George Jones' Strange Connection To Clarence Thomas | KERA News

George Jones' Strange Connection To Clarence Thomas

Apr 26, 2013

Five stories that have North Texas talking: EducaAustin bridges the language gap in Austin ISD, how a South Dallas jazz educator saved lives, why KERA needs your money and more. 

East Texas-born country superstar George Jones has died at age 81, while on the road for a farewell tour. He got his start singing on the streets of Beaumont, near his birth town of Saratoga, at age 11, making about $24 a week. The Country Hall-of-Famer survived a childhood of poverty and, later, bypass surgery and battles with drug and alcohol abuse that cost him relationships and risked his career.

But one thing we hadn't known about Jones: He traded missives with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who adored the singer and quoted his lyrics in at least one letter. NPR's Melissa Block has more.

That mournful voice beloved by Thomas lives on in scores of hits, but "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980) is perhaps the most wrenching of all Jones' songs. [NPR]

  • Playin' It Straight: What keeps jazz breathing in North Texas? We often think of UNT's jazz program or Booker T. Washington School For The Performing Arts first. But just like any changemaking art, it's less about the institution and more about the mentor, the singular teacher, who locks students in for life. Enter South Dallasite James Wilson, winner of this year's Jazz Educator Award. The 79-year-old taught musicians who now play with Prince and who've taken the stage at Carnegie Hall. More than theory or phrasing, students remember the moral tone he imparted -- you don't have to do heroin to play, for example. Trumpet player Hannibal Lokumbe even says Wilson's direction saved his life. Learn about what Lokumbe did with his education via the ambitious spiritual project "Can You Hear God Crying" below. [Art&Seek]

  • Clinton Gets A Handle On Twitter: Quiz time. How many living presidents are on Twitter? Before Wednesday,  President Barack Obama was the lone head of state on the platform. But to the delight of pretty much anyone with a sense of humor, Bill Clinton finally has an account. Stephen Colbert takes credit for Clinton's hashtag skills, which have already been employed (#thisisgreat, etc.) But Bill himself Tweeted that daughter Chelsea helped him out. [Mashable]
  • Radio, The Great Uniter: The language barrier in Austin's school district was becoming too much to take for educators and parents. So administrators heeded district survey results that Spanish-speaking adults tune in to radio programming seven to nine hours a day, and they made themselves a radio show. To help bridge the gap and get parents involved, EducaAustin throws district news pots alongside guest appearances on tops like bullying, demystifying the STAAR test and discipline. AISD Spokesman Alex Sanchez hosts the show, which airs on Sunday mornings on La Que Buena, 104.3-FM. [KUT in Austin]
  • KERA Needs You Now More Than Ever: When the sun came up last Thursday morning, we thought we'd be asking for your money as part of KERA 90.1's Spring Pledge Drive. Instead, Courtney Collins was already en route to West and all hands were on deck for live updates on the fertilizer explosion and search and rescue mission. The heavy news week(s!) made two things apparent: 1) We're humbled and grateful for the donor-funded news expansion that's given us two new full-time reporters and one part-timer, and  2) We absolutely need your help to sustain this energized newsroom. KERA FM started pledge today, and like you, we want to spend as little time on this as possible -- and get back to making stories that matter. Here's how to give. And here's why KERA's Krys Boyd, Jeff Whittington, Sam Baker and others believe in public radio, thanks to interviews produced by our intern Janine Khammash. She leaves us today for a gig at The Modern in Fort Worth. Good luck, Janine!