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ballot_boxwww.eParisExtra will have results of the Early Vote and the Mail-In Vote, within minutes of the polls‘ closing at 7 p.m. Saturday.

  • Coming in quick fashion thereafter will be the total vote, including Saturday’s Election Day numbers.
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District 3 seizes the momentum with one day to go in Paris City Council early voting

ballot boxMonday, for the first time since early voting started in the Paris City Council race a week ago, residents of District 3 showed up in the greatest numbers at the Lamar County Services Building, edging out District 6.

Of the 60 voters who went to the polls Monday, increasing the total early vote count to 358, District 3 led with 22 votes, followed by District 6 with 20, District 1 with 15 and District 2 with 3.

Incumbents are seeking re-election in all four City Council districts — 1, 2, 3 and 6 — and in two PJC regent districts — 4 and 7. All have opponents. Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

That will wrap up voting until Election Day itself, on Saturday.

  • In City Council District 1 (incumbent Aaron Jenkins vs. former councilman Joe McCarthy), 14 people voted on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday, 8 on Friday and 15 on Monday for a six-day total of 60 (16.8 percent of the total).
  • In City Council District 2 (incumbent Sue Lancaster vs. Kelly Collins), 17 people voted on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday, 3 on Friday and 3 on Monday for a six-day total of 35 (9.8 percent of the total).
  • In District 3 (incumbent John Wright vs. former councilman Benny Plata), 9 people voted on Monday, 9 on Tuesday, 13 people on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday, 14 on Friday and 22 on Monday for a six-day total of 60 (16.8 percent of the total). Wright became the last city council candidate to vote. The seven others all voted on the first day of early voting last week.
  • In District 6 (incumbent councilwoman Cleonne Drake vs. former councilman Edwin Pickle), 36 people voted on Monday, 31 on Tuesday, 32 on Wednesday, 29 on Thursday, 33 on Friday and 20 on Monday for a six-day total of 181 (50.6 percent of the total).

In the Paris Junior College regents election, 23 votes were cast in Early Voting on Friday, raising the total after five days to 115, keeping the average of 23 a day for the two PJC regent elections involved.

  • In the Place 4 race between incumbent Daigone Garner and challenger Charles A. Lynch, 17 votes were cast on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 9 on Wednesday, 7 on Thursday, 14 on Friday and 12 on Monday for a six-day total of 69 (47.6 percent of the total).
  • In the Place 7 race among incumbent Frankie Norwood, Charles W. Gilbert and Jim Bell, 15 votes were cast on Monday, 15 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday, 13 on Thursday, 9 on Friday and 18 on Monday for a six-day total of 76 (52.4 percent of the total).

Here is the recap for Early Voting in the Paris City Council and Paris Junior College regent elections:

EV Recap 05050214

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

$840,000 bequest of W.J. McDonald of Paris resulted in McDonald Observatory — dedicated 75 years ago today

From left, Brandon Hoog of Paris, McDonald Observatory development manager Joel Barna, McDonald Observatory director David Lambert, and Rhonda Rogers of Paris. Hoog and Rogers are leaders in the Paris Texas Exes, which sponsored Paris' participation in a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the May 5, 1989, dedication of the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. They are in front of a plaque on the former First National Bank of Paris building on the northwest corner of the Plaza. The observatory was created by a bequest from the bank's former president, W.J. McDonald, upon his death in 1926. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

From left, Brandon Hoog of Paris, McDonald Observatory development manager Joel Barna, McDonald Observatory director David Lambert, and Rhonda Rogers of Paris. Hoog and Rogers are leaders in the Paris Texas Exes, which sponsored Paris’ participation in a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the May 5, 1989, dedication of the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. They are in front of a plaque on the former First National Bank of Paris building on the northwest corner of the Plaza. The observatory was created by a bequest from the bank’s former president, W.J. McDonald of Paris, upon his death in 1926. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)


Paris was part of a statewide celebratory tour that marked Monday as the 75th anniversary of the dedication of McDonald Observatory in the mountains of West Texas.

