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The Insider July 14

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Looking ahead Little Rock officials seem resigned to the fact that North Little Rock voters will approve a sales tax Aug. 9 to build a new home there for the Arkansas Travelers, leaving Little Rock to decide what to do with a vacant Ray Winder Field. Here’s one idea going around amid broader discussions about War Memorial Park. Preserve Ray Winder but restore it to its original Charles Thompson design (the grandstand opened in 1932), stripped of modern-day add-ons. It could be a home for youth baseball, occasional college games, high school tournaments and miscellaneous outdoor events. It also could include new construction for a minor league baseball museum. Who knows what this would cost? Who knows if voters would approve the almost-certain sales tax necessary to pay for this and other park improvements? As we said, it’s an idea. Penned pen Though he’s been locked up for over 10 years now on Arkansas Death Row — convicted of killing three West Memphis eight-year olds, a crime that his supporters around the world insist he didn’t commit — Damien Echols recently managed to add another line to his resume: Memoirist. Echols new book “Almost Home: My Life Story, Vol. 1” was published June 3 by iUniverse Books, and is available at and local bookstores. With a foreword by comedian and West Memphis Three supporter Margaret Cho, the 151-page book delves into Echols’ childhood and religious beliefs, but apparently has little to say about the crime, investigation and conviction that cost him his freedom and could lose him his life. UALR creative writing professor David Jauss, who has been working with Echols on his poetry, forwarded an excerpt from a recent letter in which the newly published author beamed over his success. “I can’t begin to tell you what this means to me,” Echols wrote. “It’s the one thing they can’t take from me. No matter what else happens, I have this victory. They took my family, my friends, my home, my dignity — but they can’t take this. I’ve been buried alive for so long, locked in this tomb. But I feel alive now. You must understand that this is the only accomplishment I’ve ever achieved. I don’t have a diploma. I’ve never had more than $300. I’ve never owned a car. I finally have something I can point to and say, ‘I did this.’ ” The source The Windgate Charitable Trust of Siloam Springs is the source of the anonymous $500,000 gift the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced in June would fund 10 scholarships for art majors. A reliable source told the Arkansas Times that the foundation was impressed by steps Chancellor Joel Anderson has taken to improve the arts program at UALR. The university will offer an applied design program starting in January 2006 that will offer classes in traditional and contemporary fine craft, such as furniture making, fiber arts, stained glass, metalworking, pottery, jewelry and ceramics. The first classes to be offered — furniture and fiber — will be held in the shopping mall UALR has purchased at University and Asher Avenues. Windgate, created in 2000 with Wal-Mart stock, and which reported $100.5 million in assets on its 2003 tax form, is one of the state’s top grantmakers. Its focus is education and the arts.

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