Thursday, March 2, 2006

     

 

  Lake Area Mourns 'Butch' Grant
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE- One of the area's sterling silver citizens has died. 
James M. "Butch" Grant, current fire marshal for Seven Points and longtime fire chief for the Gun Barrel City Volunteer Fire Department, died Monday at age 64. 
He leaves behind his wife Margo, son Michael and daughter-in-law Krystal, stepsons Jordan and Jared Coster, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 
He is also survived by his sister, Janell Palmer of Jacksonville, Fla., brother Jeff Grant and wife Karen of Athens.
Grant had returned home from working the night shift as a security guard at East Texas Medical Center in Gun Barrel City that morning, and had gone to sleep. He never awoke.
Friends and fellow firefighters shared some of their memories with The Monitor of the man, who most looked up to as a father, admired as an intellectual, marveled over as an inventor and writer, and honored as a good man.
"He loved the outdoors, and he was a deeply religious man," GBC Fire Capt. Tom Mize related. "He knew natural cures for everything."
"He could heal a migraine with a neck rub and soothe an upset stomach with leaves he pulled out of the yard," GBC Fire Lt. Nick Skinner recalled.
His kind treatment of volunteers at the firehouse is just one way he served those who served with him.
"He made the Gun Barrel City Fire Department what it is today," Mize concluded. "He was dedicated to the department."
Grant led the department first as a volunteer, and then as its first paid fire chief from 1974 to 2000, when he "retired." Soon afterwards, he was recruited as the fire marshal for Seven Points, working part-time as the city's fire investigator.
During his tenure in GBC, he and the volunteer fire department built much of the present day fire station, at least the inside, and saw it dedicated in ceremonies April 22, 1994. 
That next year, he enrolled with the police academy as part of his certification to be a fire inspector.
Grant also fought a long, hard battle with city hall for paid positions at the firehouse, trying to keep it staffed 24 hours a day, and eventually won. 
He saw the station acquire three new pieces of equipment, including a tanker and fire engine. 
Most importantly, under his watch, no firefighter died while fighting a fire. For this accolade the governor of Texas bestowed on him the "Wings of Life" Safety Award for many years. 
It was just one of numerous awards he garnered over his long life of community service.
"He never made a big deal about it (his awards)," his son Mike told The Monitor. He never had even one serious injury on his watch, Mike Grant related.
"The only (injury) that occurred that was close to being serious happened when I was his assistant chief and he was off duty," he admitted. "He taught me everything I know about firefighting."
Grant taught a lot of men how to fight fires safely, and he played the role of mentor to the young men under his charge.
"It didn't matter if it was 3 in the morning, he'd just put on a pot of coffee and be willing to listen to you when you needed to talk," Skinner related. 
He also enjoyed riding his motorcycle. "He rode it every day," Skinner said.
Grant earned much of his living as an auto mechanic at Teague Chevrolet.
"He was a very intelligent guy, an inventor. He was always inventing stuff," Mize adds.
Two inventions of his are still in use by the department today, the piercing stinger nozzle and the meter puller. 
The piercing stinger nozzle looks like a spear, and is used to pierce through the ceiling or roof to get water at an attic fire.
The meter puller allows firefighters to pull electric meters without getting electrocuted.
His son Mike found his inventiveness so frustrating because Grant wouldn't patent any of it.
In his spare time, Grant was a prolific writer. In 2003, he published his first book, called "Cross Wired," a murder mystery. 
"I found a letter from a publisher on his desk, today for a second book publishing," Mike Grant said with a catch in his voice. "It's what he enjoyed doing."
Grant has many unpublished writings, he noted.
"He taught me three things," Mike Grant said: 
* "How to deal with the world and take care of myself,
* "be a firefighter, and 
* enjoy life."
Mike Grant's fondest memories of his dad are working with him as a firefighter. 
"We fought many fires together," he said.
"He'll really be missed around here," Mike said as he blinked back the tears. "They'll be no replacing him."

Monitor File Photo
James "Butch" Grant debuts his first published work "Cross Wired" at a book signing in August, 2004. His family knew him to be a prolific writer.