Friday, one day after a celebration at the Perot Museum in Dallas, McDonald Observatory director Dr. David Lambert was the guest of the Paris Rotary Club.

Dr. David Lambert, director of McDonald Observatory

Dr. David Lambert, director of McDonald Observatory

“I hardly need to tell you folks in Paris that W.J. McDonald is the origin of our McDonald Observatory,” Lambert, 75, said at the start of a 45-minute talk about the observatory and its history.

William Johnson McDonald organized and opened the First National Bank of Paris in 1886 on the northwest corner of the plaza in downtown Paris.

Upon McDonald’s death in 1926 at the age of 82, the longtime bank president, a bachelor, left $840,000 – the bulk of his estate – to the University of Texas “to be used and devoted for the purpose of aiding and erecting and equipping an astronomical observatory.”

The Paris Texas Exes joined with the Rotary Club to bring Lambert to Paris.

Brandon Hoog, a member of the Paris chapter of University of Texas alumni, introduced Joel Barna, development manager for McDonald Observatory and the UT astronomy department, who then introduced Lambert.

“Last summer or early fall, Mr. Barna reached out to us,” Hoog said, and said a Texas tour was being planned for the 75th anniversary of the observatory’s dedication on May 5, 1939, “and we would be remiss if we didn’t do something in Paris.”

“I’ll admit I didn’t know this. Mr. Barna reminded us of that fact, and so we celebrate the family and the observatory. So we’re very happy to be partnering in this event,” Hoog said.

Barna has been with the observatory since 1996. Lambert, an Oxford graduate and himself a renowned astronomer, became director of the McDonald Observatory in 2003.

As director of McDonald Observatory, Lambert has led the efforts to design, fund and build the revolutionary Hobby-Eberle Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), now under construction at the observatory in the Davis Mountains, halfway between Odessa and El Paso.

Lambert titled his talk, “The W.J. McDonald Observatory – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Paris  banker William J. McDonald, whose $840,000 bequest upon his death in 1926 led to the creation of the McDonald Observatory. (McDonald Observatory photo)

Paris banker William J. McDonald, whose $840,000 bequest upon his death in 1926 led to the creation of the McDonald Observatory. (McDonald Observatory photo)

Harry Yandell Benedict, the UT president at the time of McDonald’s $840,000 bequest, had an astronomy degree, “so he knew where the astronomers were around the country, and he identified a possibility of collaboration with the University of Chicago,” Lambert said.

“The University of Chicago had their opposite problem – they had lots of astronomers but essentially no telescopes, no observatory. And knowing of UT’s money, they had looked for a site for a telescope around Lubbock and other places.”

With McDonald’s $840,000 was built an 82-inch reflector that was the second-largest telescope in the world at the time of its May 5, 1939, dedication – smaller only than a 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson outside of Los Angeles.

“This was not a campus telescope, a small size just for students to use. It was a major research facility,” Lambert said.

“Bearing in mind that the 100-inch was the largest telescope, there was a competition between what you could do with the two telescopes,” he added.

Edwin Hubble (who was among those attending the May 5, 1939 dedication) had a major say in what happened to the 100-inch, and he chose to direct his work and that of many colleagues on the galaxies. The expansion of the universe had been discovered by him in 1922.

Otto Struve, who came from a long line of Russian astronomers, was the first director of the McDonald Observatory, going there from the University of Chicago.

“Struve chose to direct research on the 82-inch primarily into the puzzles involving stars, such as their structure, formation and evolution, about which very little was known in the 1930s,” Lambert said.

The McDonald Observatory, as it sits on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains halfway between Odessa and El Paso. (McDonald Observatory photo)

The McDonald Observatory, as it sits on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains halfway between Odessa and El Paso. (McDonald Observatory photo)

UT’s 30-year agreement with the University of Chicago ended in 1962, and UT assumed sole control of the 82-inch on Sept. 1, 1963 – “so in a sense, we are celebrating not only 75 years, we’re also celebrating 50 years,” Lambert said.

With NASA, the National Science Foundation and the State of Texas providing funding, a 107-inch telescope, then the third-largest in the world, was completed in 1968 atop Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains with substantial NASA assistance.

