by Xander Norris
The South is a big, complicated place. The irregular happens regularly, and many of the nation’s most important debates and happenings seem to either start or end somewhere within our borders. That’s why every Saturday morning, the Overby Center is committed to bringing you a rundown of this week’s most prominent southern news stories, all in one easily-digestible place. So grab a cup of coffee, settle into your most comfortable chair, and prepare to get caught up on what’s currently happening… Around the South.
- The Justice Department made a rare intervention Tuesday to try to bring improvements in the beleaguered water system in Mississippi’s capital city, which nearly collapsed in late summer and continues to struggle. The department filed a proposal to appoint a third-party manager for the Jackson water system. That is meant to be an interim step while the federal government, the city of Jackson and the Mississippi State Department of Health try to negotiate a court-enforced consent decree, the department said in a news release. The goal is to achieve long-term sustainability of the system and the city’s compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and other laws.
- A public records watchdog on Wednesday asked a Tallahassee judge to charge the DeSantis administration with contempt of court for continuing to withhold public records about its handling of the relocation of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in September. The motion is the latest in a growing array of legal challenges facing the DeSantis administration over its use of $1.56 million in Florida taxpayer funds earmarked for relocating “unauthorized aliens” from Florida but which was instead was used to relocate 49 migrants from Texas.
- When he launched his campaign for U.S. Senate in Georgia, Herschel Walker claimed his deep roots in the state didn’t end with his days as a football legend at the University of Georgia. It was widely known at the time that the Republican hopeful had been living in Texas for decades, though he has claimed to maintain a residence in Atlanta for “17 years.” Less widely known, however, was that Walker’s wifecollected tens of thousands of dollars in rental income for that residence, according to his 2021 financial disclosure forms.
- Tornadoes damaged numerous homes, destroyed a fire station, briefly trapped people in a grocery store and ripped the roof off an apartment complex in Mississippi, while two people died as a tree crunched their mobile home in Alabama, authorities said Wednesday. The National Weather Service had warned that strong twisters capable of carving up communities over long distances were possible as the storm front moved eastward from Texas. They were fueled by record high temperatures and threatened a stretch of the United States where more than 25 million people live.
- Four years ago, Beto O’Rourke became the next great hope for the Texas Democratic Party. O’Rourke’s meteoric rise brought back hope to a struggling minority party that has not won statewide office since 1994, and it attracted a frenzy of national attention that set up his run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. But after failed runs for senator, president and governor, observers wonder if O’Rourke has a political future.
- U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touted Memphis International Airport’s new $300-plus million deicing facility as an essential investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure Tuesday. Buttigieg’s visit underscored the continued importance of Memphis-based FedEx to the country’s economy. The majority of air traffic at Memphis International, the busiest cargo airport in North America, is FedEx.
- Among U.S. faith leaders and denominations, there are sharp differences over the bill advancing in the Senate that would protect same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law. On Tuesday, one of the most prominent conservative-leaning denominations — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — came out in favor of the legislation. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention remain opposed, saying the bill – even with a newly added amendment aimed at attracting Republican support – is a dire threat to religious liberty.
- Chris Owens danced in her French Quarter nightclub for 66 years. Her defiance of time and over-the-top style made her an icon, beloved by a surprising cross-section of New Orleanians and visitors.
- Auburn athletic director John Cohen will sign the contract for new football coach Hugh Freeze with both eyes open. If anyone knows the upside and the risk involved in hiring the former Ole Miss coach, it’s the former Mississippi State athletic director. They didn’t just share a state for five years, they shared a conference. Cohen would have attended AD-level meetings and heard all about why Freeze left Oxford under a dark cloud in the summer of 2017. (At Tuesday’s introductory press conference, Cohen expressed confidence in both Freeze and the thoroughness of Auburn’s vetting procedures but declined to take any questions that would have shed more light on that process.)
- The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether the Biden administration can broadly cancel student loans, keeping the program blocked for now but signaling a final answer by early summer. That’s about two months before the newly extended pause on loan repayments is set to expire. The administration had wanted a court order that would have allowed the program to take effect even as court challenges proceed. The justices didn’t do that, but agreed to the administration’s fallback, setting arguments for late February or early March over whether the program is legal.