 

Robertson Convicted of Lesser Charge, 'Public Servant' Nixed
DA Fights Hard for Maximum Sentence
By Dan Eakin
Monitor Correspondent

CANTON-After two hours deliberation, the six-man, six-woman jury found Jeff Robertson guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of former Canton Athletic Director Gary Joe Kinne Jr.
It was the lesser charge defense attorney Robert Perkins had fought for from the beginning, insisting that Kinne's role as coach did not qualify him as a "public servant." 
Robertson was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public servant, which could have resulted in a life sentence.
His conviction is for a second degree felony, which could carry a penalty of two to 20 years.
Robertson pleaded guilty to a second charge of possession of a firearm in a prohibited place, a third degree felony which could carry a penalty of two to 10 years, plus a fine.
District Attorney Leslie Poynter Dixon pointed to the numerous witnesses called by the state to show that a coach or schoolteacher is a public servant.
However, Perkins argued that even law officers did not know or believe the coach was a public servant at the time of the shooting.
Dixon said the school district was created by the state, and therefore is a part of government, making schoolteachers and coaches public servants.
"Being created by the government does not make you the government," Perkins responded. "I was created by God, but that does not make me God."
Immediately after the jury returned the verdict, District Judge Teresa Drum called for testimony to begin in the punishment phase of the trial.
Andrew Whitten, 30, of Tyler, testified about a road rage incident between him and Robertson in November, 2004.
Whitten had tried to pass Robertson twice without success. Robertson was traveling at a slow speed, and each time sped up during the passing attempt. 
On third try, with speeds reaching 90 mph, he was able to pass Robertson, Whitten said.
Whitten admitted displaying what Perkins later referred to as "half a peace sign" to Robertson as he passed.
While stopped at the intersection of State Highways 64 and 19 in Canton, Whitten said Robertson got out of his vehicle, came over and reached through the window of his vehicle, grabbing him. 
Whitten reached for a club he kept in his vehicle and began clubbing Robertson.
Eventually, police came to the scene. Both men were taken to the police station, and released after both signed affidavits of non-prosecution.
Canton Police Sgt. Brad Allison testified that he had to use Mace on Robertson before he calmed down.
Robertson apologized to him about a week later and said, "Next time, don't Mace me. Just shoot me," Allison related.
Under questioning by Perkins, Allison agreed Robertson was probably joking.
In the sentencing phase of testimony, Dixon also called Steve Smith Jr., and then Steve Smith Sr. to the stand to testify about an incident that occurred when Baron Robertson was in the eighth grade.
Baron Robertson, prior to the sentencing of his father, had testified someone had moved his helmet and shoulder pads onto an ant bed, and that he was stung numerous times when he put the equipment on.
Steve Jr., who is now attending junior college at Mount Pleasant, testified that neither he nor any varsity football players had moved Baron's equipment onto the ant bed.
However, Baron apparently thought Steve was among those who were guilty, went into the stands and told his father what he thought had happened.
Robertson, Steve testified, came out of the stands, and got physical with him and another varsity player, and threatened to kill Steve and members of his family if he ever hurt his son again.
Steve then called his father, who came to the football field.
Steve Smith Sr. testified that he talked with Robertson and the situation soon calmed down.

 

Say 'Goodbye' to Burn Ban
Kaufman Fire Marshal Approves Lifting Ban for Rest of Season
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN-County Fire Marshal Larry Ewing said with the recent rains, things are beginning to "green up."
Also, the drought index number for Kaufman County is now around 464, well below the Texas Forest Service measurement for a burn ban.
Ewing told commissioners Monday he would not need the burn ban on the agenda any more this season.
Except for the regular state laws governing burning during periods of high winds and other restrictions, homeowners, farmers and ranchers can now burn the brush accumulated during the past few months.
County Judge Wayne Gent announced the North Central Texas Council of Governments has approved a $145,000 grant for a convenience station in Kemp.
Three other Kaufman County grants were awarded by NCTOG, to be handled by Marilyn Mays, Kaufman County Environmental Cooperative, Gent said.