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L.T. Newton – District 4 Magistrate and Hancock County Historian of the Year 2022

L.T. Newton, District 4 Magistrate and Hancock County Historian of the Year, talks about his research, placing U.S. Flags at Veteran grave sites, and the Traveling Wall
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L.T. Newton, District 4 Magistrate and Historian for VFW Post 5186, was named the 2022 Historian of the Year.
   “It’s a privilege and an honor,” he said. “It puts me in the category with a lot of good people.
   I’m not sure that I can live up to what these others have done.”
   What started L.T.s interest in history – in 1982 Clairabelle Phillips called him and asked if he knew anything about Benjamin Newton.
   “My answer was, ‘no.’ But, I told Clairabelle that I’d try to find out something,” he said. “So, that got the ball rolling.
   Between Clairabelle and Dorothy Watkins, great friends of mine and tremendous Historians full of knowledge, I just got enthused and started researching the Newton bunch.
   That led into the Corleys, the Voyles, the Phillips, and now I have a room full of literature.

As far as Historians and preservation of the cemeteries, history and the preservation of our Archives – Clairabelle Phillips and Dorothy Watkins need a lot of praise for what happened in this County.”
   He has continued to research families since 1982, and it has branched out to all over the County, in Kentucky and in the U.S. – from coast to coast.
   “I’ve worked with people in California, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, and a lot of states in between,” he said. “My branch of the Newtons started out in Botetourt County, Virginia.”
   He has extensively researched his own family genealogy, and has 6 large binders full of information. It isn’t yet published, however some is in the Hancock County Archives.
   “Researching families – the things that are associated with them, a lot of that has led into these cemeteries,” he said. “Where someone is buried – you just try to find out.
   I get calls all the time from people wanting to know what a certain name of a cemetery is, where it’s located and who is buried there.
   Several people have come to Kentucky and notified me, wanting to go to certain cemeteries, and I’ll say, ‘Come on, we’ll go.’”

L.T. says it would be “an impossible task” for him to type up all of the history he has collected. “It would take me all day long for months or years to get it all typed up in an orderly fashion, like it ought to be. I’ve just got too much of it.”
   His plan is to eventually donate all the research he has amassed over the years to the HC Archives.
   “Anybody out there who needs any help in that direction, feel free to call me, I’d be glad to share the history,” he said.
   He and other members of Post 5186 make sure that each Veteran grave site has a United States Flag placed upon it, to honor them, their families and their service to our great Country.

“Roger Basinger was our post master, and that subject came up under his leadership,” L.T. said. “We started delving into what cemeteries had Veterans in them, and going out and placing Flags on those sites.”
   There are 200 cemeteries total in Hancock County, and 48-50 of them have Veterans buried in them. He said it takes around 700 U.S. Flags to cover all of the Veteran grave sites.
   The Post conducts a special meeting every year, about a month before Memorial Day, to get the flag placing organized.
   “We have our meeting and we have a listing of all of it to give out to different posts to cover those,” he said. “Lewisport, I think, is the biggest one and has over 200 Veterans buried in it. Memory Gardens, in Hawesville, is the next biggest.”
   He said that people are well aware of Lewisport, Hawesville, Blackford, Mt. Eden and the cemeteries that are “on the beaten path.”
   When you get out into the southern part of the County, he said there are a lot that people we’re never aware of.
   “And that’s where the majority of these smaller cemeteries lay, with Veterans buried in them.

Leroy Lamar, Karl Herzog and Lewis Baskett, folks like that, were always the biggest help.
   George Dean and others in Lewisport would take care of that cemetery.
   Others take care of the Hawesville cemetery.
   I’d just get whoever I could – I had some kids help me one time with the cemeteries. Sheldon Lasher has been helping the last few years with them.
   We kind of divide it up between the Post members. If I named every one that was involved, it would take 2 or 3 pages of the Clarion.”

L.T. says that he has really enjoyed doing research on these old cemeteries and cleaning them up. “I’ve cleaned up probably a dozen. It’s good exercise and you meet a lot of wonderful people.
   I wish that the public would be more concerned about them. A lot of them have become overgrown – with no tender loving care.
   They’re getting very expensive to maintain. People don’t want to contribute to the maintenance of them – they want to be buried there, but then they want to walk off and leave everything.
   I find that very, very sad. I wish people would give money to the maintenance of these cemeteries.
   Lewisport, I think, has a committee that oversees their cemeteries, and Hawesville does too. Blackford Church has people there that oversee that one. There are people that oversee Roseville, and Buddy Pulliam watches over Bethlehem Cemetery.
   These people are caretakers who collect the money and pay it out.
   If anybody wanted to donate, they can get in touch with me, and I will find the person that they can give it to.”
   L.T.’s phone number is 270-927-6450. Feel free to reach out to him.

Roger Basinger, L.T. said, “was really enthused about Veterans and watching over them and doing what we could. He was also our commander when we got the Traveling Wall in the County.
   That suggestion came up from somebody and, of course, other people said, ‘There’s no way we could ever do that – a little bitty County like this.’ And, I made the remark, ‘Well, you can’t do anything unless you try.’
   So the letter went out and we started working on it and gained funding.

The Magistrate of Hawesville and the Magistrate of Lewisport get $10,000 a year to deal with certain projects.
   The Magistrate of Hawesville said he would put $5,000 of his money to get that Traveling Wall in here.
   It was expensive. We had donations from other people, the Post paid some money and that’s how we got it in here. Which, I think, was really great for the County.”

L.T. served 20 years in the United States Air Force. He had two full tours in Vietnam, and then a lot of temporary duty there.
   When he retired, he was a Supervisor in Maintenance and a Master Sergeant.
   He was in the Aircraft Maintenance field, and said he was fortunate enough to fly as a Flight Engineer for 11 years during his service – around 5,000 hours worth.
   “In my time in Vietnam, I was extremely fortunate. I am very thankful to the Lord for watching over me – 164 combat missions, and I was never shot down,” he said.
   After he retired from the U.S. Air Force, he helped his brother in construction for awhile. Then, he worked with his other brother building houses for a few years.

For 20 years, he raised cattle and tobacco on his farm.
   He became District 4 Magistrate in 1994, and retired from farming at that time. He is in his seventeenth year of serving on the Hancock County Fiscal Court.
   “When I became a Magistrate,” he said, “I could not do justice to those duties and work the farm too.
   There were times that I needed to be both places. So, I decided that my obligation to the people overrode my own obligations.”
   He takes his job as Magistrate seriously. “I think people in the political world need to take it seriously. It is not a place just to draw an extra paycheck. It’s a place to serve the people, and that’s the only thing that counts.”

He has served on the South Hancock Volunteer Fire Department for 35 years, and was Fire Chief for 18 of those years.
   He says that one of the best and most joyful times of his life, was when he had the pleasure of coaching the Pellville Baptist Church Women’s softball team.
   L.T. is blessed with 2 adult children, Mike Newton and Steve Newton, as well as 7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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