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June 17, 2020 - 00:00

Columbus Hospital says goodbye to some great employees

A retirement party was held for Regina Wicke, CFO and Russell Wicke, Maintenance Operations Manager. I was not able to attend, but the morning of the event I had a lengthy conversation with Regina.

We both came to the Columbus Hospital in 1980 (40 years ago). I expanded rehabilitation services and she worked her way up to become the Chief Financial Officer.

We reminisced about the horrible times when the hospital almost shut down. I remember going to a hospital board meeting and hearing some of the hospital’s own board members voicing their opinions to shut the doors. There was no leadership at the administration level. Finally, Chris Stein, a lawyer from the board, stepped in to save the hospital. With the arrival of Rob Thomas as our new hospital administrator and Regina Wicke as CFO, I saw very positive changes for our hospital. More and more physicians started to arrive. Rob and Regina let my vision grow the outpatient physical therapy business at the Columbus Hospital. I saw hospital remodel and expansion projects taking place. Russell Wicke came from a background of construction and just good common sense. He was able to help oversee all the remodel projects and made sure everyone was doing the right thing. The hospital could not have expanded without his supervision skills and guidance.

Please understand how fortunate you citizens of Colorado County are to have the Columbus Community Hospital. It is probably the most successful and profitable rural hospital in Texas. Almost all other rural hospitals in towns of less than 5000 people are struggling to stay open or they are being subsidized by the citizens in the community.

I will deeply miss my two friends Regina and Russell and I want to thank them both for allowing our rehabilitation services to grow and expand on the hospital campus. Being an Aggie, I will put them in the “Association of former Columbus Hospital Employees”.

God Bless you both!

Terry Sablatura, PT


Back in November of 1935, our small town made national headlines for a very public lynching. Columbus even made it’s way into the New York Times for the incident. Now as I write to you, nearly 85 years later, not much has changed concerning the matter. The city of Columbus, along with the state of Texas, has worked for decades to preserve and protect the tree that was used to facilitate this horrible atrocity. I believe that this unwavering protection is appalling because neither the city nor the state have ever acknowledged the victims or attempted to make amends for this hate crime. There is no historical marker of any kind regarding the lynching or racial injustice in this community. No memorial. Nothing. However, the citizens have named the tree, “The Hanging Tree.” At no point in time has this community made a point to acknowledge the victims, Benny Mitchell Jr. and Ernest Collins, whose families still reside in Columbus.

I write to you because the lack of acknowledgement has left a deep open wound in this community. The ultimate silence about the tree has continued to cause racial injustice, division, generational pain, fear, and has aided in systemic racism.

It has also been discussed for many years that the teenagers were innocent of the crime the towns people accused them of. The boys were treated as guilty from the start, never being able to experience due process.They were victims of hate and racial bias.

“The Hanging Tree” sits in the middle of a dangerous intersection on Highway 71. Over the years, many have raised safety concerns and have pleaded for the tree to be cut down, only to be met with extreme resistance from the city and the state. Why? With no acknowledgement of what happened there, why such resistance?

It should be noted that a centennial maker proclaiming Columbus as the county seat sits at the base of that tree. The soil the maker sits on belongs to the state thus, protecting the roots of the tree. The placement of the centennial marker,is in my opinion, at the very least, a result of terrible planning and poor judgement. The tree sits a couple of miles outside the main area of town. I think the pink granite centennial marker’s placement helps aid in the notion that the lynching was acceptable to this town and that racial injustice is still unimportant to many in this community. It is time to make an atonement, whatever that may look like. Our community needs to have this repressive cloud lifted so that healing can truly begin. Benny Mitchell, Jr. and Ernest Collins are names that should be known. Why is there not a marker or something similar at that site with their names? Why is there not something at that site saying that this community does not condone racial injustice any longer? Acknowledgment would be a form of justice, not just for their families but for generations of the Black community.

I write this in hopes to start tough conversations around dinner tables, for members of this community to stop and think of a bigger picture and to work towards being better than the previous generations.I write this to say, Columbus, do your homework and let’s clean up our house. I am not advocating to have the tree cut down. My personal opinion on that doesn’t really matter. I am merely asking Columbus, as a small town in the South, to be better than they were before. Let’s finally acknowledge and move towards educating against racial injustice. It’s time.

Sincerely and with love,

Madison Laird


Ever since the death of George Floyd I have, like many others, experienced a variety of emotions. Outrage. Heartbreak. Frustration. Helplessness.

What can one 76-year-old white woman do?

So I watched TV, listened to commentaries, read articles in newspapers, magazines and on Facebook. I made a post or two myself.

But then I was straightening up and ran across a copy of the Citizen I had somehow missed--under other papers and magazines. The June 3 issue. I decided to glance through it before tossing it. And there it was. Your editorial...Mama. And for the first time, I cried.

Marsha Priesmeyer