Hello and thanks for joining us.
I'm Leah Johnson.
Frank Malloy has the night off.
Last night... We told you about some Wilcox County teenagers who are planning an integrated prom because they want to celebrate together.
Tonight... their school district is backing them.
Some students in Wilcox County have plans to attend a private... segregated prom for whites only.
But one group is working to change that.
Their story has drawn national attention... and today got a response from their school.
Tom George is in studio tonight with more.
In the span of just a few days, Wilcox County has found itself at the center of global attention .. Today the school system responded.
School leaders say after hearing from students, next year, they'll discuss sponsoring a prom that will open to all students ... Here's part of their statement.
The Board and Superintendent not only applauded the idea, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and non-discriminatory.
We support the efforts of these ladies, and we praise their efforts to bring our students together.
The district says high school principal Chad Davis and his leadership team plan to put the issue on the agenda at their next meeting.
They say despite some negative publicity, they're encouraged by recent events.
And they defended the school against criticism...saying they're not involved in the all-white proms.
The high school does not host a prom at all, and groups of students who host private parties have referred to the parties as their proms. The school system has no influence over private parties.
It's been picked up everywhere from Huffington Post, to Gawker, and CNN ... And in the three days since the teens from Wilcox County created a Facebook page for their prom, it gotten hits from around the world, and as of now, has over 14,000 Facebook fans.
Now the students we talked to yesterday, tell us they never thought that in 2013...they'd find themselves organizing their own prom, just so all their friends could attend.
But just a couple of generations ago... Segregation was an accepted practice in many places.
David Davis is an English professor at Mercer University now.
But before he went on the college...and graduate school...he was a high school student in Taylor County, where he attended a segregated prom.
Chester Fontenot is also in the Engish Department at Mercer University...where he teaches African American studies... And is well versed in the south's racial history.
They both join Randall Savage now in studio B.
In other news tonight... it's been four days since a 24-year old man went missing after authorities say, he jumped in the Ocmulgee for a swim.
They say the cold water temperature forced him to go under.
Today, we spoke with the head of the local dive team for Macon and Bibb County.
Dewey Davis says...while crews believe they're close to finding Austin Cross's body... Their search has been difficult.
<Cpt. Dewey Davis, Macon-Bibb Fire dive team: "Well, the thing you need to know about the river is stay out of it unless you can swim. We get these situations every year where people come out and do crazy stuff. This river's nothing to play with. It's dangerous out here.">
Austin Lewis is at Amerson River Park right now with an update on the search.
Typically, divers and boat crews have continued their work until dark...and then stopped searching for the night.
After a break in the search because of the weather.. divers...searchers....and a cadaver-sniffing dog returned to Macon's Amerson River Park.
They're still dragging an area close to the spot where Cross disappeared.... but the many stumps and logs at the bottom of the river have slowed the search.
So far...there's no word on whether they'll be back tomorrow.
Thanks Austin for that update.
A Houston County man accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend will stand trial in his own county.
Earlier this week... Russell Holt's attorney asked Judge Tillman Self to move that trial... and to throw out a piece of taped evidence.
Self rejected both motions today.
With regard to the videotape in question... Holt's lawyer, Franklin Hogue said.... it shouldn't be admissible in court.
He argued that Holt asked 14 times to have a lawyer present... but investigators continued to question him anyway.
In another request... Hogue said that the trial should be moved because Holt is a former probation officer.... and the victim, Jessica Wolf, worked for the Houston County District Attorney's office.
Hogue said, his client couldn't get a fair trial because both worked in the Houston County Superior Courthouse.
Wolf's family disagreed. They said the location would not affect the jury's decision.
Holt's trial is set for April 29th.
The field of candidates who believe they're qualified to be the Mayor of a consolidated Macon-Bibb county government... has another player.
Longtime Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen announced this morning that he's all in.
Allen, who's also a former firefighter, says if elected, he'll focus on job growth... improving the interstate system... expanding the runway at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport... And job development.
< Joe Allen, Bibb County Commissioner: When you're bringing these other people in that can help you and give you ideas and give you people to talk to... sit down and work out solutions to help and modify whatever we need to do at making this the best community and also mostly putting people to work. >
Other candidates seeking that office include... current Macon mayor Robert Reichert, Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart, former Bibb County Chair Charlie Bishop, former mayor C. Jack Ellis and businessman David Cousino.
Qualifying begins April 22nd and the election is July 16th.
A company that makes wood pellets has plans to build a 115 million dollar plant in Wilkinson County... that's according to Jonathan Jackson... the county's economic development director.
He says the plant could bring up to 75 jobs to Wilkinson County.
Austin Lewis has more on what the company will mean.
This spot off of Nitrogen Road in Gordon...may look pretty empty now...but in a couple of months you could see construction on this site.
Enova Energy Group of Atlanta LLC has plans to add a wood-pellet manufacturing plant in Gordon.
<Ben Easterlin: Gordon Georgia is uniquely located in a great fiber basket with excellent infrastructure improvements at this location including rail to the port of Savannah, natural gas as a former Nitrogen site. >
Jonathan Jackson...Wilkinson County's Economic Development Director...says they've crunched the numbers...this could add millions to the county.
<Jonathan Jackson, Economic Development Director: Once the plant is built which should uh happen in 2014 it should be completed, we're talking about 65 direct jobs at a an average wage of 21 dollars an hour which is huge for Wilkinson County.>
Enova says they're glad to have the rail..so they can not only add to it but it allows them to send their wood pellets around the world
<Ben Easterlin: A product which is derived from a 100 percent Southern yellow pine that is densified into a wood pellet produced for fuel for power plants in Europe in lieu of coal. >
While construction hasn't started...Jackson says this project will provide a big boost to the area.
<Jonathan Jackson, Economic Development Director: Well for the region because unemployment has risen so high since the economic downturn any announcement of this magnitude is great news we got a lot of folks that we want to get back to work. >
And Jackson says wood pellets may provide energy here too.
Austin Lewis 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
The unemployment rate for Wilkinson County in January was 10.1 percent... according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's about a point and a half higher than the state average.
Construction is expected to start in June.
That's all the time we have for Eyewitness News at 6 tonight.
We'll be right back here again at 11.