“NASA was primarily interested in the telescope for a program of lunar laser ranging, firing a laser from the telescope,” Lambert said.

Three of the Apollo astronaut crews left small reflectors on the moon.

“The laser was directed at the reflectors one at a time, and a little bit of light hit the reflector, and a little bit of that light was reflected back into the 107 inch, so you could measure instantaneously the round-trip travel time from the McDonald Observatory to the moon and back,” Lambert said.

“Among many other things, that provided a novel test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and much information about the orbit of the moon.”

In recent years, telescopes have gotten bigger and bigger, so big that they are now measured in meters rather than inches. The largest, the $1 billion Giant Magellan Telescope, is under construction on an 8,000-foot mountain in the Atacama Desert in the Andes foothills in Chile. It is the size of a basketball court and is housed in a building about the height of the UT Tower in Austin.

This is a picture taken on May 5, 1939, at the dedication of the McDonald Observatory. (McDonald Observatory photo)

This is a picture taken on May 5, 1939, at the dedication of the McDonald Observatory. (McDonald Observatory photo)

The McDonald Observatory’s response to remain competitive was to build the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), named for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and Robert Eberly, who was a benefactor at Penn State.

“It has an 11-meter primary mirror, 433 inches or about 36 feet across – which is, I suppose, about half the size of this room,” Lambert said, waving a hand around the PJC ballroom.

“The remarkable thing about recent discoveries (by telescope),” Lambert said, “is that people had assumed that if there were stars with planets around them elsewhere in the solar system, they would be like our solar system. The first few planets near the star would be rocky planets – like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. And then further out, you’d get gassy planets, like Jupiter and Saturn. And secondly, these planets would all be in the same orbit, like looking at a CD disk seen edge on,” Lambert said.

“Well, Discovery No. 1 was that external solar system planetary systems have hot Jupiters. Not predicted. Nothing like our solar system,” he added.

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope enclosure, with its dome open for observing and louvers open to allow air to flow through the building.  The telescope is 36 feet across. (McDonald Observatory photo)

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope enclosure, with its dome open for observing and louvers open to allow air to flow through the building. The telescope is 36 feet across. (McDonald Observatory photo)

“At McDonald’s, by combining measurements made with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and with the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers discovered that in one system, two of the major planets had orbits that are tilted at about 30 degrees – not in the same plane like our solar system. The orbits are tilted, and that was a shock to the theoreticians who had been worrying about planets going around stars.”

Heretofore, astronomy has focused on “normal material,” which is how Earth and other planets making up our solar system are classified.

That makes up only 4 percent of the energy mass balance of the universe, he said.

Then there is “dark matter,” which has a gravitational influence and makes up 23 percent of the universe, and astronomers know only very little about that, he said.

“And then, there’s the anti-gravity which is given the more polite name of “dark energy,” which makes up 73 percent that we really know nothing about.

“Imagine if at the end of a semester, you go up to the professor and say, ‘Well, I know a lot about 4 percent of the syllabus. I know a little bit about another 23 percent. What grade am I going to get?’ And then the professor says, ‘What do you know about 73 percent of the syllabus?’ and you have to say, ‘Nothing.’ That is the position where astronomy is now. We’ve been using telescopes since Galileo in 1509, and we’ve ended up knowing virtually nothing about 73 percent of the contents of the universe at the present time,” Lambert said.

“Now, you can think of that as a tremendous embarrassment, or you can think of it as a tremendous opportunity. The Dark Energy Experiment we’re doing (at McDonald Observatory) takes a view that this is an opportunity.”

He finished with a poem, “The Star Splitter,” by Robert Frost: “The strongest thing that’s given us to see with is a telescope. Someone in every town seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.”

Lambert concluded: “That’s the spirit that W.J. McDonald must have had when he decided to leave his estate to the University of Texas, and we have benefited from it for 75 years.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

Early voting hits 298 for Paris City Council race, 115 for PJC regent contests

voting boothThe first week of Early Voting for the Paris City Council and Paris Junior College regent elections is now in the rear view mirror — leaving only Monday and Tuesday, leading up to Election Day next Saturday.

