Last Word: Nichols Out at Playhouse, Sickle Cell Research and Heels 4 Healing

By Bill Dries

Tubby Smith's meeting with the University of Memphis take two is Wednesday after some waiting by reporters Tuesday. There was a false alarm later in the evening around a rumor that Smith and U of M President David Rudd were meeting that sent a few folks with cameras scrambling. But nothing there either.

As the meeting between Smith and the university was delayed, ESPN Classic was showing the Memphis State-Tennessee game from the 1990 NIT at the Mid-South Coliseum… back when there was actually talk of an on-campus arena.

Playhouse on the Square founder Jackie Nichols announced his retirement Tuesday and the board of the theater accepted it three months after Nichols went on leave and the board hired Burch, Porter and Johnson to investigate an allegation of sexual misconduct. Nichols made no mention of the allegation in his notice and neither did the board. He has previously denied any wrongdoing. No word on if or when the BP&J report will be released.


The first director of the Center for Sickle Cell Disease at the University of Tennessee Center Health Science Center, Dr. Kenneth Ataga, comes to the city from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was director of the medical school’s sickle cell program. As a child with friends who had sickle cell, Ataga noticed early on and in his career later that there are disparities in the types of treatment those with sickle cell get compared to those with other medical conditions. Ataga is a researcher who has been lead investigator in several studies.

As promised when last we met, a deeper dive (okay, it doesn’t take too long before you start to write puns on this subject without meaning to) into the city’s sewer problems and the overhaul of the current sewer system.

And just as that story was going to press, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced the city will be getting an $11 million loan from the state toward the renovation of the T.E. Maxson Wastewater Treatment Plant in southwest Memphis. This is a 20-year loan with a 0.81 percent interest rate.

Courtney Davis, left, is a student at Hutchison School, is one of several students at Hutchison who are patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and fellow student Samantha Tancredi, right, is organizing St. Jude fundraisers with their help.

We’ve heard for years now that philanthropy is undergoing a generational change that reflects a move away from some of the perceptions about how that and the work of nonprofits take place. As part of that, there are several programs in which students raise money and then determine where the money goes. That is the case at Hutchison School where a senior has organized a March benefit that she hopes will draw students from other high schools to the cause.

The crew for the production Wicked at the Orpheum offers a look behind the curtain.

Details of the Riviana Foods expansion at its south Memphis rice facility it shares with Ebrofrost near Pine Hill.

We know we are not supposed to pay attention to the man behind the curtain when it comes to all matters Oz, but with Wicked now in mid-run at the Orpheum, the invitation was too good to pass up on as we got a look at how the show works.

An Associated Press investigation of how sexual assault cases are handled on U.S. military bases finds three cases of child-on-child sexual assault at the Navy base in Millington. The article includes links to the AP national view on this as well as a Q&A about the issue.

Ray Lamontagne booked for June 13 at the Snowden Grove amphitheater in Southaven with Neko Case opening.

Drew Holcomb is moving the Moon River Music Festival he started at Levitt Shell in Overton Park four years ago. This fall it will take place in Chattanooga.

The Chicago Tribune on ranked-choice or instant-runoff voting in Santa Fe and its possibilities in Illinois.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers segment, Lauren Harkins Wiuff, the new president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors, talks about the toll the recession took on Realtors and how high the interest on a 30-year fixed mortgage might go by the end of 2019.