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2018: A look back at the people and events that made news in Bryan County
SNOW snow angel provided.jpg
Bryan County was among the locations in southeast Georgia to experience measurable snow in January 2018, lasting for several days. More than three inches fell in North Bryan, and about two inches in South Bryan allowing residents to build snowmen and throw snowballs and even make a snow angel. Photo provided.

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Twenty-eighteen will be in our rear-view mirror next week. Here is a look back at some of the top stories reported in the Bryan County News during the year.


Bryan County was among the locations in southeast Georgia to experience measurable snow, lasting for several days. More than three inches fell in North Bryan, and about two inches in South Bryan allowing residents to build snowmen and throw snowballs.

The Richmond Hill High School wrestling team defeated Alexander High School in Macon to claim the Class AAAAAA team dual state title.

Breona Williams, 29, of Richmond Hill, was shot at Plantation Apartments and later died from her injuries. Her husband, Jeremiah Watkins, 32, turned himself in later that day and was charged with murder.

It was announced that three key intersections in South Bryan will be studied for improvements as the Bryan County Commission attempts to address growth and infrastructure issues. The three locations are Belfast River Road at Belfast Keller Road, Belfast River Road at Harris Trail, and U.S. 17 at Belfast Keller Road.


The on-again, off-again widening of Highway 144 is back on, as officials announced that the work would begin sometime in 2018.

17-year-old Richmond Hill student Liv Annalise auditioned for ABC’s American Idol. At the time, she could not reveal how far she got in the auditions, but watch parties were held locally to catch a glimpse of her in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie. Although she was invited to Hollywood to compete, unfortunately she did not advance further.

Two different reports ranked Richmond Hill among the safest cities in Georgia. The National Council for Home Safety and Security ranked the city as the seventh safest, while SafeWise ranked it at number 31.

Pembroke Downtown Development Authority Director Alex Floyd was named Pembroke City Administrator. Floyd is a Bryan County native who formerly taught English at Bryan County High School and worked with the Bryan County 4-H. Pembroke had not had a city administrator since 2015.


Richmond Hill City Council approved the first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade to be held Jan. 19, 2019, the Saturday before the national observance honoring the slain civil rights leader.

An agricultural equipment manufacturer was announced as the newest tenant at the Interstate Centre in Black Creek. The Development Authority of Bryan County said AGCO Corp. would open an assembly center and occupy a 75,000-square-foot expandable facility.

The city of Richmond Hill voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing off-shore drilling. The council cited negative impacts to tourism, aquatic life and national security.


An overflow crowd gathered at the Richmond Hill City Center to recognize the winners of Bryan’s Favorites 2018, an annual readers’ choice contest sponsored by the Bryan County News. Approximately 17,000 ballots were cast. The Randy Bocook real estate team was one of the top winners with six awards.

Pembroke now has a blight ordinance. The measure, called “the derelict and blighted property ordinance” was passed by City Council. Its aim is to rid the town of dilapidated structures that are usually vacant.

A Bryan County sheriff’s deputy died after a one-vehicle accident, while off-duty in Bulloch County. Cpl. Daniel Brackin, 45, was on Eldora Road when his Nissan pickup truck drifted over the center line and struck a ditch. Brackin was thrown from the vehicle, which then landed on top of him.

Bryan County Family Promise held a grand re-opening of its teen center in Richmond Hill. The program is for middle and high school students and located in the Jacob Grant Community Center.


A panel coordinated by the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project, discussed steps the community can take to address opioid abuse. Bryan was just one of four counties chosen in Georgia to receive federal money to create an awareness campaign.

Georgia’s state legislature approved $250,000 to put a community health center in Pembroke. The center, which will see patients regardless of ability to pay, will be run by Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care of Savannah.

The election primary was held and local resident Lisa Ring won the Democrat nomination for Georgia’s First Congressional District. She moved on to face Republican incumbent Buddy Carter. Also, Bryan County voters approved the TSPLOST measure to fund transportation projects with a sales tax.

Memorial Day ceremonies were held in both Pembroke and Richmond Hill. More than 100 people joined city and military leaders at J.F. Gregory Park to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers. Tropical Storm Alberto prompted a change to Pembroke’s annual observance. Instead of putting up 175 flags and crosses symbolizing all county residents who died in war, they put one up for Marine Staff Sgt. Joel Dameron, killed in Iraq in 2005.


Pembroke Police Chief Randy Alexander resigned. Alexander was a retired Army infantry NCO who came to Pembroke in 2015 after helping start up the Guyton Police Department.