Incumbents are seeking re-election in all four City Council districts — 1, 2, 3 and 6 — and in two PJC regent districts — 4 and 7. All have opponents.

In the city election, 58 more people voted early on Friday, increasing the turnout to 298 for the five days of Early Voting.

The trend continues: District 6 has more than half the total, followed by District 3 with about 20 percent, District 1 with about 15 percent, and District 2 with about 10 percent.

Early voting continues daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday at the County Services Building (241 Lamar Ave.)

On Election Day, May 10, 2014, voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • In City Council District 1 (incumbent Aaron Jenkins vs. former councilman Joe McCarthy), 14 people voted on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday and 8 on Friday for a 5-day total of 45 (15.1 percent of the total).
  • In City Council District 2 (incumbent Sue Lancaster vs. Kelly Collins), 17 people voted on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday, 4 on Thursday and 3 on Friday for a 5-day total of 32 (10.7 percent of the total).
  • In District 3 (incumbent John Wright vs. former councilman Benny Plata), 9 people voted on Monday, 9 on Tuesday, 13 people on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday and 14 on Friday for a 5-day total of 60 (20.1 percent of the total).
  • In District 6 (incumbent councilwoman Cleonne Drake vs. former councilman Edwin Pickle), 36 people voted on Monday, 31 on Tuesday, 32 on Wednesday, 29 on Thursday and 33 on Friday for a 5-day total of 161 (54.0 percent of the total).

The individual races are important not only in their own right but in regard to how the outcomes could affect the selection of a mayor. Incumbents in the middle of their two-year terms are Dr. Richard Grossnickle of District 4, Matt Frierson of District 5 and Dr. AJ Hashmi of District 7.

One of the first orders of business at the Paris City Council meeting of Monday, May 19, after canvassing of the May 10 vote, will be selection by the new council of the mayor for 2014-2015.

Hashmi needs four votes to reign over the council for a fourth straight year. Jenkins, Lancaster, Wright and Drake have consistently voted with Hashmi, and all four were coached by Hashmi’s former campaign manager, Bill Strathern, in joint practice sessions leading up to a council candidate forum on June 24, sponsored by the Association of Lamar County Republicans.

If at least three of the incumbents win re-election, Hashmi’s hopes for being re-elected mayor can be considered a near-certainty. If two or more of the incumbents lose, Hashmi no longer has a lock on being selected mayor again nine days after the election.

In the Paris Junior College regents election, 23 votes were cast in Early Voting on Friday, raising the total after five days to 115, keeping the average of 23 a day for the two PJC regent elections involved.

In the Place 4 race between incumbent Daigone Garner and challenger Charles A. Lynch, 17 votes were cast on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 9 on Wednesday, 7 on Thursday and 14 on Friday for a 5-day total of 57 (49.6 percent of the total).In the Place 7 race among incumbent Frankie Norwood, Charles W. Gilbert and Jim Bell, 15 votes were cast on Monday, 15 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday, 13 on Thursday and 9 on Friday for a 5-day total of 58 (50.4 percent of the total).

Here is the recap for Early Voting in the Paris City Council and Paris Junior College regent elections:

Recap EV 05022014

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

Candlelight vigil for Troy Gray Jr. held at 8 p.m. on Friday in downtown Paris

eParisExtra logoA candlelight vigil for Troy Gray Jr., who had been missing since April 10 before his body was found Wednesday night in Red River County, will be held at 8 p.m. today at the fountain in downtown Paris.

The vigil is sponsored by Brenda Cherry and Shatajna Woods, who also are sponsors of the “Stop the Violence, Spread the Love March for Peace.”

“This has been a devastating two weeks. Now is the time to come together in memory of Troy and in support of his family. There will be an open microphone for those wishing to share their thoughts and memories of Troy,” Cherry said.

Everyone is encouraged to bring their own candle,”Cherry said.

The 29-year-old Gray’s death is being investigated as a homicide, Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley said Friday morning. His burned vehicle was found in southern Lamar County the day after he went missing.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra