have been more appropriate.

Mae faced many challenges along that glory road, either as the underdog or for the underdog. But, she taught her children to serve others, and she has beautiful grandchildren that are going through their lives with their feet well-rooted on a foundation she helped build.

Last Friday, Mae's walk along the glory road ended as she was carried to Heaven by angels. Her days as an underdog for the underdog were fulfilled, and the headline read, SHE WON!

Outside of my own mother, Mae Hoover is the strongest woman I have ever known. Her life story challenges me to serve others, and I trust it will challenge you to do the same.

Rest In Peace Mae Hoover!

Click here to go to the WJRS/WJKY website, where you can read and learn more about the life of Mae Hoover

A Note: It is my belief that the part of that glory road that took Mae and Welby from my town to theirs so many years ago, should be called Hoover Highway.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bring Back Marina To Me

My oldest child, Marina, just recently turned 15. Hard to believe, I know. Seems like only yesterday that she was learning to ride her tricycle. She loved collecting dolls, and there was never a moment when that child did not have a smile on her face. She was daddy's girl. I miss those days and long for their return. Is that even possible?

She used to climb up in my lap every night and I would rock her to sleep, while she clutched one of my fingers. She would watch me intently as I sang to her.

Marina lies over the ocean
Marina lies over the sea
Marina lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back Marina to me

Bring back
Bring back
Oh, bring back Marina to me, to me
Bring back
Bring back
Oh, bring back Marina to me

Usually I would barely get through the chorus and she would be fast asleep. Most nights, I would continue to hold her there for the longest time just looking down at her. Not wanting to be in a hurry to put her down. What a precious gift she was and is.

Even though I might not get to see her as much as I'd like, regardless of anything and everything, I hope she knows that I love her more than anything in this world. She will always be my baby girl. Nothing will ever change that.


"I should have a cake today," said the little girl to me the other night. "Why do you need a cake?" I asked. "Because today is my birthday!" she replied. "How old are you," I asked? "10," she replied. "10?, WOW! You sang great in music class. I am very proud of you, and by the way, Happy Birthday!" I said.

I love vacation bible school. For me, it has always been such an inspiration and privilege to work with the younger generation during bible school. It is something I look forward to every year. It never fails that vacation bible school always inspires me to write, and that is one of the reasons I love helping.

"What is your name?" I asked. "Tiffany," she replied, smiling. And, a beautiful smile it was, as are all the smiles on the faces of the children at VBS. Each year, we do our best to promote VBS and I receive great joy in knowing that every child that is meant to be there, is there. God is SO good! I think I could do VBS every day of the year and never get tired of it.

We sang "Happy Birthday" to Tiffany before VBS ended that night.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Today we remember my grandmother, Vada, on what would have been her birthday. She was a one-of-a-kind special lady.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord show me the way

O sinners let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sinners let's go down
Down in the river to pray

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


"Way down in the country where I came from, there lived a red-headed boy who carried a big guitar under his arm, The first time I seen ol' Red, he was standing over there in the courthouse yard, He was picking and a-singing oh so hard."

My dad was born on this date in 1938. You can read his story here: Darrell Speck in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Dad loved music and everything about it - singing, playing and writing, and he was good at it. He would have been 70 today. I miss him.

"He was gettin' up and down that neck like Johnny B. Goode, and hittin' chords that I'd never seen. Oh yeah! Big D, that's what they call him. Big D, the red-headed kid from Tennessee."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Remembering The Cumberland Mountain Boy

Long-time friend and fellow broadcaster Elmer Goodman was born on this date in 1925. For 50 years he was an entertainer, playing and singing old-time music.

Throughout the 1940's and 50's, Elmer, who sang and played guitar, as well as fiddle, mandolin and banjo, was known as the Cumberland Mountain Boy. He was a regular performer on the famous Renfro Valley Barn Dance for several years.

Not only was Elmer a well-known entertainer, he was also a well-known broadcaster, spending 29 years alone at WANY in Albany. Before that, he worked at a radio station in Mundfordville. In October of 1964, Elmer did the very first live remote broadcast ever in Burkesville, originating from the Parkway Hotel.

He was one of my mentors as I grew up in radio. Throughout his entire life, he stayed true to the music he loved, old-time mountain music, and that was what I admired most about him. He was true to his era, and he served it well. The Cumberland Mountain Boy died on May 11, 1993. I really miss him.

The Catholics

The boys are so funny. Three years ago, they were excited over the start of little league baskeball season.

At first, they were told they would play for the Kings, but when they arrived at their first practice, they discovered that they would actually be playing for the MAVERICKS.

This suited me fine, because Steve Lowhorn was to be their coach, and I knew he was the right person to teach the boys the proper basic fundamentals, which they needed to learn.

At the conclusion of that first practic we were walking toward the car and J.D. says, "Dad what's the name of our team again? Is it the Catholics?

Prior to the start of the next season (two years ago), Elijah announced he would not be playing. He said he wouldn't mind playing sports every other year!

Elijah Draws 1

Here are some random drawings by Elijah when he was 6 years old.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...