Many in the Richmond Hill community expressed shock and grief over the sudden death from cancer for 14-year-old Alivea Cox, the daughter of Kristi and Allen Cox. Her memory lives on in “Keeping Alivea’s Dream Alive,” a fundraiser to help disadvantaged children in the Ukraine receive books and other supplies.

Richmond Hill’s Dana Rohde won the Quantum Women’s Sailor of the Year award as the top collegiate sailor in the country. Rohde attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.


Both Richmond Hill and Pembroke celebrated July 4. In Pembroke, an event was held at the J. Dixie Harn Center to honor six deceased service members with ties to the city. In Richmond Hill, thousands came out to J.F. Gregory Park for music, food and fireworks.

Pembroke announced the city has installed security cameras near public spaces and at intersections where accidents are frequent. The total cost of the cameras was between $8,000 and $10,000, officials said.

The owner of the Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool announced that it was being sold to a Miami-based education company with private schools in nine states. Montessori owner Audrey Singleton said she was retiring after 25 years of serving the community.

The Bryan County Board of Education approved a rollback millage rate of 15.075, meaning the school system’s portion of the 2018 tax bills should be roughly the same. The millage rate in 2017 was 15.345.


Bryan County Commissioners voted to approve a millage rate increase for incorporated Richmond Hill in a move that will lower taxes in Pembroke and the unincorporated parts of the county. The act prompted threats of civil litigation from Richmond Hill officials. Later, the two sides issued statements that they were willing to work together on a solution, but the city's suit is still in the courts.

City leaders said Richmond Hill should start seeing new street signs after approving a $200,000 bid from a company to start replacing some of the city’s old signs and signposts.

Pembroke’s plan to get water from Bulloch County took a big step forward after council approved spending nearly $2 million in grants on the project.


Bryan County residents once again prepared for a storm: this time Hurricane Florence. This would be the third consecutive year that Coastal Georgia would see impacts from a hurricane or tropical storm. In the end though, the storm stayed far to our west and barely brought more than some increased wind and showers.

Altie Moody of Pembroke celebrated her 106th birthday with a party. She is believed to be Bryan County’s oldest living resident.

Bryan County’s United Way had their fundraising kickoff and set a goal to raise $200,000. During the event, campaign chairwoman Amy Murphy called Bryan County the most caring community she’s ever known.


Just a month after worrying about Hurricane Florence, Bryan County residents had their eye on Tropical Storm Michael, which was previously a hurricane. Again though, this storm kept its distance and did not impact the area, making 2018 a year we were spared.

Steven Maldonado, 20, of Richmond Hill was killed after being hit by a CSX train as he walked alongside the tracks a few hundred feet from U.S. 17 and Harris Trail Road.

Richmond Hill’s biggest party of the year, the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival had country star Travis Tritt as its headliner. The Seafood Festival is the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber’s biggest fundraiser of the year, attracting about 35,000 people.

Officials broke ground on the long anticipated I-95 Belfast Keller interchange. Proponents say the $18.9 million project will ease congestion on Highway 144 and improve public safety, Work is expected to be complete in Oct. 2020.


Olive Edwards became the second centenarian in Bryan County to celebrate a birthday. Edwards turned 100 and was joined by friends and family during an event in Ellabell.

Bryan County showed it is a Republican stronghold by overwhelmingly voting to retain Congressman Buddy Carter, and choosing Brian Kemp as governor. Nearly 60 percent of the county’s 25,712 registered voters cast ballots in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Richmond Hill High School’s Jalen Murphy won the boys state Class AAAAAA cross country title.

Eight Bryan County residents were allegedly among more than 40 associates of the Ghost Face Gangsters street gang, a white supremacist group, indicted on federal charges related to drug trafficking and firearms possession.

Dominique Collins, 25, was charged with murder in the stabbing death of Ragee Murphy, which took place on Miller Circle in Pembroke.


Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett announced he was retiring. Catlett joined the department in 2014.

Richmond Hill held its annual Christmas parade under the threat of severe weather, and Pembroke managed to get their lighted Christmas parade in as well.

Steven Michael Vaughn Jr., was arrested and charged with murder in the death of Richard Bolin Jr. of Darien. The crime allegedly occurred on Casey Road in Richmond Hill.

Johnny’s Grill, a popular restaurant in the historic downtown section of Pembroke, caught fire and sustained heavy damage. The fire is believed to have started in a clothes dryer.

Richmond Hill Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Murphy died after a long battle with a form of cancer known as myeloma. Murphy was remembered as a man whose legacy will shape South Bryan and Richmond Hill for generations to come.

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