Get Adobe Flash player


Jasper fighter to take on tough man competition

You get the impression of controlled power, a fighter who carries himself like a gentleman. Eagle Scout and Army veteran, Jimmy Darwin of Jasper, age 23, is to compete in a Tough Man boxing competition at Asheville, North Carolina near the start of February.

Darwin began boxing in the Army at organized bouts between units. "Between platoons and companies," he said. "Things like that. Company fights."

He served as an Army specialist with the Third Infantry Division 324th Company out of Fort McPherson. A training exercise damaged an eardrum and put Darwin out of the service with a disability just three months before the scheduled end of his four-year enlistment. "I've probably lost about 60 percent of the hearing in my left ear," he said.

His training as a boxer began with instruction from his platoon sergeant in boot camp, Darwin said, where he learned hand-to-hand combat as a recruit. When he found he had a knack for it, Darwin sought extra training in hand-to-hand technique.

"Everybody is required to do some hand-to-hand," he said. "I just decided to pursue it a little further than everybody else did."

And he continued the pursuit after exiting the Army. "Once I got out of the military, I was training with Greg Gaddis and a few people over here at Bodyplex," Darwin said, "and at Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu in Holly Springs. Gaddis, he did a lot of Muay Thai, a lot of kick boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and a lot of Taekwondo," Darwin said.

Gaddis has more than a decade of experience training fighters in martial arts, Darwin said, and training with Gaddis has improved his fighting ability. In amateur cage fighting nearer Atlanta, Darwin managed to vanquish one opponent after another as they came against him.

"Cage fighting is actually mixed martial arts, where you're mixing all kinds of martial arts," he said. A cage fight takes place inside an octagon-shaped ring bound at the edges by chain-link fence with padding on the fence posts, he explained.

"The Tough Man [competition at Asheville] is strictly boxing," Darwin said. "And it's pretty much anybody that's willing to enter. There may be people with limited experience. There may be people with extensive experience. May be people that just walk in off the street."

Murder-for-hire suspect arrested

            Pickens Sheriff’s Deputy Michael A. Flynn arrested Ray Mountain Road resident Johnnie Melissa Burmeister Monday on charges of Criminal Solicitation to Commit Murder and Family Violence stemming from a warrant issued in Muscogee County, Georgia.

            Flynn received information of a lookout for Burmeister during morning roll call. Later, Deputy Flynn spotted a vehicle matching the description of the one Burmeister was believed to be driving. He stopped the vehicle, and Burmeister was arrested without incident.

            Burmeister is being held at the Pickens County Adult Detention Center awaiting transport to Muscogee County.


Courthouse renovation still coming; no construction date set


In 2008 voters gave the county permission to spend $17 million to renovate and expand the Pickens County Courthouse by way of a one-cent sales tax.

Now it’s 2011 and most Pickens residents, especially those who have been inside the courthouse, have likely noticed that work has yet to begin on the outdated, dilapidated building.

While Commissioner Robert Jones says he has no estimate for when construction will start, he spoke to the Progress about what’s going on behind the scenes and why he chose to construct the SPLOST-approved Pickens County Community Center first, a building which cannot be funded with SPLOST money until renovations on the courthouse are completed first.

The courthouse is a SPLOST Tier I project, while the community center, which falls under the recreation heading, is a Tier II project. By state regulation, all SPLOST projects must be funded in order.

Above, a window in the courthouse is sealed with clear tape to cover cracks in the glass and damage with the frame.

From gut health to ginger: Fight winter illness with these health tips

             It is more or less common knowledge that washing your hands, exercising, and eating nutritious foods are excellent ways to sidestep illness.

            But did you know about the healing power of garlic or probiotics, or that eating in season provides you with the vital nutrients your body needs when it needs them?

            That’s according to Sandy Gerhardt, owner of Jasper’s Natural Market Place. Gerhardt recently spoke with the Progress about some of the holistic approaches she says will help keep your family out of the doctor’s office this winter and all year round.

            Here’s what she recommends:


            Gerhardt says stress is one of the primary imbalances that causes the immune system to weaken and that being aware of this is a big part of prevention.

            She also says that during the wintertime our bodies have to cope with a more stressful environment which puts our immune system on the chopping block.

            “Dealing with ice, bundling up, clenching your muscles, all of that is stressful to the body,” Gerhardt said. “I think that’s one of the fundamental reasons we get sick in the wintertime more than in the summer. Being aware of that and taking better care of yourself, whether it’s taking time to relax and take a hot bath or getting the right amount of sleep, is very important.”

            If you have a rough day, she says, don’t overextend yourself with unnecessary tasks.

Paying tribute to Mark Whitfield

Right, Mamie and Mark Whitfield on the day the street in front of Jasper Banking Company was renamed in his honor. “Well they’re not supposed to do that until you die. I think somebody’s trying to give me a hint,” their daughter remembers Mark saying.


When an important man dies, how is he best remembered? An important man to Pickens County, Mark Whitfield passed away Jan. 12, leaving a long list of accomplishments tied to his decades of service through Jasper Banking Company.

Whitfield began at the bank in 1948, working part-time while still in high school. His job then included some coal stoking in winter to keep the bank heated. Later he became a teller. After two years away in the Army, Whitfield returned to the bank as a full-time employee. He is said to have worked every job in the place on his way to becoming chief executive officer in 1971, a job he held until Sept. 2010, when he retired without fanfare.

While Whitfield always performed as a man abundantly dedicated to his work, his motivation lay beyond profit totals or stars for his resume´. Working through a local bank, Whitfield used his clout as boss and his influence beyond the bank to serve the community at large.

From 1976 until his final illness, Whitfield served on the Pickens County Development Authority Board, working to bring industry and commerce into the county. He was an original director on the local hospital authority board that gained a county hospital for the community, a hospital since become Piedmont Mountainside Medical Center.